What Is a Lens Extension Tube?

Like if this guide is helpful
What Is a Lens Extension Tube?

A lens extension tube is used in SLR (Singe Lens Reflex) photography and is a light-tight tube which increases the distance between the body of the camera itself and the lens being used. As the lens moves away from the image plain, so the magnification of the overall picture increases, thereby creating a much closer and more detailed photograph without the need for expensive, specialist equipment. Such an extension can be used with almost any camera lens, thereby increasing the potential dexterity of the camera while costing very little.

The Benefits of a Lens Extension Tube

A macro photographer who wants to take high quality, detailed photographs continuously deals with the issue of distance. The closer the photographer can get to his subject, the more detailed the photograph can be. However, put the camera too close and it will not be able to take an effective picture. The Lens Extension Tube eradicates this paradox enables the lens of the camera to move closer to the subject and therefore capture finer detail. At the same time the body of the camera is at sufficient distance to capture the image clearly. By putting further distance between the camera and the lens, the level of magnification can also be improved and the overall image is much more detailed but still providing a level of clarity that it not possible without such a tool. Furthermore, a lens extension tool makes it possible to get closer to subjects in places where it is not easy to place an entire camera. As the extension is only the diameter of lens itself, it is easier to get up close in narrower areas, even when the whole camera will not fit. This can provide different and unusual angles to the end photograph and create individual images that would not otherwise be possible.

Fitting a Lens Extension Tube

A lens extension tube is fitted between the lens and the camera body itself. Fit the camera side of the tube directly to the body in the same way that a traditional lens would be attached. The lens then simply sits in the other side of the tube using the same connector as it would on the camera itself. It is essential that the lens extension tube fits completely to ensure that no light can seep into the image chamber as this would destroy the overall picture.

The Impact of Using a Lens Extension Tube

As the extension tube contains no actual lens, the quality of the overall picture remains unchanged when using such a tool. Obviously the location of the perfect focus will change, but this is simply a matter of realigning the camera. The main impact of using an extension tube is the lack of automatic control that the standard extension creates. A standard lens extension tube contains no electrical contacts. This means that the connectivity to automatic programs and auto focus will be lost. Using a lens extension tube with electrical components can eliminate this issue, however, such products are far more expensive than the standard extension would be. There are a range of branded lens extension tubes which will still work in conjunction with some functions, but the best photographs using lens extension tubes will usually be taken on a fully manual mode. Furthermore, such a lack of electrical connectivity can also turn off the aperture control of the camera. This will usually mean that the overall aperture settings are fixed on wide open and cannot be adjusted when taking the photograph. This will not be a problem for cameras with a manual aperture ring as the setting can still be manipulated without the electrical control. Macro photography is all about trial and error, most photographers will not see this lack of automation as an issue. In fact, highly experienced photographers may prefer to shut of the automatic programs on their cameras during macro photography, even when they are available. However, where aperture control is a problem, investment in a more expensive lens extension tube with electrical connectivity may be required. Nikon, Olympus, and Cannon all provide lens extension tubes with the electrical connectivity for their own range of cameras. For lens extension tubes for Sony cameras, manufacturers such as Kenko and Vivitar can provide products which can fit a range of models.

Types of Lens Extension Tube

There are many types of lens extension tube available. Many branded models are created for a specific type or model of camera. However, there are also a number of generic tubes that can be used with a variety of camera bodies. Ensure that the lens extension tube chosen is compatible with the required camera before purchase. Certain tubes do exist that require adjustment to use before attaching to an SLR camera. It is, therefore, wise to investigate this before making the final purchase.

Lens Extension Tubes Lengths

Lens extension tubes area available in a variety of different lengths to vary the distance between the lens and the camera. Such extensions can be used singularly or combined with further extension tubes to further increase the distance within the camera equipment.

The Impact of Using Different Lenses with a Lens Extension Tube

A lens extension tube does make it possible to take much more detailed, Macro photographs without investing in a macro lens. However, to get the clearest shots with the most intricate detail, a macro lens will be required. As a DSLR Macro Lens has a 1:1 magnification, using such a lens in conjunction with an extension tube will add detail and quality to a photograph that is not possible with a standard non-macro lens. Such a combination will capture further depth to the image so that it is possible to focus much closer on the target and create a more magnified result. It is possible to use a Macro lens without an extension tube, however, the camera itself is likely to be unable to capture the image at such close proximity. This will result in a continuous clicking sound while the camera is never actually able to take the shot.

Supporting a Camera with a Lens Extension Tube

The weights of a lens extension tube can vary but will significantly increase the overall load of the equipment. Furthermore, it will also increase the distance of the heavy lens from the camera body itself, increasing the pressure on the tube. To ensure that using this equipment does not cause any stress or damage to the camera equipment, it is useful to support the lens itself when taking photos. When using a lens extension tube for the first time, take some trial shots beforehand to get used to the increased weight. This will also provide the opportunity to get used to the change in balance that the extension will cause.

Setting Up a Shot with a Lens Extension Tube

The simplest way of setting up a close macro shot when getting used to a lens extension tube is to first focus the camera on the subject when the accessory is not attached. This means that the auto focus setting can be used and the camera can be prepared. Once the camera is in position and in focus, the camera can then be transferred to a manual focus and the extension added. The camera focus only then has to be finely tuned when back in position before the image can be captured. Though this can take some time, it is well worth practicing under these conditions to be able to understand exactly what this equipment can do. After some practice, using such equipment becomes second nature.

Finding Lens Extension Tubes on eBay

Lens Extension Tubes area available either in either a branded or generic form on eBay. For a complete range of Lens Extension Tubes choose the Camera & Photography< category from the home page on the eBay site and select the Lenses & Filters< sub section. Lens Adapters, Mounts & Tubes< is then a sub section within this category and Extension Tubes< can be chosen under the ‘Type’ Heading within it. It is then possible to either select Generic Lens Extension Tubes< or a specific brand can be selected. The choice includes Canon Lens Extension Tubes, Nikon Lens Extension Tubes and Olympus Extension Tubes as well as Sony Lens Extension Tubes.


A Lens Extension Tube is an incredibly useful piece of photographic equipment. It enables incredibly detailed photographs to be taken with clarity and focus that is simply not possible without such an instrument. It can improve the quality of photographs taken without specific macro lenses, but when used in conjunction with the correct macro lens, it can astound even the most experienced photographer. A lens extension tube is not an expensive piece of equipment and can be picked up second hand for a price to suit most budgets; however, the difference it can make to the photographs it can take is priceless.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides