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When you first hear it, the phrase “extension tubes” can conjure up many connotations, none of which accurately describe their purpose and function. In principle, extension tubes are very simple tools used to overcome a specific challenge, often while offsetting a number of other difficulties in order to perform in the most convenient way.
An extension tube’s sole function is to provide an additional amount of defined space between the lens and the sensor in order to decrease the minimum focus distance of that lens. Unlike teleconverters or other adapter rings that sit between the lens and the camera, extension tubes contain no optical elements and do not affect the image-rendering quality of lenses.
While extension tubes are by no means a new invention, they have previously been available only for SLR camera systems. Vello has recently introduced a lineup of extension tubes designed solely for mirrorless digital cameras, helping to achieve closer focusing than most mirrorless lenses are capable of doing. This ability to gain near-macro performance in a mirrorless system is a definite plus, since macro lenses are one of the rarer types of lenses that are made for these types of cameras.
One of the most notable benefits of the Vello extension tubes is that they retain autofocus and auto-exposure capabilities between the camera and lens, helping to maintain consistent and accurate exposure results. The other unique feature of these tubes is that they are only packaged as sets, and include one 10mm tube and one 16mm tube. By including two separate lengths, three distinct distances are available to work with—10mm, 16mm, or 26mm when stacked—for a greater range of close-focusing abilities. Furthermore, tubes can be stacked from multiple sets to gain even closer focus and shallower depth-of-field effects. It should be noted, though, that with each extension tube mounted comes a reduction in overall exposure that needs to be compensated for or factored in, if you're depending on autofocus. Additionally, extension tubes eliminate the ability to attain infinity focus, and are designed only for working with close-up subject matter.
From here, Vello’s extension tube sets are broken down into two categories: Econo and Deluxe. The Econo series, which is available for Canon EF-M, Micro Four Thirds, Nikon 1, and Sony E mount types, is characterized by its lightweight design and streamlined profile. The Deluxe series, which is only available for Micro Four Thirds and Sony E mount types, features a more robust build quality with metal mounts for ensured durability and longevity. Beyond these construction material differences, the two lines of extension tube sets function the same and offer the unique ability to transform any mirrorless lens into a close-focusing performer with maintained AF and AE capabilities at a cost that's significantly less than a dedicated macro lens.