Close up or Macro "accessory" filters or lenses

Paul C

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For close-up pictures serious photographers who's earnings depend on it will buy dedicated "macro-lenses"; close-up enthusiasts will justify the expense and camera bag space of autofocus-enabled extension tubes. What about us regulars who once a month or so find the subject of our image is just too close to focus on?

Accessory close up lenses are great inexpensive buys for your camera bag. You add then to the front of your standard lenses where you would add a filter. They have a great advantage over basic extension tubes - they preserve AF, through-the-lens flash control and image stabilisation - they cost much less than any alternatives - while they are so small that every camera bag can fit one in.

"In photography, a close-up lens (sometimes referred to as close-up filter or a macro filter) is a simple secondary lens used to enable macro photography without requiring a specialised primary lens. They work like reading glasses, allowing a primary lens to focus more closely."

Thanks for that one Wikipaedia. However in practice with a M4/3 system what do you need to put on your shopping list?

So here is a quick bit of optics for you. If you focus your camera on infinity and add a +1 dioptre accessory lens (often called "filters" in error) then the camera will only focus on objects 1m or closer from the film plane. If you use a +2, the maximum distance is 0.5m/50cm, +4 dioptre at 0.25cm.

Now M4/3 kit lenses focus typically closest at about 30cm, for example the Lumix 14-42mm kit lens achieves this. So in practice I have found that with a "kit" of accessory close up lenses of +1. +2. +4 and +10 that in reality you need only the +4 in your camera bag. A quick search of auction sites and selling sites today show that you can buy single lenses from recognised manufacturers, such as Hoya, for <£3.00 GBP / <$4.00 USD and sets of 3-5 from £15 GBP / $20 USD.

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Why not use the +10? Well in truth the image quality of these accessory lenses means that at high magnification the chromatic aberration is really too great for even snapshot use. If you need to be focusing on subjects never further than 10cm - then look elsewhere.

To get the best image from your +4 lens stop down to the middle of your lenses range. Consider a burst of light from the pop-up flash onto the subject - and if the front of the lens gets in the way with a shadow then bounce the light in with something white (even a small pocket handkerchief will do for close-ups!).

What quality of accessory lens do you need? Well the big difference in quality comes when you move from single element accessory lenses to double or triple element ones. Canon makes excellent, if expensive, double element ones (the +4 version is called a "Canon close-up 250-D") and many photographers swear on the "Rayonox" brand of compound-element accessory lenses. I have tried all the options and find that when using +4 lenses at 10-30cm camera to subject distances the inexpensive single lenses are pretty good.

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Conclusion: when you look at those "close-up lens sets" with 4 or 5 lenses in a pouch - my experience for M4/3 systems is just buy one: the +4 dioptre lens in the filter size that fits your "kit lens". If you can afford a compound doublet or triplet lens oer the basic sigle element "filter"- then even better. If you NEED a compound doublet or triplet lens then you might be best saving up for a dedicated macro lens. I have a fabulous "legendary" 55mm F2.8 Komine/Vivitar macro-lens full frame adapted to micro 4/3 - but on most days out I find that I left it behind! Also, the honour of being a "legendary" lens is that the prices tend to rise to match the status! The cheapest I could find on eBay today was $125 USD before postage for a Nikon fit version.

In preference today, I have just bought a single +4 Hoya brand accessory lens in 46mm thread for my Lumix 25mm F1.7. That lens focuses to 25cm at its closest so with a +4 accessory lens, I can take over at <25cm where the lens' designer left off. Why not just use a step-up ring to adapt my existing 52mm filter-thread lens? Well, image quality deteriorates the further the accesory lens is from the front element - so its good to have the correct filter-thread version for your favourite lenses.

Now the great thing about the MU43 forum is that almost certainly there will be others with different experience to contribute - so let's see what more I can learn.

Best wishes to you all - Paul in the UK
 
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Petrochemist

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Plenty of Pros are quite happy to use good diopters (or tubes for that matter) to boost their close focus abilities.

