I decided to add the innovated Venus Laowa 24mm F14 2x probe to my lens collection and spent a few weekends putting it through its paces.
According to Laowa ” this is the world’s first consumer-grade probe lens which focuses from 2:1 macro to infinity and with a compelling wide angle ‘Bug Eye’ perspective. The wide angle design means much greater depth of field at close distances than possible with conventional telephoto macro lens, so more background details can now be seen. The front barrel of the lens is waterproof and an LED ring light is mounted at the tip of the lens. It can cover both standard 35mm full frame & Super35 image sensors and is super lightweight to carry!”
Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony FE, Pentax K, and Arri PL mounts are available.
Now onto my initial thoughts, both the benefits and challanges.
- It is painless to carry around for long periods of time, the 2cm diameter 40cm long barrel lens is surprisingly thin and lightweight.
- It is easy to shift about when positioning/focusing on subjects
- It can get to places other normal lens just can’t go
- You can focus really close to your subjects while you are some distance from the subject, this will give some people peace of mind when photographing some animals like spiders or snakes.
- The front barrel of the lens is waterproof so you can shoot in water and it has the added benefit of keeping fine dust out of the lens.
There are few challenges however it is possible to overcome them.
- Limiting shake.
Being such a long and lighweight lens means you will need to find a way to control shake if you wish to shoot handheld, which is a must when in the field photographing insects. This to be fair is no different to taking photographs with standard macro lenses at higher magnifications.
Laowa have attempted to overcome this issue by including a built-in LED ring light at the tip of the barrel lens, however I found this did not fully compensate for the shake.
So, after a bit of trial and error, I managed to rig up my twin-macro flashes onto the barrel to produce extra light, as shown here.
The other odd thing is that this LED light is tungsten not daylight, creating a colour caste. Again this is solvable with post processing tools such as camera raw etc.
I have also found it impossible so far to shoot a video handheld, meaning a tripod or resting it an object is going to be needed and as a such reduces in the field opportunities.
2. Powering the built-in LED ring light
This is powered through a micro-USB slot in the barrel, which in my opinion is situated slightly to close to the aperture/focusing ring making it a little awkward to slot the the power lead clip into.
Also, it has to be powered by an external power device that also has to be carried around with you unless you find some way of attaching it to the camera or lens. My external power pack is the size & shape of a phone so this easily fits into my trouser pocket.
One benefit is that it comes it does come with the connecting lead and it allows you to adjust the LED light intensity.
Anyway enough of the words here are some sample photographs taken with the Laowa probe lens.
These ones were taken using just the LED light.
All of these are with the twin flash lighting.