Friday, September 9, 2011

comparing a macro lens to filters

I love macro photography and my favorite lens is the canon 100mm 2.8L macro. I also have a set of macro filters like this for my 50mm 1.4 lens. I thought it would be a good idea to take some photos to compare the macro lens to the macro filters.

After comparing the results, I didn't think there was a huge difference in the quality of the images. The main difference was that the available focusing distance for the filters was much narrower. (meaning there wasn't much difference in how close and how far away from the subject you can focus)

Also you can focus a little closer to the subject with the macro lens.

The following images haven't been cropped or edited. Every one of them was shot at an aperture of 5.6. 

These buds on my milkweed are tiny like the size of a tic tac.

100mm macro

50mm with 10x filter

I also took some photos of some yummy sliced kiwi.

100mm macro

50mm with 10x and 2x filters combined
(this is the farthest away I could get and still be able to focus with both filters attached)

This is the closest I can focus with the macro lens.

And this is the closest I can focus with the 10x and 2x macro filters combined. (I know it's from a slightly different angle than the above photo so the depth of field appears shallower)

I did one more comparison with some small spools of thread. These are the really tiny ones that come in a kit like this. Each spool is a little less than one inch tall.

I did adjust the exposure and white balance just a little on these, but I didn't do any cropping.

This is the closest I could focus with the macro lens.


And here's the closest I could get with the 10x filter.

For comparison, here's a shot from the same distance as above but with the macro lens.
So there you have it - my totally unscientific results. It seems to me the focus is good with the filters and the quality is almost as good, but you just can't get quite as close to your subject. Although, you'd probably be able to get closer if you stack all four filters on top of each other. I didn't try that. There's a major difference in the price between the two options so if you don't want to spend the money on a macro lens, the filters are definitely worth the $12.

What do you guys think about the differences? I don't have the best eyes so I welcome other opinions.

Linking up today with macro friday, fabulous friday and foto friday.

And my favorite photo after a little cropping and editing...


38 comments:

  1. Great post!I've never tried a filter. To me it looks as almost the same quality. When I compare the last two, I like the last one more because it's lighter, but that can be fixed with editing...

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  2. Great comparisons, the shots from the macro lens looks a bit richer in the colours. But the filters look pretty good for the price.

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  3. By the way the milkweed shots are gorgeous.

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  4. Looks like you had some fun with this post!! :) ~ Nice job on that last edit. Love the color pop.

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  5. Love this post. I have the filters and I love them and use them all the time.

    Great photos, thanks for sharing,
    Lori

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  6. Wow, Deb thanks for this comparison. I took a class in macro photography and came away with the same conclusion but I haven't done anything else. Now that I see what you have done, I'm definitely going to get a filter(s). Oh, and gorgeous photos!

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  7. Thanks so much for comparing these! I think I'd want both. :-D

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  8. My favorite is the kiwi so close I want to eat it! I Love how you have great post to go with your great shots. Your post explain things to me are are so helpful

    Thank you.

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  9. Thank you for sharing your comparisons. It does looks like the difference isn't very much. The macro shots are slightly richer.

    Your milkweed is beautiful!!!

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  10. Very cool analysis. My findings...that kiwi looks delicious.

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  11. Hi Deb! Love your comparisons - it is very subtle but the true macro does have a bit more sharpness in the focus, but certainly not enough for one who would like to shoot this kind of image and at that price difference. I have been looking at extension tubes which because there are no optics won't affect image quality, but they are definately more expensive than the filters, however much, much cheaper than a macro lens. I think they may be a good edition to my little 40mm 1:1 macro lens. Hmmm, would love to see a comparison on those two.... ; )

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  12. I love it. Thanks so much for sharing Deb. What a great comparison. That last shot is great. The rest are awesome SOOC.

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  13. These are VERY cool! The purple thread is my favorite! I'm wishing for a macro lens.

