Extension tubes and zoom lens

Hoverfly, Nikon 105mm macro lens

In my previous post I discussed my first experiments with extension tubes. I noticed that my Nikon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens is doing quite well as far as magnification is concerned, while my 135mm prime lens is not. However, the distance from the front side of the lens to the subject is more comfortable with the Nikon 135mm lens, especially for moving objects like bees and butterflies. I also noticed that by using too many extension tubes you lose a lot of light, decreasing the quality of the picture.

Butterfly, Nikon 28-300mm & 300mm

So, my next step is to experiment with my Nikon 28-300mm zoom lens. For all kinds of photography and if I am taking only one lens it is this one. For this experiment I choose the 20mm extension tube to make sure there is some magnification and enough light.

One thing that I noticed right away is that by zooming you actually focus (in a similar way by getting closer or further away). This is very handy for finding the focus area. For actual fine tuning it is much better to use Live View (and zoom in) and to focus with the focus ring. This is the best way to get really sharp picture. This means that you also have to use a tripod. I use my Peak Design Travel Tripod.

Bee and Chinese rose, Nikon 28-300mm @ 68mm

I also noticed that for the combination of the zoom lens and the 20mm extension you really need a lot of light, or you have to increase the ISO. An other observation is that below 35mm there is hardly or no focus area at all. Also, for the 150mm and above the magnification is minimal.

What I really like about using the zoom lens is that if a bee is hopping from one flower to the other it is easy to adjust the zoom and still get a sharp picture (just like with normal photography). Of course, the quality of the picture does not match the ones of the Nikon 105mm macro lens. The flexibility allows me to take pictures that are not really macro pictures, which means that I have to crop a lot afterwards (losing a lot of detail).

So, to conclude, the zoom lens in combination with an extension tube works fine for regular pictures (if you know the limitations). However, my personal experience is that I get better pictures with my Nikon 105mm macro lens. As soon as my macro lens is back from repair I will try it in combination with a small extension tube.

Succulent, Nikon 105mm macro lens