If the idea of buying a macro lens for photography seems a little too expensive right now then consider a cheaper alternative. Macro lens filters are a low-budget option for beginner photographers wanting to capture close-up photos without breaking the bank.
While they are called ‘filters’ they don’t actually filter light in the same way as a polariser or ND filter. They are more like a focal length extension tool to get you closer to your subject. They are sometimes called diopter filters too.
Macro lens filters are available in different levels of magnification i.e +1, +2 right up to +10. The higher the magnification level the closer you’ll be able to get to your subject, but with varying results.
The higher the level of magnification you’ll notice the thicker the glass in the filter becomes and move convex in shape to help with the increased magnification.
As with everything in photography the quality of the glass you put in front of the camera partly determines the overall image quality. Investing in cheaper macro lens filters is understandable if you’re sticking to a budget but don’t expect the quality to be comparative to premium ones.
If this is your first time trying out macro photography I’d recommend to stick to your budget and get the best possible macro lens filters within your price range. Check out reviews and see what other photographers have said before buying.
Macro lens filters are no different to other lens filters like neutral density filters etc. The are circular lens filters that screw on to the front of any lens (providing you have the right thread size, or are using step up/down filter rings).
If you’re not sure which level of magnification you need for your shot I recommend starting off at the lowest level (i.e. +1) checking your shot and then adding more if needed.
A level of +1 magnification is equivalent to 35-40% zooming into the shot.
Macro lens filters are stackable so if you need to get closer add more until you reach your desired closeness. Each time you stack a new filter you’ll have to adjust the camera position to find focus.
You may have to move your camera back and forth to find that minimum focus distance as each level of magnification gets you closer to the subject but your lens may not be able to lock focus that close.
When using a macro lens filter, the DoF becomes shallow even if you’re using a small size aperture. Only a small amount of your subject will be sharp while the rest is blurry. If you’re shooting without a tripod, you’ll find it difficult to keep that focus on the same spot.
If you are shooting handheld you’ll need to ensure you keep it steady, and you maintain your distance from your subject. Otherwise, you might end up with blurred images.
In case you’re stuck deciding whether it’s worth investing in a macro lens or macro filters watch this comparison video by iPhotography.
You can purchase macro lens filters as part of a set (+1, +2, +4 etc) which means for a relatively low investment you can get started with macro photography without spending a lot of money.
Lensbaby, Vivitar, Polaroid, Hoya, Tiffen and K&F Concept all make cost-effective macro lens filters for beginner photographers. These are our 3 top picks for macro lens filters for beginners;
1. Polaroid Optics 4-piece Filter Kit Set
2. Hoya HMC Close Up Lens Set
3. Lensbaby 46mm Macro Filter Kit
You can purchase macro lens filters from almost all reputable online photography stores. You may find them rarer in actual photography stores but going online will possibly be cheaper too.
Amazon, B&H, K&F Concept, Wex and websites for other photo accessory companies will carry macro filters for beginners.
One big thing to be aware of with macro lens filters is that they are not as sharp as a dedicated macro lens. While macro filters can cause distortion and colour fringing in some instances, as it’s still technically an attachment, it also tends to let less light in.
But the benefits of saving a lot of money compared to buying a macro lens for a beginner photographer may outweigh the negatives if you are just starting out with macro photography. As I mentioned earlier, set a budget and look for what fits inside that budget and take it from there.
Bookmark and save this article about macro photography so you can find it again in the future. If you’ve got any other questions about photography chances are you’ll find the answers in our other articles and tutorials below.