Shooting with Extension Tubes

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I own one macro lens that I NEVER USE! Shortly after beginning my Nikon adventure with purchase of a D700, I bought the Sigma 150 f/2.8. I was impressed by everything I read about the lens and was not at all disappointed with what it produced. But my adventure took a detour when I bought my first manual focus Nikon lens. I enjoyed the experience so much I bought another MF lens, then three more... A year later I own 18 such lenses but more importantly for this thread, I was introduced to extension tubes. I bought an old set marketed by Vivitar designed for manual focus lenses. There are no electrical contacts but that doesn't matter since although these lenses work beautifully on the D700, there is no communication between lens and camera. The photographer does all the work apart from metering the D700 does so admirably, something old timers understand and often appreciate.

Using extension tubes and shooting manual focus is a different experience, but one I enjoy immensely. I created this thread with the intention of inviting others who use tubes for their close in work to share their experience as well as their work. In the spring, with flowers celebrating the season all around me, my camera calls out for extension tubes and I'm happy to oblige. So come on down folks and let us all see what you're up to with your tubes...

I'll start out with a few photos of my own. For the record, I don't own a tripod and don't use any but natural light. So these were all shot hand held...

105.12.BusyBeeBlueFlower.jpg
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105 f/2.5 AI-s with 12mm extension tube at f/2.5

105.20.SucculentClose.jpg
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105 f/2.5 AI-s with 20mm extension tube at f/5.6

135.FlowerExplosion.jpg
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135 f/2.8 AI with 12mm extension tube at f/5.6

180.12.Gladiola.jpg
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180 f/2.8 AI-s with 12mm extension tube at f/2.8
 
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Are these Nikon tubes that you're using?

I think I'd like to try this out with a couple of my lenses.
 
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Are these Nikon tubes that you're using?

I think I'd like to try this out with a couple of my lenses.

No, I'm using Vivitar tubes with Nikon mount. I've no idea how old they are but the set came in a small case and is in excellent condition. I've been recommending tubes to folks on the Manual Focus Nikon Glass forum on FM and some are buying Nikon tubes but others are using generic tubes with a Nikon mount. Since they are nothing more than an empty tube it really doesn't matter who manufactures them so long at they work with your lenses. Nikon tubes tend to be rather pricey.

They're great fun Darren, you owe it to yourself to give them a try.
 
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Nice set, Curtis. I really like the 1st and 3rd images.

Thanks Eric. A friend took a copy of the third image and viewed it at 200% and was really impressed with the detail. The 135 f/2.8 AI lens is the poor relation of the much more famous 135 f/2 AI-s, but in terms of value for money, it can't be beaten, as you can see with that image. Here's another with the same combination...

135.12.DanglingPurpleFlowersClose.jpg
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135 f/2.8 AI with 12mm extension tube at f/2.8
 
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Another shot taken with the 135 f/2.8 of tulips I encountered curbside on a street I often drive. I had to stop and take a few photos in the afternoon light...

135.12.CurbsideTulips.jpg
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Shot with the 135 f/2.8 AI with 12mm extension tube at f/5.6.
 
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So I mounted a 36mm tube on the 300 f/4.5 AI-s ED-IF this afternoon to see how well it works. I've been very pleased with this lens, both because of how sharp it is, no doubt because of the ED element, but also the fact that it is small enough that I can rather comfortably hand hold the lens. I'm very pleased with the results. Here is a first offering from shooting today. This was shot wide open...

300.36.YellowFlowers.jpg
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This morning I stepped outside with the 180 f/2.8 AI-s on the camera with a 12mm extension tube. Wouldn't you know I found a flower to shoot? :eek:

I love this lens... This is effectively a 100% crop shot wide open. The lens effectively obliterates everything behind the focal plane. Not too shabby. Who needs the 200 f/2? (That's a joke!)

180.12.FlowersInARow02Close.jpg
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PS - I started a similar thread on this topic at Fred Miranda in their Macro forum.
 
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The bearded iris is quite beautiful, Curtis...probably my favorite flowers.

Yes, the Nikon tubes are pricey and hard to find but, except for the fact that they are non-auto tubes, you can't beat the quality machining found in them. I've used 'other' tubes and found some looseness/slop in the fitments. Not a problem with smaller lenses but a potential nuisance when stacking them with a larger, heavier lens.

Just my two cents.
 
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The Vivitar set I'm using is quite well made, obviously from another era. I've not held a Nikon tube in my hand but having played with so many MF lenses, I imagine they're quite exquisite. I keep my eye open and if the right tube or set of tubes came along i'd likely make the investment.
 
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I've heard that Chad and were I using AF lenses I might be motivated to go that way. But I shoot almost exclusively with MF glass, so the Vivitar set I bought for $30 does the trick. If I ever buy Nikon tubes it will be more for the aesthetics than a compelling need. The BR2a I bought which is made by Nikon is a gorgeous piece of precisely machined metal. I expect the tubes are equally well made.
 
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I don't remember which tubes were used, but my notes say tubes.

I hope I can get to sleep tonight...

Since I shoot primarily with manual focus glass which doesn't register EXIF data I've gotten into the habit of including the lens focal range in the file name. When I add extension tubes, I include that in the name as well. So the shot above taken with the 180 with a 20mm tube would have a file name that began 180.20. I know this is a bit cumbersome but it definitely helps me when I'm looking for particular images. I can't sort using EXIF data, so this is the best I can do...
 
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Great images. Curtis your tube & lens combination is getting beautiful results for you. Enjoy those classic lenses.
 
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Thanks Art. Amazing what one can do with camera gear. I love tubes and am beginning to play with a reversing ring and closeup lenses as well. I've never had so much fun taking photos as I have since beginning to play with Nikon's marvelous array of manual focus lenses.

Here's one of my early shot with tubes using the 50 f/1.2 AI-s with a 20mm tube... not much working distance with that combination. This was shot at f/4.

50.20.Budding.jpg
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These are all excellent, Curtis. You've obviously got steadier hands than me!

I have a Nikon PK-13 27.5mm tube that I use with my 55/3.5 AI to get to 1:1.
It also does an excellent job with the 105/2.5 AIS. I'll try to post an example.
 
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Thanks Jim! I scored big time this afternoon when rambling around my home town. For the first time I stacked tubes, the 12mm and 36mm, mounted on the 180 f/2.8 AI-s. This length tube really narrowed the focal plane, making getting focus a real challenge. I took five or six shots and only one of them has critical sharpness. I really love it! Hope you do too. There will be more...

180.48.LadyBug.jpg
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180 f/2.8 AI-s with 48mm stacked extension tubes shot at f/2.8.
 
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Curtis, I can't imagine getting a sharp photo hand-held with that combo.

I tried hand-holding my 105/2.5 with the Nikon PK-13 (27.5mm) extension tube, but was unable to get a sharp image. With a firm tripod, however, voila'...

1260607964_wHNwfsm-O.jpg
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