What is a close-up filter? Close-up filters are basically reading glasses for your camera lens. They are a nifty, and extremely inexpensive, way to turn any lens into a macro lens.

You heard me right. You can change the focal length of your lens by simply screwing on a close-up filter. Think of them as reading glasses for your lens.

I love my 90mm Sony lens. In fact I adore it, but it never seems to get me as close as I want to be to my subject. While I love the incredible details in LEGO mini figures, i’ve been unable to capture them adequatly. It is these small details and flourishes that inspire me to photograph these toys.

After I read: Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs of People, I knew I wanted to attempt portraits of a few of my favorite figures. What do the details on a particular figure tell the viewer about that character? What kind of story will I be able to tell while only showing a portion of the mini figure? I’ve been stumped about how best to approach this project. While I love my trusty 90 mm macro lens, it doesn’t achieve the level of closeness that I want.

When I heard about close-up filters from Brian Lane, I knew immediately that I had to try them. This cheap solution might allow me to get the detail I desire, without resorting to cropping. Plus, if I was lucky, the cheap glass on the filter could give me some interesting chromatic aberrations.

Close-up filters are usually sold in sets of four. They include magnification 1x, 2x, 4x and 10x. You can use the filters individually or mix and match to get the level of magnification and distortion you desire. All this photo fun for less than $10 (US)! If you purchase a set make sure you purchase a pouch to hold them. If you like the results, you will want to add them to your photo bag. A pouch will make them easy to carry around and keep your investment safe. 🙂

Here are the results from my initial tests using a close up filter on a Sony 90mm lens set to an aperture of 2.8 (which is my default setting):

2x close-up filter

I used the 4x close-up filter for this image.

I love the distortion created with the paper thin focal plane.

You can see some chromatic aberrations with the 4x close-up filter in the highlights and around the edges. I wonder what would happen if I combined 2x with the 4x filters? I think this deserves some more experimentation!


To make a complicated subject ultra simple, these filters allow me to get even closer to my subject and still be able to focus.

Why you should consider adding these inexpensive filters to your tool box:

  • You want to explore the world of macro photography with an existing lens before investing in a dedicated macro lens.
  • You want to give an existing lens macro capabilities – like a 35mm or 50mm
  • You’re interested in exploring the world of distortion and chromatic aberrations inherent in less expensive optics
  • Like me you’re intrigued with ultra close-ups and are looking for an inexpensive solution
  • Of course, you could solve all of these problems with an extension tube or reverse mounting your lens, but there is more flexibility with mix and match filters and no chance of harming your lens with dust.

Photographically, it’s not often that you find an inexpensive accessory that turns out such satisfying results. I couldn’t be more pleased with my investment and I look forward to exploring the world of portraiture with my mini figures and these close-up filters.


What do you think? Would you use a close-up filter as an alternative to a macro lens or to get even closer to your subject? 

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