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Extension tubes

Mark Osier , Sep 16, 2008; 11:28 p.m.

What brand of extention tube would you recommend for my Nikon D300. Currently using a Nikon 18-200mm AF lens with VR, and will these functions still work as designed?

Also, any advice on card readers would be very helpful too.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

Ready to buy,



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Jerry Litynski , Sep 17, 2008; 12:36 a.m.

There may not be an extension tube on the market that will allow VR to work when attached. You may consider looking at a 67mm close-up filter. Or one of the Micro-Nikkor lenses.

Jerry Schuler , Sep 17, 2008; 02:10 a.m.

I have set of extension tubes. My recommendation to you is to buy some real cheap ones first so you can see what an extension tube does before you waste a hundred or two on a expensive electronic set. Theory of them sounds good, but wait till you see what you get when you use them.

Oskar Ojala , Sep 17, 2008; 04:02 a.m.

The 18-200 is not a good candidate for using with extension tubes (focus changes when zooming, quality won't be good, requires full electric contacts to stop down aperture...). Try a close-up lens with a telezoom or buy an inexpensive old prime lens, preferable macro, to use for this purpose. Since your D300 can meter with these, it will be easy to use them.

Erik Christensen , Sep 17, 2008; 06:55 a.m.

I have the same question, but have both 50 f/1.4 and 105 f/2.8 I have previous heard that the Kenko tubes should be more flexible than the Nikon ones. Can somebody confirm such a statement?

Eric Bowles , Sep 17, 2008; 07:46 a.m.

The Nikon extension tubes do not have electrical contacts, so they so not transmit AF and metering information to between your lens and camera. This issue applies to any camera and lens combination.

Kenko extension tubes (a set including 12mm, 20mm, and 36mm tubes costing around $170) do have electrical contacts and let your lens function normally in most respects. The Kenko tubes work well with the Nikon 70-300 VR and 70-200 VR, so I expect they will work on the 18-200.

VR is a problem with close-up photography. I have the 105 f/2.8 VR lens which has VR and is specifically designed for macro work. Nikon advises that within 3 feet, you should turn off VR as it is not effective. The 18-200 has a minimum focus point within 2 feet, so my expectation is that VR will have little value. The bigger problem with macro photography - particularly high magnification - is the impact of small movements closer or farther from the subject. Due to the tiny depth of field, any movement will throw your subject out of focus. So the normal approach is to use a tripod. If you are looking at abstracts or low magnification, a tripod might not be necessary as long as your shutter speed is fast enough. And of course, you can use a flash to reduce the need for a tripod.

I tend to agree that thet 18-200 is not a great candidate for extension tubes. The benefit of extension tubes is related to the focal length. At 18-50mm you will be exceptionally close to the subject if you can achieve focus at all. At longer focal lengths I think it will work much better.

The 50 f/1.4 and the 105 f/2.8 should work great with extension tubes. In fact, they are ideal. The 50mm lens will probably use a 25 or 27mm tube to get around 1:1 magnification. The disadvantage is you will be within a couple of inches of your subject, but for static subjects on a tripod, you will be fine.. The 105 lens is probably the ideal lens for extension tubes as you get a little more working distance. Extension tubes are proportional to the focal length of the lens, so 20mm of extension makes more difference in magnification for a 50mm lens than a 105mm lens. There is a balance between working distance and magnification, and most people prefer to have as much working distance as possible for a given level of magnification.

A couple of added thoughts. Extension tubes reduce the light to the point where AF may not be possible. Hunting is common and will quickly drain a battery. So in practice, manual focus may be necessary. In fact, Kenko says their lenses do not AF with AF-S lenses. Manual focus is also useful to achieve the precise focus required for high magnification.

Extension tubes are not just for macro. One of my favorite uses is with butterflies. I have a larger subject but need to be closer to fill the frame. A 20 mm extension tube on a 70-200 lens reduces the minimum focus distance from nearly 5 feet to around 3 feet, enabling me to fill the frame while still giving the subject room to not scare it away. The same approach can be used for large flowers like roses. My wife has some wonderful images with the 70-300 VR lens using a 20mm extension tube.

Extension tubes are a very good all purpose tool. I do recommend you give them a try.

Peter Hamm , Sep 17, 2008; 08:04 a.m.


If you tell us what you're trying to photograph it will help give you better advice.

I am one who thinks buying the older macro Manual Focus lenses (which are available pretty cheap) is a great way to go.

Mark Osier , Sep 17, 2008; 09:46 a.m.

Thanks to everyone that responded, I really appreciate your input.

Peter, I'm just looking to have the ability to do better close-up work with flowers & bugs, etc. This being my first look into "tubes" I needed to get some advice from those with much more know-how than I have.....and boy did I hit the jackpot.

Eric, Looks like a new (or used) lens will be an asset if I get some tubes, and since I try to shoot most all my nature shots in manual it looks like I have a few options that can be helpful. I do like the idea of having some zoom available so I'll start shopping around to see what's out there. I also like the idea of the older Marco lenses because I do have some experience with them....even if it was over 25 years ago. :-(

One last question: If I do go with a lens that has a zoom would you suggest going to a 70-300mm or use one with a lower and shorter scale like 50-135mm, or similar?

Jerry Schuler , Sep 17, 2008; 01:11 p.m.

Mark what are you planning to photograph? If you can get within a few inches of the object, you may want to get a Coolpix 990, 995 or a 4500. These cameras are incredible macro cameras and they are not that expensive anymore. I think they do a better job than the Nikkor-Micro lenses. But if you’re planning on the photographing a bee on the flower you better get the 105mm Nikkor Micro or you'd get your noise stung.

Mark Osier , Sep 17, 2008; 07:12 p.m.

Jerry, I do have a nice little Nikon Coolpix P5100 that does fairly well on tight shots, but would like to take pics with my D300 and a decent macro lens or a mid-range telephoto w/ tubes, for better quality pics.

If I skip the Macro lens I'm still not sure what range telephoto would be the best option for me, but I am leaning towards a 70-200mm or 70-300mm (or roughly thereabouts) based on some reading I did this morning. Also hoping to get one with a low F stop, something like a 2.8 would do nicely.

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