Budget Macro Photography Setup vs Canon 100mm F2.8 Macro Lens

Budget Macro Photography Setup (Extension Tubes) vs A Dedicated Macro Lens

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Last year I made a video showing the budget set up I made for macro photography. It uses the Canon 600d (Outdated, now the 700d) with the kit lens plus a set of extension tubes, a cheap flash from china and a diffuser made from a take away box. This has been my go to set up for macro photography for about 3-4 years now, I was struggling with some product photography using the extension tubes though so I upgraded to the 100mm f 2.8 lens from Canon to help streamline my shooting process.

This was the lens I wanted originally but couldn’t justify the price. I’ve been shooting more close up products lately so I decided to bite the bullet and get the lens to help steam line my process. I was still curious to compare the 2 sets ups so I got two 10p coins and tried to get the same photo but with the 2 different set ups.

 

For the 100mm macro setup I used the 5d mark iii and a Elinchrom BRX 500. I know some people will moan saying that it’s not a fair test but I don’t care. This was the set up I wanted when I first started so I was aiming to get 60-70% of the results with my budget set up. Now I have the set up so it was time to compare the difference.

 

I put the smallest extension tube and lined up the camera with the coin trying to fill the frame. Then I set up the 100mm macro lens to get something similar.

The main difference is the backgrounds:

Budget setup:
Detail in the wood is still visible
Slightly soft at the bottom of the coin

100mm Macro Lens:
Shallow Depth of field
Coin is sharp

I’m not a big fan of shallow depth of field most of the time so I prefer the background on the budget setup. The coin is sharper from top to bottom with the macro lens though

 

Pros and Cons

100mm Macro Lens
+ Consistent results
+ Sharper Image
+ Change from close up to long distance instantly
– More expensive

Budget Macro Setup

+ Cheaper
– Takes a bit of getting used to
+ But that makes it feel better when you get a good result
– Lots of  time taken changing extension tubes

 

What’s better?

It depends on what you’re using it for. If it’s just for the occasional bit of macro photography and just for fun I’d go with the budget setup. It’s probably 60-70% of the results at a fraction of the price, it feels more satisfying when it works as well

 

If it’s for work I’d go with the macro lens. It’s a step up in image quality and it’s more time efficient to use which is great when you have deadlines.

 

Here’s the original video:

What do you prefer?

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