Sunday, February 21, 2016

Fun with Extension Tubes

Frequent readers of this blog (hey you!) will know that I tend to make a lot of photos using Lego minifigs.

(If you are not a frequent reader, first of all welcome to the blog, and secondly, you may be interested in knowing that I tend to make a lot of photos using Lego minifigs).

One of the largest challenges with such photography is that the minifigs are much smaller in real life than they appear on the screen.  Really, this means that they require macro photography.  

The problem is this: I do not have macro lenses on my camera.  Macro lenses are also pretty dang expensive and specialized things.

The lenses I have cannot focus on things up close.  My short lens (16-50mm) cannot focus on anything closer than 10" to the lens, and my telephoto lens (55-210mm) has a minimum focus distance of 3.28 feet (yep you read that right - a whole metre). 

Normal portrait photography looks better when taken from a longer lens - 70-200mm lenses are often used by the pros for portrait photos.  Since minifig shots are often really just portrait shots, this means I'd need to have my camera 3.5ft away from my subject to get the look I wanted - 3.5ft to capture something that is 1.5 inches tall.  As you can imagine, since I shoot in a small home office space, that this inherently offers lots of challenges for getting decent shots.

The cheap solution to this is something called extension tubes, which are adaptors that sit between the camera and the lens, and allow the lens to focus much closer to the subject.  I recently bought a set of tubes (Neewer 10mm and 16mm tubes), and today I gave them a try for the first time.  

The following are the results of some test shots with and without the tubes.  My goal was simply to get the minifig the largest size in the frame with each configuration (i.e. I didn't worry about lighting, or an interesting scene - just macro-ness).  The resulting shot of each lens with and without the extension tube side by side for comparison sake.

The first is taken with my telephoto lens.  The shot on the left was taken racked-out (full zoom) at 210mm, and my camera was 3.5ft from the subject.  The second, with both tubes in place, was 10 inches from the subject, taken at 107mm, and the minifig is much larger.  This gives me better results, and the camera is in a much more workable position in my studio.
The second test was with my short lens.  The non-tube version taken at 45mm zoon, and the lens was about 10 inches from the subject. The tube'd version being 6 inches away, and 50mm zoom.  This is a more dramatic difference.

As you can see I can get much closer with the extension tubes, which is going to help on so many levels.  Now all I need is an idea for a decent shot and I can give these tubes a real workout.