Raynox has made its name among macro photographers with their excellent DCR-150 and DCR-250 diopter lenses. While the diopter lenses are generally the easiest and most convenient way to convert a non-macro lens into a macro lens, their optical quality is typically not that great. Raynox is an exception. In this post, we'll take a look at both the DCR-150 and DCR-250 diopters, and see how they are used and what kind of results they yield.
What is a diopter lens anyway?
Sometimes spelled "dioptre lens", a diopter lens is a piece of glass that changes the focusing point of the incoming light. In photography, they are typically used to achieve magnification by changing the closest focusing distance. They are also known as "macro conversion lens", "close-up conversion lens", "close-up filter", or "macro filter", the latter two due to the fact that they are screwed onto the lens much like any other filter.
Diopter lenses come in different strengths, typically +2, +3, +4, +8, and +10.
Based on the diopter strength alone, it is difficult to tell what kind of magnification you can get from your lens. I will provide a few examples using the lenses that I own and that might give you some idea as to what you can expect from yours.
Raynox diopter lenses come in a simple box with accidentally-retro-looking styling (which I like). The box contains a Raynox product catalog, user manual, and a plastic box with the diopter lens itself, and a snap-on lens adapter. The lens comes with back and front lens caps.
The lens caps are made of soft plastic, easily scratched, and the fit is too tight. They are best used for long-term storage. I normally do not use them in the field, and instead I keep the diopter lenses in a safe, lint-free place inside my camera bag.
The plastic container is overly large, probably because Raynox ships lenses of various sizes in the same container. It is way too large for storing the diopter lens during transport, so it is best used for longer-term storage, just like the lens caps.
One thing to note is that the products are called DCR-150 and DCR-250, but the lettering on the lenses themselves say M-150 and M-250, respectively. The full name of the product printed on the box is Macro/close-up conversion lens, while the Raynox website has them listed as Super-MacroScan Conversion lens. Most people know them as just DCR-150 and DCR-250, though.
The lenses are made in Japan.
Except for the optical elements, everything is plastic. There is no flex in either the lens nor the snap-on adapter, though. Everything is built very sold. It is made of the same type of plastic as the Lego blocks, except that this is not a toy. I wouldn't leave it in my car on a hot day, though.
Unlike many affordable diopter lenses are constructed of multiple coated glass elements. More precisely, 3 lens elements in 2 groups. This provides superior image quality mostly free of such issues as chromatic aberrations and ghosting, at least compared to uncoated close-up filters.
Well, at least that's the theory. I'll compare the Raynox DCR-250 to a Kenko No.5 49mm close-up filter later on.
The snap on lens adapter
The main selling point of the Raynox diopter lens is the snap-on adapter. Rather than screwing on the diopter directly onto your lens, Raynox provides a removable adapter which has two small threaded claws that grab onto the inside of the lens' filter thread.
These claws can be adjusted from 52mm to 67mm using the spring loaded buttons on the side.
The springs are rather strong, and require some force to push the buttons in except at the largest diameter of 67mm. I haven't had any issues with the adapter falling off my lens during normal operation even when the camera is freely dangling off a strap and bumping around.
I was able to achieve magnifications as high as 1.88:1 (188% life-size) using my Fujifilm XF 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens and Raynox DCR-250 and respectable 1.3:1 (130% life-size) using the DCR-150 on the same lens.
The above example was shot with Fujifilm X-T3 and XF 70-300mm at 300mm using DCR-150. The exposure settings were F11, 1/4000s, ISO 320.
Here's a few examples of the kind of magnifications I am getting at minimum focal distance of a couple of lenses I own:
- Pentax SMC Takumar 55mm f1.8
Lens itself: 0.17 (~0.25* 35mm equiv.)
DCR-150: 0.38 (~0.58 35mm equiv.)
DCR-250: 0.45 (~0.68 35mm equiv.)
- Fujifilm XF 70-300mm F4-5.6 (at 70mm)
Lens itself @ 70mm: 0.11 (~0.16 35mm equiv.)
