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Thread: Tubes or Bellows

  1. #1
    jereve's Avatar
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    Tubes or Bellows

    Hi Folks,

    Can I draw on everyones experience? I am looking to have a go at close up photography, and would like some advice on choosing between tubes and bellows. I have a Tamron 80mm Macro, but would like to go further.

    Thanks in advance for any advice.

    John.

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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    Go for tubes John. They are a lot cheaper than bellows, and bellows may take you TOO close. See how you get on, get yourself some bellows later if you think you have a use for them.
    Last edited by charzes44; 8th February 2011 at 06:09 PM.

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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    Macro photography can get a bit tricky, John, although the basics are relatively simple.

    To let's start with a question; what do you wish to photograph? Flowers, live insects (outdoors), dead insects (studio shots), static objects (eg jewellery) will each require slightly different operation.

    Tubes will get you closer, which increases the image size but there is no increase in the magnification (well virtually none). For live insects, I started by attaching a 25 mm extension tube to a Canon 70-300 lens. Originally, I wasted money by purchasing a 12 mm tube which wasn't sufficient.

    This worked reasonably well although there were some drawbacks. Proper tubes from your camera maker aren't cheap; I think the Canon 25 mm costs around 100. Some third party tubes are cheaper but if you have to buy a set and only use one size you might find that there isn't much difference.

    Tubes do require a bit of extra light so you might have to increase the ISO or use flash.

    Good quality tubes are strongly constructed and shouldn't cause any problems with the normal camera operation, eg auto focus, but this isn't guaranteed with the very cheap alternatives.

    Another option is a Converter, say a 1.4x, which (providing it can be attached to your lens) will give increased magnification without having to get closer to the subject which can be useful for live insects. But this option also requires extra light and can cause some degradation of the image; particularly with cheaper lenses. Unless you already have, or would like to have, a converter the cost may be a consideration.

    Eventually, I decided that I really needed something better so I purchased a Sigma 180 mm macro lens, which works well. But it is a heavy tripod only lens which isn't cheap. A 150 mm macro lens is a popular alternative.

    Considering the cost of tubes/converter you may, if you really want to get serious with macro, want to also think about getting a bigger lens instead.

    From my experience of regular live insect photography (for identification purposes) I reckon that if I can get within 12 inches of the subject I am doing well; which is where increased magnification really has an advantage. Yes you can sometimes creep really close to a sleepy insect but I find that my failure rate considerably increases as I try to get closer.

    But for static subjects or flowers, distance isn't a problem.

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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    John,

    First off, as far as I know, Tamron doesn't sell an 80 mm macro lens. They do make a 90 mm macro, that allows 1:1 images. The rest I'm saying here is based on you having the 90 mm lens lens..

    As you said that you wanted to have a go at slose-up, that lens should keep you occupied for a while (I know mine is still more than sufficient for my needs).

    After that, once you master the problems of close-up photography (very shallow depth of field, very sensitive to movement, longer expositions tho closer you get, ...) and find that you cannot get enough magnification, you'd need extension tubes or a bellows. Note that at 1:1, with a full-sized sensor your field of view covers 24x36 mm (a good sized stamp), and for a 1.5 crop sensor, your view field would be 18x24 mm (a daisy is already 2-3 cm in diameter, to give you an idea).

    Both tubes and bellows almost force you to use a good tripod.
    Tubes are relatively cheap (cheaper than a good bellows) can keep the automation (AF and diaphragm) working, and are easier to handle.
    Bellows, although more expensive, give you a higher max. magnification, and some have tilt/shift possibilities that can come in handy. Most do lose all automation though. And they are very sensitive to proper focussing, as the depth of field is virtually nil (tenths of a mm at best). But focussing gets difficult, as the available light diminishes fast with more extension...

    Again, as you imply you are just starting in close-up photography, I'd suggest working for a while with the macro lens you have: to find its limits, to decide on your favourite subjects, and then decide where to go from there.

  5. #5
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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    Hi,

    I should have given more info. I am interested in shots of lichen (for now) and would like to get the largest, most detailed shots I can.