A diopter can allow macro focusing at distances not possible with normal macro lenses, and can boost a macro lens to get higher magnification few macro lenses go beyond 1x, add a Raynox and they will generally reach at least 3x while still keeping excellent quality.

On shorter focal length lenses the single element close up filters are usable, but they show their faults quite clearly on a moderate telephoto. The Raynox DCR150 BTW is +4.8 diopter so is similar in power to the +4 models you are recommending. The DCR250 is +8 which I find a bit excessive. I've not tried the MSM 202 & 505 models which are seriously strong.
 

Paul C

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Mike is correct to point out the frustrations of Canon having their own definition of accessory lens strengths.

Let's see if I can clarify it....

Canon does explain "The Canon 250D has a focal length of 250 mm. To get the strength in diopters, divide the 250 mm into 1000, so 1000/250 = +4" which is why the Canon 500D is actually the weaker of the 2 options they sell as 1000/500 = +2.

The actual magnification of each lens depends on the focal length of the lens on your camera and on the focus distance. Like Mike I have found that these simple accesory lenses work best at mid-focal length.

The Canon 250D or 500D are great options - but at today's price have to be MUCH MUCH better than those basic single element lenses to be the first choice on your shopping list.However, they occasionally surface on eBay where the misunderstandings of their unique Canon-language often make them great to bid on. Hang on.....now I've given that one away I won't be winning any more bargains for those again!!

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wjiang

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Mike Wingate

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Not keen on inexpensive close up lenses. Tried a few, then bought a set of auto Meike tubes, then the O60mm lens then the Raynox 250, the Raynox is a great accessory.
 

Paul C

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Thanks wjiang - that is a fantastic list of close up accessory lens options - thanks for linking to that !

Agree about the small diameter versions often being bargains on auction sites and excellent to pair up with M43 lenses - that's why I have been out searching for unusual 46mm diameter ones.

I have found that the wonderful lightweight, 135g, and tiny 5cm long Panasonic Lumix Vario G 35-100mm f/4.0-5.6 ASPH makes an excellent close up zoom for insects and flower heads. As it is a telephoto zoom the pop-up flash isn't usually shadowing the subject - so a burst of fill-in light can be easily added - furthermore it has amazing resolution from full aperture up to f11 (never less than "good" at most any settings). Without help it has a problem though - as it has a mimumum focus distance of only 90cm. So a 46mm filter thread +2 and a +4 accessory lens packed into your camera bag gets you to the <50cm and <25cm range respectively.
 

archaeopteryx

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The actual magnification of each lens depends on the focal length of the lens on your camera and on the focus distance.
Hi, I think you've forgotten the d² term in the lens combination formula, though the thin lens approximation can be close enough.

Mike is correct to point out the frustrations of Canon having their own definition of accessory lens strengths.
Um, I hope it hasn't escaped your attention lens power is frequently indicated by focal length as well as by diopter (1000mm reference) and magnification (250mm reference). Most suppliers of achromatic doublets---Marumi, Edmunds, Thorlabs, Knight, Newport, Ealing, and so on---use focal lengths.

few macro lenses go beyond 1x, add a Raynox and they will generally reach at least 3x while still keeping excellent quality
Could you be more specific? I just plugged a few examples into Johan's Raynox calculator and can't replicate this for the native mount macros or use of the DCR150. If you meant arrangements like a DCR250 on a Canon 100mm EF or Nikon 105mm AF(-S), yeah, those come up at 3x. The Micro-Nikkor 105 AI(-S) variants calculate as 3.7x with the DCR250 due to lack of focus breathing, comparable to what the 43 mount Sigma 150mm offers if adapted.

I've not tried the MSM 202 & 505 models which are seriously strong.
The 202 is often described as not great and, while I've not come across what I would consider a fully proper evaluation, the few tests I've found have shown poor enough results it's not a lens I'm especially interested in. I've never seen a test of the 505. Raynox does specify it with an 18.5 mm working distance, somewhat short given its 31mm focal length, but if one's going to be using effective apertures with substantial diffraction it might work well enough.

