The Raynox is like a mountain. You have to start from the base. Find your own path to the summit and see and observe and feel every step that you take along your path. If you think you will go to the summit via a helicopter straight away, then the Raynox is not for you.
So you decided to step into the world of Macro Photography. Awesome! Now you have lot of options as to how to start your macro photography venture. There are many tools available viz.
- Reverse Ring.(In case we are using a DSLR)
- Extension Tubes.(In case we are using a DSLR)
- Proper Macro Lenses.(in the DSLR field.)
- Microscope objectives.(mostly in the DSLR field)
Out of the above I am going to focus on the Achromat section. But before I step into the Achromat field, let me answer a few questions regarding filters. Let us take into consideration the photographers who do not have access to a DSLR as yet.
It is our human tendency that we want maximum efficiency and potential in the minimal effort. This rule applies when we think of buying photography equipment. I have seen many who attracted to macro photography, in the interest of time purchase “filters”. If you are not familiar with the filters that I am referring, they are those “Sonia” brand or others that you get at your local photography shop. They act exactly like say a UV filter. They screw to your lens and you can then photograph things up close. But frankly I will never recommend those. Have you ever used a magnifying glass before? Duh..of course you have. If you have observed closely, the glass does help you magnify things but the magnified image is distorted and has fringes all over. So when you use these magnifiers, you will get the result but the result may not be much of use. Yes when you photograph and view on-screen, the image is there. But frankly there is no quality in it. These filters are single element units which do a highly basic job of magnifying your subject for the camera. They are not treated well for chromatic aberration and distortion issues.
If you ask me in one word,whether to buy those filters the word is NO.
Before I introduce you to the world of Raynox, let me speak of its main competitor. Well there is nobody to compete with. But for the purposes of this article, I wanted to provide information on the other alternatives. They are the Canon 250D and Canon 500D closeup achromats. They function mostly like raynox. However the canon counterparts have less number of lenses and or elements within the construction. These achromats do their job. But both are expensive. the Canon 500D which does almost 2.5 times the magnification is priced at $159 at the time of writing. That is almost Rs. 11000 for that single lens. Not worth at least to me. I will explain in a bit.
What is Raynox?
The lenses that you all are famous with i.e. Raynox DCR 150 and Raynox DCR 250 are both achromatic lenses that help turn any camera with a filter thread of 52mm to 67mm into a macro photography power house. These lenses are available as individual achromats or available in a complete package named CM 2000A.
The achromats use the telephoto feature of your camera and help you to magnify the subject while simultaneously helping you focus at a moderate working distance. Thorough your and the camera movements, the optimum working distance is achieved where the subject you want to photograph is magnified and is in focus. The achromats come with a universal adapter which has a snap on feature. If the camera has a filter thread from 52mm to 67mm, the adapter just snaps to the thread. No fiddling with screwing in or so. Just screw the achromat on to the adapter and snap it on the camera and you are good to go. If the filter thread does not fit into the range you can purchase a step up or step down ring to make the filter thread match the range allowed.
There are three main raynox achromats used by macro photographers.
- Raynox DCR 150 – This achromat when used at the telephoto end helps in magnifying the subject 1.5 times the real size.
- Raynox DCR 250 – This achromat when used at the telephoto end helps in magnifying the subject 2.5 times the real size.
- Raynox MSN 202 – This achromat when used at the telephoto end helps in magnifying the subject almost 4 times the real size.
These achromats mainly depend on your telephoto reach. Generally people think that, the more telephoto power, the more magnification. Yes this is technically true. Though having used my raynox kit for over five years now I have observed that raynox performs best on a certain range. In my usage the raynox achromats perform best between 60mm till 300mm. The raynox 150 achieves 1.5x at roughly 250mm and beyond it starts to give 1.75x till 300mm. The raynox 250 achieves 2.5x at 200mm and then increases as the telephoto power increases.
Both the 150 and 250 are rated in diopter. The 150 is rated at 4.8 Diopter. So in translation you will get a working distance of 1/5 meters or 9 inches to work with in theory. The 250 is rated at 8 diopter. This translates to a working distance of 1/8 meters or 4 inches in theory. The actual working distance depends on the focal length and the subject distance and its size. When both the 150 and the 250 are combined you get a 12 diopter monster to work on a 3 inch distance.
The entire contraption works via two things. Camera movement and your own movement. During the use of raynox you have to physically move within the working distance to find the perfect DOF when the subject is in focus. Your camera’s AF points help in tracking and selecting the focus areas while you move so that you have an idea about the focus area in which you step in.
When is Raynox Useful?
