Kenko Instant Action Close-Up Filters Review

All photos of this review were captured by Christophe Anagnostopoulos.
September 14, 2021 -> Review was published.
***Reading Time: 27 minutes***

Intro

Back in the end of May 2021, I posted the review of one of the most simple yet so revolutionary ideas of the last years, regarding the use of filters.

I’m talking of course about the Kenko Instant Action System, the new magnetic filter system that can save you tons of time when attaching a filter in front of the lens!

The simplicity in its use in all shooting scenarios, from landscape to weddings and filmmaking, as also the high optical and build quality of the system, made it Instant-ly 😉 one of my favorites!

For this review, I will further analyze the use of Kenko Instant Action Close-Up Filters, the only magnetic Close-Up filter in the world!

A Small Talk About Close-Up Filters

There is a big overall misconception among photographers about the use and quality of Close-Up filters when used on their lenses.

I suppose a possible reason for the birth of this false impression happened after the release of some very cheap and obviously very low-quality close-up filters that came in the market (i.e. from Ebay, Aliexpress, etc), that provided rather terrible results.

As a professional photographer who works a lot with filters it is very important to remind that no matter how good your camera might be, even if it is the latest and pro-grade model of any brand, the quality of the lens(es) as also of the filter(s) that are in front of your camera sensor, will have a HUGE impact on the final image.

Let’s say in example that I use my new Nikon Z 7ii with my favorite Tokina opera 50mm, a combo that creates excellent, medium format like quality results, if I decide to use a cheap, low-quality filter in front of the lens (even if that would be a simple UV), the final image will have noticeable lower quality (softness, aberrations, etc) in comparison with an image taken with a high-quality filter.

A cheap (10$) low quality, plastic close-up filter

The high quality Kenko Instant Action Close-Up Filter

Build Quality

Kenko Global is a comprehensive optical manufacturer that produces high quality photographic products, so excellent optical performance and build quality of the filters must be expected. It is important to note that the filters are made in Japan with the highest quality materials.

Kenko Instant Action Close-Up filters are currently available at the most common sizes, starting from 49mm and up to 77mm, covering a variety of lenses that they can be used.

Their design allows the use of the lens hood as also the attachment of the lens cap.

You can find more info about the filters here -> Kenko Global

*Disclaimer*

I’m a Global Ambassador of Tokina since 2017, however this is not a paid post, and I’m only expressing my personal thoughts and experiences using this filters from Kenko.

So, what Close-Up Filters Do?

Close-Up filters were designed primarily to lower the minimum focusing distance of the lens.

Practically that means that they cannot directly replace the utility of a dedicated macro lens, but they can create a “macro” effect as they provide the ability to come closer to the subject, creating some very interesting results.

It is also worth mentioning that you have the ability to use normal lenses (not macro) with wide focal lengths (20mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, etc) achieving results and compositions that otherwise would require special macro lenses (i.e. 24mm macro lens).

Kenko Instant Action Close-Up filters comes in “Strength Numbers” No.1, No.2, No.3, No.4 that declare the amount of magnification that is possible.
The bigger the number of the filter, the closer you can get to your subject.

Kenko Instant Action Close-Up +2
Tokina opera 50mm F1.4 – Nikon D3s

Kenko Instant Action Close-Up +4
Tokina opera 50mm F1.4 – Nikon D3s

Check the following reference table for more details.

Example of Strength Power

Let’s see in a real photographic situation the difference between the Close-Up filter numbers.

This simple scene was shot inside my living room with natural light, and the lens I used was the Tokina opera 50mm F1.4 on a Nikon Z 7ii (with FTZ adapter).

The only thing that changed was the distance between my lens and the flower.

Without Filter

With Kenko Instant Action Close-Up +1

With Kenko Instant Action Close-Up +2

With Kenko Instant Action Close-Up +3

With Kenko Instant Action Close-Up +4

Can You Guess the Focal Length?

Well, as the title says, can you guess the focal length used in the photo below?

Can You Guess the Focal Length?

View Results

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Well, I suppose that it was easy to find.

This image was captured at 24mm (!) using a Kenko Instant Action Close-Up +2 filter!

The purpose of this test was to show how even a normal wide angle lens can be used along with the Instant Action Close-Up filters and create beautiful photos.

PS – A huge thanks to my uncle Thanasis (@phollectormo) for lending me this Z 24-70mm lens for the test.

How to Attach the filters

First you must mount the Adapter Ring to the lens, and then you simply attach the magnetic Close-Up filter to the Adapter Ring.
Voila! Everything is ready to be used!

User Experience

From my tests so far, vignetting is visible until 26mm in Full Frame when one (1) filter is used.
After 28mm, there is no visible vignetting.

However, in case you stack more than one filter, then vignetting is visible until 35mm.

In any case, vignetting is not visible after 50mm (in FX) and above.

Kenko Instant Action Close-Up vs Kenko Close-Up Neo

Let’s see in a real world scenario the difference in user experience by using the new Kenko Instant Action Close-up Filters compared to the traditional screw-on Kenko Close-Up Neo.

In terms of physical size, the new Kenko Instant Action Close-Up Filters are a little bigger compared to the Kenko Close-Up Neo, something that can be explained as the new filter is including the magnet for the attaching system, but the difference is rather small as you can see on the images below.

Close-Up NeoClose-Up Neo

Personal Thoughts

As mentioned from the beginning, I’m a big fan of photographic filters as they are playing a major role in my shooting workflow.

Being 100% honest, I personally had a rather terrible experience many years ago with some cheap close-up filters, and since then I haven’t used anything similar.
I preferred the use of a dedicated macro lens for some shots, although that meant that I had to add an extra weight in my camera bag.

In my commercial work, in example when shooting weddings, I prefer a simpler, more run & gun approach with minimum equipment in order to get the shots I want and it is nice that with a small set of filters I can make some very good close-up shots without having to carry any extra lenses.

Obviously these filters cannot replace a dedicated macro lens, but for sure they can help a photographer make the job done.

Conclusion

“With the great optical quality of the Kenko Instant Action Close-Up filters,  combined with the easiness of use of the magnetic system, makes it an excellent alternative of a macro lens, saving valuable space in the camera bag.

Kenko Instant Action Close-Up +3
Tokina opera 50mm F1.4 & Nikon Z 7ii | F8 – 1/13s – ISO 64