Optical detection of single defect centers in the solid state is a key element of novel quantum technologies. This includes the generation of single photons and quantum information processing. Unfortunately the brightness of such atomic emitters is limited. Therefore we experimentally demonstrate a novel and simple approach that uses o-the-shelf optical elements. The key component is a solid immersion lens made of diamond, the host material for single color centers. We improve the excitation and detection of single emitters by one order of magnitude, as predicted by theory.