Some macro options involve offsetting the lens further away from the camera, or reversing it, effectively cutting off the electrical communications between the camera and the lens. This has the negative side effect of removing the possibility to control the focus and the aperture of the lens.
Probably the cheapest and the simplest solution is to buy a close up filter to be screwed into the front threads of a lens you already have. These are typically rated as +1, +2, +4 and +10. I decided to try the most extreme, the one rated as +10:
One strange thing about the macro filter I got, is that the glass extends beyond the rear side of the metal ring. This means that when screwing it into a lens, the glass elements might meet, potentially damaging either. To avoid this, I used a 46mm stand off ring between the macro ring and the lens. Here they are mounted to the Lumix X 45-175mm f/4-5.6:
When using the +10 close up filter, the Lumix X 45-175mm f/4-5.6, the lens becomes 1:2 capable at 45mm, and 1:0.6 at 175mm. The working distance is 8cm through the focal length range. Here is a typical setup at 175mm focal length:
And the result image, taken with an aperture of f/13:
Sadly, the image quality is rather poor. As you can see, there are some significant chromatic aberration artefacts. Perhaps close up filters with a lower rating, e.g., +2, provide a better quality. But then again, they also give less magnification.
One big advantage with this method is that you can control the aperture from the camera. The focus can also be controlled, however, at this magnification, you are limited to very small fine tuning of the focus distance only. You must do the focusing by moving the object into focus.
Used on the Sigma 30mm f/2.8
I also tried to use the close up filter on the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN lens, which shares the 46mm filter thread.
In this case, I could do without the stand off ring. However, I could not screw the close up filter completely into the filter threads, as the glass surfaces would meet, which I don't like.
Using this solution, I was able to get a 1:2 magnification, with a 6cm working distance. Here is the output image:
In this case, I did not see any severe chromatic aberration artefacts, but then again, the enlargement is not nearly as large.
Here is a summary of various ways to achieve a macro ability:
|Using a dedicated macro lens, the PL45||1:1 max||6cm||auto||auto|
|Macro extension rings, and a legacy normal lens||1.4:1 in my example||6cm||manual, if the lens has an aperture ring||no focus possibilty|
|Macro reverser ring, with Lumix 14-42mm||2.5:1 - 1.15:1||2-4cm||no control of aperture from camera||no focus possibilty|
|Olympus ZD 50mm f/2 lens with extra 65mm extension||2:1||3cm||no control of aperture from camera||no focus possibilty|
|Lumix G 45-200mm with reversed normal lens||3.5:1||5cm||auto||auto, but only small adjustments|
|Lumix X 45-175mm with +10 close up filter (this article)||1:2 (45mm), 1.7:1 (175mm)||8cm||auto||auto, but only small adjustments|
This study perhaps shows that there are no free lunches. The cheap macro front filter lens is simple to use, but gives poor image quality. For the ultimate in image quality and simplicity, the best is probably to buy the Panasonic-Leica 45mm f/2.8 1:1 macro. in the first place.