Few weeks back I was casually searching for something on Amazon.com and I stumbled upon a Auto Focus Macro Extension tube at under $9... Nope.. price bumped to $43 now. (Link)
At first it was hard to believe considering most of the manual focus extension tubes are trading at this cost and the best ones are well above $125-$150.
So I quickly searched for someone who was going to travel from US to India in next couple of weeks (which was not too difficult since school holidays in US). I got this lens in my hands on Saturday (10th June) and put it to test straight away on the same day evening.. and boy.. I was pleasantly surprised with the results.
Let's see the Results:
Note: All results with Canon 550D + camera mounted flash and a DIY diffuser. You could pretty much achieve same results with the pop-up flash and thermocol (Polystyrene) plate diffuser.
Here are some results with 50mm (with one ore two or all three extension tube elements attached). These results are with "Auto-Focus" turned on.
The Auto focus seemed to work fine with lower magnification with one or two elements attached.
Then it was time to UP the game.. so I stacked all the 3 elements and also slapped my raynox on top of the 50mm. That gave good magnification but made it increasingly difficult to use auto-focus, which was expected. But hey, the power of auto-focus lens is not just the auto-focus but more importantly the auto-aperture which you won't get with manual extension tubes.
Here are some results with auto focus turned off and going for really tiny subjects. Check the details on the ant and the fly-eye it could give.
Then comes the ultimate test... how does it perform with the kit lens, the standard 18-55? If that gives good results, then this can be a boon for people just getting started with DSLR into their adventures with macro. And well.. it DOES give great results with 18-55 too.
So to net-out.. the results were great.. better than I expected.
How does it compare with other equipment?
If you compare with a manual extension tube (that's the price-point), it is thousand times better.
Nope: Price now bumped to $43 which makes it half of other Auto Focus Extension Tubes. I would then recommend manual extension tubes :).
You can use any lens with this and don't have to pre-set the aperture. You can even take advantage of the auto focus at lower magnification. Lastly, if you use Magic Lantern, since the electronics are connected, you can even use "trap focus" feature even when auto-focus is turned off.. which makes it ideal for even tiny subjects.
More about "trap focus" feature in later tutorials.
If you have to compare this with dedicated macro lens, well don't since at $9 (Edit: $43 now!!) you won't get any macro lens... but wait.. there is more to it. With standard macro lens you can reach only 1:1 (barring the 5:1 lens like MPE65), where as you can reach 1:1 and beyond easily with this inexpensive hack while maintaining the clarity of a 50mm lens.. that's awesome when you count that even auto-focus works.
I am going to definitely recommend this one to anyone who is starting off into macro.
Does that mean I will shift to this from my 70-300 + Raynox combination?
Well, NO. For one simple reason, for changing magnification, I still need to add / remove the extension tubes which is not very convenient on the field. That said, I will start using it more often than my manual extension tubes / bellows for sure.
I will leave you with two more Images which are my favorites from the shoot on Saturday. Note that I got more magnification at lesser focal length (most probably since the minimal focal distance is lower at lower focal length.. something to ponder on in another tutorial)