What Is The Difference Between Close Up And Macro Photography

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Macro photography is a very interesting shooting technique which photographers of many genres volition eventually face. Whether yous are shooting still life, flowers, bugs, wedding details, or even portraits y’all will eventually need to get a little closer for extra magnification. This article we will assistance you understand the theory and practice of macro photography using close-upwards filters and Extension Tubes every bit an alternative to expensive macro specific lenses.

  1. Introduction to macro photography theory
    • Macro lenses
    • Close-up filters
    • Extension tubes
  2. Practical field tests
    • Equipment and shooting techniques
    • Testing
    • Wide angle lens
    • Telephoto lens
  3. Summary

Introduction to macro photography theory

The essence of macro photography comes down to the capabilities of the optical system.

The most important feature here is the ability to get the largest possible projection of the object onto the sensor of the camera. This is achieved through the large focal length and minor focus distance of the lens.

Macro lenses

Common lenses with long focal length (telephoto lenses) have a rather large shut (near) focus altitude (hereinafter CFD). And vice versa, lenses with pocket-sized CFD have a brusk focal length (wide angle lenses). Therefore, there are special versions of the lenses designed for macro photography – they combine both; a long focal length and pocket-size CFD. Such lenses are chosen macro lenses and usually accept a high discontinuity and a abiding (stock-still) focal length. Also they could be used in other genres (i.eastward. in portrait photography).

Macro photography

The analogy below shows the differences when using a standard lens and a macro lens with small-scale CFD. Y’all can see how the macro lens allows to get closer to the object and thereby increases the macro ratio.

The principle of the macro lens

Due to the constant focal length (i.east. it is not zoom lens), bigger size and high cost, macro lenses are usually purchased past professional photographers who have a specific need for macro photography. If you are an apprentice and want to endeavor macro photography for yourself, only are not set to buy a macro lens, there are other more affordable ways. The remainder of the article will accept a closer look at affordable accessories such every bit close-up filters and Extension Tubes that tin can extend the capabilities of the lenses you already own.

Close-upwardly filters

CLOSE-UP filter

Shut-upwards filters are in fact optical macro-attachments to the lens. They have a thick frame, convex front

element and can be fastened to the camera lens in the same way other filters are attached.

The chief essence of close-upwardly filters is to reduce the CFD of the lens and increment optical magnification to produce a “macro” outcome. Just the close-upwards filter works on the same principle as a magnifying glass. Also shut-up filters slightly increment the aperture ratio of the organisation (i.e., they collect more light).

The first option in the illustration below is shooting without a close-upward filter. The object is placed in the smallest CFD (if you lot motility closer, the object goes out of focus). The next illustrated choice is a shut-up filter attached to the lens, which gives an additional magnification and allows you lot to focus from a closer altitude.

The principle of the close-up filter

An of import advantage of close-upwards filters in comparison with extension tubes, which will exist farther considered below, is the possibility of using them on cameras with non-replaceable eyes (those ones that have a thread for filters).

Close-up filters take dissimilar diopter numbers and are marked accordingly. I.e. CLOSE-Up No.1 (or sometimes +ane) mark ways that the filter has 1 diopter, CLOSE-UP No.2 = 2 diopters etc. The more diopters, the closer you lot tin can shorten the CFD of the lens. Shut-ups tin can be sold separately as single filters or every bit a set (e.thousand. the about common prepare of iii filters is CLOSE-Up No.1, CLOSE-Upwards No.2 and Close-Upwardly No.3). Also, you can combine the number of filters past screwing 1 to another 1, thereby summing up the diopter number.

However, it is important to empathise that an additional optical element, similar a close-up filter, inevitably leads to a drop in epitome quality that is more often than not noticeable at the corners of the image. Moreover, the driblet in quality will be stronger for a filter with a big diopter number than for several combined lower diopter filters with the same total magnification number. For example, it is better to utilise a combination of Shut-Upward No.1 and CLOSE-UP No.ii than a single CLOSE-UP No.three. When combining the filters, the lower diopter force filters should exist in front end of the stronger ones (i.e. closer to the object) in this example the distortions will exist smaller.

Chromatic aberrations are another type of distortion, which yous may confront when using close-up filters. To suppress such aberrations special achromatic models with multi-coatings have been designed. They are more expensive, thicker and heavier, simply allow you to get shots of higher quality. These filters are normally marked every bit “AC”, “Achromatic” or “Achromat”.

The resolution comparison between a common close-up filter and of an achromatic filter (a notepad cell)

Maybe someone will notice that the image of a mutual close-upward filter is sharper in the heart. However, this is due to the high grain/noise, considering this shot was accidentally made with a loftier ISO. In fact, both filters showed approximately the same sharpness in the centre, while achromatic filters look noticeably sharper in the corners. But that’due south all nigh technical testing.

Now let’south see the differences in practice.

