Panasonic LX100 + Raynox DCR-250 Macro Converter: An Experiment

I have always heard of the existence of the Raynox DCR-250, an inexpensive, yet superbly high in quality macro converter (basically, a close up lens), but never actually tried one, or found a reason to get one. I have had friends who have shown incredible results using the Raynox, and the macro photographers have highly recommended this converter, even if you are doing serious macro photography.

When I found out that the native screw on thread of the Raynox DCR-250 is 43mm which can be fitted directly into the Panasonic LX100's lens, I went and bought one immediately.

My humble, simple setup for insect macro photography last weekend. Panasonic Lumix LX100 with the supplied add on flash, Raynox DCR-250 Macro Adapter, and a white sheet of paper as a diffuser for the flash. 

This was shot with the LX100 without any macro converter, at 75mm, macro mode, at closest focusing distance. Not exactly qualified to be a macro shot, and surely not enough magnification for insects. 

This was taken at 24mm and macro mode at closest focusing distance, without the Raynox adapter. While I can achieve good magnification, in order to get this the front of the lens needs to be just a few centimeters away from the subject, as shown in the image below. It is just impractical to use this to shoot any insects. 

Besides the unusable working distance, being too close to the subject, the wide angle perspective is not at all attractive for my own preference. I prefer to work with longer, compressed background to achieve cleaner composition and subject isolation. 

The magic happens when I attached the Raynox DCR-250 Macro Converter onto the front of the LX100's lens. Zoomed in at 75mm, at closest focusing distance, I managed to get the above shot, which was just nice for insect shooting, maintaining very good working distance. The image quality from this setup was quite good too. 

Now we are talking! That is a shooting distance that I can work with. 

I initially wanted to do some macro photography with the Panasonic LX100, but discovered that it was nearly impossible to do so when it comes to insect photography. To get sufficiently large magnification to shoot insects, I need to use the wide angle macro setting and go superbly close to the subjects (we are talking about a few centimeters here) and surely no insect will lay so still and not be threatened by the presence of an alien gigantic lens moving toward it. If I used the full zoom into 75mm focal length, the macro mode is not really macro any more.

After mounting the Raynox DCR-250 Adapter, I can get about 0.8x of real life magnification (my own, educated approximation, not exact value), which is close to 1:1 magnification ratio, the minimum magnification to qualify for a macro lens. That was good enough and surely can do some insect shooting, considering at 75mm zoomed in, I have quite a bit of working distance without scaring the insects away.

My setup for insect macro photography with the Panasonic LX100
Panasonic LX100, zoomed into 75mm.
Raynox DCR-250 mounted on the Panasonic LX100
Focusing mode set to Macro
The add on mini flash unit is used, attached and on at all times, with TTL-Flash
A small, white sheet of paper (receipt from the Butterfly Park entrance ticket) to be used as a diffuser for the flash
Settings: Manual exposure, with 125-160sec shutter speed, Aperture F5.6 to F8, ISO200-400

So I braved the KL Butterfly Park and attacked some insects with this incredibly simple and straightforward setup.

Not bad for a macro converter, right?

Plenty of details in the eyes, but yes the Moire is quite bad

Please do be reasonable when you are viewing the images shown in this blog entry, be reminded that none of these were taken with dedicated macro lens, that I normally do with Olympus system. In terms of overall image quality, sharpness and fine details capture, surely the Panasonic LX100 (which does not have macro photography designed in the first place) with a rather cheap macro converter combination will not be able to compare with a native macro lens quality,

The fun, is finding out the unknown and see how much I can push with the Panasonic LX100.

Strangely, the results came out better than I have expected. The Panasonic LX100's lens was quite sharp at 75mm fully zoomed in, even at wide open F2.8, and stopping it down to F5.6 made things even better. The Raynox DCR-250 has certainly earned my respect, there was no noticeable drop in image quality when I inspected the images. If there was (surely there was, any lens converter will degrade image quality even by just the slightest) it was negligible to my eyes. In a separate thought, I cannot wait to test this Raynox on Olympus lenses and see how it performs. Back to the Panasonic LX100 + Raynox combination, I thought I managed to get decent macro images.

In terms of flash execution, it was less fun. I tried to use the Olympus FL-50R to be triggered manually as a slave unit, to no success. The small boxy add on flash unit that came with the Panasonic fires with TTL activated all the time, and I found no way to disable the TTL function. As you know, TTL requires the flash to fire twice (once just to determine the correct exposure calculation, and the second time the actual flash and image capture process). The first flash fire triggers the slave, which then negated the wireless flash on the second capture of the TTL. If you are not following this explanation, well, to summarize it, I could not use the FL-50R as a wireless flash for my macro photography using the LX100.

