To some of you this post may be old news, to others it might encourage you to explore your kit in a way you haven't before.
What you can see on the photo above is my 350d dSLR attached to my Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS lens, which is fully extended and is sporting the rather massive ET-60 Lens Hood. Next to it is the similarly huge M42 Soligor 90-230 zoom lens with extension rings to turn it into a nice macro set-up. It's worth noting that the Soligor weighs about twice as much as the Canon lens...
Next, let's look at some photos:
These are my macro efforts from last Sunday afternoon, shot hand-held with the help of my JJC Wireless Flash Triggers and a Yongnuo YN460-II Flash. The thing is, normally I'd only use the heavy manual focus non IS Soligor lens (or my M42 135mm) teamed up with extension tubes, because I thought it was the best kit for the job.
As I finished the first set I went to upload the photographs to my laptop when I spied my EF-S 55-250mm Zoom lens. Although not billed as a macro lens, its has a fairly close focussing distance when at 250mm, so I snapped it onto my 350d and went back into the garden to take some comparison shots.
I was surprised to discover that the 55-250 was actually quite good as a basic macro lens, getting me reasonably close to my subject. I had to switch to manual focus, but the way that the lens is fully open until point of capture meant that focussing was fast and easy. The built in IS meant that I was more comfortable shooting at the lower shutter speeds that flash synch necessitates, and the whole camera / lens package was much lighter.
The photos taken with my M42 Lens, extension tubes and EF adapter are numbers 2, 4, 5 and six.
The photos taken with my Canon EF 55-350mm IS Zoom are 1 and 3. Not bad, eh?
So, perhaps next time you've got your long zoom on your camera, turn it out to its maximum focal length, switch to manual focus, then get down among the flowers and insects, you may find that you've already got a great macro lens without having to mess around with extension tubes or an expensive dedicated macro lens!
Go on, give it a go.