Achromatic close-up lenses are one of the most popular options among photographers who want to get a taste of macro photography without breaking the bank. They are a special kind of close-up lenses with multiple lens elements instead of just one. This minimizes chromatic aberration and ensures better image quality at the borders of the frame.
Two highly regarded achromatic lenses are the Marumi DHG200 +5 and Raynox DCR-250. They cost almost the same, around 50-55 bucks. I own both of them and I’m more than satisfied with their build and image quality. That being said, there are some differences that will make you prefer one over the other, unless you want to own both. 😉 So let’s get to it!
If you are a mirrorless camera or a bridge camera user size is probably very important to you. Unfortunately I must disappoint you. There is no clear winner in regard to size. The Marumi DHG200 +5 is quite a bit smaller compared to the Raynox DCR-250, when the latter is attached to its clip-on adapter. However, if you unscrew the Raynox from its adapter it becomes just as small as the Marumi. But you will almost certainly have to use a step-up or a step-down ring, because of Raynox’s non-standard filter thread diameter (49mm).
Marumi DHG200 +5 and Raynox DCR-250 are both high quality products. They are manufactured to a high standard and as such they neither bend when you apply force nor do they squeak. There are no gaps of differing size between adjacent parts to be found anywhere. Still, in my opinion the Marumi has the edge here, because its ring, housing the glass elements, is made entirely out of metal. The Raynox is made out of plastic – the sturdy kind, not the cheap-feeling kind.
Ease of use
Since lenses can’t focus to infinity when there is a close-up lens attached to them, you will be attaching and taking off the close-up lens multiple times every time you go out shooting. This mostly happens when you are switching between macro and non-macro subjects. For that reason it is very important how easy it is to attach and take off the close-up lens.
In order to attach the Marumi, you just screw it on like any other filter or add-on lens. If you have a filter, even an UV filter, screw it on several times in a row to get a feel for how long it takes and how cumbersome the experience is to you. For me it is not a deal breaker, but I’m guessing that there are people who will find it tedious.
The Raynox, on the other hand, can either be screwed on directly or attached via its clip-on adapter that comes with it, whereby doing the latter is quite a bit faster and less fiddly. There is a catch, of course: due to the adapter having such a large diameter, it makes it hard to get close enough to some subjects or to shoot subjects at ground level. When it’s attached to my Olympus 45mm f/1.8, the lens looks up to the sky, if I put my camera on the ground. And if an insect is on the ground, I am forced to photograph it from an unfavourable angle (from above) instead of photographing it at eye level.
Image quality and magnification
The most important reason to get an achromatic close-up lens is to reduce your primary lens’ closest focusing distance and improve magnification. Being an 8 diopter the Raynox DCR-250 has an edge over the Marumi DHG250 +5 (5 diopter) in this regard. But take a look for yourself.
Now let’s take a look at image quality. The photos below are of the foreword from Erik Johansson’s photo book Imagine (excellent and inspirational book, by the way).
(Because the camera/lens is so close to the page, it is blocking some of the flash light and thus casting a shadow.)
The following images are 100% crops from the centre of the frame. Click on them to view them full size in a new browser window. Marumi is on the left, Raynox on the right.
And now 100% crops from the corners. Click on them to view them full size in a new browser window. Marumi is on the left, Raynox on the right.
Upper left corner
Upper right corner
Lower left corner
Lower right corner
What becomes immediately apparent while looking at the crops is that the Raynox is less prone to CAs but that it also is much softer at the borders of the frame.
As is often the case in life, things are not as clear cut as we would like them to be. Instead of one being better than the other on all accounts, Marumi and Raynox end up trading blows.
In my opinion the Raynox is the better choice if you value ease of use and magnification above all else. If you prioritize build quality and image quality, however, you should get the Marumi.
Here are some photos I have taken with the Marumi on the Nikon V1 and 10-30mm kit lens and the Olympus OM-D E-10 and 45mm f/1.8.
With V1 and 10-30
Sadly I don’t have a single photo taken with the Raynox DCR-250 alone. Since buying it I have only used it in tandem with the Marumi DHG200 (read this post).
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If you like my work and intend to buy either of the two achromatic close-up lenses, consider making your purchase through Amazon, by using the following links.
Marumi DHG200 +5:
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