A friend is willing to give me (as a gift) a set of close-up lenses (A.K.A diopters or macro filters) and he has two such sets, One is 58mm and the other is 72mm, which coincidentally are the ones needed for the two zoom lenses I already have.

Which one should I choose and why?

Would the size of one of the sets be better than the other? Would the effect be more noticeable in one size than in the other? Is one size more prone to aberrations and other distortions?

Please note I'm not asking whether they are good or not, or if there are other alternatives (Dedicated macro lens, extension tubes, lens reversal) nor the pros and cons between them. These questions are very well covered in this site already.

If needed: My current lenses are Canon EF 28-138 and EF-s 18-55. Also, I have used hollow macro extension tubes before and know their usability drawbacks. I don't do a lot of macro work but sporadically a practical solution is needed. (Wich normally I resolve using an Olympus XZ-1 which can have a very short focusing distance near 2cm)


2 Answers 2


Close-up lenses are just lenses reduced to their most basic. They will have all of the distortions and aberrations you would expect in a simple lens made from not-very-exotic materials, and those problems will get worse with increasing diameter. If you were using them on their own, they'd be horrible (and saved from being even worse by their relatively small "aperture", the fastest of which, here, would be the +4 diopter 72mm lens, which would weigh in at about f/3.5 and the slowest the +1 58mm at about f/18).

However, you won't be using them in isolation. They're essentially reading glasses for your existing lenses. When you put a 72mm-diameter close-up lens on a lens that has a 58mm filter thread (assuming a reasonable stack of step-up rings), you won't be using anything like the full diameter of the close-up lens. On the other hand, if you use a 58mm-diameter close-up lens on a lens with a 72mm filter thread, you're going to wind up with what can charitably be called "some vignetting".

The "macroness" of your images is going to be affected by three factors: the strength of the diopter, the focal length of the lens you're using it on, and the close-focus limit of the lens you're using it on. (The diopter essentially lets you move that limit a little closer.) Your 18-55 will focus closer and allow higher magnifications, but you will need to be a lot closer to your subject to get those magnifications (to the point of getting in your own way a lot of the time). You might find it more advantageous much of the time to use the 28-135 from a little further away so that you're not scaring your subjects away or blocking the light. Shooting from the same distance, a 135mm lens will have a much greater magnification than a 55mm lens (about 2.5X), and that distance has an enormous practical impact on the kinds of pictures you can take effectively.

So, your call. The 72mm set will be "worse" than the 58mm set for some value of "worse", but it will also let you take some kinds of pictures that the 58mm set will not.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I think that you are assuming they want to use one of the close up lenses with both lenses that they have and I don't think that is a safe assumption. I think instead they are asking if they were to use the "matching" close up lens with it's "matching" lens would they differ in performance at all? \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Aug 22, 2014 at 15:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I made absolutely no assumptions there, @dpollitt. I offered a choice, pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of each (particularly the working range, though I did mention the absolute magnification as well). I did mention that while the 72 can be used on the 18-55 without penalty, the same is not true the other way around, but that doesn't come close to being the main thrust of the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – user28116
    Aug 22, 2014 at 16:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, that's how I read it. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Aug 22, 2014 at 16:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user28116: Only after your comment I understood the intention of the second paragraph. Being that I currently own the mentioned lenses, If I got my hand on one set of diopters, they would be used only on the matching lens. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jahaziel
    Aug 22, 2014 at 21:35

I believe the size matters based on your lens, quality won't differ if it is 58mm or 72mm. Check which size fits your lens.

P.S.: If it is a gift then I think you won't be able to choose :)

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm having a hard time believing this with the information(or lack of) provided. Can you explain a bit more in depth why the quality won't differ? \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Aug 22, 2014 at 13:13

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