If you want to experiment with close-up photography, close-up filters are a great choice. A dedicated macro lens can be a real expense, especially if you aren't sure whether this type of photography is for you. Close-up filters provide an inexpensive, low-commitment way to give it a try using your existing gear.
They're also a good choice if you use a compact camera or bridge camera for your photography, as these models have fixed lenses and therefore can't take a macro lens. If you make sure you get the right filter thread size, a good close-up filter can give these types of cameras possibilities you may never have thought of.
The science behind close-up filters is very simple; they essentially function like reading glasses, acting as a magnifier and reducing the minimum focusing distance of the lens to which they are attached. They can be used with zoom lenses as well as primes. Technically they are a lens themselves rather than a filter, but given that they function exactly like ND filters or polarisers, this is generally the category they slot into.
Check out our video tutorial on how to use close-up filters to shoot macro-style pictures
Therefore, if you see someone referring to "close-up lenses" and someone else referring to "macro filters", there's a strong possibility they're talking about the exact same thing. (An alternative low-cost macro option is to use one of the best extension tubes.)
In this guide, we’re examining the best close-up lenses and filters. They're often available as sets, or individual lenses with adapters. With loads of name brand and no-brand solutions available online, photographers are absolutely spoiled for choice. It's also worth noting that most sets can also be stacked, meaning that the lenses can be used in combination to boost their creative potential further, maximising the potential for getting up close and personal. The below images should give you some idea of how it works:
As mentioned, you need to make sure that the close-up filter thread size or set size you’re choosing is an exact match for the lens to which you are intending to affix them. That’s the first thing you’ll need to decide on before making your shortlist and purchase decision.
So let’s dive in to discover the best close-up filters and lenses available for photographers right now…
Best close-up filters in 2021
Transforms any lens into a macro lens is the promise here, courtesy of a four-piece set that includes +1, +2, +4 and +10 diopter filters in a handily water-resistant nylon carry case. Polaroid suggests that the aluminium constructed set is perfect for photographing flowers, products, food and newborns.
A dual-threaded design allows the filters to not only be attached to the relevant lens; multiple filters can also be stacked for extreme macro effects.
Unsurprisingly, the filters are multi coated and claim to ensure true colors with zero loss in detail.
A ten-year manufacturer’s warranty provides additional peace of mind.
Available in a variety of thread sizes, from 37mm upwards, this is a very inexpensive option for beginners, while flexible and straightforward enough for any newcomer who wants to get up close and personal to subject matter using just a standard lens and this kit.
OK, so while results may not be exactly the same as an expensive macro lens, this is a fun place to start.
Despite the inexpensive nature of the Vivitar product, it comes with a generous 15-year warranty and a nylon wallet to store and transport the filters in.
A good place to start your experimentations with magnification.
• Read more: Five tips for using macro lenses
Tiffen is another big name in the business of camera filters, so it's no surprise it offers a close-up lens set, supplied in a leatherette carry pouch.
The beauty here is the ability to take macro shots without having to pack a dedicated macro lens in your camera bag, or shell out big money for one in the first place.
Available in a broad range of compatible filter sizes and +1, +2 and +4 diopter options, these Tiffen branded options are another easy-to-use solution for photographers wanting to get extra close.
The lenses can also be used individually or combined for maximum close up effect and creative flexibility in all shooting scenarios. A commendably comprehensive yet affordable solution.
Here's a known and respected brand offering a plethora of close up filter solutions, with set sizes ranging from 46mm to 77mm, containing three options, depending on how close you want to go: +1, +2 or +3.
Hoya’s ‘HMC’ filters are aimed at minimizing reflection to increase light transmission and temper possible lens flare and ghosting.
The manufacturer promises over 97% light transmission for sharp contrast and well balanced color. The set arrives in a padded pouch for easy protection and transportation, with Hoya advising that, since depth of field will be shallow, it’s best for photographers to use as small an aperture as possible.
Although more expensive than other 'starter' options here, the pitch with this one is that it can make a telephoto lens function as a macro lens, enabling the taking of close ups within a distance of 22-30cm.
It’s compatible with zoom or prime lenses with a focal length of 70-300mm, while the construction of the NiSi lens is made up of double optical corrective glass with an apochromatic design.
This kit comes with the extras of 67mm and 72mm adapter rings and the manufacturer’s recommendation is that it is used with telephoto lenses with an aperture of f/8 to f/16 to achieve optimal results and the sharpest results.
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