Raynox is useful when you wish to take macro photographs of any subject that you wish to photograph. You want to photograph some jewellery up close? You can use the raynox. You want to photograph your negatives up close? You can use the raynox. Of course when you wish to photograph insects and flora in-depth you can use raynox. With raynox you open up unlimited possibilities to see the world beyond its normal size. One of the main advantages that I see with raynox is you are getting the magnification without removal or reversal of any lens. Any point and shoot camera owner with a filter thread till DSLR owners can use raynox achromats. Since they just snap on your lens, you retain all the electric contacts of your lens. So the AF and the metering work 100%.
Why to use Raynox?
I think I will showcase an example here as to how and why you will need Raynox. Let us take a watch for reference. Here is my Titan watch. Pretty nice watch. And I like yellow a lot.
Next I photograph the same watch with the super macro mode on my Fuji S6500FD.
Now we switch to the Raynox 150 and set the range to 250mm.
We already are starting to see details of the watch. The steel plating is now more pronounced. The dials have more details and the photograph is tact sharp where there is depth of field.
Now we use the Raynox 250 and set the range to 200mm.
Now we are deep into the macro photography field. The watch is magnified almost 2.5 times its size. You start to see the texture and emboss of the Titan stamp on the watch and also texture of the numbers embedded on the watch. You start to see greater texture and details of the hand and the paint in general.
So now you must have a general hint why Raynox plays a crucial role in macro photography. Even in the DSLR world, when I use my Canon 100mm, I often use the Raynox to give that additional boost that I require to capture photographs of flora and fauna.
You must now be wondering why I quoted Raynox and Patience go hand in hand?
Well when we are in the macro photography territory, certain things are against us. Always.
- Depth of Field.
- Working Distance.
- Subject Distance.
- Position of Subject.
Since we are close, Depth of Field goes for a toss. You are at a short working distance. The subject distance and its position are mainly at times at odd positions. Wind just makes matters worse. Combine all the points and you are in a war zone. This is where you have to be patient. Patience is the main key in macro photography. There are times when you will not get the shot that you want in the first shot. You have to be patient and vigilant. Observe the insect flight pattern or movement pattern. Many insects have a specific pattern that they follow. Observe it and blend into. Since we are working on a limited working distance, do not hurry up. Go in Stealth mode. Observe your own breath and synchronize your breath with your camera movements. You have to become one single performing machine with utmost precision. Your body and camera movements are going to give you that one spot in the focal plane where your subject is in proper focus for you to photograph. And one silly mistake and the subject is gone. You try to track it and cannot. Its gone.
- Is this necessary?
- Am I kidding?
- Why will I invest my time in things like this?
- I do not like to bend much to take photographs. I like them at eye level.
- Dude make myself a robot and wait?
- Dude you are asking me to be Patient? Hell No. I like subjects which are my size.
If any of the points came to your mind, you have two options. Either keep the thought with you and I will respect your views. In that case the Raynox is not for you.
If you are open for change and do not mind flexing yourself and challenging yourself in the field of macro photography then the Raynox is definitely for you. The reason that I covered this particular point is I have observed many purchase the Raynox kit, use it for a few days and then either keep in the cabinet or sell off. My 0.02 points of advice for prospective raynox buyers is this.
Raynox and Patience go Hand in Hand.
Where to get Raynox?
Raynox achromats are manufactured in Japan and available in USA and other countries. I got my raynox kit from USA through amazon. I always recommend the CM 2000A kit which consists of both the achromats. There are a few options for purchase.
- You can order from Amazon and get it through your friend or relative. Amazon link is here Amazon Page
- McGill Singapore deals with raynox kits and has an ebay account. McGill Ebay Page They officially support India so that is a good thing. Ebay does an estimate calculation for you regarding the exchange rate.
- Ebay Global EasyBuy option. You can order through their official channel and your customs and shipping cost will be included in the price. They also insure your product and provide refunds if the product does not reach you. I have not tried out this method but seems promising. Ebay Global Easy Buy.
- Raynox 150 and 250 help you to take macro photographs of anything and everything.
- Both the achromats work after fixing to your tele photo lens. They perform according to the focal length available on the telephoto lens.
- You retain AF and metering modes since you do not have to reverse your lens or detach your lens for reversal or extension.
- Easy to store and carry.
- Patience, Patience and some more Patience.
I have tried to cover in-depth and share my experiences about my usage of raynox. There may be some instances where I may have missed out something. Do let me know via comments if you want further details on any of the aspect. If you are in Pune you can tag along with me when I go for macro shoots and you can try out the Raynox first hand and how it performs.
Let me also know your views on the article. Thanks for reading.