Kenko Announces Electronically Coupled Extension Tubes For NEX and MFT

Kenko has just announced a new set of extension tubes for Micro Four Thirds and Sony NEX. While these are not the first extension tubes that Kenko has introduced, these are the first that come with electronic coupling. With these extension tubes, virtually any lens designed for Micro Four Thirds or Sony NEX can be converted into a macro lens. By moving the lens further away from the sensor, the extension tubes allow for much closer focusing and thus much higher magnification ratios. The tubes come in sets of 10 and 16 mm spacers that can be combined to 26 mm, enabling true macro capability.

While the general idea behind electronically coupled extension tubes is pretty neat, these are not exactly what we would’ve expected them to be. We would’ve expected that these adapters simply forward the elctronic signals from the camera to the lens, as the electronic connectors would suggest. But, according to the press release (which you can read in German over at photoscala.de), they do not retain autofocus capability. Instead, they come with focus confirmation chips that allow the camera to assess whether the lens is focused correctly. But you’ll still have to focus manually. What the press release doesn’t say is whether you’ll still be able to control the aperture from the camera body. If not, this would greatly limit the usefulness of these adapters.

UPDATE April 3rd, 2012: Since there was some confusion among both us and you, our readers, concerning the autofocus capability of the extension tubes, I wrote an email to Kenko asking for a clarifying statement. Today, I received their reply:

Basically, the new Extension Tube set (10mm and 16mm) for Micro Four Thirds and Sony NEX can be used at all camera shooting modes and exposure modes. And auto focus works properly.

But depending on condition of taking macro photography, the depth of field may become extremely shallow, in that case the auto focus may not work properly. In this case, you should focus manually.

And depending on combination of master lens focal length and tube length, auto focus can not be operated. When using the Extension Tube alone (10mm or 16mm) or combination (10mm + 16mm = 26mm), the focal length of master lens should be greater (longer) than the length (10mm, 16mm or 26mm) of the Tube/Tubes used. This explanation is shown on the gift box of each models using illustration as attached.

On our website, the compatibility list for Extension Tube set with master lens of OYLMPUS, Panasonic and Sony would be available soon.
http://kenkoglobal.com/

I think that pretty much settles it then. Autofocus will work, but might not depending on what lens+tube(s) combination you are going to use.

These are the full specs of Kenko’s new extension tubes:

Extension tube set for Micro Four Thirds

  • Size / Weight: 57 x 10 mm / 48 g (2.24 x 0.39 in / 1.7 oz)
  • Size / Weight: 57 x 16 mm / 70 g (2.24 x 0.63 in / 2.47 oz)

Extension tube set for Sony NEX

  • Size / Weight: 61.5 x 10 mm / 48 g (2.42 x 0.39 in / 1.7 oz)
  • Size / Weight: 61.5 x 16 mm / 75 g (2.42 x 0.63 in / 2.65 oz)

The price for each set — which have so far only been announced in Germany, as it seems — will be € 216, which is approx. US-$ 287, but I would expect the final US price to be a bit lower. The German press lease states an availability for April 2012.

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