While reading some reviews of Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, I was a bit surprised to notice that the lens is supposed to be compatible with 12mm and 25mm extension tubes, and with those one should be able to get maximum magnifications better than 1:1.

An ultra-wide lens for macro work sounds like a fun alternative, but does it really work in practice at all?

Have people had any success with taking macro shots using ultra-wides and extension tubes? Do you have any working distance at all between the lens and your subject? What about lighting the subject, does it become near-impossible with the lens shadowing everything?

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    I am surprised too. I am equally suspicious because my 35mm macro requires a focus distance of about 1cm from the lens (13cm from the sensor) for 1:1 magnification.
    – Itai
    Jun 28, 2011 at 12:52
  • Thanks for the answers so far! But I am a bit surprised that nobody has provided a single example of a macro shot that was taken with ultra-wides and extension tubes. Perhaps someone might take this as a challenge? I guess many people here have both ultra-wides and extension tubes in their camera bags, but they just haven't ever tried them together... Jul 3, 2011 at 20:32

7 Answers 7


Here's Estonian reverse of 1 euro-cent shot with my widest lens, Zenitar 16, at f/11 on 19mm extension tubes, giving 1.18x magnification:

Estonian reverse of 1 euro-cent

Not much room for lighting indeed, sidelight or glow-through with a translucent subject seem to be the only options:

making of

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    is this on a full-frame or 35mm film camera? (just wondering if there's any crop-factor to consider for focal length comparisons) Jul 5, 2011 at 1:34
  • @drfrogsplat Pentax APS-C
    – Imre
    Jul 5, 2011 at 8:04

The shorter the focal length lens, the higher the magnification you'll get with extension tubes. 25mm extension tube / 10mm focal length = 2.5x

I've not used them with ultra wide angle lenses, but they work well with 35mm, so I don't see why not. You will not have much working distance at all, and yes lighting will be difficult with such short working distance. Depth of field will be extremely limited as well, even stopped down.

You might get vignetting at the wider end - I would expect it would be likely with a 25mm tube and a 10mm focal length.

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    The tube will vignette the image circle, yes, but there will be no vignetting at the sensor. I regularly used a 12.5mm Minolta microscope-style lens on a bellows for microphotography, and its image circle at infinity focus couldn't cover a dime. The problem with short lenses (they're not really "wide" at these focus distances) is, as has been pointed out elsewhere, lighting the subject.
    – user2719
    Jul 5, 2011 at 11:09

stumbled upon this article and found the discussion interesting. I'm posting the links to a couple wide angle macro shots that I have taken. I am only allowed to post two links, but I have also tried a 35mm and a 17mm.





Based on my limited experience, I would say that 35mm is the widest focal length appropriate for macro work. Anything less and the focusing distance becomes so small that it becomes very difficult to compose a shot and one is almost always blocking the light.


I have both wide angles and extension tubes in my bag. I have tried several times to use them altogether. With some of them, you can’t focus even with the thinnest extension tube. Indeed, the shortest focus distance is already extremely close to the front lens for most of the very wide angles. E.g. for my 16 mm, 20 mm and for my fish-eye: at the shortest focus distance possible, the object is almost on the front lens – the distance is no bigger than a couple of cm. There is basically no need to add an extension tube. But with 24 mm, or longer, it is working perfectly.

That said, I have failed to find a reason to shoot at 24mm + extension tube when you can shoot at 20mm without extension tube and have the same result with more flexibility in the range of focus.

Indeed, it is important to keep in mind what’s the point of using an extension tube for a wide angle. Basically, two things: being extremely close of the macro object (1) and (2) get some context beyond this macro object (from the background). I see very few reasons to shoot with a wide angle lens + extension tube like you would do with a standard prime and cheap 50 mm but to add problems you don’t have with the 50 mm (lighting in particular or just because you are so close to the macro subject, like any bug, it may fly away). When you want to be close to a macro object whilst getting some context from the background, you should not be worried too much about lighting the object. Of course, it can be a challenge like for any macro shot but nothing specific. Indeed, I would use natural light from the background anyway, that I need to capture as well, that’s the reason to shoot with wide angle at very close distance as explained.

To summarize, if I had no very wide angles (20 mm or shorter) but only 24 or 28 mm, I would say extension tube make perfectly sense for macro with background. But if you have shorter lenses, I am struggling to find value for extension tubes on wide angles.

Image shot with a Nikon D7000 + Fish eye 10.5 mm. The butterflies were as close as 2-3 cm maximum from the front lens. No extension tubes. From https://www.flickr.com/photos/tristanromain/16175832981/in/album-72157627481877415/


The issue of lighting in wide angle macro work is not addressed in the answers thus far. I've used a wide angle and extension tubes to photography, for example, a backlit poppy. That solves the lighting problem. Front lighting, not so much. It's a really specialized lens setup and not applicable to most macro applications. But... as the OP points out, it's fun for certain kinds of effects.

Because the lighting is so hard, and the application so constrained, I never think to do this any more. I'm more a fan of the 100mm macro that gives me some working distance.


12mm extension tube and the Canon 17-55 2.8


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    Nice, but not an ultra-wide lens (55mm according to the Exif info). Jul 4, 2011 at 23:57
  • 55mm could be ultra-wide, on a 6x6 or larger... not on Canon 7D though.
    – Imre
    Jul 5, 2011 at 9:18
  • I didn't claim it was ultrawide. The intent was to provide another piece of data.
    – Tristan
    Jul 6, 2011 at 19:38

The point of an extension tube is to allow using a shorter focus distance than you'd usually get. Since wide lenses tend not to pose much of a problem with short focusing distances, at least zoom lenses tend to be rather short distanced on their wide end. You cannot expect much more magnification by coming closer (unless the front element very much is the main element of the lens) and lighting will be very tricky: you would likely not even have room to mount a ring light or flash.

A wide lens basically has two operating aspects: one is to get a wide angle covered. That's important when moving back to get larger coverage does not work because there is a wall behind you (interior shots) or because your subject is so far away that positioning yourself significantly further is not realistic (landscapes, astronomy).

That's sort of the lateral aspect of wide angle. For art, the longitudinal might be more interesting: it increases the size difference between near and far objects. That makes highlighting near objects in giant size compared to a small-scale background possible. An additional enabler is that the small-scale background significantly reduces the visible effect of defocusing: the background formally may be defocused but its small scale leaves the blurring of bokeh comparatively ineffective: the contrast between subject and background is more achieved through relative size than through blurring.

Neither of those modes is particularly enabled through extension tubes: reducing the focusing distance further does facilitate more blurring of the background, but the required small distances make positioning close objects with a sensible relation to the background hard.

Extension tubes are usually lots more effective with long lenses since they allow significantly reducing the focusing distance with still manageable composition of the scene.

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