You may have heard of a teleconverter, but what’s an extension tube sometimes called extension rings? Both devices serve to increase the focal length of your lens.
A teleconverter increases the size of the image sensor to create more room for light to pass through. The light then hits the film plane or digital imaging chip.
An extension tube is like putting on reading glasses and magnifying everything you look at. The difference is you’re not changing anything about your eyesight–it just makes things bigger! In my blog post, I’ll compare these two devices so that you can choose which one is best for your needs.
What’s the Difference Between Teleconverters vs. Extension Tubes?
An extension tube is an attachment that connects between your camera body and lens. The only thing it does is adjust your lens, so it’s further away from the camera body. The adjustment decreases the minimum focusing distance of the lens.
Extension tubes can be used with any camera lens because they don’t change how light focuses on the film or sensor. They work like that because there is no glass inside.
When you move the lens away from the sensor, you can increase the magnification of the lens. You then decrease the focusing distance turning your standard lens into a macro lens.
A teleconverter is an attachment that also connects between the camera body and lens. People might think they are very similar, but they do two different things.
Teleconverters are used to increase the focal length of a lens. A teleconverter increases the size of your image sensor, whereas extension tubes do not. A teleconverter achieves this by using glass; some of the most common teleconverters are 1.4x and 2x.
What this means is whatever the focal length of the lens is, you then multiply it by the teleconverter number, giving you the new focal length.
The advantages of these two devices are you don’t have to spend a bunch of money on new lenses to get what you want.
However, a teleconverter is more expensive than an extension tube. It has more parts and needs to house a larger lens element to work correctly. Teleconverters cost anywhere from $250 to $500 for this reason. Extension tubes are relatively inexpensive ($20 to 30).
When To Use an Extension Tube vs. Teleconverter
Extension tubes add macro capabilities to a lens, making them perfect for macro photography. It’s most helpful in photographing small objects. They are ideal for capturing details like the texture of a flower petal or the pattern on an insect’s wings.
To achieve an even closer macro shot, you can stack extension tubes on top of each other. Extension tubes come in various sizes, with 12mm, 20mm, and 36mm being some of the most common. As the lens gets further away from the sensor, the more magnification, you will achieve.
One thing to consider is the effectiveness of extension tubes decreases as focal length increases.
When To Use a Teleconverter vs. Extension Tube
Use teleconverters to take photos from a distance when you need more zoom power than your lens offers. A 2x teleconverter will double the focal length of your lens, turning your 200mm into 400mm!
This makes them perfect for photographing wildlife. As subjects tend to be super far away and you don’t want to spook your subject.
Another excellent use for teleconverters is to capture sporting events. They allow you to get close to the action without getting in harm’s way.
The teleconverter and extension tube are two different lens accessories that both increase the camera’s focal length. They work in very different ways, so photographers need to understand when they should use each one.
When choosing which to use, consider what your goals are. Experimentation is key!