Something I think is not often understood is the large clear diameters of 202 and 505 make them fast---f/1.3 and f/1.0, respectively. Since they've 4/3 optical formulas they're comparable to Tessar-derived enlarging lenses rather than the double gausses usually preferred for contrast and resolution when reversing. The f/2.8 double gauss enlarging lenses all seem to be sharpest about f/4 so it's probably unfair to expect too much from a Raynox operating three or four stops faster with a simpler formula. The closest well documented comparison I'm aware of is asymmetric achromat doublet pairs, which tend to have RMS spot sizes several pixels across. While these lack one of the correction surfaces available to Raynox they're also about a stop slower and roughly twice the price.

Placing a stop behind a 202 or 505 therefore seems likely improve optical quality more than the additional diffraction degrades it. I've not come across anyone who's documented trying it, however.
 
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D7k1

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Canon 250D is for lenses <100mm, 500D is for lenses >100mm. Takes about a 300mm lens to get you to 1:1 with the 500D. I use the 500D on my100-400 and 75-300II. I also have the Oly 60 macro. Canon dual element diopters get you very close to a true macro lens if you match it to the proper lens. yes they are expensive (I use a 77mm step down to 72 for the 100-400 - it was about $200). But zooms give you a great range of image size with a diopter and it is worth it to always have that capability with me IMHO.

Here is one from the 75-300II
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Petrochemist

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Could you be more specific? I just plugged a few examples into Johan's Raynox calculator and can't replicate this for the native mount macros or use of the DCR150. If you meant arrangements like a DCR250 on a Canon 100mm EF or Nikon 105mm AF(-S), yeah, those come up at 3x. The Micro-Nikkor 105 AI(-S) variants calculate as 3.7x with the DCR250 due to lack of focus breathing, comparable to what the 43 mount Sigma 150mm offers if adapted.
I rarely use a diopter with short focal length lenses & don't like the focal lengths of the native macros (too short for good working distance). I was thinking of 100mm macros which are pretty much standard, and possibly including the results of my 300mm lenses (mainly on my DSLR) In hind sight it probably would have been with the DCR250 - I've had that considerably longer.
 

ac12

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IMHO, the closeup filter/lens kits are relatively cheap and fit the bill for someone wanting to dip their toes into closeup work.

I use an old 55mm Micro Nikkor (less than $50) on a Nikon->m4/3 adapter.
I figure at macro ranges I will be manually focusing anyway, so the old manual lens is just fine.

Tip: At macro distances, I find it REALLY hard to hand hold, so I use a 4-way rail (front/back+left/right) on a tripod. The 4-way rail makes small adjustment easier than moving the entire tripod, an inch or so.

As you guys talking about long lens know, the long focal length lens gives you more working distance, which I found helpful in trying to illuminate a subject.
 
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tkbslc

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I have found the Kenko AC to be very high quality, and extremely inexpensive in certain filter sizes. The AC models are Achromatic Doublet and seem to be as good as the Marumi or Sony ones I've used in the past. They tolerate step down rings as well, as you are only seeing a tiny portion of the frame at that magnification. I'm using a 52mm on a 58mm lens for example.

Just as a cost comparison, a Kenko AC 49mm +5 diopter is only $19.90 on Amazon, with free shipping if you subscribe to prime. (Or 19.70 shipped free if you can wait for a couple weeks for it to arrive from overseas). A similar one from Marumi, Raynox or Canon is $60+
 

retiredfromlife

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Agree about the small diameter versions often being bargains on auction sites and excellent to pair up with M43 lenses - that's why I have been out searching for unusual 46mm diameter ones.
If you are looking for 46mm the Olympus MCON-P02 close up filter seems OK to me but I am not after ultimate image IQ.
You can see the recent spider pictures I have posted. Just about all the latest ones have used this close up lens on either the Oly pro 12-40 or 60 macro.
The 12-40 is my favourite, as I find the 60mm hunts too much even if I limit the focus. I cant use manual focus as the majority of my shots are taken holding the EM100 MkII with arms partly out stretched to reach spiders hidden amount the plants. That is also why I use the EM10 as anything with a rear screen that flips out to the side has a greater chance of touching plants or webs causing the spiders to bolt.
 

retiredfromlife

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Tip: At macro distances, I find it REALLY hard to hand hold, so I use a 4-way rail (front/back+left/right) on a tripod. The 4-way rail makes small adjustment easier than moving the entire tripod, an inch or so.

