More power!

Like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, I like more power. (Grunt, grunt.) Actually, I need more power for some of the macro photography that I do, especially when I’m shooting small specimens such as odonate exuviae.

For the past few months, I’ve experimented with several ways to get more “oomph” from my Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens. I’ve tested three types of photo gear used in combination with the macro lens including extension tubes, a close-up filter, and a tele-extender.

The first photograph shows the following equipment, from left-to-right: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera; Canon Extender EF 1.4x II (white); Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tube; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens; 67-52mm step-down ring; 52-42mm step-down ring; Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter (covered by lens cap).

Canon EOS 5D Mark II macro photography kit.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II macro photography kit.

For most macro subjects, my “base kit” includes the 100mm macro lens plus a 20mm extension tube.

  • Adding one or more extension tubes reduces the minimum focusing distance of the lens.
  • Adding a close-up filter enables me to zoom in closer to the subject.
  • The tele-extender effectively changes the focal length of the macro lens from 100mm to 140mm, resulting in a 1 f/stop loss of light. Some photographers contend that adding a tele-extender can result in a loss of sharpness. Your results may vary from mine, but I find the increased magnification that results from using a tele-extender is worth a small loss of sharpness.

The Canon Extender EF 1.4x II is incompatible with the Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens — it is impossible to connect the two devices directly. It’s worth noting that incompatible doesn’t mean they don’t work together — they do, as long as an extension tube is added in-line between the tele-extender and lens.

The last photograph shows the following equipment, couterclockwise from the upper-left: “snap-on universal adapter” for Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter; Raynox close-up filter mounted on a 52-43mm step-down ring; and a 67-52mm step-down ring.

Several mounting adapters for Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter.

Several mounting adapters for Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter.

The Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter comes with a “snap-on universal adapter” for mounting the filter on lenses with a filter size from 52-67mm. The adapter clips on the front of a lens the same as a lens cap. In my opinion, that’s OK for use in a home photo studio but less than ideal for use in the field.

I bought two inexpensive step-down rings that can be used to mount the close-up filter more securely.

  • A 52-43mm step-down ring enables me to mount the Raynox DCR-250 on the “Nifty 50” (a 50mm lens for my Canon DSLR) as well as either my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 or DMC-FZ300 superzoom bridge cameras, my go-to gear for photowalking.
  • A 67-52mm step-down ring enables me to connect the 52-43mm/Raynox close-up filter combo (shown above) with my Canon 100mm macro lens.

In case you’re wondering whether vignetting is a problem when using two step-down rings with the Canon 100mm macro lens, it isn’t. As it turns out, the front lens element is recessed quite a bit from the lens barrel so the step-down rings cover little if any glass.

Related Resources


Two thoughts occurred to me after this post was published.

  1. As a result of limited testing, I concluded that it is possible to stack two or three extension tubes in order to achieve the same result as using a tele-extender without any loss of sharpness. Problem is, the minimum focusing distance is so small that the working distance between the lens and subject is too close for comfort. Adding the tele-converter provides more magnification at a slightly longer working distance.
  2. Caution: Connect the 52-43mm step-down ring to the 67-52mm step-down ring BEFORE connecting the combo to the 100mm macro lens. Otherwise there is some risk of scratching the front element of the macro lens.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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9 Responses to “More power!”

  1. Pete Hillman Says:

    What a great post, Walter! It is always interesting to see what other photographers are using, and that looks like some serious gear. I have yet to go down the extension tube root or filter root for my macros, as it seems to be quite a minefield. Happy shooting!

    • waltersanford Says:

      Thanks, Pete! A good set of extension tubes is a relatively inexpensive way to add macro capability to many lenses you already own. That being said, the Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter used in combination with my Canon “Nifty 50” is a great rig for macro photowalking.

  2. Victor Rakmil Says:

    Very interesting rig. Do you use a tripod, flash?

    • waltersanford Says:

      I use a tripod for macro photography. I own two tripods that are suitable for this type of work: one tripod is equipped with a ball-head; the other uses an insanely expensive three-way geared head. I shoot in “Live View” in order to eliminate vibration caused by movement of the mirror inside the DSLR. Flash is essential, in part because I typically shoot at f/29 (unless I shoot a focus stack) plus the full complement of macro gear results in a significant loss of light. Details if you’re curious.

  3. geraldinephotoblog Says:

    I love the camera my my

  4. Epitheca princeps exuvia | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] Canon Extender EF 1.4x II was used for more magnification in Photo No. 4, 6, 7 and 9. Adding the tele-extender results in a 1 f/stop loss of light; […]

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