    Charzes44, and Geoff F - thanks for such a rapid response and your advice, I will go for tubes and see what I can acheive (might even post a shot if they are good enough)

    Remco - my mistake , it is the 90mm lens. Tripods and long exposures are what I expect anyway, I have got a nikon d80 so it will be a 1.5 crop sensor.

    Thanks for all your help.

    John.

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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    John,

    Further to my previous reply, you will find useful information on the warehouse express website. Search for 'nikon fit extension tubes'.

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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    Bellows can achieve extreme magnifications, depending on the focal length that you use. They were more popular in the days of film cameras before the proliferation of macro lenses.

    I would make certain however, that my bellows unit had either:

    1. The capability for stopping down the lens to the aperture at which I want to shoot.

    2. The capability to use a non-automatic aperture lens. In the 1970's, I used a borrowed Spiratone bellows (Note: Spiratone was a New York City based company specializing in low cost photographic accessories that would have a double page spread of ads in all the photo magazines) at one time in my life which accommodated non-automatic screw mount lenses. These lenses were very much like enlarger lenses (and I am not sure that they were not lenses for enlargers) with which you needed to open the aperture for focusing and then stop down manually. This system was "O.K." but had its problems. When shooting at extremely high ratios, you could easily move the lens a tad when stopping down which would throw your entire shot out of kilter. However, at least you could get a proper exposure. The problem with many "el-cheapo" extension tubes or bellows of today is how to stop down an automatic lens to the desired shooting aperture.

    Some more expensive bellows outfits had dual release cords; one to the lens which would facilitate stopping down the aperture and the other to the camera to trigger the shutter.

    The exposure times using a bellows were terribly long. The light loss between the bellows and the focal plane was considerable and, of course, the photographer needed to stop down to get any usable DOF. Some better and more expensive bellows units had tilt and shift capability which would increase the DOF slightly. The bellows setup needed a VERY STURDY camera mount because it was long and ungainly.

    Bellows usually could not be used to shoot living creepy-crawlies and I generally had problems shooting with the unit outdoors. The bellows offered so much wind resistance that even a slight breeze would tend to move the unit. The tripod I used could support a Volkswagen Beetle but, also weighed as much as the car did.

    I noticed that there are many used bellows units on eBay, including some old Spiratone models which seem to sell for many times their original new price.

  8. #8
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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    I am reactivation this thread because I am wanting to do close up photography too. I have only been using a point and shoot Cannon G10 at this point, and taking flowers and plants. I can get about 1 inch from them and get a beautiful picture for the camera I have. I would love to expand the things I am taking outside of plant life. We travel extensively all over the world, and I want to take whatever strikes my fancy. I am buying a cannon 60D soon, and I really don't understand bellows or tubes. Are you all saying that there is an extension you can get for a regular lens that will allow you to do close up without a special lens? I really am a newbie and know nothing about this. Donald recommended a few general lenses: one is Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS. If I could find some extension to add on to that one instead of having to buy another expensive lens right now, that would be great. My main expense is going to be a good zoom/telephoto and a regular lens, but I don't want to miss out on the close up things. The other consideration I have is traveling fairly light. I only do a carry on when I travel, and want to fit everything in a backpack on the plane so size, weight and all that is a big thing.

  9. #9
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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    I have been reading this thread to try and learn about close up. I guess I don't really understand about all these things. You attached an extension tube to a 70-300 which is a zoom telephoto if I am correct. I am buying a cannon 60D and trying to figure out what lenses I need to start with. I was looking at 70-300 and then it was recommended to get a 70-200 with a teleconverter which would extend my range. I want to take close up of flowers and plants. Can I actually get an add on to put on one of these lenses that allows me to get close up? If I could avoid having to buy an expensive lens for close up right now, it would be better on my budget. Going to the Philippines in Dec and i want to be able to do the far away shots, but still do close up if I want to.
    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    Macro photography can get a bit tricky, John, although the basics are relatively simple.

    To let's start with a question; what do you wish to photograph? Flowers, live insects (outdoors), dead insects (studio shots), static objects (eg jewellery) will each require slightly different operation.

