REVIEW: Kenko Extension Tube

A month ago, I picked up a set of Kenko Auto Extension Tubes that allow photographers to turn an ordinary lens into a macro – and in some cases a super-macro – lens.

By their nature, the extension tube is designed to allow the photographer to get closer to the subject than the minimum focus distance of the lens.  The Kenko Auto Extension Tube set features three tubes at 12mm, 20mm, and 36mm lengths.  This particular set works with the Canon 5D Mark II, though you can find them for nearly every camera out there.

What I like about this set is it has the electronic contacts that allow the camera and the lens to exchange information, which allows the auto focus feature to work – though I found out, sometimes it is best to fore-go the auto focus and switch to manual.

For this review, I used a single 50mm f/1.8 Canon lens.  The first image shows how close I could get to shoot this action figure.  For what it is worth, the action figure stands approximately 6-inches high.

There is some nice depth of field in this shot, but unfortunately, unless I want to severely crop the image, this is as close as I could get.

Things change considerably when I attached the 12mm ring.

This is a dramatic change from the first image, and it also was the point I realized that while auto focus is nice, it took a moment for the camera to lock on, and there were moments when I had to move forward and back to find the right focal point.

Next up was the 20mm tube.

Again, closer is better, and even with the iris fully opened, the depth of field is extremely shallow.  At this point, I switched from auto focus to manual.

At this point I am about three-inches from the face of the figure with the 36mm extension tube attached.

You might think you only have three options with this extension tube set, but you can mix and match the tubes in any number of ways to get the right extension for your shot.  I went to the extreme and stacked all three tubes for a total extension of 68mm.

At this point, I’m literally an inch or less from the face. The depth of field is so shallow here, that it took several attempts to get the focus just right.


I have a real need to shoot objects very close up, and the Kenko Extension Tube set does exactly what it claims to do.  Though I’ll probably need to pump in the light and increase the ISO to increase the depth of field, I found my options for shooting have greatly increased.  The price for this set is $179.00, which may seem like a pretty penny, but considering you aren’t buying a dozen macro lenses of various focal lengths, this is a steal.  I can’t wait to try these extension tubes out while shooting video.

6 Replies to “REVIEW: Kenko Extension Tube”

  1. Hello! I don’t know how I got here, but I need to tell you how much I like that last pic. The one really zoomed in.

  2. So here i am (found this page searching for the tube set) and it hits me “wow actionfigure and photografie, i have something in common with this guy” the i notice the name, i listen to all the frogpants podcasts. Thanks for posting this, been verry helpfull!

  3. Hi Stephen

    I just want to ask something about the lenses. Do you think this tube set would work nice with my 18-55 Nikon VR kit lens? Or I will definitely need an exterior light source. You know, these samples shot with a good aperture.

  4. It’s not so much a change in aperture as it is in the focal distance from the lens to the imaging plane. Since there is no additional glass in the tube, there shouldn’t be a need to add more light to your scene. In fact, adding more light to the scene would require you to close the iris down and thus increase your depth of field, which is kind of the opposite of what you are trying to achieve with these tube.

  5. Will these extensions works on a 50mm fixed lense or a 55 to 250mm lense? I just don’t have any idea what to buy?

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