Macro Tubes on a Sony A7II
by Tom Le Vine
Wanted to share some thoughts on shooting macro without a macro lens. I live in South Africa where there is plenty of interesting subject matter for macro shooting, both flora and fauna. I shoot with a Sony A7II and a 55mm f1.8 Zeiss lens. I’m a hobbyist and it’s the only lens I own, I struggle to justify spending on another lens. So even though one lens can be very limiting, it forces you to really think about composition and what you can and can’t hope to achieve with your setup…which in turn I believe makes you a better photographer. Anyways, back to macro.
I previously had an OM-D E-M5 mk1 with a PanLumix 20mm 1.7. Loved the camera, loved the lens. But when it came to DOF and DR it just fell short of what I wanted, so I changed to the Sony.
The image quality and versatility of that camera and lens setup meant I could capture some pretty good macro shots. I just had to crop a lot. For example:
Not bad for a not-macro lens. But as soon as you try and make this bigger (even for a desktop wallpaper), that’s when it shows its limitations.
Now to the Sony.
I tried ‘macro’ shots with it, but really struggled to get the focus I wanted. I think this was because of the focal length. Even the extra bulk (relatively speaking) of the Sony system made it a little harder to keep it steady and sharp.
The cheapest solution I figured was macro extension tubes. I had tried them before on my OM-D with an old 50mm OM lens and had different degrees of success, but mostly ended up with very soft images. I opted for a macro tube like this one:
So far, so good. It has taken a bit of practice to get something I am happy with but it does what it says and allows you to keep focus and get much closer to the subject than the 55mm lens would allow me to. I use the lens and camera in full M mode. Shutter speed, ISO, aperture and focus all need to be controlled manually for best results. I did try with just controlling aperture manually but found the ISO would be way higher than it needed to be or the shutter speed way slower than it needed to be. I use the camera handheld (sometimes I use a gorillapod almost like a handheld tripod, which I find helps reduce shake). I still miss focus and still miss good shots because of not getting the manual settings quite right. But with minimal cropping and some slight colour adjusting in LR I end up with really large images that capture a feel of macro without the extra expense.
One further thought is that the DOF with the tubes is really shallow. So you inevitably can’t shoot as wide open as you might like for a faster shutter. You either compromise getting the focus right or getting some movement blur. It takes some tweaking to find a sweet spot.
Anyways, here are some shots with the Sony A7II with the 55mm 1.8 Zeiss and both 16mm and 10mm macro tube attached.
Thanks for looking