The Laowa Probe macro lens – after a week

I have been shooting with the Laowa lens now for a week. Of course it rained for three days, so I didn’t get out as much as I had hoped.

My overall impression of the lens: it’s well-built. It’s beautifully finished. It’s optically excellent.

I have read complaints that it does not have attractive bokeh, but for macro photography I don’t find its out-of-focus subjects to be objectionable. This is obviously a very specialized lens with very specialized uses. It’s not an everyday 24mm lens. For that it would be awkward. For close-up and super close-up photos, it is excellent.

Milkweed flowers in my wife’s garden. These flowers are about 8 mm. in diameter. I will soon be able to photograph Monarch butterfly caterpillars on these plants, as these are the host plant to those insects. I really like the shallow depth-of-field in this photo, taken at f22 with the Laowa lens. Maximum is f14; minimum is f45.

The lens focuses to 2:1, which means that it’s inside the subject matter much of the time. The built-in LED lights are good, though I did not have much chance to try that. I will in future photographic adventures.

This image shows the out-of-focus effect of this lens. The flowers in the foreground are sharp and detailed while the blue sky and clouds in the background are appropriately out of focus. There is little of the “bokeh” effect that is so loved by photographers.

If you want a unique lens that can take photos inside a glass of beer (submerged) or inside a poppy flower, this is your lens!

This is an inch-square section of an Aloe plant. I shot this at f45, resulting in nice depth-of-field. Even at that aperture, though, the petals in the distance are out of focus. Thus, the depth-of-field at this aperture is probably less than 25 mm at this distance.

I’m not in love, but I am enamored. Love will come with more practice and more experience on my part. I simply don’t have much experience with macro photography, and this lens takes imagination and practice. I also realized that my biggest enemy in the field was the wind. The tiniest of gusts will ruin a flower photo. I think that I might add a large folded corrugated carton to my kit when I go out. I will use that, folded into an L-shape, to be a wind-break for my photos. I think that such a wind-break would add considerably to my success in using this lens in the field.

About Brian Lawler

Brian Lawler is a Professor of Graphic Communication at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He writes about graphic arts processes and technologies for various industry publications, and on his blog, The Blognosticator.
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