by Ian Burley
Meike Micro Four Thirds macro extension tubes are inexpensive but are they any good?
For some time the only available extension tubes for Micro Four Thirds camera users were either simple and inexpensive sets that didn't offer any communication between lens and camera body, or a rather over-priced solution produced by Kenko. Now for as little as a third of the cost of the Kenko extension tube set you can get a set of extension tubes that, on paper, work just as well; maintaining aperture and focus control thanks to a full set of electronic pass-through connections. Several brands are available and we chose to purchase a set of Meike brand tubes from an eBay seller in the UK. They were priced £32 including postage, although the seller was not VAT registered. We also chose the generally cheaper all-plastic version instead of the alternative metal mount version which is also available.
What are extension tubes for and how do they work?
Extension tubes increase the magnification of the camera lens by moving the lens away from the image plane. A good analogy is to visualise a projector and the image it projects onto a screen; move the projector further away from the screen and the larger the projected image will be. At the same time the image becomes less bright. This is also how teleconverters work but with those there are intermediary optics that maintain the ability of the lens to focus to infinity. Extension tubes have no optics so when used the lens is no longer able to focus to infinity. However, the primary use of extension tubes is for close-focus or 'macro' work so sacrificing extension of focusing to infinity is a minor inconvenience.
Why do you need pass-through electronic contacts?
By convention, Micro Four Thirds lenses are completely controlled via electronic signals from the camera. There is no mechanical linkage at all. Without any communication between the lens and body there is no way to enable focusing, nor aperture control. For macro work the latter is especially important because without aperture control you will be stuck with the lens aperture wide open.
Construction of the Meike extension tube set is mostly of plastic, including the lens mount surfaces but production quality is adequate. The version available with metal lens mounts should be more durable but unless you will be using the tubes a lot then the plastic ones should be fine if used with care. No lens caps are supplied with the extension tubes.
Two extension tubes are include and they can be used individually or together. If used together it doesn't matter which is placed first. One is a 10mm exension and the second is a 16mm extension, amounting to 26mm when combined.
We tried the tubes using an Olympus m.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens at closest focus. Here is what you can expect at closest focus using one or both of the two extension tubes and at the end we tried both tubes with a 14-42mm kit lens @42mm:
|Olympus m.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 (closest focus without extension tubes)||Olympus m.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 plus 10mm Meike extension tube - approx 1:0.76|
|Olympus m.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 plus 16mm Meike extension tube - approx 1:0.7||Olympus m.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 plus 26mm Meike extension tubes - approx 1:0.58|
|Olympus m.Zuiko 14-42mm II plus 26mm Meike extension tubes - approx 1:1.06|
The Meike tubes worked as expected, meaning you can get very useful sizes of your macro subject on yoru camera's frame. Even with a standard 14-42mm kit zoom lens you can get quite close to 1:1 reproduction in the sensor. Using aperture priority exposure mode there is no problem with the loss of brightness because the meter compensates via the shutter speed automatically. There were no noticeable problems with focus control.
The top of each Meike extension tubeis neat and tidy but the plastic lens mount and body might concern some. The spring-loaded communication pins worked normally.
Above you can see both tubes stacked behind an m.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens fitted to a Panasonic Lumix GH4 body.
16mm extension tube on the left and 10mm on the right.
The Meike brand extension tubes are a bit plasticky but they appear to be well enough made and constructed and they worked as we expected they should. Pricing does vary quite considerably with a median price of around £35 for the pair.
You can buy Meike extension tubes via Amazon and help fund this site througha modest sales commission. Click the link below:
Discuss this story:
Meike Micro Four Thirds auto extension tubes reviewed
Four Thirds User editorial team Meike Micro Four Thirds auto extension tubes reviewed
Patrick Re: Meike Micro Four Thirds auto extension tubes reviewed
I answered a post a couple of weeks ago about macro lenses and suggested the photographer look at... (more)
Ian Re: Meike Micro Four Thirds auto extension tubes reviewed
Thanks Patrick - I paid too much for these as the link to Amazon on my article show them at £17 :... (more)