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Old Aug 14, 2012, 5:32 PM   #1
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Default Close Up Filters


I am interested in macro photography & am considering buying a set of close up filters that my local photography store has in stock. I have been reading about the pros & cons of filters versus extension tubes but there are varied opinions & am still not sure which would be better. The extension tubes I would have to order & they are about double the price. Eventually if I hope to get a macro lens but cannot afford it right now so thought I could try the filters in the meantime to get started with macro photography. However if the filters aren't going to take half decent photos & be worthwhile then I will wait until I can afford a macro lens. Anyone have any comments on close-up filters versus extension tubes or any other suggestions for macro? I have a Pentax K200D camera.


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Old Aug 14, 2012, 6:05 PM   #2
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First, whether you go with extension tubes or close-up lenses, you should have a really good lens to use them on. Both extension tubes and close-up lenses magnify the flaws in the lens they're used with.

The difference between extension tubes and close-up lenses is that close-up lenses will add some flaws of their own (especially considering the ones you're considering are cheaper than extension tubes), but since extension tubes don't have any optical elements of their own, they won't make the situation any worse.

If you're serious about macrophotography, get a macro lens (with a focal length that's appropriate for your intended subject). If that's currently outside your price range, you should consider getting extension tubes. Close-up lenses are really only good for occasional, casual use.

BTW, extension tubes are available used at major camera retialers that deal with used equipment, KEH.com, and even eBay. But one of the things you'll find on eBay are sets of extension tubes that sell for about $10. Don't bother with those. They don't support autofocus or autoexposure, and are poorly made, usually meaning they have light leaks, which will definitely foul things up.
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Old Aug 14, 2012, 6:14 PM   #3
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Close-up filters are the less expensive option, but if you don't get good ones (and I don't know which are good), they are likely to add distortion. At best, you are adding another optical element between the subject and camera sensor. Extension tubes avoid that.
Using either will limit your focal range.
If you are willing to trade some quality for the close-up capability, then the filters should serve, at least until you can get the macro lens.

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Old Aug 15, 2012, 5:05 PM   #4
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G'day JAnice

Originally Posted by jvanwees View Post
Hi, I am interested in macro photography & am considering buying a set of close up filters .... Janice
I use close up lenses all the time - so may I add some comments here

Without doubt, the best results will be obtained from a dedicated macro lens, but the use of extension tubes with a fixed-focal length lens will give good results too. The best thing about closeup lenses is that they can be swapped between camera lenses

Close up lenses work best when connected to a long-zoom lens > I find that the 70-300 zoom lens works well, and if on a 18x superzoom for example, the closeup lens produces absolutely 'magic' results

Janice - while you mention that your camera is a Pentax, you don't tell us which camera lens you intend to attach the closeup lenses onto > what do you have??

Without taking anything away from your thread - here's a pic shot using a long-zoom lens and a "+4 dioptre" closeup lens. These small insects were about 1cm / 1/2-inch long

ps- if you [or anyone here] would like a PDF on close up lenses & their use, please PM me to arrange it
Regards, Phil
Has Lumix mirrorless & superzoom cameras and loves their amazing capabilities
Spends 8-9 months each year travelling Australia
Recent images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ozzie_traveller/sets/
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Old Aug 17, 2012, 6:08 PM   #5
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The lens that you use will make a big difference. And there's a couple of other options you might want to think about, especially since you are shooting with a Pentax.

I'm not a fan of the cheap dioper filters as most don't have the best glass in them. The one I had did OK on a Pentax SMC M50mm f1.7 lens, but I think it would have degraded the image too far with the kit lens. There are some add-on close-up lenses like the Raynox lenses that are very good, but they are more expensive (the last time I checked I think the Raynox 150 was something like $70 at B&H).

I find AF can be a disadvantage when it comes to macro - your dof is really tiny so it's easy for the camera to focus just in front or behind your subject. Even when I had an AF macro lens, I used it exclusively in manual focus mode (and my current macro lens is an "A" lens, so manual focus only). If you don't mind manual focus, then you have more options. And if you don't mind pushing a button for stop-down metering, you have even more inexpensive options.

My extension tube was an old, very poor quality 2X teleconverter that my father had bought somewhere along the line in the early 1980's, I think. I took the glass out of it, making it an extension tube. It's an old K-mount one, so it will work like any K or M lens (manual focus/manual exposure but you do get stop-down metering with it if you have a lens with an aperture ring - it won't work with the kit lens as it doesn't have one). My first macro experience was with this extension tube and the M50mm f1.7 lens I bought new in 1980. These old, poor quality teleconverters can be picked up for very little money, and I think the M50 f1.7 lenses cost less than $100 usually - nice to have a fast 50 if you don't already have one. I still use this home-made extension tube with my macro lens to get more magnification than 1:1.

Another option if you already have an old 50 or wider angle lens with an aperture ring is to get a reversing ring so you can mount the lens backward on the camera - reversing rings are really cheap, I think they are under $10 at B&H. You would lose the ability for the camera to stop down the lens when you take the picture, meaning that if you use a small aperture, the viewfinder will get very dark - but you would see the depth of field correctly, something I don't see when using my home-made extension tube since the lens doesn't stop down until I push the shutter (unless I use the dof preview feature).

It is a lot easier to use a macro lens as you don't have to put extra things on and off, depending on what you are doing. But it's not such a bad thing to have extension tubes and reversing rings - you can still use them even when you get a macro lens. Here's a photo of my extension tube-from-a-teleconverter, an old 135 mm lens (K-mount Takumar came as a kit lens in 1980 and one can often find it for sale used at under $50 as it has no coatings, is low-contrast but it's quite sharp), a reversing ring that allows you to attach a reversed lens in front of another lens and a M50mm f1.4 lens (had been my father's also, usually sells for between $100 - 150, I think, more than one like my M50 1.7):

And here is a US dime taken with this rig (some form of tripod is a must, I used a small tabletop one here).

The nice thing about this type of thing is that you can use the various pieces separately, too.
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