It’s a long held belief of mine (and not just as a photographer) that the beauty of life is in the tiny details.
So for as long as I’ve been photographing with intention (since around 2006 with Sony camera phones), I’ve been drawn to photographing up close and intimate.
This is a short series on ways I’ve used cameras to get within breathing distance of that beauty.
You can see all posts in this series here.
Part II – Close Up Filters
The first method I came across for getting closer than a standard lens will allow is to use close up filters.
These can only be used on lenses which have a filter thread, so it rules out many, but not all, digital compacts.
I found them useful first with 35mm film SLRs where the minimum focus of perhaps 0.5m was not close enough in some situations.
In simple terms, close up filters are like a magnifying glass.
They’re available individually or in sets, and typically the magnifying ratios are +1, +2, +4 and +10.
I returned to using close up filters after pondering why I hand’t used my Panasonic Lumix GF1 more since I bought it.
A major factor was the only native lens I have, a rather good, light and compact 12-32mm zoom (equivalent to 24-64mm in 35mm money) only focuses down to 0.2m.
Having got used to the sub 0.1m range of most digital compacts (and down to an amazing 0.01m in the case of my two Ricohs), most times I went to focus with the GF1 it wouldn’t, because I was closer than the lens could focus.
Looking at prime lenses like the 20/1.7, they too only go down to about 0.2 – 0.25m, so for this purpose spending money of one of those would be money wasted.
So I looked up the filter ring size (37mm) of the 12-32mm lens to see if close up filters were available, and found and ordered a set of four from Amazon for £12.99.
After a little experimentation, I’ve found the +4 filter is most useful all round for me.
It means at a focal length of 17mm (34mm) where I shoot most with this lens, I can get down to around 0.07m away from the subject. But I can still back up to around 0.6m away, and lock (auto)focus too.
With this +4 filter, my typical shooting range is covered, and I can leave the filter on all of the time.
I only need to remove it if I want to focus on something further away than 0.6m, which doesn’t happen often, and if it does it’s very easy to unscrew the filter for a moment.
The +10 of course gets me a little closer, but because of the extra magnification, the range of focus is far more limited, so it needs to be removed more often.
Aside from being cheap, small, light, easy to use, and giving extra protection to your lens, another neat factor with these filters is the ability to stack them for additional magnification – in any combination.
But for me mostly just using the +4 on its own works very well.
Someone with more expertise might talk about a loss of image quality and how the magnification narrows the field of view, but I’m not interested in these things for my needs.
For me, using close up filters means I can very happily use lenses I otherwise get frustrated with because they don’t get me the intimate shots I look for, and this is a massive plus that outweighs any downsides pixel peepers might point to.
The photographs in this post (aside from those of the filters themselves) were made with my Lumix GF1, with the Lumix G Vario 12-32mm lens and a +4 Polaroid close up filter.
Have you tried using close up filters?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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