I was browsing Amazon looking at a few items and came across this:

4-piece Close-Up Macro Lens Kit - Included are +1, +2, +4 and +10 Close- Up Lenses. High-Quality lenses are diopters for close up photography. They shorten the close focusing distance of the lens, this allows the lens to go closer to the subject and achieves a larger image scale. Lenses may be used individually or in combination for a greater effect.

from what I can tell these screw onto a lens. I do not do macro work but I might want to play around some with macro photography and the price is decent. Are these really worth anything or they junk?

Please Note: I am an amateur and just getting into DSLR World and not a professional.


4 Answers 4


These are not 'lenses' in the sense that most photogs think of the word. They're more like a magnifying glass that you screw on the end of the lens as a filter. Generally, they're not too great, especially since better, cheap options exist.

Take a look at this question. Extension tubes are a great way to go. So is a reversal ring. Both of these preserve the original optical quality of the lens as it doesn't introduce any extra glass.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow! That is pretty cool! Love the blog post. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – L84
    Apr 3, 2012 at 18:43

As rfusca mentions, the quality of "macro filters" (more correctly termed "close-up filters/lens") are generally low, but there are a few that are generally well-liked. The key is to find achromatic offerings, which use more than one piece of glass to combat aberrations, and are fairly high quality. Much like the el-cheapo std close-ups, they can be had in a variety of "dioptres" (magnifications) There are a few options that I know of:

1) The canon 250D(+4 dioptre) and 500D(+2) (not to be confused with the camera of same name) screw on lenses are great, and can actually be purchased in a range of sizes. Bryan Peterson swears by his.

2) The discontinued Nikon xT range of dioptres (2T,4T,etc). These are hard to find and can be costly, but are of similar quality to the Canon offering.

3) Marumi achromatic close up. I don't know squat about these, but they come in different sizes and magnifications, and are well liked around the 'net. You can get them on ebay relatively cheap, and there is a dedicated flickr group for owners.

4) Raynox DCR-xxx series. Many like the DCR-250(+8 Dioptre), but I actually own a DCR-150 (+4). Sometime's I find even that is too much mag. For nice "close-ups" like Bryan shows in his videos, don't go higher than +4 (This is simplifying matters somewhat. Obviously, the lens you are using it on is a factor as well, but generally speaking, the higher the dioptre rating, the closer to true 1:1 and beyond). Go higher if you want to get crazy reproduction ratios. The only caveat to the Raynox lenses is that they are only technically 43mm. That means they can vignette on larger glass, especially at wider zoom ranges. I use mine on a Nikon 55-200VR (52mm thread), and it's great throughout the range.

Reasons to use these in lieu of extension tubes/reversal ring:

  • Can be added/removed without removing the lens, and exposing the camera's interior.
  • Extension tubes are more effective with shorter focal lengths, where as close-up lenses are better on longer lenses.
  • No change to effective aperture.
  • Retain AF and CPU control over the lens (extension tubes that do this are much more costly than those that don't).
  • Still relatively cheap.

The reality is, quality images can still be made with these. Kenko tubes would have cost me more than double what I paid for the Raynox. Everything has it's place.

Since it seems that these are unpopular around here, I'll provide a sample:

http://images.instantkamera.ca/Photography/Close-Up/i-hkNfPQ8/0/O/imgDSC117715022012.jpg Nikon D90, 55-200vr @ 200mm, f/16, 1/60s, ISO200 + Raynox DCR-150 close-up dioptre.

This is an SLI connector, and is about the width of my thumb.

See also: http://blog.instantkamera.ca/2012/03/hot-stuff.html for another image w/ context on the pictured area.

The dioptre + lens were no more than $200 total.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That may be the case...but why would you want to? \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Apr 4, 2012 at 1:58
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Another advantage, pointed out by John Shaw in Closeups in Nature, is that close-up lenses on zoom lenses allow you to zoom without changing focus. This is not the case with extension tubes, for example. He also speaks highly of the Nikon achromatic diopters. \$\endgroup\$
    – coneslayer
    Apr 4, 2012 at 22:33

I have a set of these cheap macro lenses, and I like them.
I don't do serious macro stuff.

To my mind, the big advantage (others have documented the several disadvantages) of screw-on filter-type macro lenses is that you don't have to take your lens off your body. This:

  • is convenient
  • helps to keep dust out of your camera body
  • means you keep control of your lens (aperture, autofocus - not that you want autofocus, probably)

I think they're a good option if you're just playing with macro.


Closeup lenses don't magnify by themselves, you just bring objects closer. That means that their principal strength is for using the tele range magnification of a zoom lens at close distances. That makes sense if you have reasonable reach but a long focusing distance. If you have focusing distance of 2m-∞, a +2 closeup will bring that down to 0.4m-0.5m, a 5-fold reduction in minimum distance and thus a corresponding magnification (and considering the narrow distance the entire focal range gets mapped to, you can imagine rather narrow depth of focus). So basically your minimum distance at maximum zoom tells you what kind of closeup lens will be effective for your purposes.

Superzoom cameras and their ilk have a "macro focusing" mode at wide angle. That one's useless for closeup lenses, but their tele mode isn't. You get more magnification there and working in a range of 0.3m rather than 0.01m also allows you to use popup or external flash to good effect (or natural lighting) without having the lens shadow interfering.

So what's with the +1, +2, +4, +10 sets? Basically they are garbage. They are single-element convex lenses, and single-element convex lenses cannot compensate for chromatic aberration (meaning red and green come apart outside of the center) and cheap lenses are not sharp over the entire field of view either. One can compensate somewhat with special dispersive properties of lens material but nobody would do that for sets of four, and really effective compensation relies on achromatic lenses which are two-element lenses with two kinds of glass.

There are a number of such achromatic closeup lens offerings from camera producers which are notable by high prices and by not bothering to specify the (typically unimpressive) strength. They usually do specify the maximum focusing range: the inverse of its value in meters is the strength of the lens in diopters. Sony has a +3, Panasonic a +2 lens in its offerings. Doing a web search for "achromatic" and "closeup" will likely deliver a few lists from people who did more extensive testing. There may be a few older obscure offerings that provide excellent value at decent price.

Note that stronger is not better: the stronger a lens is, the smaller the resulting depth of focus will be, and depending on what your prime lens may have as minimal focusing distance at longest zoom, comparatively weak lenses can bring a lot of magnification to the table while keeping depth of focus somewhat manageable.


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