    Tubes will get you closer, which increases the image size but there is no increase in the magnification (well virtually none). For live insects, I started by attaching a 25 mm extension tube to a Canon 70-300 lens. Originally, I wasted money by purchasing a 12 mm tube which wasn't sufficient.

    This worked reasonably well although there were some drawbacks. Proper tubes from your camera maker aren't cheap; I think the Canon 25 mm costs around 100. Some third party tubes are cheaper but if you have to buy a set and only use one size you might find that there isn't much difference.

    Tubes do require a bit of extra light so you might have to increase the ISO or use flash.

    Good quality tubes are strongly constructed and shouldn't cause any problems with the normal camera operation, eg auto focus, but this isn't guaranteed with the very cheap alternatives.

    Another option is a Converter, say a 1.4x, which (providing it can be attached to your lens) will give increased magnification without having to get closer to the subject which can be useful for live insects. But this option also requires extra light and can cause some degradation of the image; particularly with cheaper lenses. Unless you already have, or would like to have, a converter the cost may be a consideration.

    Eventually, I decided that I really needed something better so I purchased a Sigma 180 mm macro lens, which works well. But it is a heavy tripod only lens which isn't cheap. A 150 mm macro lens is a popular alternative.

    Considering the cost of tubes/converter you may, if you really want to get serious with macro, want to also think about getting a bigger lens instead.

    From my experience of regular live insect photography (for identification purposes) I reckon that if I can get within 12 inches of the subject I am doing well; which is where increased magnification really has an advantage. Yes you can sometimes creep really close to a sleepy insect but I find that my failure rate considerably increases as I try to get closer.

    But for static subjects or flowers, distance isn't a problem.

  10. #10

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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    I have mentioned extension tubes in my reply to your other post, Liz. They would work OK for flowers etc. I would recommend a 25 mm tube but not used in conjunction with a converter.

    Having said that, I do use a 12 mm tube as a spacer so as to be able to add a 1.4x Canon converter to my 180 mm Sigma macro lens. It does work and I already had the converter. Otherwise I would have done things differently.

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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    Quote Originally Posted by lizzy310 View Post
    I am reactivation this thread because I am wanting to do close up photography too. I have only been using a point and shoot Cannon G10 at this point, and taking flowers and plants. I can get about 1 inch from them and get a beautiful picture for the camera I have. I would love to expand the things I am taking outside of plant life. We travel extensively all over the world, and I want to take whatever strikes my fancy. I am buying a cannon 60D soon, and I really don't understand bellows or tubes. Are you all saying that there is an extension you can get for a regular lens that will allow you to do close up without a special lens? I really am a newbie and know nothing about this. Donald recommended a few general lenses: one is Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS.
    Hi Liz,

    Let me (re)set your expectations - if you have been shooting macro stuff with your Canon G10, you will be used to a certain amount of Depth of Field (DoF) for a given aperture. You may be disappointed to find that with the Canon 60D, you will get far less - almost 3 x less. To achieve the same DoF, in standard f numbers; f/8 on the G10 will require f/22 on the 60D. That means you need 3 x as much light, or a much slower exposure, or higher iso, to compensate. Overall, you might find your macro quality goes down - I don't want you to find out the hard way that for flowers, and a fair amount of 'macro' shooting, a decent (RAW capable) compact camera can be better than a DSLR It is all about crop factors of the sensors; the G10 is 4.5 and the 60D is 1.6, but you're better off reading the macro tutorials for the technical stuff.

    This is all before we even start to worry about getting the same framing and magnification from the lens + (optional) tubes/bellows, macro lenses, macro filters, etc.

    The advantage of a proper macro lens over all the other options is largely operational convenience, although quality may come into it, many good macro shots are obtained without a proper lens, even on a DSLR.

    For flowers and plants, a true macro lens, even a normal lens and tubes or bellows, is probably just too much for you anyway, as long as the lens focuses reasonably close, you may get away without, or by adding a close up (CU) filter on the front of the normal lens, Colin has a nice shot somewhere. This sounds like the best option for you travelling light - also; putting a CU filter on is quicker and less risky than removing lenses and inserting tubes while out and about.

