Macro Photography Close-Up Lens Filter Review

Back in April, I posted a tip about cheap macro photography. And last week, I posted my review of some Vello extension tubes to turn your “regular” lens into a “faux macro” lens. The other suggestion in the first posting was to use a set of screw-on close-up filters. This is that review.

In a word, disappointing. I purchased a set of 3 Tiffen filters for my 24-105mm Nikkor lens ( thinking that it might be easier to get the results I was looking for by just adding these filters to the end of my lens, rather than having to take the lens off the body, attach the extension tube, and then add the set back to the camera like I would with the extension tube set-up.

One of the other benefits I was looking for was still being able to use the camera’s light metering and auto-focus system. Since these filters screw onto the end of the lens, there is nothing between the glass and the camera and therefore nothing confusing the camera’s settings, like what was going on with the extension tubes (despite what Vello claims).

The first couple of pictures I took were just a couple of items sitting on our counter: a book of stamps and a banana. While the photograph of the stamps looked like I expected (shallow depth-of-field), the first thing I noticed with the banana was extreme distortion coming in from around the edges. While I expected a little distortion (I can always crop a photograph to remove that), there was quite a bit of distortion. As I previously mentioned, with the filters and tubes there is a much shallower depth-of-field, but that is different from flat out distortion as you can see if you look at that photograph closely.

Moving on to the flowers, the second problem I noticed was some color fringing around the edge of the flower. In some of these pictures, if you look closely you will see a blue edge to the flower. A blue edge? Yes, a blue edge! This is called Chromatic Aberration and although I am not sure of the exact reasons why this occurs (I’m not a scientist), except that these particular filters are relatively cheap (less than $60) compared to others, and that cheapness means light from behind the object gets bent in an unusual manner around the object being photographed thus resulting in the problem. Would this happen with a higher priced close-up filter? I do not know, but I will tell you this: cheap never, ever translates into good quality. Some of this can be corrected in the editing process, but if you can prevent it from occurring to begin with then all the better.

Now keep in mind that because these are filter type accessories, this particular set would only work with a lens with a 77mm diameter, such as the lens I mentioned earlier, so that was the only lens I used for this test. Although I may have better results with a different lens, this is a good lens and I normally love the resulting pictures. However, I was disappointed with the result overall and will be returning the filters to the vendor for a refund.

The only adjustments I made to these photo’s are exposure, contrast, a bit of sharpening and noise reduction. I did not crop any of these so you can get a sense of the magnification.

I hope that you enjoyed this series of posts and it will aid you in making a decision about pursuing your own macro photography.



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