Diopters offer a relatively simple and somewhat inexpensive way to enter the world of macro photography. This 5x Diopter from Marumi is a high quality example of the category.
There are all sorts of accessories on the market for close up and macro photography. One popular, although sometimes questionable option, is the Macro lens. I'm not talking about a "lens" in the normal sense of the word, but am instead referring to an optic that screws into the front of a normal camera lens much like a filter. The difference is that these add ons are actually ground like camera lenses unlike filters which are flat pieces of glass or resin. These close-up lenses come in a variety of powers ("diopters") and quality. Cheap ones offer an inexpensive entry into the world of macro or close-up work, but often at such poor quality that you wonder what all the fuss was about. High quality ones, while expensive, can deliver very good results. Marumi is an unfamiliar name in this country, but the company (The Marumi Optical Company of Japan) is a well established presence in Japan and its offerings tend to be popular amongst photographers because of their modest price and good quality. Marumi's DHG (Digital High Quality) is the company's top of the line designation and the DHG Achromat Macro 200 (+5) Lens is an excellent example of the product line. Achromat lenses are lenses designed to limit color and distortion problems common in less expensive optics. Often these problems show up at the image edges.
The DHG Achromat Macro 200 (+5) is a beautifully constructed and heavy chunk of glass. It's design includes an ultra low reflection coating with an unusually thin ring making it possible to use on wider angle lenses with less risk of vignetting (the filter ring showing up at the edges of the frame).
Price to Value
The DHG Achromat Macro 200 (+5) lists from $89.95 to $224.95 depending on which filter size you need. While not widely carried, Marumi filters can be found at the Midwest Photo Exchange (http://www.mpex.com/search.htm) at prices well below list. This review considered the 77mm version of the lens which lists for $224.95, but can be found at Midwest for $129. While it may sound like a lot for a close up "filter" this is actually a good value for a modestly priced intro into macro photography. A +5 diopter is pretty powerful, yet doesn't take up much space in a camera bag. The lens comes with a protective faux leather carrying case. Anytime you add something to the front of your lens you worry about loss of image quality. This optic does an excellent job of minimizing that loss. While it may not be as good as a high-end macro lens (the actual lens as compared to the add-on lens), it does provide a quality choice and is capable of helping you produce excellent macro images.
Disclaimer: The distributer for this product provided the writer an evaluation unit of this diopter for inclusion in the David Busch Quick Snap Guide to Photo Gear.