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Tips & Tricks

A Close-Up Look at Macro Filters With Mike Browne

By Justin Heyes on October 29th 2014

Getting into macro photography can be relatively inexpensive. There are various options dedicated to macro lenses like reversing rings or extension tubes, but these have their downfalls. Reversal rings leave your rear element exposed and you lose the ability to auto focus; extension tubes provide only a minimal magnification gain with telephoto lenses. There is a third option: macro close-up filters. In the video below, photographer Mike Browne explains what these filters are and how they are used.

[REWIND:10 Wedding Ring Macro Photography Tips]

Close-up filters are specified in terms of diopters (think reading glasses for your lens), which is a measurement of their magnifying power. Higher numbers yield more magnification at the cost of image quality. Years ago, the quality of close-up filters was poor and most photographers tended to stay away from them, but over the years, they have become better and better.


Unlike extension tubes, close-up filters increase magnification much more when used with longer focal length lenses. For example, a 200mm lens has a native magnification of 0.16x, add a 25mm extension tube and it reaches 0.29x; compare that to 0.96x with a +4 close-up lens. When added to a lens less than 80mm, only a minimal magnification is achieved; at 50mm, the 25mm extension tube is 0.65x and a +4 filter is 0.45x.

Adding this magnifier to the front of your lens does have some pitfalls to consider though. When adding the filter, you lose the ability to focus on distant objects, the additional glass can decrease image quality (thought it may only be minimal), and they decrease the working distance between the lens and your subject. For around $100, you can get a decent set from B&H Photo, now you just need to work on lighting.

(Via The Phoblographer / Images screen captures)

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Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ralph Hightower

    I attended a meeting of the local camera club where the session was about macro photography and he mentioned about the use of close-up filters. I bought a used Canon’s Auto Bellows for Canon’s film camera lineup before the EOS; focusing is very tricky and autofocus wasn’t available back then.

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  2. Mircea Blanaru

    Great article!!! I just hope the quality of these filters is better than years ago so beautiful results could be achieved!!!

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  3. Brandon Dewey

    Great Video, but if you can afford it i would still get a macro lens.

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