User Review: Meike extension tubes


Since I was catapulted into the world of macro by discovering the BCLmacro, I have fallen in love with this form of photography. This is not a big surprise, as I really enjoyed working under a microscope while in graduate school. I purchased the Meike extension tubes after researching macro photography while offshore and thought to write about my experience using them so far. These extension tubes were quite inexpensive when I purchased them (about $25), but in the past month have gone up in price. The tubes are ideal because they allow for communication between the camera and your lens (if the lens has electronic contacts). I assume what I present could be duplicated using ones without electronic contacts, but the Meike variation enables you to auto focus and retain exif data. Micro four thirds photography (http://m43photo.blogspot.com/) published a great review of these extension tubes and how they perform with a suite of Panasonic lenses. I found that these worked really really well when used with the Olympus body cap lens and modified BCLmacro. For a comparison, I also show how these tubes perform with the Olympus MZD 45mm f/1.8 portrait lens.

Magnification


The figure below is a summary of the magnification between each of the lenses when coupled to the 10mm, 16mm, or both (26mm) extension tubes. To assess the magnification, I simply photographed a ruler. The first row is of the BCLmacro and the next two are of the unmodified body cap lens at it's close focus and infinity distances. As you can see, the difference between the infinity and close focus distances is not that noticeable when used with the 16mm and 26mm extension tubes. Overall, the BCLmacro has the greatest magnification and the 45mm MZD portrait lens has the least.


Below is a table outlining the millimeters photographed and calculated magnification [18mm (sensor size)/mm's photographed]:

Closest focus distance


While photographing the ruler I also measured the closest focus distance which is the distance between the lens and the subject. The working distance was also calculated and represents the distance between the sensor and the subject. Both are summarized in the table below. Interestingly, the differences in magnification between the BCL at the infinity and close focus settings is small, BUT the closest focus distance is significantly larger with the close focus setting. This is a good thing because some subjects will "flee the scene" if you get too close. In fact, when using ANY of the BCL options you will need to get extremely close to your subject (1-2.3 cm). To put that into perspective, the diameter of  nickle is 2cm... so, you have to get REALLY close. The 45mm MZD portrait lens allows you to keep your distance, but the magnification is not as great.

Sharpness


To assess sharpness, I reverted to photographing a $1 bill which is the subject that I used to describe the BCLmacro.  

BCLmacro

10 mm
100% center crop
16 mm
100% center crop
26mm
100% center crop

BCL @ 0.3m

10 mm
100% crop
16 mm
100% center crop
26 mm
100% center crop

BCL @ infinity

10 mm
100% center crop
16 mm
100% center crop
26 mm
100% center crop

45mm MZD

10 mm
100% center crop
16 mm
100% center crop
26 mm
100% center crop
The following figure shows all the photos above which gives another example of the difference in magnification. 

Since no one goes around taking photos of dollar bills all day, the following are a few real world examples of sharpness. All were taken with the body cap lens variants and diffused kit flash. The photos represent JPEG converted RAW files and 100% crops were taken from in focus areas. 


100% crop

100% crop

100% crop

100% crop




100% crop

100% crop

Conclusion

Overall, my favorite combination is the unmodified body cap lens with the 10 mm or 16 mm Meike extension tubes when set to the close focus (0.3m) position. For ultra close up photos my choice would be the BCLmacro and 26mm extension tube. However, this combination will only work if your subject is static (or very slow) because of the extremely close focus distance. It is also important to note that with any of the body cap lens variants that the DOF is razor thin. This makes focusing difficult and it takes a bit of patience to nail a shot. I have not really used the 45mm portrait lens with the extension tubes because I have had so much fun using the body cap lens, but eventually I will update this and add some sample shots. At $40 on Amazon right now, the Meike extension tubes make a great alternative to a macro lens... especially when coupled to the $50 body cap lens : D I have had a blast exploring the world of macro photography and hope that some part of this article has interested you. Thanks for stopping by! 

Sam D.

Additional sample photos:

Cockateil
Eyelash
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