The ES-1 tube itself telescopes over nearly an inch of range (about 24 mm of extension), but it is designed short, expecting to focus close for a 1:1 full frame film copy. But the sensor size of an APS-C cropped digital camera (1.5x Nikon DX) is smaller than a 35 mm slide. Therefore, the idea of a full frame 1:1 slide copy is instead 1:1.5 (about 0.67 size — Note that 1/1.5 = 0.67). This smaller image means the slide has to be farther in front of the lens than the ES-1 adapter can manage. The macro lens can focus anywhere, but the ES-1 can't move forward enough to get the full frame onto the little digital sensor. It needs nearly an inch more extension. This extension is in FRONT of the lens (between the lens and the ES-1), to move the slide out further. This is a very simple and complete solution, if you can find the extension needed.
In my case of the Nikon 60 mm macro lens and DX D70S DSLR, it needs 20 mm extra extension added (between lens and ES-1) to be able to cover to full frame (to see a little of the black edges). You probably do want to shoot with slight cropping, to prevent having to do a manual crop operation on thousands of slides. And a little cropping is probably a very good thing to help most slides anyway. But without any extra extension, the 60 mm will crop to roughly about 70% of the width (half the area) at maximum ES-1 extension. That is excessive loss. It is fixed by adding a 20 mm long tube with 52 mm threads at both ends, male and female (which goes between front of lens and the ES-1 adapter).
I use a K5 tube from an old Nikon F extension tube set K (see used on Ebay), and it works great. The K set is the very old non-AI mount for original Nikon F — and is NOT compatible today, and is said to damage today's cameras if used as normal extension tubes — however this ES-1 use only needs the one K5 threaded tube (and which is not attached directly to the camera). The Nikon K tube set includes the K5 tube which is an aluminum tube 20 mm long with 52 mm threads at each end (so it fits the ES-1 and BR-5 directly). The K set also includes a similar threaded 10 mm K4 tube, which is nearly enough for the 60 mm (but not quite, there is some cropping). The Nikon Extension tube K set is long out of production, but used tubes may be available, often found on Ebay (search Nikon K extension) or www.keh.com (search Nikon K5 tube — cannot search KEH, so search Google and include keyword KEH). All you need is the K5 ring (which was also sold separately, in its day).
There are other similar extension tube sets, but not all have threaded tubes, and of those, not all are 52 mm threads. You'd want to be sure of the thread size.
Does anyone know of any other similar 52 mm threaded tubes that might be found? A simple tube about 20 mm long, with 52 mm male and female threads on both ends? Finding an extension is the problem, they come and go.
Another possibility for a short extension is to knock the glass out of a few old battered 52 mm filters, using only the threaded rim, and combine a few of them threaded together to make a short threaded tube. Maybe search Ebay for "52 mm filter", where sometimes there are Chinese filters (I have seen for $1.65 US, with free shipping). No bets on their coatings or optical performance, but they seem good candidates for breaking out the glass for use as short extension tubes. Several of these could add to be a little longer tube.
This is no doubt confusing, but what I can see is that on a DX body with the older Nikon 60 mm macro D lens, the 20 mm K5 extension tube is sufficient to show an area very slightly larger than necessary at full extension of ES-1 (final image has thin black borders around the mounted slide, except at the bottom — the slide needs to be lifted very slightly. I put a couple of layers of thick paper at the bottom of the ES-1 slot). The ES-1 telescoping can be collapsed some to crop slightly. The 10 mm K4 tube (alone) at full extension will crop the slide to about 89% percent width. No extension at all will crop to about 73% width, probably not acceptable. 20 mm or 30 mm seems about right. I am speaking of the older Nikon 60 mm D macro lens on a 1.5 factor DX DSLR body.
I also have an old Nikon 55 mm macro lens (manual lens, old f/3.5 modified to AI), which came with a 27.5 mm M2 extension tube to do 1:1). On a DX digital body, it still needs additional forward extension to size the slide, and the 10 mm K4 ring works for it (at maximum ES-1 telescoping extension) on a 1.5x Nikon D300 DX body. This requirement for extra front extension is due to the smaller DSLR sensor size. Or better, this 55 mm lens could use the same 20 mm K5 tube, with the ES-1 telescoped to about mid position.
To be sure it is clear, the B&H page for the ES-1 says it is for the current 55 mm f/2.8 macro lens and PK-13 extension tube (27.5 mm). The PK-13 is a bayonet mount extension tube for use BEHIND the lens, to allow the 55 mm lens to focus to 1:1. The 60 mm AF macro lens already focuses to 1:1 and does not need or use the PK-13 for 1.1.
Here is Nikon's chart that comes with the ES-1 adapter says the 60 mm lens alone (no extension tube) does 0.96 to 1.0 reproduction — on a FX full frame body. But note the DX DSLR can only use 0.67 reproduction for a slide copy. The DX problem is that forward extension will still be necessary to position the slide far enough out to capture all of its size.
All the rest about the ES-1 may be great, but Nikon is letting us down on this. For $60, seems Nikon should be providing such extension tube(s) for DX with the ES-1. Or at least they should make one available. It is required to use the ES-1 with their DX digital cameras.
Or maybe the necessary extension tube is too difficult to find. Forgetting about the ES-1, maybe there are other innovative ways to make something at home. It will likely only be used for a few days anyway, until all the slides are copied. All that is really needed is the macro lens pointing perpendicular to the slide, and a diffused light source on the back side. I have seen one made from about one foot of 1x4" board, with the camera bolted to one end (1/4"-20 screw for tripod socket), and a plastic pill bottle with a notch across the top to hold the slide, attached at the other end on a small movable board to adjust position. This slide holder seems the only tricky part.
Or any standard macro setup should work too, simply with a tripod or copy stand, and a DSLR and a good lens, pointing at the slide which is located appropriately close. Two parts of this seem harder than normal work: One is making a slide holder that is convenient, fast and reliable to use, but which might be as simple as laying the slide at a certain spot on a translucent slide sorting tray. The other (to copy slides) is getting the lens to focus at the one correct close distance and enlargement size.
Macro Photography is a big subject (Search Google), but standard methods to get the closeup enlargement are:
Extension tubes or close up lenses are very handy for photographing things we come across, like bugs or flowers, where we accept whatever enlargement size we get, but this slide copy problem is harder because it requires an exact size ratio, and an exact size area. It is difficult to predict the exact extension giving that exact situation. A zoom lens is not the best optically, but its variable focus length surely makes this job much easier.
The rule of thumb for bellows or extension tubes behind the lens is that an extension length near equal to the lens focal length will give 1:1 ratio when the lens is focused to infinity. Modern lenses with internal focusing are probably a bit shorter at 1:1. However, near 1:1, there will only almost zero focusing size range other than 1:1 (perhaps only 0.99 to 1.1), and 1.5 will not be possible. A shorter extension will give a greater range farther from 1:1. But this is trial and error, and there is not sufficient control possible for exact ratios. Again, a zoom lens will help this by offering many choices.
This degree of magnification needs everything to be motionless. Using the self-timer on the shutter would help, or a remote control or shutter cord, to prevent shaking the camera. Or the speed of a flash used as a source would greatly help that aspect.
There must be several other ways to use the macro lens and DSLR to quickly copy slides. But what makes the Nikon ES-1 desirable is that it provides an adequate slide holder, and it attaches to the lens so that any relative motion between slide and camera is zero, no shake.