Us m4/3 users have multiple options when it comes to macro photography, including both cheap and expensive options. Choose either diopters or extension tubes if you are on a tight budget. Micro four third system currently features just one true macro lens – Panasonic Leicaand although it is capable of producing a stellar image quality, it is also very expensive.
You must be careful when you choose diopters. Cheap diopters are dreadful when it comes to image quality. Even the diopters produced by better known manufacturers such as Hoya are often less than ideal. Don’t buy the kits that contain multiple +1, +2 and +4 diopters, you will probably regret it if you care about image qualities at all. Diopters have magnification gages. They are often rated in the form of +x where x typically ranges from 1 to 8. Higher number means higher magnification factor. Higher magnification factor also means thinner depth of field (see “Narrow field of depth” section later on in this article). You can calculate approximately how close the focal distance will be for each diopters. Divide the diopter rating from 100 – this is the distance you will need to work on from your subject. So if your diopter is +2 rated, you will be able to take your shots at approx. 50cm, while +8 rated diopters will require much closer distance of 12.5cm which might be too close, especially if you intend to take live subject shots. So which lens should you attach these diopters on to? In general, longer focal length lenses will provide higher magnification factors. So if your goal is to get as high magnification factor as possible, you will want to use diopters with highest ‘+’ rating, attached to lenses with long zoom ranges. +8 diopter attached to Panasonic 100-300mm or Olympus 75-300mm will give you incredible magnification factors but just as incredibly (and impossibly) thin depth of field views. For beginners, you will want to choose diopters with as low rating as possible within your needs. Although it will depend on the diopter you use, you will want to attach these diopters on a zoom lens with good zoom ranges. You don’t want to use this on your kit 14-42mm lens. Better options would be 45-200mm, 14-150mm or similar lenses. Even 100-300mm or 75-300mm would work ok if you are looking for high magnifications. If the only lens you own is 14-42, then you will probably want to choose the one with high magnification factors, such as +8. Here are some good high-quality diopters, manufactured in Japan:
- Raynox DCR250 (+8) – this lens will give you roughly a minimum focal distance of 12.5cm. Due to its high magnification factor, it is more suitable for very small subjects including very small insects.
- Raynox DCR150 (+4.8) – this lens will give you a minimum focal distance of 20cm, so if you are shooting something live, this might work out better than DCR250. You can use this on flies, beetles, spiders and flowers.
- Marumi +5 200 Achromat Achromatic Close Up Lens – will give you roughly the same working parameters as Raynox DCR150.
- Marumi +3 330 Achromat Achromatic Close Up Lens – this lens will give you a minimum focal distance of 33cm. The magnification factor is less so it won’t work well on smaller objects.
- Olympus MCON-P01 Macro Converter (+2.5) – this lens only weighs 23g. It supports both Olympus 14-42 and 14-150 lenses. To use on 14-42 lens, you will need to attach an additional adapter included with the kit. Be aware that if you use this on 14-42 lens, you are only reducing the minimum focus distance by 1cm. On 14-150 lens, you are going to reduce the minimum distance from 90cm to 35cm which is much more reasonable. Not recommended if you only own 14-42mm lens. You will also find some CA in out of focus areas mainly due to its cheaper 1-element design. This diopter has the weakest magnification factor out of all diopters listed here.
Raynox comes with adapters that will allow you to attach itself to a range of filter thread sizes. Marumi 200 series can only be used on a single filter thread size, so you will need to purchase the right model based on the lens you intend to use. If you intend to use the diopter on more than one lenses, you may want to consider Raynox instead of Marumi. Image quality-wise, they appear to be about par, so if you intend to use it on just one lens, you might as well get this. It is cheaper too (but your experience may vary). Another potential option is to get a step-down ring for the Raynox instead of using the included “bulky” adapter. For beginners, lower rated diopters and 45-200, 14-150 or similar lens is highly recommended, even if it offers less magnification, mainly because it is easier to keep your subject in focus. Also note that for some lenses, you may see some vignetting, especially on the wide end of the zoom. On my Olympus 14-150mm lens, Raynox 250 causes heavy vignetting at 14mm but minimal at 150mm.