    Hope that helps,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 7th September 2011 at 03:22 PM.

  12. #12
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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    Thank you so much Dave. I think I have been going a little crazy with so much info on here. I am going to wait for now...learn more and practice with the 24-105 that Donald recommended. Then we will see. I guess cropping is always one thing you can do.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Hi Liz,

    Let me (re)set your expectations - if you have been shooting macro stuff with your Canon G10, you will be used to a certain amount of Depth of Field (DoF) for a given aperture. You may be disappointed to find that with the Canon 60D, you will get far less - almost 3 x less. To achieve the same DoF, in standard f numbers; f/8 on the G10 will require f/22 on the 60D. That means you need 3 x as much light, or a much slower exposure, or higher iso, to compensate. Overall, you might find your macro quality goes down - I don't want you to find out the hard way that for flowers, and a fair amount of 'macro' shooting, a decent RAW capable camera can be better than a DSLR It is all about crop factors of the sensors; the G10 is 4.5 and the 60D is 1.6, but you're better off reading the macro tutorials for the technical stuff.

    This is all before we even start to worry about getting the same framing and magnification from the lens + (optional) tubes/bellows, macro lenses, macro filters, etc.

    The advantage of a proper macro lens over all the other options is largely operational convenience, although quality may come into it, many good macro shots are obtained without a proper lens, even on a DSLR.

    For flowers and plants, a true macro lens, even a normal lens and tubes or bellows, is probably just too much for you anyway, as long as the lens focuses reasonably close, you may get away without, or by adding a close up (CU) filter on the front of the normal lens, Colin has a nice shot somewhere. This sounds like the best option for you travelling light - also; putting a CU filter on is quicker and less risky than removing lenses and inserting tubes while out and about.

    Hope that helps,

  13. #13
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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    I just realized something...I didn't realize that a DSLR won't shoot in RAW. My G10 has a RAW setting and it is a point and shoot. So what kind of camera does have that setting? I think I will still buy the D60, but I am kind of surprised by that.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    ~ I don't want you to find out the hard way that for flowers, and a fair amount of 'macro' shooting, a decent RAW capable camera can be better than a DSLR It is all about crop factors of the sensors; the G10 is 4.5 and the 60D is 1.6, but you're better off reading the macro tutorials for the technical stuff.
    ~
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 7th September 2011 at 03:21 PM.

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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    Quote Originally Posted by lizzy310 View Post
    I just realized something...I didn't realize that a DSLR won't shoot in RAW. My G10 has a RAW setting and it is a point and shoot. So what kind of camera does have that setting? I think I will still buy the D60, but I am kind of surprised by that.
    Oh dear, me bad.

    I have misled you, I meant a decent RAW shooting compact camera can be better than a DSLR.
    All DSLRs (I know of) WILL shoot RAW, so no need to worry (I assumed you knew this, but I should have been clearer, sorry).

    I am going to edit my post above to fix it, in case someone else reads it in future and is similarly misled.

  15. #15
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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    Thanks for clearing that up!
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Oh dear, me bad.

    I have misled you, I meant a decent RAW shooting compact camera can be better than a DSLR.
    All DSLRs (I know of) WILL shoot RAW, so no need to worry (I assumed you knew this, but I should have been clearer, sorry).

    I am going to edit my post above to fix it, in case someone else reads it in future and is similarly misled.

  16. #16
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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    I bought a set of Kenko extension tubes and I find them very useable. I think the set was around $80, so not too costly. And all the lens functionality is maintained on my Canon 5d.

    Tubes or Bellows
    This was with a 70-200f4L with an extension tube.

  17. #17
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    Re: Tubes or Bellows

    Lizzy, as you're travelling and both space and weight are an issue, you should also have a look at a raynox 250 if you're after extreme macro. I believe there's another for less extreme but not 100% sure, you'll need to google it. Bellows are probably not the best choice in such a situation because they tend to be bulky and they really do require faffing around with a tripod. I use extension tubes myself with a reversed lens for handheld extreme macro of insects (1-5x) (ie this link) but if the subject was farther away than 5 cm or so I'd reach for a macro lens or a telephoto with tubes.

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