The resolution comparison between a common close-upward filter and achromatic filter (field examination)

In do, when shooting a macro, the main object is oftentimes centered, while the corners are out of focus. Therefore, the drop in sharpness and aberrations along the corners are not so meaning. At start glance, the eye of the prototype reveals good sharpness on both filters. But if you take a closer wait, the achromatic one provides much more particular.

When using a close-upwardly filter, the field of view (FOV) becomes very modest. In add-on to large distortions mentioned above, it is recommended to shoot with f/v.vi-eight or higher aperture value to increase overall depth-of-field and perceived sharpness. Nonetheless, you should ever recollect about the diffraction limit of your system. The example below shows changes in sharpness when closing the aperture. And the most meaning drop of sharpness with an opened aperture is noted in natural light weather. All these aspects volition be also discussed in detail in the applied part of the exam.

Dependence betwixt sharpness and aperture size

Extension Tubes

Extension Tubes

Extension tubes (also known as “macro rings”) are special spacer rings that can be inserted between the camera and the lens. They increment the flange focal length of the camera, making the scale bigger.

Every bit y’all can come across in the analogy beneath y’all tin achieve a bigger scale due to the longer distance between the camera sensor and the lens focal plane. CFD is as well shrinking.

The principle of the extension tubes

The pattern of extension tubes is very simple and has no optical parts. As a rule extension tubes are available in sets of ii-iii rings of different length. You can use them separately or combined. The smaller the focal length, the thinner the macro ring required, otherwise the lens volition not exist able to focus and volition finally touch the subject area (every bit yous can clearly see in the instance below). Therefore, a division into several parts allows yous to control the thickness of the spacer.

12-40@40mm (w/o extension tubes)
12-40@40mm + extension tube of 16mm (1 ring)
12-40@40mm + extension tubes set of 26mm (2 rings, the object leans against the lens)

Extension tubes are relatively cheap and are available from many manufacturers. The only things you should pay attention to are the availability of information transfer contacts, quality of assembling (rings should precisely fit each other, and between the camera and the lens) and matte finish of the inner surface to foreclose glare.

Extension tubes have a number of important advantages over close-upward filters. First of all: versatility. Rings are mounted betwixt the photographic camera and the lens and therefore can exist used with any lens unlike filters, which depend on the diameter of the external thread of the lens. 2d, extension tubes give high quality images over the entire epitome surface area, and therefore exercise not require yous to end down the aperture.

Merely extension tubes have their drawbacks. Unlike close-up filters, the rings reduce the actual aperture ratio, i.e. the organisation becomes slightly darker. Although on the other hand, given that the rings allow you to shoot at the most opened aperture (unlike close-ups), this disadvantage is kickoff. Information technology is likewise obvious that extension tubes can merely be used on systems with interchangeable lenses. It is important to remember that the abiding change of optics increases the risk of getting dust on the sensor. Autofocus may not work or will not always be accurate. On the other manus, no affair what you are using for shooting macro, information technology is always recommended to use manual focus.

At present allow’south summarize everything into one illustration.

As already mentioned above, a macro lens is the best tool for macro photography in terms of quality. However, today we are reviewing more accessible variants, therefore will not pay more attending on macro lenses.

Close-up filters significantly reduce the CFD. Therefore, nosotros can conclude that filters give maximum effect with telephoto lenses, where the CFD is tens of centimeters. As a issue, the telephoto capabilities of the lens combined with a pregnant reduction of the CFD and a few diopters of magnification will give a proficient macro ratio. But using close-up filters with broad-bending lenses, where the CFD is already small, will not give significant magnification.

The situation with extension tubes is actually contrary. Best results are showed with wide- and eye-angle lenses, where the thickness of the rings is comparable to the focal length. In combination with a pocket-size CFD you get shots with a skillful macro ratio. Applied to telephoto lenses, the result will be less pronounced. And the more the focal length of the lens is, the smaller the effect volition be.

Now let’s move onto the practical part.

Practical field tests

Equipment and shooting techniques

  • Olympus OM-D E-M5 Marking II camera
  • Olympus ED 12-40mm f/2.viii Pro lens
  • Olympus ED 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro lens
  • Kenko DG Extension Tube Set for micro iv/3
  • Kenko Close UP No.i, No.2, No.iii and No.4 filters
  • Kenko PRO1D Air conditioning Shut-Up No.3 filter

Shots with 12-40mm lens were made in a botanical garden. At that place was no permission to use tripod and I shot handheld, therefore in order to become an acceptable shutter speed I set fastest aperture of f/2.8 and ISO1600. That was enough to show the advantages of Extension Tubes compared to close-up filters when shooting with a wide bending lens.

Shooting with a forty-150mm lens was fabricated in a studio with a tripod in daylight illumination. This shooting will testify the advantages of close-up filters compared to Extension Tubes when shooting with telephoto lenses.


