There are multiple ways to take a picture – from landscape, portrait, night view to close-up. What is your favorite choice when you want to fully enjoy the charm of an object in very close distance? Your answer is probably close-up. Obviously, you can use close-up lens to get the best results, but another option is to use a lens accessory called ‘extension tube’.
Today, I would like to introduce to you an interesting story of how one person went about making an extension tube for the NX camera. So, here it is: how the blogger Rocky Mountain (Ilhyoung Kim) made the extension tube for the NX camera.
Q. Could you briefly introduce yourself?
Hello. I am Ilhyoung Kim, living in Colorado, U.S. I go by the pen name of ‘Rocky Mountains’ at an online camera forum. I have lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years now and work at a global transportation company as a software engineer. Although ‘camera’ has been my hobby for some time, I am the kind of person who enjoys DIY. So, I am more interested in the camera itself as a device and how it operates, rather than taking photos.
Ilhyoung Kim (Blogger Rocky mountains)
Q. Could you explain what ‘extension tube’ is for those not familiar with it?
It actually hasn’t been long since that I’ve come around to learning about the extension tube.
All system lenses can only focus when the object is in a certain distance. The kit lenses that people most often use (18-55 and 20-50mm lenses for NX system) are not an exception. As the focus gets lost if you draw close to an object less than its minimum focus distance, there is a certain limit to how close you can go. Of course, there are macro lenses sold separately in the market, but they are quite expensive.
However, in general, all the lenses (that I know of) focus better on an object located closer to the lens if it is separated from the camera and grow further from the sensor surface. Then, theoretically, infinite focus will not work, but infinite focus is meaningless in close-up shots. Extension tubes have been developed just for this purpose. The tube allows the lens to be located further from the sensor surface than the flange back distance that the system originally defines, thus enabling photo shots of objects closer to the lens than what the minimum focus distance the original specification allows. Needless to say, objects close up will be enlarged on the image, which gives the close-up effect. As a result, you can take close-up photos even when you don’t have a macro lens. Combined with macro lens, extreme close-up beyond the specification of macro lens becomes possible.
Due to electronic system cameras, there are extension tubes in the market that not only extends the flange back, but also extends the electronic contacts between the lens and body, thus making it possible to use system functions such as autofocus and diaphragm control.
Q. Is there any particular reason that you decided to make an extension tube for the Samsung NX camera?
In fact, there is an interesting story behind this. There is a person I came to know on an online forum, who is also an avid user of Samsung camera NX. This person also likes to take extreme close-up photos, but expressed his sadness for not being able to get an extension tube product for the NX. And that is why I decided to make one myself.
Sample image by WHABANG
After making it, I gave him the beta version. He was very excited about it, saying that he will show what extreme close-up can do! It is a pleasure for me to see someone enjoy my work.
Q. How long did it take for you to finish the work?
It took about 3 months from ideation to completing the beta version.
Q. Making the tube doesn’t appear simple. What were the most challenging time and the most satisfactory moment?
The most satisfactory moment was when the NX body recognized the lens through the extension tube for the first time when I tested the extension tube. Although not perfect, I was thrilled to see there was potential. And I was also excited to do the first close-up shooting using the 18-55 kit lens in the first sample shooting.
As for what was challenging, every stage had its own challenges. Designing the device itself was totally new, and operating the mechanical tools (CNC, lathe, etc.) was also tricky. Reverse engineering the NX camera and the lens mount was not easy either. I spent a significant amount of time designing the spring for the lens mount and went through many trials and errors making the lens stop pin and the lens release button.
But most of all, the most challenging was time limitation. I have a full-time job and also have kids to take care of, so I only started the work late at night after the kids went to bed. At the most, I only had 2-3 hours each day. Because I couldn’t invest much time, progress was slow and productivity also seemed to stagger.
However, people around me have sent me much support and care, some offering very practical advice. It was with such help that I was able to smoothly finish the project. I want to take this opportunity to thank them as well.
NX100 + NX Extension Tube Set
Q. Are there any other products that you have made on your own other than the extension tube for the Samsung NX camera? If so, could you introduce them?
My first work of such kind was the KT88 single-end vacuum tube power amp. I also made a back-loaded horn Hi-Fi speakers, which I use until these days. As for a camera, making a mock up of the NX200 before it was introduced was quite interesting. I had also made a simple tilt lens adaptor.
Actually, there was a big project that had been long underway before this extension tube project started. The project is about making an adaptor for the NX system and has been going on for almost a year. This adaptor, if flange back is allowed, converts all MF and AF lenses into AF lens for the NX. I named it “Universal AF adaptor for NX camera.” The project involved reverse-engineering the communication between the NX body and lens for several months by understanding how it worked and rebuilding it using a microprocessor. The lens movement that the NX body wants is made separately and the response sent back to the NX body for AF. PCB design and firmware is already complete and ready to operate. Now, I have plans to make an adapter kit. Once the adapter kit is complete, I want to further upgrade the firmware and PCB. It would also be nice to add DMF function on top of it. You can visit my blog for more detailed information and progress. (Blog : MY DIY World)
This project carries a special meaning for me because I obtained my first patent with it. Putting the financial benefit aside, obtaining a patent is like giving an engineer like myself a medal.
Q. Is there any particular project related to the Samsung NX camera that you wish to perform in the future?
One wish I have after finishing this macro extension tube project is to share the outcome with those that have taken an interest and have supported me in the process. Because making a couple of extension tubes is completely different from mass production, I am thinking about what to do…that is, how I can contribute to NX camera users and the community in a practical way.
One project I have in mind is making an affordable adapter equipped phase detection AF function, although this is not only for the NX camera. This will be an adapter where AF works regardless of camera body and lens as long as flange back is allowed.
However, the future is the future. If there is anything urgent that needs my attention, the priority can change. After all, what I do is just hobby. Hahaha!
So that was the interview with Ilhyoung Kim, the maker of the extension tube for NX. Although short, the interview was more than enough to convey his passion towards ‘extension tube’, right? In the next posting, you will be able to check out how Ilhyoung Kim actually went about making the extension tube, so stay tuned!
*If you want to read more about the ‘Extension Tube for the Samsung NX Camera’, check out our previous post : ‘Story 1. Extentsion Tube for the Samsung NX Camera ① Ideation & Design‘