More Macro, Less Money

Image taken on X-T4 with XF35mm f1.4 and a 16mm Extension Tube
Macro photography is a fascinating subject but cost wise the equipment needed can be eye watering, but it doesn't need to be.  There are several options to produce a macro image.

  • A dedicated macro lens
  • Adding extension tubes to decrease the minimum focusing distance and increase magnification.
  • Using close up filters

Fujiflm make two lenses that are labelled as 'macro'.  

The first is the XF60mm f2.4R, one of the three original X series prime lenses launched in 2013 and the newer XF80mm f2.8R LM OIS WR macro.  The 60mm is not a true macro lens as it doesn't reproduced images at a ratio of 1:1, it is a 1:2 (half size) lens, where as the 80mm is a true 1:1 macro lens.

I bought a 60mm in 2013 alongside the 18mm f2, 35mm f1.4 and 14mm f2.8 primes when I bought the X-Pro1.  It was an excellent short telephoto lens.  It was a bit slow in the auto focus department but optically it was excellent, as was the build quality.  I sold it in 2015 because I wasn't using it much for macro photography and my short telephoto of choice was the 90mm f2.

CLICK HERE for a gallery of images shot on the XF60mm f2.4

Image taken on an X-T1 and XF60mm f2.4 macro

The XF80mm f2.8 is the first 1:1 macro lens for the X Series and, like the 60mm, is excellent both optically and in its build quality.  The auto focus is also a huge step up on the older lens.  

The 80mm also has the advantage of being able to accept the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters to increase the focal length of the lens, the only other lenses that can take the converters are the 50-140mm and 100-400mm zooms and the 200mm f2 prime. 

An image taken on an X-T4 and XF80mm f2.8 macro
Price wise the 60mm retails at £599 while the 80mm is almost double that at £1149.  Now if you do a lot of macro photography then this is the way to go.  The good thing is a macro lens also doubles as a good portrait/ short telephoto lens, so you can use it for other genres, which is good news when you paying a good chunk of money, especially for the 80mm.

This is a good option and is a lot (and I mean a LOT) cheaper than buying a dedicated macro lens if you already own a suitable prime or zoom lens.

Extension tubes are designed to enable a lens to focus closer than its normal set minimum focusing distance. They are exceptionally useful for macro photography, enabling you to convert almost any lens into a macro lens while maintaining its original optical quality.

I have a 16mm extension tube which, when fitted to the XF35mm f1.4, allows me to focus a lot closer to a subject and therefore increase the magnification.  The level of magnification depends on the lens you attach the extension tube to.

The extension tube has electrical contacts that allows the lens to 'talk' to the camera, giving full information in the viewfinder and allowing the use of manual focus.

While optical quality is unaffected by the addition of the extension tube, you do have to alter the exposure to compensate.  Also with the tube fitted, 'normal' focusing doesn't work (ie you can't focus on distant subjects), you can only focus in a narrow band close to your subject.

Having said that the results are quite impressive.  If you compare the image below of the slug and the image of the same subject above taken on the 80mm macro lens, you can see the 35mm fitted with the extension tube gives very comparable results.  The problem is the front of the lens is only a couple of centimetres from the subject when shooting with the 35mm, where as I was standing further back with the 80mm.  Being that close is not always suitable or desired.

If you CLICK HERE you will see a conversion table showing the various magnifications and closest focusing. 

The cost of the Fujifilm 16mm extension tube is £84.99 and there is also an 11mm version available for the same price.  However there are third party options available for less money if you check on Amazon and other similar websites.

Image taken on X-T4 with XF35mm f1.4 and a 16mm Extension Tube

This is a method that is really cheap but I have always found to give mixed results at best.  This is a filter that is added to the front of the lens and it magnifies the image according to the strength of the filter.  The quality of the filter is paramount and the cheap end of the market always gives poor results due to the low quality materials used.  This is not a method that I like or recommend to produce macro images.

Image taken on X-T4 with XF35mm f1.4 and a 16mm Extension Tube
While the best method for macro photography is to buy a dedicated macro lens, the cost can be somewhat restrictive unless you are going to be doing a lot of macro photography.  The 80mm f2.8 lens is stunning but for my work I cannot justify the cost.

At the other end of the spectrum is the close up filters and I recommend not wasting your money on this option.

The best bang-for-buck is definitely is fitting an extension tube on one of the short Fujifilm prime lenses.  The 35mm f1.4 with a 16mm tube fitted gives a 0.6x magnification and an 18mm f2 prime gives a magnification of 1x (albeit with a working distance of 86mm, which isn't always practical).  If you already own a suitable lens then the extension tube offers the best method of getting into macro photography on a limited budget.

Image taken on X-T4 with XF35mm f1.4 and a 16mm Extension Tube

Image taken on X-T4 with XF35mm f1.4 and a 16mm Extension Tube

Image taken on X-T4 with XF35mm f1.4 and a 16mm Extension Tube

Image taken on X-T4 with XF35mm f1.4 and a 16mm Extension Tube

Image taken on X-T4 with XF35mm f1.4 and a 16mm Extension Tube

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