Extreme Macro Close up Lenses

by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated August 31, 2017


Extreme macro close up lenses, also known as macro diopter lenses or macro diopters, are an excellent introduction to extreme macro as they allow the full use of aperture control through the camera. They are also reasonably priced and can be sold on if extreme macro proves not to be for you.

Closeup filters will increase the magnification that you can obtain using lenses, especially as you use them on lenses with a focal length upwards of 100mm. See for yourself:

Closeup Filter Calculator

Closeup filter used, in diopters (ie 8):
Focal length of your lens, in mm (ie 200):
Macro magnification ratio of your lens, :1 (ie .5 for 1:2):

Adding this closeup filter will give you a new macro magnification of on the equivalent of a focal length lens. If used as a tube lens with an infinite objective, this closeup filter corresponds to a focal length lens.


Raynox 250 macro diopter lens

Raynox macro diopter lens, definitely the recommended way to start out in extreme macro because the electronic controls remain available (ie setting f/stop in the body). Unlike low quality close up lenses, achromatic Raynoxes give superb image quality for a very reasonable price, they're about £50 each. You don't absolutely have to use these Raynox snap-on things to attach it to your primary lens either and by using various adapters it is perfectly possible to even stack them. I use a DCR150 and DCR250 stacked on a 50-200mm consumer zoom and it works great.

Image Quality

Of the various types of lenses for extreme macro, the fact of the matter is that closeup lenses do by and large have a poor reputation; there seems to be much more streetcred using reverse lenses or extension tubes.

For bad diopters, the cheap eBay ones, this is warranted - simply put, there is an optical problems bending light rays uniformly for extreme macro magnification by adding an element (or elements) in front of other existing lens elements, which is what diopters do.

On the other hand there is also a certain amount of snobbery against these; your best bet would be to see some images taken with Raynox diopters and see if their quality is right for you.

Raynox closeup lenses deliver excellent quality and are a great road into extreme macro. Start with the 150 then move onto the 250 for added magnification.

Beetle headon - weevil

A little weevil shot headon with a couple of Raynoxes stacked on top of each other and a cheap consumer zoom. Don't listen to the snobbery against Raynox closeup lenses or macro adapters in general. Achromatic lenses like Raynox closeup lenses are perfectly capable of creating superb extreme macro shots and won't cost you the earth.

Cheap Closeup Lenses

Cheap eBay closeup lenses are things of the devil

Like anything, there are of course good macro closeup lenses and not so good macro closeup lenses. Cheap eBay closeup lenses are things of the devil and belong firmly in the latter category. They tend towards severe degradation of the image and don't even cut it as paperweights.

Recommended Closeup Lenses

There are various recommended brands of closeup lenses but they share one primary characteristic: they are achromatic. Single element diopters give colour fringing on the edges that undermine image quality; choose a multi-element Achromat Single element diopters give colour fringing on the edges that undermine image quality; choose an Achromat.

Raynox are currently the Achromat of choice as they are easy to find but other brands have previously made achromatic closeup lenses, and you maybe able to find these on eBay. Now discontinued achromatic diopters from Pentax, Canon, Heliopan, Nikon, Zork, Olympus, Konika, Sony, Sigma, Schneider, Kenco, Leica & Cosina do come up from time to time: make sure the filter thread is compatible with the lens you intend to use them on.

There are also single element lenses from Hoya, Kood, etc which are not listed here and should be avoided for extreme macro.

Achromatic Lenses

An achromatic lens or Achromat is a lens that is designed to limit the effects of chromatic and spherical aberration. designed to limit the effects of chromatic and spherical aberration

Achromatic lenses are corrected to bring two wavelengths (typically red and blue) into focus in the same plane.

The most common type of Achromat is the achromatic doublet, which is composed of two individual lenses made from glasses with different amounts of dispersion.

Typically, one element is a negative (concave) element made out of flint glass, which has relatively high dispersion, and the other is a positive (convex) element made of crown glass, which has lower dispersion.

The lens elements are mounted next to each other, often cemented together, and shaped so that the chromatic aberration of one is counterbalanced by that of the other.

Raynox Achromatic Closeup Lenses

For Canon folk, the Raynox DCR-150 is a good choice to start with a kit 18-135 IS lens. It is a +4.8 diopter lens, focal length about 210 mm. Used in front of a 18-135 IS lens, it will go up to about 0.65X, so a field width of about 35mm on a 550D.

Should you seek higher magnification, you might go up to the DCR-250 at +8 diopters, which will get you to a little more than 1:1, about 21 mm field width.

A nice, but discontinued diopter set from Raynox, is the Raynox CM-3500 set. The most powerful of the three is identical to the excellent MSN-202 diopter. The +12 lens in that set works well in combination with a 100/105mm macro lens and an APSC sized sensor. However, bear in mind that MSN-202 does not have a front thread so cannot easily be coupled with anything beyond that.

Comments (22)

Article: Closeup Lenses
1 2 3 4 5 > [last]
Harry Clark says...
A far cheaper solution is to get hold of a damaged pair of 10x50 binoculars and use its objective lens, which typically is c. 51 mm diameter and c. 200mm focal length (+5D) Glue it into an appropriate 52mm step-up or step-down ring (e.g. Kood) but with the original INNER face that was towards the eyepiece NOW facing outwards. It should be that way round because that was the correction for which the objective lens was originally computed. You'll find the image quality and flatness off field are very close to those of the original prime lens. You can make a "hood" by glueing a 20 mm wide ring of thin cardboard around the exposed part of the objective and painting the inside black.
9th March 2018 12:33am
Harold Gough says...
I recently saw a report, in another photography blogg, that putting a top quality supplementary on the front of a lens of less than excellent performance gave significantly improved quality via the combination.

This seems to be similar to the effect of putting a superb microscope lens, Raynox, etc. on the front of a "tube lens" (a telephoto of, say, 200mm FL), where it seems widely accepted that the tube lens need not be the best quality to get superb results.
5th March 2018 7:26pm
Harold Gough says...
I recently purchased a Tominon 135mm lens. I had been curious abut Tominon lens for macro for several years but reports of their performance were rather mixed. Anyway, I saw this one for sale and noted that, of the several versions made, this was the most desirable and it was identifiable by its ten-bladed diaphragm. So for an outlay of less than £11, it is now mine. It has an M40 rear thread and a 39mm filter thread.

The lens is one of several Tominons made for legacy Polaroid 4x5 copying cameras. This means using a long extension. On m4/3 ca 105mm (from flange) gives infinity focus.ca 155mm gave FOV 45mm wide and 210mm gives 23mm. The 23mm is equivalent to 1:1.5. The manufacturers say it is optimised for x1 to x3. Having used two of the longest M42 helicoids made, I had no further extension. However, use of my Raynox MSN-202 may have produced its potential. Adding the MSN gave a FOV 3mm wide at a working distance of ca 25mm or 1".
31st December 2017 10:07am
harold Gough says...
I have posted the results of testing at 2:1 on full frame, on today's date, on FM Macro World. Harold
25th January 2018 12:55pm
John says...
What would happen if I would try to use a single element close-up lens +2 or + 4 (b+w), then mount an achromat +3 on top of it? Or a single element lens in front, then Marumi achromat, then lens itself...? Would this combination give alot of distortion?
5th August 2017 11:55pm
1 2 3 4 5 > [last]
Page 1 of 5