Macro Photography On A Budget – Close-up Filter or Extension Tube

Small But Terrible

There has been a lot of discussion about this topic and my answer, again, is of course, it depends on your budget. Close-up filters are generally cheaper compare to extension tubes and extension tubes are cheaper compare to true Macro Lenses. What’s the difference between the two?

Well, I can’t really say much about close-up filters, I’ve never used one. Why? I just didn’t thought I’ll need it, I prefer an extension tube more than a close-up filter. The sample photo above was taken using my 85mm F/1.8 and an extension tube.

Close-up filters like the one on the right are like regular filters(CPL) that attaches to the front of a lens to allow you to focus closer to your subject at a very low cost. This will let you increase the magnification of your subject. Close-up lenses come in different strengths or what is called diopters +1 +2 +3 +4 . The biggest advantage of close-up filters aside from being cheap is, there is no light loss but the biggest drawback is loss in image quality, remember that anything you put in front of your lens can decrease image quality.

The Pollen Jocks - Small and Terrible

Personally, I love using my extension tube. I was able to produce some amazing close-up of bugs and some other stuff with it. The biggest advantage of extension tubes over close-up filters is on image quality, since there is no optics on extension tubes your images quality are not degraded. Extension tubes reduces the minimum focusing distance of a lens, enabling you to focus much close to your subject, giving you a much larger image. With extension tubes you loose your lens capability to auto focus which should not be a big deal.

Choosing between close-up filters and extension tubes will all depend on your budget and what type of work you are trying to accomplish, between the close-up filter and an extension tube, I will go with the extension tube, for the following reasons, no loss in image quality, cheaper compare to macro lenses, can be used on your existing lenses. If you choose a close-up filter, make sure you pick one that is from a reputable manufacturer, be careful from lots of no-name brands scattered on ebay.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please fell free to comment below.

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18 thoughts on “Macro Photography On A Budget – Close-up Filter or Extension Tube

  1. Flickr: flatworldsedge

    The Pollen Jocks - Small and TerribleWow – I’ve never seen one of these. The details are so incredibly sharp. I love little details like the menace in his eyes, and the bokeh of the yellow flowers behind. Wonderful work.