Broad bending lens

As mentioned above, handheld shooting with a wide-angle lens required me to set ISO1600 and the discontinuity at f/2.8. Close-ups are sensitive to the back lighting (it is clearly seen in studio tests with daylight) and by shooting with an open up discontinuity we could look a drop in sharpness, but this did non happen, probably considering of the limited number of lite sources.

Every bit you tin see from the examples, the use of close-up filters even with 3 diopters does not give significant magnification. Only if you use an extension tube of 16mm, the deviation becomes pregnant. On the other hand if you use both a tube and a filter the resulting magnification volition be smaller than with just an extension tube just.

12-40@40mm (w/o close-up filters and extension tubes)
12-40@40mm + CLOSE-UP No.3 filter
12-40@40mm + extension tube of 16mm (1 ring)
12-40@40mm + CLOSE-UP No.3 filter + extension tube of 16mm (1 ring)

Telephoto lens

Here shots were taken in a studio with a tripod in daylight illumination through the window. And so I could shoot with a low ISO and covered aperture (in the case of close-up filters).

First let’s see what the maximum magnification volition be using an extension tube. Yous can run across that the magnification is significant but non as much as it was on the wide-angle exam.

At present allow’s meet the scaling potential of the close-upwards filters in a same composition. The maximum scale when “sandwiching” of all 4 filters turned really impressive.

40-150@150mm f/8 (w/o close-up filters and extension tubes)
40-150@150mm f/5.6 + CLOSE-UP No.1 filter
40-150@150mm f/5.6 + CLOSE-UP No.2 filter
40-150@150mm f/8 + CLOSE-UP No.3 filter
40-150@150mm f/8 + CLOSE-UP No.4 filter
40-150@150mm f/8 + CLOSE-UP No.1,2,3 filters
40-150@150mm f/8 + CLOSE-UP No.1,2,3,4 filters
40-150@150mm f/8 + CLOSE-UP No.1,2,3,4 filters + extension tubes set of 26mm (2 rings)

In fact, the maximum scale we achieved with extension tubes is very shut to shots with a close-upward filter of 2 diopters. However, extension tubes allow me to shoot with an open up discontinuity creating a blurry blackgrond and practice non requite aberrations at the corners.

Finally, permit’s compare the original image with the maximum scale that we tin reach with accessories – extension tubes, close-ups and a agglomeration of tubes with filters.

40-150@150mm f/8 (w/o close-up filters and extension tubes)
40-150@150mm f/2.8 + extension tubes set of 26mm (2 rings)
40-150@150mm f/8 + CLOSE-UP No.1,2,3,4 filters
40-150@150mm f/8 + CLOSE-UP No.1,2,3,4 filters + extension tubes set of 26mm (2 rings)


A dedicated macro lens is the best tool in macro photography. It is designed for these purposes and, every bit expected, shows peachy results. However, purchasing a macro lens is a serious investment that may not be justified if yous are only beginning to notice this genre of photography. Therefore, in this article, we reviewed more than upkeep-friendly and affordable alternatives that allow you to brand high-quality macro images with equipment yous already own.

Shut-up filters are the almost upkeep-friendly choice. They show the all-time results with telephoto lenses only are well-nigh useless with ultra-broad lenses. Filters give a clear picture in the eye only lose sharpness at the corners. On the other hand, more expensive models with an achromatic lens are practically devoid of these drawbacks. All close-ups are sensitive to backlight and it is recommended to shoot with a closed aperture. If you plan to use filters on several lenses, it is more than profitable to purchase a filter of the maximum diameter and use inexpensive stepping adapter rings. It is also important to apply close-upward filters of trusted manufacturers, because the quality requirements here are the most significant thing.

Extension tubes are more expensive, simply also a more than versatile selection. They show the best results with wide angle lenses, but strongly lose out to shut-up filters on telephoto lenses. Rings exercise not accept optics, and therefore do non bring baloney into the prototype. When choosing the rings, it is important to pay attention to availability of information transfer contacts and to the build quality, which should ensure a perfect seal to the lens mountain, matte finish internal parts to suppress lens flare and the presence of contacts between the lens and the camera.

In general, information technology is not and so of import what accessories you choose to use. You can take good images both with macro lenses or close-up filters or extension tubes. Each of the options may have sure limitations and the photographer should simply exist able to take them into account.

40-150@150mm f/8 + Kenko AC CLOSE-UP No.3 filter
Tokina 100mm f2.8 macro lens
Tokina 100mm f2.8 macro lens
12-40@40mm f/2.8 + Kenko DG Extension Tube 16mm
12-40@40mm f/5.6 + Kenko DG Extension Tube 16mm
12-40@38mm f/5.6 + Kenko DG Extension Tube 16mm

Source: https://kenkoglobal.com/reviews/close_up_filters_and_extension_tubes_for_macro_photography/

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