How and why you should use a diopter – “a poor man’s macro lens”

Dec 23, 2016

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

How and why you should use a diopter – “a poor man’s macro lens”

Dec 23, 2016

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

If you are into macro photography, you probably already have a macro lens. Or three. And in this case you know how much they cost. If you are just getting interested in macro, there my be a better option than macro lens – at least price-wise.

YouTube video

Macro lens can cost from about $200 and it goes up from there. But if you are not that serious about macro photography, you can consider a diopter lens. It’s a “poor man’s macro”, and it’s not actually a lens. When you attach a macro lens, you screw it directly onto the camera’s body. When it comes to a diopter lens, you screw it onto your regular lens to take close-up shots.

On the minus side, diopter lens has a subtle curve or warp around the edges and minor visual impurities. I used to play a bit with Raynox DCR-250 Snap-On Lens, and I noticed the same problem. Macro lenses are designed to avoid these imperfections and give you true 1:1 ratio images. Also, with a diopter, you can only focus a few inches away from the subject, unlike with macro lenses. But still, if you need close-up shots, you need close-up focusing too, I suppose.

But there are definitely situations when you can discard the bad sides of diopter lenses. First, it’s the price. Opteka diopter lens from the video cost only $25, and there are even cheaper models. At this price, it gives quite an impressive image quality. The imperfections generally connected to these lenses are almost non-existent. It gives you 10x magnification, which is enough at least for the beginning.

This type of macro “lens” is great for beginners and those who are just getting started with macro photography. If you like how it works, you can always get a proper lens and go on shooting macro, since a diopter will not take that much out of your budget. And if not, you can invest in some other piece of equipment and play with a diopter when you are bored at home on a cold December evening.

[Cheap Macro Video, Opteka 10x Macro Lens via The Phoblographer]

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

14 responses to “How and why you should use a diopter – “a poor man’s macro lens””

  1. Adam Tuck Avatar
    Adam Tuck

    Great article, and perfect timing for me as I start thinking about how to try out macro shooting! I’m considering getting a diopter, but am wondering if there is a benefit to using it on prime or zoom lenses? Judging by the available sizes it looks like I’ll need to choose to avoid getting two diopters to suit both lenses. Would the prime be better because it’s a bit sharper and already has a shorter minimum focus distance, or would the zoom be better for the flexibility of the zoom? Does it matter?

    Thanks again for the great piece :)

    1. Dunja Avatar
      Dunja

      Hi Adam.
      I used Raynox DCR-250 as I mentioned in the text. You can add to any lens because it’s adjustable. I used it on 18-55mm kit lens and a prime 50mm, and the results are better with the prime. Also, I always used it on 55mm focal length even with the kit lens, I never zoomed. So in my opinion, I’d always go with prime.

      I’ve never used a diopter, but judging from the results I got with a 50 and Raynox, I think I’d still prefer using a diopter with a prime lens.

      I hope someone with more macro experience will give you a reply, I myself am not that much into macro, I was just trying it out briefly. :)

      1. Sean McCann Avatar
        Sean McCann

        There is no known planet where the nasty Opteka beats the Raynox.The Raynox is a 3 element, multicoated marvel, and the Opteka is an awful, distorted, CA-inducing horror.

    2. Anton Aylward Avatar
      Anton Aylward

      Perhaps you are over analyzing this.
      I started with a reversing ring – – mount my lens backwards. Since I had the same filter size on prime and both my zoom, and a stepping ring for the zoom for my Canon zoom lens, I in effect now had for macro lenses!
      I experimented with a couple of of diopter. My prime & smaller zoom used the same filter size. Quality wasn’t as good.
      Eventually I bought a set of auto tubes. Their overwhelming advantage is that they are convenient when you’re lazy. But the I’d grown used to using the manual settings, manually focusing with the reversing ring.

      The reversing rings are dirt cheap, perhaps a dollar or so on eBay. Buy one for every filter size you have for less than the cost of a reasonable diopter!

      If you’re not satisfied or, if like me, you still want to experiment, you’re not out of pocket much.

  2. Theuns Verwoerd Avatar
    Theuns Verwoerd

    Writeup fails to mention difference between single-element diopters (which are horrific) and the much more expensive multi-element versions.

    Honestly, spend $50 on a cheap set of electronic macro tubes.

    1. Jyi Offer Avatar
      Jyi Offer

      I’ve always wondered about Tubes vs diopter?
      Adding more glass is rarely a good idea

      1. Marcell Nikolausz Avatar
        Marcell Nikolausz

        If macro is your aim, use diopter for long tele lens and tubes for normal to short wide angle lens:
        http://fiberstrobe.blogspot.de/2015/04/macro-and-close-up-photography-options.html

    2. Theuns Verwoerd Avatar
      Theuns Verwoerd

      Modern lenses are a bit of a pain on the simpler ($8) tubes – but you can get ones with electronic contacts ex China for very little. Unlike diopters they have zero impact on image quality – and can stack with real macro lenses for even strong effects.

    3. Paul Maher Avatar
      Paul Maher

      I’m going to go look for one right now.

    4. Paul Maher Avatar
      Paul Maher

      That might be a little awkward on the Lumia 1020

  3. Dan K Avatar
    Dan K

    I use a diopter lens on my rangefinder lenses + Typ240. No need for RF goggles with live view

  4. ext237 Avatar
    ext237

    Or take a half-decent prime and flip it backwards. Poof, free macro. :)

  5. Joe Taggart Avatar
    Joe Taggart

    I have a Nikon 6t diopter that I bought for about $50.00 in the 90’s. I love it. I’ve never even considered buying a true macro lens. Unfortunately, I don’t think they make them anymore but Canon does…

  6. Paul Maher Avatar
    Paul Maher

    Can I mount one of these guys on a Nokia Lumia 1020 somehow or other? Any ideas here about how I ca attach one of these to the camera grip that came with the camera. Do they sell a mounting ring that I could glue to the grip?