Arizona on film. July 2015

We went out to Prescott, AZ for a week and I decided to take along my Ihagee Exakta VX IIa. It has an 80mm f/1.9 lens on it. Boy is that thing a beast to focus. Here are most of the images I shot there. All shot on Kodak Portra 400. Developed and scanned by photovision. 

Gear Review. Canon Extension Tube EF12 II and EF25 II

I've looked around the internet for a side by side comparison of these two strange pieces of equipment and haven't found anything very helpful. Hopefully this will help some of you who may be looking at macro alternatives. 

About a year ago, I was looking at stepping up my "ring shot" game as I primarily shoot weddings and the ring is definitely a detail that should be captured well. It seems like most wedding photographers turn to the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM. I thought that seemed pretty ridiculous for one shot a day. Here are my thoughts on the 100mm Macro... A. I don't want to carry around another L lens in my bag, the less gear I have to carry the better. B. I don't want to spend almost $1,000 on another lens that I'm only going to use for a handful of shots each wedding. 

I see how people are drawn to the 100mm though. It can be used as a portrait lens in place of the 85 or 135 if necessary. It's a true macro lens with the ability to focus to infinity. These tubes on the other hand are limited in their capacity to focus. They have a minimum and maximum focus distance which varies depending on the lens they are used with. 

I first picked up the EF12 II (the smaller one on the right in the image above) used off B&H. Since there is no glass in either of these Extension Tubes I didn't mind buying used in the slightest. I used it for a while until a friend bought the EF25 II (the larger one on the left in the image above) in which I saw more potential. It took me a few months to pull the trigger on the EF25 II, but eventually I got it and was stunned at the difference. The EF25 II seems to be better suited to isolating rings than the EF12 II. I think both have their place. The EF12 II allows me to pull in environmental details while still having the rings be a decent size in frame without cropping. Below are some sample ring shots in order to help compare the two. For these shots I used the Canon 50mm f/1.2L with either the EF12 II or the EF25 II attached.

None of the following images were cropped or sharpened. All images were shot at minimum focus distance in order to provide consistency for comparison.

Canon 6D. Canon Extension Tube EF12 II. Canon 50mm f/1.2 L. Shot at f/4 - 1/125 of a second - ISO 640 - handheld

Canon 6D. Canon Extension Tube EF25 II. Canon 50mm f/1.2 L. Shot at f/4 - 1/125 of a second - ISO 640 - handheld

In order to provide a little variety, I changed the background up and shot these next images from above. 

Canon 6D. Canon Extension Tube EF12 II. Canon 50mm f/1.2 L. Shot at f/4 - 1/125 of a second - ISO 500 - handheld

Canon 6D. Canon Extension Tube EF25 II. Canon 50mm f/1.2 L. Shot at f/4 - 1/125 of a second - ISO 500 - handheld

Do you need to have your lenses professionally cleaned?

I’ve been shooting with Canon gear for more than a decade now. Until recently, I have never had any of my lenses professionally cleaned. *gasp* I’ve had lenses repaired here and there. Some quite a few times actually. But never simply cleaned. Since going full-time, I decided it was a good idea to get a CPS membership. The one I chose comes with 5 free cleanings (bodies or lenses). I recently replaced my old bodies with new ones so I thought why not have my lenses cleaned instead. I’ve owned one of the lenses for ten years now and as I said before, it’s never been cleaned. So, I braved the traffic up to the Canon Factory Service Center, grabbed a number and waited. Eventually I’m called up to the service desk. I put five lenses on the counter and simply ask for them to be cleaned using my free cleanings…

A nice gal was helping me and she seemed a little surprised. She said, “Do you have any bodies you want cleaned? Most people use their free cleanings for their camera bodies.” I told her that I recently replaced all my bodies, so I really didn’t need them cleaned yet. I asked her if the lenses needed to be cleaned since I really haven’t had it done before and she hesitated to respond. Quietly, she said, “Unless there is something affecting your images?” I took that as a no since I’m sure she probably shouldn't be saying that the cleaning they offer for lenses is really pointless. She then explained what they do to clean lenses. It sounded very similar to what I do every dozen shoots or so. Take off caps and filters, clean the front and rear element, clean the outside of the lens, focus rings, etc. Do they recalibrate the lens during cleaning? No. They just test the focusing and if it fails, they let you know it’s going to be an additional charge to repair it. She took the caps off of all the lenses on the counter one by one and inspected the glass. Her departing words - “Your membership expires in August, come back with some bodies before then.”

I ended up leaving two lenses to get “cleaned” because they both have a few years of work on them with no repairs. When I received the lenses back I was surprised by two things. One, Canon replaced the weather-seal (the gasket that mates with the camera body) on both lenses. I could immediately tell because the old seals were completely mangled and when I got them back they were immaculate. That was a nice freebie. The second thing is that I went over the lenses with a q-tip dipped in lens cleaning solution and by the time I was finished both ends were black with dirt and grime. They might have cleaned the lenses, but from what I can tell, it’s not a very thorough cleaning. 

Bottom line, clean your lenses at home… unless you need some new weather-sealing.