The Cheap Alternative For Macro Photography, Raynox DCR-250

Not too long ago, I have purchased a Raynox DCR-250 macro adapter to be used on the Panasonic Lumix LX-100, which gave satisfactory macro shooting results. I have since then been curious to try the Raynox adapter on an Olympus lens, and only recently found some time to do this experimentation. The fun part about macro photography is the infinite possible options of using alternatives to achieve sufficient magnification as well as creative lighting techniques. This time, I fitted the Raynox DCR-250 macro adapter onto the M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens, and did my usual insect macro shooting with that combination.

The macro adapter itself, Raynox DCR-250

My humble, simple insect macro photography setup, Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, 75mm F1.8 lens with the Raynox DCR-250 macro adapter, FL-50R external flash used wirelessly with Gamilight mini softbox diffuser. 

For the macro photography technique execution, please read my previous article here. I executed the exact same technique, with one minor difference: instead of utilizing a dedicated macro lens, I was using a 75mm prime lens with a macro adapter. For those of you who decided to skip that article, as a summary, I held the camera and lens in one hand, shooting single-handedly while the other hand I held the external flash with diffuser. Everything (all camera settings, including flash) was controlled manually. General camera settings: Shutter speed 1/100sec, Aperture F11-F14, ISO200, Flash at 1/16 to 1/32 power, manual focus. 

Now the aim of this simple experimentation is not to discredit the need for a macro lens, or to say that ordinary lens with a macro converter can be a good alternative for macro photography. If you are serious and want to get deep into macro photography, a dedicated macro lens is crucial and should be your priority when it comes to shooting tiny objects. Nonetheless, not everyone shoots macro photography all the time, and it does not make sense to invest in a macro lens if you do not shoot enough with the lens. Therefore, alternatives such as macro converters provide much larger magnification of an image, of course with some compromise of image quality. I am not expecting super sharp results from this M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8, but what I am hoping for, is that the Raynox DCR-250 can deliver decent enough results. 

For some of you who have encountered or used the Raynox macro adapters before, you will agree with me that these macro adapters are probably among the best that can be found in the market. They were not made to replace macro lenses, of course, but the output from these simple adapters is good enough for simple macro shots. Even pixel-peeping the macro shots at 100% crop, the images still appear sharp and has good contrast. The magnification that I was able to achieve with this combination of Raynox DCR-250 on Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 was somewhere close to 1:1 ratio (my educated estimation), which was about half of what the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens can achieve at 2:1 magnification ratio. Having such large magnification was sufficient to shoot small insects.

Crop from previous shot

Crop from previous image

Using 75mm focal length, which effectively was equivalent to 150mm in 35mm format, was not easy feat for macro photography. While the focal length provided comfortable working distance between the lens and the subject, the biggest challenge was the resulting razor thin shallow depth of field, due to the telephoto nature of the focal length used. I found myself constantly needing to stop the aperture to F11 or beyond to achieve sufficient depth of field, so I can have more zone in focus. Stopping aperture excessively in Micro Four Thirds camera introduced another problem: lens diffraction which compromised image sharpness as the F-number is increased. I limited the F-number used to F14 at the smallest, which still produced good enough sharpness and just enough balance for depth of field.

You do not need to compare with an actual macro lens to conclude that a macro lens would produce sharper, better defined fine details with better contrast than the shots shown here, taken with a prime lens and an adapted Raynox DCR-250. Having significant amount of experience dealing with the Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens I know what that lens is capable of, and I do wish to own one, if only I can justify having it. Not shooting insect macro much these days, since I am more involved in street photography and shooting people most of the time, a more budget friendly alternative is probably a better option, and to this end, that Raynox DCR-250 is a god-sent. I am actually happy with what I am seeing coming from the Raynox, and I can live with some of the shortcomings, but seriously, less pixel-peeping and more shooting!

This is a good shot to demonstrate why I need to use wireless flash for my insect macro. Often, the tiny creatures I shoot are rarely sitting on top of a leaf at ideal situation where flash can be fired mounted on a camera. In this case, the spider was hiding in between leaves, almost impossible for traditional flash setup to reach. Having the flash off camera allowed me to move it to re-direct the light to wherever I wanted it to go to. 

I know there are other techniques such as reversed lens and extension tubes, but you have got to admit that these methods are more complicated and require more work than just a simple adapter in front of the lens. I acknowledge that the reversed lens and extension tubes can provide much higher magnifications, but I am the kind of photographer that likes to simplify things, and I always chose a more practical, easy to execute approach. This Raynox DCR-250 is a good answer to that. 

I seriously hope I can find more time to shoot better insect macro subjects. I only spent about an hour for this experimentation, and I do admit that these shots are nothing out of the ordinary. I need to find more exotic locations and hunt for more interesting macro subjects to shoot. 

Insect macro photographers, anyone here? Share your thoughts!

Raynox DCR-250 Macro is available from B&H here. 

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  1. Nice article. " M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens can achieve at 2:1 magnification ratio." I thought the 60mm was 1:1 magnification not 2:1.

    1. It is 2 to 1 in 35mm equivalent believe me.

    2. This is because of the MFT sensor, which is essentially "half frame", doubling the magnification.

    3. Is it better an oly 60mm 2.8 or a raynox 150 or 250 to start macro?

  2. Excellent shots, Robin, as always. I use extension tubes and the 45 mm f:1.8. They are quite effective. You cannot use the inversion ring any more because you cannot control the aperture. I have tubes and inversion ring that I used with my old pentax film camera, and I can still use on my digital pentax, but vintage lenses are required!

  3. I am amazed at the quality achieved with this combination. Very good! Together with your knack for macrowork, very good indeed.

  4. I have the 60mm dedicated macro and have not produced anything as good as these ...further more, I thought the macro convertor was a toy or gimmick but these are really impressive. My personal benchmark is to try and achieve those detail levels in the multifaceted compound insect eyes..which you did. I have a pal who produces National Geographic Magazine standard macros with FF Canon 5DIII who also uses your technique with hand held flash and single handed camera. I just have not got this to work for me...yet...too much wobble ( could be old age). You are using much lower shutter speeds and subsequently getting miles deeper depths of fields which is probably the direction for me to try. Very impressive shooting again...thanks

  5. Robin, it still amazes me how you are able to capture shots that are truly VERY difficult to get. I have extensive experience in extreme macro, having been one of the early 2000's pioneers of it ( and you are doing the same thing now with equipment that is much more accessible to everyone...thanks in most parts to your technique. Well done.

  6. Beautiful shots! But, I'm arachnophobic, so now I deeply hate you.

  7. Robin, you're privileged to live where you live. You have exoticism everywhere to enjoy photography as no one else does. Enjoy it!! regards

  8. Robin - thanks for this. I've now tried my Metz 58 with a diffuser fitted resting on the top of my E-M1 to the left hand side of the trigger flash and even like that on a small (dead!) moth at closest focus is a big improvement over the hotshoe position - my hands are not that steady! Have you or will you have a chance to use the STF-8 so you can comment on its use? I have not seen any sample pictures as yet.Thanks.

  9. I used Raynox for a long time, it certainly allows for good macro shots, just not that easy like a real macro lens because of the very limited focus distance range

  10. I used Raynox for a long time, it certainly allows for good macro shots, just not that easy like a real macro lens because of the very limited focus distance range

  11. I used Raynox for a long time, it certainly allows for good macro shots, just not that easy like a real macro lens because of the very limited focus distance range