Macro Lens vs Extension Tubes: Is the Cheap Option Just As Good? (VIDEO)

Would you like to try your hand at close-up photography but can’t afford an expensive macro lens? Well consider this: An affordable set of extension tubes will turn just about any lens you own into a close-focusing macro lens.

The question, of course, is how does the cheap alternative compare to a dedicated macro lens when it comes to image quality and how close can you focus on a subject? In the video below, pro photographer Andrew Lanxon answers these questions and others, while offering a variety of tips for making the best possible macro photos with whatever gear you use.

For this demonstration Lanxon compares images shot with a premium Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens to those captured with Canon’s 24-105mm f/4 zoom lens and extension tubes. For photographers serious about close-up photography a macro lens is clearly worth considering..

But can the occasional close-up shooter get by with extension tubes instead of spending hundreds on a lens that will only be used once in awhile? That’s the key question Lanxon attempts to answer as he shoots a few pretty images of a dewdrop on a rose under controlled conditions indoors. 

If you’re unfamiliar with extension tubes they’re really very simple: They contain no optical elements and sit between your camera body and whatever lens you use— thereby permitting you to focus much closer than with the lens alone. And while you can find more expensive options, extension tubes are readily available for around $30.

When you compare $30 to over a grand for a new copy of Lanxon’s 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, the winner of this shootout should be obvious. But not so fast. Watch the video and see if you can spot the difference.

You can find more helpful tips on macro photography by visiting Lanxon’s YouTube channel, so be sure and take a look. And check out another video we posted, explaining five ways to minimize depth of field for photos with softy blurry backgrounds.