Wondering what the differences are between macro lenses and extension tubes? Learn their pros and cons, which one will help you get the results you want and where you should invest your money.

What is macrophotography?

Macro is a photography technique that allows you to take close-up pictures of very small subjects and enlarging the details. This “magnifying glass effect” is very useful for taking pictures of nature, small objects and textures.

What are extension tubes?

Extension tubes are empty cylindrical accessories (without glass) that attach to the base of any lens. By extending the lens, they allow for a much closer focus and thus, magnifying effect.

Extension tubes ProMaster Sony E
The picture comparisons in this article have been made with the ProMaster Macro Extension Tube Set for Sony E.


  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Affordable


  • Loss of brightness
  • The focus area is limited to a very small distance

What are macro lenses?

They are professional lenses especially designed to be used at closer distances and photograph small objects. They are usually prime lenses (e.g. 100mm, 90mm, 30mm …) with a large and constant aperture (e.g. f/2.8).

Sony 90mm f/2.8 macro lens
The macro lens picture comparisons have been made with the Sony 90mm f/2.8 G Macro OSS.


  • Can be used as a telephoto lens (depending on the focal length)
  • Superb lens for portraiture
  • Magnification ratio often up to 1:1
  • Professional quality images (bokeh, colors, contrast)
  • High performance autofocus


  • Price

Which one to choose?

It’s important to determine your needs first before investing in macro lenses or extension tubes. What will you be really using them for?

If you’re just getting into macro photography or do it only on rare occasions, extension tubes are a great value option. They will allow you to turn any of your regular lenses into a “kind of macro lens” and open up new horizons … without emptying your bank account.

If you are a serious macro enthusiast and you want top image quality, dreamy bokeh, razor-sharp details and maximum autofocus performance, I suggest you invest in a dedicated macro lens. In addition to having a professional piece of equipment, you will also have the possibility to use it as a telephoto lens and for portraiture.

Are you a macro enthusiast? If so, are you more of an extension tube or pro lens type? Leave your comments below!