Macro photography on a budget

Strawberry, close-up

Strawberry, close-up

In it’s simplest definition, “Macro photography is close-up photography of usually very small subjects”, (Wikipedia).   For anyone who has photographed with a macro lens, or viewed macro images, getting in close can convert an everyday object into a piece of art.

For the dslr owner, the typical route to macro photography is by purchasing a macro (sometimes called micro) lens for their cam and then looking for the extraordinary amongst the ordinary.

Popular macro lenses include:

Canon Telephoto EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Autofocus Lens

Nikon Telephoto AF Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Autofocus Lens

Olympus 50mm f/2.0 Macro ED Zuiko Digital Lens for Olympus Digital Cameras (Four Thirds System)

What these all have in common is that they are very capable macro lenses that will bring solid results.  What they also have in common are price tags that can be steep for a photog who is just starting out, in some cases costing as much or more than their dslr body.  It might also be untenable for anyone who is not convinced that macro photography will be a lasting interest.

Nail, close-up

Nail, close-up

So does that mean that the frugal photographer is out of luck when it comes to macro image making?  Not at all.

Wanting to dabble in up close and personal photography without committing to a major purchase, I did some research and took the plunge for… under $20!!  And the results have not been bad.  In fact every macro image you see in this post was taken with my tiny investment! How is this possible you ask?

There are several manufacturers who produce Close-up or Macro filter kits, which consist of several screw on filters, of varying magnification, that convert a non-macro lens into a close-up lens.  I purchased the Sakar 52mm Close-Up Filter Set from Amazon.  This kit consists of four diopters: 1x, 2x, 4x and 10x.  The 52mm size fits on my 35mm and 50mm prime lenses and there are other sizes available.

Stamen of Lily, 4X

Stamen of Lily, 4X

Stamen of Lily, 10X

Stamen of Lily, 10X

Now before you dismiss this glass as junk and move on to the next post, let me say this – the old adage is true, you do get what you pay for, and I firmly subscribe to this.  But I also thought, it’s a small amount to risk, so what they heck!  And in the end, the results have been quite acceptable.

College ring, close-up

College ring, close-up

So if you’re interested in getting in close but are not ready to make a major investment, consider these inexpensive diopter filters.  Shop around, read other buyers’ reviews and make sure you get the filter size that will fit the lens you intend to use them on.  A note on using these filters on a zoom lens – it can be done but some vignetting is likely.  Also, remove any other filter you have on your lens before adding one of these.

Lighthouse close-up

Lighthouse close-up

Please post a comment if you’ve used filters of this type or if you intend to.  Email us your images and we’ll include in a follow up post.       -Posted by Ed


About Ed Spadoni "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
This entry was posted in Gear & accessories, Images, Learning and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Macro photography on a budget

  1. The color and detail on those two flowers shots is fantastic!

  2. jim r says:

    I’ve recently done the same thing (prior to reading this!) and for the same reasons. I really like a close-up now and then, but spending $100+ and stuffing a macro lens in the bag for a one-in-eighty image at most? That sounded silly. I put some 52mm diopter lenses in my Amazon wish list, waited a week.. and someone was selling theirs used for $3 plus shipping! No great images to show yet, but a few thick filters will be easier to justify at my current level of interest. I’ve a 49-52 step-up ring so plenty of additional lenses will work with these.

    Hopefully your post will bring a few others into the ‘budget macro’ fold – and the return on their small investment may convince a few to move to true macro lenses and expand this hobby into new places.

  3. Pingback: Weekend inspiration: Up close and personal with Macro Photography | 2 Guys Photo

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