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.

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher is one of those guys that has always loved comics but never got into them until really late in life - like high school in the 80s. He just missed the Crisis on Infinite Earths, but has been around for every major crossover since. Stephen knows his way around video and film production having been a director, producer, editor, and motion graphics artist for projects ranging from small promotional pieces for Wachovia all the way up to regional videos for the Division of Emergency Management. As a prolific writer, Stephen began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen also freelances for the Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog. When not writing, Stephen shares his knowledge as a tenured faculty member at Fort Hays State University. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment. Favorite Writers: Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, Paul Dini, Adam Beechen, Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges Favorite Artists: Dan Jurgens, Alex Ross, Adam Hughes, Freddie Williams III

6 thoughts on “REVIEW: Kenko Extension Tube

  • May 12, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    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.

  • May 27, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    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!

  • August 17, 2014 at 10:48 am

    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.

  • September 6, 2014 at 12:27 am

    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.

  • January 12, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    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?

  • May 26, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    They will work on any lens, and I believe the company makes them based on lens manufacturer.

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