I find it hard to hand hold as well but finding for spiders etc they are often in among the plants so I cant get close enough to manual focus and most of the time I have to hold the camera with out stretched arms to some degree. As one can guess my keeper rate is not high.
 

Paul C

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Choosing which "close-up" accessory lens to use?

archaeopteryx is right - you have to factor so many things into your calculation if you want to plan your shot, including focal length.
For me - there are 2 scenarios for shooting macro
[1] - I see something great whan I am out walking, and need something light that is "always in the bag"
[2] - I'm setting out to get that shot!

For scenario [1] I need a close-up accessory lens that takes my basic zooms closer than their closest focus. That depends on each lens - so get the one optimised to work with your commenest kit you carry at all times (for me that's the 14-42 and 45-150mm)

If you are in group [2] - then this may be what you really need:

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or
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This is the wonderful online calculator for Extreme Macro Close up Lenses and Extension tubes by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel. You can find them both - with lots more besides - at: Macro photograpy calculators, including extension tube, stacked lens and focus stack step calculators

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Personally - when I really need that shot I get out an old Komine / Vivitar 55mm F2.8 macro that goes fully 1:1 and a Nikon-M4/3 adapter. There is a great recent review of this lens at ePhotozine if you want to know more [Vivitar Auto Macro 55mm f/2.8 Vintage Lens Review] And thanks also to retiredfromlife for the tip about the Olympus MCON-P02 accessory doublet close-up lens for the 14-42 - that sounds a great thing to try and just the thing for my unexpected macro discovery days !

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yslee

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Also, if you all play around with the calculator, you'll find that close-up lenses work better with longer focal lengths, and tubes with shorter. Also remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch; the quality of the lens you're using matters! If the field flatness isn't great to begin with tubes or close-up lenses will just make it worse.
 

Lcrunyon

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I just bought a Raynox DCR-250 for use with my 60mm macro. I found that the snap-on adapter is just a little too large for the lens filter thread, and I also want to use my STF-8 twin flash for the entire setup. So, I’ve just ordered a small step-down ring to attach the filter to the lens, and I had to buy a step-up ring to add the flash to the filter. I went larger on the latter to avoid any more vignetting that I’m already going to get (otherwise I would have to step down again). Hopefully, it will work well, but I’m not super confident. I do think it will all be much more secure than with the little plastic snap-on piece.

I have the Kenko extension tube set as well. I will be interested in seeing which works better, or how/if they will work together.
 

junkyardsparkle

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Hopefully, it will work well, but I’m not super confident.
You'll be fine. The size of the glass elements in the dcr-250 will be more of a limiting factor than any of the rings, and I've used that Raynox on lenses much wider-angle than the 60mm without vignetting. :)
 

Macroramphosis

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The Raynox 150 and 250 are wonderful bits of kit, and they can be stacked with little loss of quality. I can also endorse the Marumi lenses too. I have used all three stacked in conjunction on a Canon S120 to get quite nice photos.

Canon S120 + Raynox 150, 250 and Marumi 200
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A single Raynox was also good on my old Canon SX40 HS.

Canon SX40HS + Raynox 150 @ 400mm
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I also have used the Raynoxes individually on my G6 with a Sigma 60mm DN. It makes a decent enough emergency macro set-up. I also have the Olympus MCON - PO2, but IMO it's not good enough for my use compared to the Raynox and Marumi. I shall probably be selling mine soon enough, I fear.

G6 + Sigma 60mm DN
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Despite all this, though, I am still going to buy the Zuiko 60mm macro when able - I greatly admire the photos people get with it, especially in tandem with a Raynox. Teamed with a micro 4/3 camera, it seems to make a perfect combination for walk-around macro - light, responsive, good quality and good DOF.

Hope this helps, and does not confuse :D
 
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