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Close up Lens for Macro Photography

Macro Photography the cheap way

Taking great pictures using a close-up lens

Rubber Duck — Photo by Dave Rutt

Photo ©© Dave Rutt

Creative ways to shoot small details with your digital camera

The very fact that you are reading these lines is likely to witness your interest in macrophotography, which involves shooting pictures of very small subjects with you digital photographic camera.
Sure, the easiest way to approach the matter is to take advantage of the (possibly) built-in macro function of your digital camera. Yet, it could not be enough or, next to that, as a step towards a more personal involvement in the matter, you might want to experience right the same tool and feeling as Sherlock Holmes did: a powerful magnifying glass in front of your eyes (and camera lenses), in which case you get quite interesting images, yet they often lack the focus crispness you might desire. Thus, should you prefer sharper images and a higher optical quality, you might switch to a better technique.
Here we will tell you how to do it: the overall quality will be noticeably better with close-up lenses than with a simple magnifying glass.

Which Close-Up Lens to buy

Bumbleebee — Photo by Zanthia

Photo ©© Zanthia

Such light add-on lenses, to be stacked on top of your regular camera lens, are engineered to offer good results with little effort. Just screw them on the filter thread in front of your lens and you will be able to focus at very short distances. How short? Well, it really depends on the optical power of the close-up lenses. Such power is expressed in diopters1, usually from +1 to +4. Two or more close-up lenses can be combined to obtain an increased effect: when stacking them always start from the more powerful lens and add a second one on top of it. Be aware though that optical aberrations will increase, and image quality will decrease: as always, it is a matter of balancing pros and cons.

The best advice about close-up lenses is: try them!
Just buy one (as an example, the Nikon 4T model2) and make some experience yourself.
We suggest you do not waste your valuable money with cheap add-on lenses which just spoil your efforts no matter how you accurately you try and work on your photographic project. A good lens lasts forever, and this is particularly true with close-up lenses which can be reused anytime, with any camera. If in doubt, buy the bigger diameter, which will fit most lenses with an adaptor.

Close-Up Lenses worth buyingDiopter
Nikon #3T+1.5
Nikon #4T+2.9
Nikon #5T+1.5
Nikon #6T+2.9
Canon 250D+4.0
Canon 500D+2.0

Remember that optical quality does not coerce aesthetical quality.
You can get beautiful and expressive results with a poor lens, and the reverse applies of course.

Hints and Tips on how to use Close-Up Lenses

Because of the magnifying factor3, the depth of field will be shallow, so you have to moderately stop down lens aperture.
Also, while handhelding your camera is sometimes possible, the best way to frame and shoot macro photos is to firmly set up your camera on a tripod or rig it to anything stable (tape it to a pole, use a beanbag or place it on a solid surface at least). The best would be to place your camera on a tripod, swing open the mirror and use a remote shutter release in order to minimize camera shake: the more you enlarge details, the more even the slightest movement or vibration will be apparent.
Such hints (and a lot more of them) are reported starting from our macro photography page.

Are you looking for more, better quality shots?
Please go to our reverse lens technique page: you will learn how to get the most beautiful photographs of very small subjects.


1 Diopters are defined as 1000/f, where f is the focal length of the lens in mm. (↑)

2 The Nikon 4T close-up lens is an achromatic doublet designed to give high quality pictures by reducing chromatic and spherical aberrations. Such kind of device is designed to correct standard lens results in close-up focusing. Mind that, when stacking it on lenses which are already designed to shoot close-ups (such as the Micro Nikkor series), the doublet should be flipped front-to-back. (↑)

3 The bigger the image, the shallower the depth of field, the aperture being equal. (↑)

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