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  14. i love that you did this.. and I do think a macro lens has a bit more definition, the image is jsut a bit sharper versus the filter.. but filters are always a great way to save moeny and pratice macro photography...but then i have been known to get amazing macro shots with a 200mm lens...lol i am a rule breaker..

    i do think that in the old canon vs nikon battle, that nikon glass works better with macro filters.. i think that there is more depth of field with nikon so the filters work a bit better.. and i have used both.. it is not a right or wrong, just a difference. if they both worked the same we would not need two companies.

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  15. Loved this post and the comparison between the macro and the filters. I tend to like the images with the macro lens, they seem to be a tad sharper. This answers my question about filters. I already have the Nikon 105mm Macro and love it. Great images for your comparison!!

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  16. wow! the macro filters would definitely be a great way to go if you don't have bucks to spend on a dedicated macro lens! thanks for this!

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  17. Fabulous pictures. I love the kiwi. :)

    I think I will be getting a macro lens for my birthday next month. Yay.

    By the way, I will be using your smugmug code because I read that you recommended it somewhere on CM. Thanks a bunch. I am loving it. :)

    Marla @ www.blueskiesphotoblog.com

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  18. Oh! my! This is WAY over my head. I'm still learning to shot off of automatic.

    I have learned three things:

    1.) I should follow your blog so I can learn more.

    2.) I should follow your blog so I can learn more.

    and finally

    3.) I should follow your blog so I can learn more.

    I do like the last photo too...if that means anything. :)

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  19. these are great comparisons! I have some macro filters but had trouble getting the focus I wanted--I thought it was the filters, but your focus is great so I think I'll have to experiment with them a bit more!

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  20. What a fantastic analysis! I just love your macro shots.

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  21. Thanks for this informative post - I've only started thinking about a macro lens and didn't realise that a filter was a possible option. Thank you for incuding all your clever examples.

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  22. Thanks for all the great comparison info. All of the shots were great but I love the last one. That one hint of yellow in the background is terrific.

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  23. Very interesting pictures...enjoyed the comparison shots.

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  24. Wow! I'd love to have a macro lens one day! These shots are just stunning, so crisp and clear!

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  25. Loved this . They are both and all very beautiful. Love the DOF of all.

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  26. Beautiful photos! And thanks for the info too :)

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  27. Wonderful, with those colors and beautiful texture.

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  28. I love that you did this Deb because for those of us that are still collecting all the needed equipment - these are things one needs to know :) Thanks!!

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  29. The filters do a wonderful job. They just make the focus a little softer than the tack sharpness of the macro. Great shots and great experiment. V

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  30. Deb,

    What a great idea! I really appreciate you taking the time to compare them.

    I have a wonderful thoughtful loving friend who surprised me with some filters. (I think you know her well!)

    I still think the macro lens is much sharper, but hey, I still love what I have.

    Great shots as always.

    You continue to inspire me!!

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  31. Great post! I love seeing the difference between the two. I do believe you have the macro lens I've been lusting after for quite a while now. ;) gorgeous shots, Deb!

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  32. You macro lens gives a crisper image, allows much closer focus and noticeable more depth of focus. I don't have a DSLR but have been impressed with the macro shots I can capture . Our children have a couple of small Canon pocket cameras and capture macros nearly as good as my larger camera.
    If I had a DSLR I would be looking at the macro lens if at all possible.

    The filters would be so much more portable when out and about, especially if you're not sure if you'll be taking any macro shots, but want to allow for them in case.

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  33. Love the comparison! You have me convinced I need to save for your lens now ;)

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  34. Thank you for this awesome post !! I really want the canon macro lens you have, but just don't have the funds...I
    Might have to try the filters :)

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  35. What a great post. Thanks for sharing the comparisons. I'm saving up for a 100mm macro, but I did buy a screw on conversion lens that I haven't tried yet (I must go take it out of the box!). Your favorite photo is also my fave. It's GORGEOUS!

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