Extension Tubes vs Closeup Filter

Many students have asked about the difference between extension tubes and closeup filters when shooting macro subjects.

Extension Tubes – come in a set of 12mm, 20mm and 36mm. You can use 1, 2 or all 3 if you want to get ridiculously close! They fit between your camera and your lens, allowing you to focus closer. They are hollow having no glass inside.

Closeup Filters – attach to the front of your lens like any other filter and is sold for different filter sizes. Use only premium ones like the 500D as the glass needs to be high quality.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II with Canon 24-70 lens

No accessory                                           12mm ext 1/20 @ f/5.6                         20mm ext 1/15 @ f/5.6                    36mm ext 1/40 @ f/5.6

12″ from subject                                     6″ from subject                                        4″ from subject                                  3″ from subject


Extension Tubes


1. good results

2. easy to use

3. they will work with any lens that fits your camera


1. DOF is slightly diminished

2. It reduces the amount of light coming in to your sensor.

3. Focusing becomes difficult on zoom lenses.

CANON 500D Closeup Filter

Canon 500D closeup filter – 6″ from subject, 1/25 @ f/5.6

Closeup Filters


1. good results

2. easy to use

3. attaches to the front of your lens

4. focusing works fine when using different distances on zoom lenses


1. comes in specific sizes so you may need adapter rings

How to Find

Extension tubes are made by camera manufacturers, but also third party companies such as Promaster and Kenko. The important thing in purchasing extension tubes is to make sure they are compatible with your camera.  The Canon 500D Closeup filter will fit any lens of the size as the one you purchase, such as 77mm.  The Canon 500D is currently out of production but has not been discontinued so hopefully we will see again soon. The Raynox filter is similar but you have to move the camera back and forth for focus (to my understanding), so a bit annoying when focusing.

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