Therefore, I resorted in a much simpler, but still effective way of lighting my subject using flash. By firing the flash directly onto the subject. I realized that this would result in extremely harsh, ugly images with hard shadows and unevenly lit subject, so I made a quick, less glamorous improvisation on the spot by finding whatever item I have on me to diffuse the flash. I found the white paper (receipt from the entrance ticket to KL Butterfly Park) to work sufficiently well in softening the flash. The final results may not be ideal but this was the best I could come up with at a very short period of time.

If you are wondering why I did not just mount the FL-50R, the flash direction does not reach the area of coverage by the lens (we are talking about going super close up). FL-50R certainly can be used, with some DIY light modifier/reflector/bouncer thingy, and I shall perhaps do that in the future.

My biggest complain when using the Panasonic LX100 for shooting macro (or anything else in that matter) is the inability to judge critical focus accuracy from the camera LCD screen (nope, the EVF is useless too). 

The camera LCD screen has high enough resolution, but the JPEG rendering is so bad (the only reason I can figure out, or there could be other reasons, I am not too sure) that zooming into 4x or 8x looking at the image, the result is always, always blur, as if out of focus. It was as if the image was rendered in much lower resolution for preview purposes somehow. Not being able to quickly and confidently ensure I have nailed my shots in perfect focus was quite a horrible experience I have to live with throughout the entire shooting process, considering macro photography is one of the photography genres that require pin-point precision when it comes to technical execution. 

Nevertheless, I put my faith in my own skills (as I have done many macro shootings before) and took loads of photos of the same insect just to make sure I have one which will be in perfect focus. 

While most of the images look soft, blur and out of focus from the camera preview screen, as I inspected the images on my PC monitor, the images came out alright. Yes there were a few misses and some completely blurred images, but a majority of them came out satisfactorily. I opened the RAW images in Capture One software. As usual, the JPEG images from Panasonic LX100 is, as we can all agree now, best avoided. 

Do you shoot macro with a Raynox DCR-250? Do share your experience!

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  1. A very happy new year to you Robin! Beautiful set as usual. nice to see raynox 250 in capable hands as you. Particularly liked the 1st and 4th insect shots.
    I don't have raynox 250 but I use 150 with my oly 40-150 (and even with my Fuji X-S1 bridge camera) and yes it works well as a budget macro setup. The magnification is lesser than that of 250 obviously. The DOF is not as shallow as that of 250 and so a bit easy to control. Overall I think these raynox macro converters are a good choice for those who are tight on the budget. I'm contemplating to go for the recently released oly 30mm macro lens but that will be later I suppose. For now I'm happy with my raynox 150. :)

    1. Happy New Year to you too Bhushan! And thanks for the kind words.

      I have heard of good things about the DCR-150 too, and I am happy to hear it does well with Olympus lenses.

  2. I use a raynox 150 in front of a panasonic 45-175 and it works great.
    The panasonic lens is an internal zoom, so I can highly change the magnification without the physical configuration changing.

    I went to the raynox solution after trying multiple legacy macro lenses as I couldn't justify the olympus 60 macro, but on legacy lenses focusing stopped down gets hard unless it's a very bright day.

    1. I think the old manual lenses would be difficult when it comes to technical execution, being fully manual and all and that complicate things. I'd think the Raynox is a quicker and simpler solution. I have friends who add the Raynox on top of macro lenses too! I might just have to try that.

  3. A useful post but another one articulating Raynox on Oly 60mm would be even more:)

  4. This kind of thing is fun to try. Last year, I got a two piece Neewer 0.42x wide angle converter + macro adapter that fits on the Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 perfectly, but works on other 46mm threads.

    It's amazing how much you can get for very little.

  5. raynox 250 is best close-up lens you can get. it's best used in telephoto range of lenses.
    canon 500d close-up lens is also good.

  6. Happy New Year Robin! Excellent shots as usual, especially considering the modest setup. Bravo! Keep up the good work.

  7. Hello Mr. Wong, I need your help.

    I'm thinking about buying LX100 for being my second camera. I love the image quality, capable to shoot macro and 4k footage, these are great.
    But this camera is kinda a little bit old, is it possible for panasonic to release the LX200 or something like that soon.

    Should I wait or just go ahead and buy LX100?.

    Please help me, your opinion will be very helpful for me.

  8. Dear Wong, great post! I think I'll buy the Raynox DCR-250 Macro Converter because of your testimony!
    For better focus, did you tried to use the "MF Assist" and the "pinpoint-focusing" settings together?
    Thank you!