The best close-up filters are the ideal way to experiment with close-up and macro photography without having to spend a fortune. Macro lenses are great, but they can command quite a high price, especially if you're not sure if this type of photography is your sort of thing or not. Close-up filters let you experiment with getting in close without having to lighten your wallet too much, allowing you to use the lenses you already own. They're an ideal starting point.
Close-up filters are pretty simple devices; essentially they work like reading glasses. Placed over the front of a lens, they act as a magnifier and effectively reduce the minimum focusing distance of the lens, allowing you to get much closer to a subject. Indeed, they're technically more like an additional lens than a filter, however they are used in the same manner as filters like polarisers and NDs, so they tend to get lumped in the same category. You might hear someone refer to "close-up lenses" or "macro filters"; it's likely they're referring to the same thing.
Close-up filters can work with DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, compact cameras or bridge cameras – you just need to make sure you get the right filter thread size. This will generally be printed on the front of the lens, so double-check before buying anything, as otherwise your filter won't physically fit.
Check out our video tutorial on how to use close-up filters to shoot macro-style pictures
Another low-cost alternative macro option is to use one of the best extension tubes. These are an even cheaper option, though with the trade-off that they reduce the maximum aperture of your lens.
Another useful aspect of close-up filters is that they can be stacked, meaning that the lenses can be used in concert with one another to boost the effect and get really, really close to your subject. We've put together some images below to give you an idea of how it works.
We've picked out the best close-up filters you can buy right now. They often come as sets, though some are packaged as individual lenses with adapters, and there are options both from well-known brands and from relatively unknown names. One thing all these filters have in common though is that they're high-quality products we think offer outstanding value for money.
So let’s dive in to discover the best close-up filters and lenses available for photographers right now…
Best close-up filters
Why you can trust Digital Camera World
Vivitar's set is a good inexpensive option for beginner photographers. They come in a range of thread sizes and have the same strength options as the Polaroid set. Pretty much anyone, even a complete novice, can get to grips with attaching them, and if you're starting at out close-up photography, they're a solid choice.
You won't get the kind of results you'd get from an expensive macro lens, but you shouldn't expect to. The optical quality of the Vivitar lenses isn't quite up there with other filters, but they're good for the price. Plus, you get a generous 15-year warranty, as well as a handy nylon wallet for storage and transportation.
• Read more: Five tips for using macro lenses
This four-piece set from Polaroid includes +1, +2, +4 and +10 diopter filters in a useful, water-resistant nylon carry case, meaning it's easy to take everywhere with you. Constructed from aluminium, the Polaroid filters have a dual-threaded design that makes them easy to stack.
Multi-coated for superior light transmission, the filters claim to ensure true-to-life colours with zero loss of detail. The broad range of thread sizes means that they'll like fit most camera setups, and in an additional touch, you get a ten-year manufacturer's warranty, for a little extra peace of mind.
Tiffen is a well-regarded name in the world of lens filters, so you can be assured that this set of close-up filters is made with quality. One of the first things you'll see is the leatherette carry pouch, which gives the whole affair a premium feel that other filters lack.
The thread compatibility ranges are broad, though you only get +1, +2 and +4 diopter options, and not the +10 variant that appears in other sets. Still, being able to combine the three filters easily means you'll always have an option for when you want to get super-close to a subject. Also, this commendably comprehensive set is pretty affordable.
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.
How we test filters
When we test filters, we look at both optical performance and general build quality – how robust the filter feels, how easy it is to use and how securely it attaches to the lens. We use a combination of real-world and lens testing to inform our comments in reviews and buying guides. For filters, we test light transmission levels, colour neutrality (i.e. if the filter introduces a cool or warm cast) and the impact a filter has on image quality. Find out more about how we test and review on Digital Camera World.
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