We study the optical and near-infrared luminosities and detectability of radioactively powered electromagnetic transients (‘macronovae’) occuring in the aftermath of binary neutron star and neutron star black hole mergers. We explore the transients that result from the dynamic ejecta and those from different types of wind outflows. Based on full nuclear network simulations we calculate the resulting light curves in different wavelength bands. We scrutinize the robustness of the results by comparing (a) two different nuclear reaction networks and (b) two macronova models. We explore in particular how sensitive the results are to the production of α-decaying trans-lead nuclei. We compare two frequently used mass models: the finite-range Droplet model (FRDM) and the nuclear mass model of Duflo and Zuker (DZ31). We find that the abundance of α-decaying trans-lead nuclei has a significant impact on the observability of the resulting macronovae. For example, the DZ31 model yields considerably larger abundances resulting in larger heating rates and thermalization efficiencies and therefore predicts substantially brighter macronova transients. We find that the dynamic ejecta from NSNS models can reach peak K-band magnitudes in excess of -15 while those from NSBH cases can reach beyond -16. Similar values can be reached by some of our wind models. Several of our models (both wind and dynamic ejecta) yield properties that are similar to the transient that was observed in the aftermath of the short GRB 130603B. We further explore the expected macronova detection frequencies for current and future instruments such as VISTA, ZTF and LSST.