How good is the VR with extension tubes?

Discussion in 'Macro' started by girishmenon, Nov 10, 2016.

  1. Hi,
    I like shooting highly magnified pictures of small objects. I shoot at f/4-f/5.6 for that selective focus look. The DOF at f/2.8 with 65 mm of extension tubes is too shallow.
    I use the Tamron 90 f/2.8 mm macro lens (without stabllisation) with 65 mm of extension tubes. I use a tripod, focusing rail and the Wimberley Plamp II etc. However this setup restricts my movement and I cannot get into places that I'd like to.
    I'm thinking of getting a Nikon 105 f/2.8 VR macro. Will the VR be effective with 65 mm of extension tubes, or even 31 mm of extension tubes?
    Will I be able to get sharp handheld pictures at say 1/60th of a second at 1:1 magnification and a 31 mm extension tube?
  2. I'm no Nikon guy. With Pentax I'd have to dial in the true focal length (lens + tubes) for the moving sensor to know it.
    Before you invest: Grab a light ignorant test subject, place 2 electric torches close to it and try getting shots with your current lens at 1/250 (or use a flash). While handholding is convenient for huge subjects in the studio, it seems way too hard for me to avoid forward / backwards shaking of myself to get focus where I'd like it with macro stuff. But maybe Nikon's continuous AF could help with that issue? - Pentax' seems too slow.
    The question "Can I handhold distance around 1:1?" seems twice as important as "Will I benefit from VR?" to me.
  3. From the Nikon 105 VR manual:
    When the subject is from infinity (∞) to approx. 3m (9.8 ft.) away (at 1/30x
    reproduction ratio), pictures can be taken at shutter speeds approx. 4 stops slower
    than is possible without using a VR2lens. As the reproduction ratio increases from
    1/30x, the effects of vibration reduction gradually decrease.​
    Consensus seems to be that at 1:1 and larger (working at or close to minimum focus distance) VR does not impart any benefit.
  4. At close distances VR doesn't help all that much - you're lucky to get a stop or so at macro distances. 65mm of extension tubes will render it almost completely useless.
    By the way - I ended up not liking the Nikon 105mm - I could never quite put my finger on why. I sold it and bought the VC Tamron and have been very happy with it (the first version can be found pretty cheaply - the Canon mount is only $450 right now at B&H - I bet they'll drop the Nikon close to that as Christmas approaches - I paid $500 over the summer from Amazon). I guess I just couldn't get comfortable with the extra 15mm over my old non-vc Tamron - just enough less DOF or something...
  5. Consensus seems to be that at 1:1 and larger (working at or close to minimum focus distance) VR does not impart any benefit.​
    That's said quite often and I think I've seen it stated most frequently in discussions involving Nikon or Canon gear. I don't think it's true at all though, unless you're referring exclusively to tripod mounted macro work and/or shooting macro with high-speed flash gear.
    I'm pretty confident most people (like myself) using camera systems with sensor stabilization (Sony, Pentax etc) found that they definitely get more sharp shots with stabilization on during handheld macro shooting in available light. I haven't used any 5-axis stabilization system camera yet, but I can think of plenty of circumstances where yaw and roll compensating axes should be all the more beneficial, and just as useful for macro as for longer-distance shooting.
    Quite possibly the official line in Canon and Nikon marketing departments was that VR/IS wasn't very useful in macro lenses ... for as long as there were no VR/IS versions of macro lenses offered in their catalogs. Nowadays they both do offer it, at least for the most-recommended focal length macro prime in their respective lineups, so obviously their marketing and/or engineering assumptions have changed.
    As to the OP's question: you should be able to get sharp shots at 1/60s handheld with the 105mm and some extension, unless there are particular challenges involved with lighting. And just for a better understanding of your approach to date: are you using a body with full frame or APS sized body, and which macro subjects do you work with most often? How much cropping are you willing to do in post processing, for example to get better DOF by sacrificing some magnification?

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