DCR-150 @ 70mm: 0.44 (~0.67 35mm equiv.)
DCR-250 @ 70mm: 0.65 (~0.98 35mm equiv.)
- Fujifilm XF 70-300mm F4-5.6 (at 300mm)
Lens itself @ 300mm: 0.37 (~0.57 35mm equiv.)
DCR-150 @ 300mm: 1.3 (~1.98 35mm equiv.)
DCR-250 @ 300mm: 1.88 (~2.85 35mm equiv.)
* The amount of magnification that would be required on 35mm (full-frame) sensor so that the subject appears the same size relative to the frame.
Similar to the magnification, working distance is also a bit difficult to predict for the minimum focus distance. For the maximum focus distance, the manual says:
- DCR-150: 21cm (8.2in) at infinity
- DCR-250: 10.9cm (4.3in) at infinity
These are irrespective of the lens.
DCR-150's 21cm (8.2in) is decent and better than many dedicated macro lenses!
Here are some working distances that I've measured. Note that these aren't precise measurements by any means. Treat them as ballpark values, +/- 0.5cm (0.2in).
- Pentax SMC Takumar 55mm f1.8
Lens itself: 35cm (13.8in)
DCR-150: 12cm (4.72in)
DCR-250: 8.5cm (3.35in)
- Nikkor-O 35mm f2
Lens itself: 19.5cm (7.68in)
DCR-150: 8.5cm (3.35in)
DCR-250: 6.5cm (2.56in)
- Fujifilm XF 70-300mm F4-5.6 (at all focal lengths)
Lens itself: 57cm (22.44in)
DCR-150: 14.5cm (5.7in)
DCR-250: 9.7cm (3.82in)
The general pattern is that the shorter the native working distance of the lens is, the shorter the working distance will be with the diopters. I don't have enough lenses to test on to give a 100% accurate recommendation, but I would say I wouldn't use a lens with a native working distance shorter than 30cm (11.8in).
The good news is it does not affect the exposure at all, so you can shoot at the same exposure as if there is nothing attached. This is amazing compared to the 2 stop light loss on the Laowa 65mm macro lens.
For a snap-on filter, the image quality is exceptional. I was not able to spot any issues beyond the occasional chromatic aberration in extremely high-contrast scenes caused most likely by the lens itself. That's mostly as shot on the Fujifilm X-T3 which corrects most aberrations autiomatically.
Here's a crop of the above example:
Note that this is an extreme crop, possibly enlarged beyond reason on your screen. The chromatic aberrations are several pixels wide on a 26Mpx photo, and this is the only example that I could dig up. Your mileage my vary depending on what camera you are shooting on.
For maximum sharpness, I recommend first finding out the aperture sweet spot. This can sometimes be more than the lens' native sweet spot. For example, the Fujifilm XF 70-300mm has the sharpness sweet spot at around F8, while the sweet spot with the Raynox DCR-150 is F11. Diffraction appears to set in about one stop later on this particular lens.
AF works as expected on my Fujifilm XF 70-300mm zoom lens, fast and accurate as usual.
These diopter lenses are not cheap. You pay extra for the great build and image quality, and especially the snap-on adapter. They usually go for around $70 to $100 a piece. You don't need both, though. If your lens has decent magnification and working distance to begin with, you can get away with getting just the DCR-150.
The following images were shot with the Fujifilm XF 70-300mm zoom lens using the Raynox diopter lenses.
Raynox DCR-150 and DCR-250 are great diopter lenses. Image quality is excellent, and it does not affect the lens' native sharpness (that I can see). Unlike similar products on the market, the snap-on adapter is easy to use and it's a perfect addition to lenses that you intend to use for dual-purpose macro and non-macro lens.
I recommend using the Raynox diopter lenses with long telephoto zooms as that gives you the most flexibility in terms of available magnifications and working distances. I also recommend putting them on lenses that have a decent working distance and magnification to begin with so you are do not end up with uncomfortably short working distances.