Macro diopters are essential for capturing photos and video of small subjects underwater.
Diopters have a few different names, including super macro diopters, close-up lenses, and magnifiers, however they all accomplish the same goal: magnify small subjects while reducing the camera lens minimum focus distance.
Diopters can be used for both still photos and video across most compact, mirrorless, and dslr cameras on the market today.
Nudibranchs, shrimp, tiny crabs, gobies, and many other subjects are all commonly shot using a diopter.
How do Macro Diopters Work?
A macro diopter is essentially a magnifying glass attached outside your housing port in front of the lens. All diopters are considered wet lenses since they can be added and removed underwater.
This magnifying glass makes the small subject appear much larger on the camera sensor, helping to fill the frame with the subject. Composing the image like this provides the best detail, colors and contrast – much better than if the subject was tiny in the frame and you relied on cropping.
You’ll notice that most diopters have a magnification reference (e.g. +5). This rating system makes it easy to compare magnification strength, since actual magnification (e.g. 2.4x) will vary depending on the lens and camera sensor.
Diopters also reduce the working distance of the lens, meaning you can focus at a much closer distance to the subject (also known as the lens minimum focus distance). Getting closer to your subject helps make the subject larger in the frame while providing more depth of field.
How to I Mount a Diopter?
Attaching a diopter to your camera housing is easy. Most diopters have a universal M67 threaded mount. Most housings use this universal M67 thread on the front of their macro lens ports (or via an adapter), so you can simply screw the diopter into the threads on the front of the housing lens port.
To make things even more simple, we can add a Flip Adapter to our system and easily flip the diopter over the lens as desired. One side of the adapter screws into the M67 threads while the diopter screws into the other side of the adapter. Both sides are connected by a hinge, which allows you to flip the diopter on and off the front of the port.
Macro vs. Super Macro
Macro diopters are a great tool for compact camera shooters for the reasons above. You can even pick up a diopter for action cameras like the GoPro. This is all considered macro photography.
Underwater super macro photography begins when you magnify a subject beyond a macro 1:1 reproduction ratio. So while a diopter is a huge help for all macro shots, it can also be used to enter the realm of super macro when added in front of a lens already producing a 1:1 macro image.
Close-Up Lens Limitations
Close-up lenses and diopters are a must-have. That said, there are some limitations to keep in mind. First, not all diopters are created alike. Some have much better image quality at the same magnification than others.
Second, each diopter will have a narrow working distance, or “sweet spot.” This working distance can be a cause of frustration with many new photographers who aren’t aware of what’s going on, so let me fill you in.
When you add a diopter to your lens port you can focus at a closer distance to your subject. Cool. But if you move too far from your subject with the diopter on, the lens will never be able to achieve focus. The distances here are a matter of centimeters.
This means you need to be extremely stable and have excellent buoyancy when using your diopter so that you can make these very fine centimeter distance adjustments.
What is the Best Macro Diopter?
The best underwater macro diopter is the one that best suites your camera lens, experience shooting macro images, and budget. I review most of the popular lenses in the rest of the guide below.
Have Questions? Contact me and I’ll help you pick the perfect diopter.
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Super Macro Diopter Comparison Chart 2021
The Best Super Macro Diopters
Saga +5 Diopter
The Saga +5 diopter offers great value. The magnification strength is nice for compact, micro 4/3, and crop sensor cameras. Pick your color for added style points.
$150 | Backscatter
The Inon UCL-330 is lightweight and very easy to use. The +3 magnification is on the lower end but will still make a big difference for compact shooters. The forgiving working distance makes this a great choice for new shooters.
Another lightweight diopter, the Inon UCL-165 is a great way to step into +6 magnification without the additional weight and length of others in this class.
ReefNet SubSee +5 Magnifier
ReefNet has been making SubSee diopters for a long time and has an excellent reputation. The +5 magnification is a great entry-level choice for compact, micro 4/3, and crop sensor cameras.
$195 | Backscatter
Saga +10 Diopter
Step up your magnification with the Saga +10. This is a very lightweight diopter for the magnification provided. And did I mention style points with the color selection?
$200 | Backscatter
ReefNet SubSee +10 Magnifier
The SubSee +10 was a staple with pro underwater photographers for years and it still delivers that reputable image quality. In fact, the SubSee +10 is the only diopter in My Camera Bag.
Kraken Sports KRL-03
The Kraken KRL-03 close-up lens delivers +12 magnification in a compact and fairly lightweight diopter. A great choice for those looking for more magnification without breaking the bank.
Kraken Sports KRL-08S
The KRL-08S achromatic diopter sits sits in Kraken Sports’ Pro Series line. +6 magnification and 4 optical glass lens elements in 3 groups deliver great image quality.
The UCL-90 is a versatile diopter with +11 magnification provided by three glass lens elements. This magnification range makes it a stable for cameras with all sensor sizes.
The UCL-67 is a powerful diopter with +15 magnification provided by four glass lens elements in three groups. The diopter is short in comparison with others in class, making it easier to work with.
The Nauticam CMC-2 (compact macro converter) offers +10 magnification in a product designed to be easy for compact camera shooters to use. As with all Nauticam products, this diopter is well-researched with excellent image quality.
The AOI UCL-09 packs power in a small package. The lightweight diopter delivers +12 magnification with five lens elements in 2 groups.
The Nauticam CMC-1 (compact macro converter) packs +15 magnification in a compact and light body engineered for use on cameras from compact to mirrorless to dslr. Enjoy excellent image quality in this well-designed water contact lens.
The Nauticam SMC-1 is the go-to diopter of many pros shooting today. With +13 magnification and exceptional image quality, divers using interchangeable lens cameras can’t go wrong here. You just have to pay for it.
Super Macro Flip Adapters
I highly recommend using a flip adapter when shooting with a macro diopter. These hinge adapters make it easy to flip the diopter over the lens port (adding and removing it) as needed during your dive.
The alternative is to manually screw the diopter in and out of the port for each use, which takes time and even risks damaging the threads if you’re not careful. Then you have to worry about where to put the diopter when not using it.
How Does a Flip Adapter Work?
A flip adapter has two flat mounts connected by a hinge. One side has 67mm threads that screw into the threads on your macro port, securely attaching the adapter. The other side has 67mm threads for your diopter.
Once both sides are attached, you can easily flip the diopter up and down over the lens port.
Flip Adapters for Diopters
Be sure to verify that your port either has 67mm threads or is compatible with specific ports before purchasing. More info below. I can also answer your questions personally – just contact me.
Saga M67 Single Flip Adapter
This simple flip adapter gets the job done at a fantastic price. You can’t go wrong here. This adapter is in My Camera Bag!
$160 | Backscatter
AOI M67 Single Flip Adapter
This is a great adapter that features a latch to keep the diopter in place when flipped down over your port. An excellent choice!
$215 | Backscatter
AOI M67 Double Flip Adapter
Easily switch between your native lens and two different diopters (each with different magnification) with this double flip adapter. Both adapters lock in place when flipped down.
$259 | Backscatter
Nauticam Flip Diopter Holder
High-end flip adapter choice that locks in place when flipped down.
$269 | Backscatter
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