If you’re reading this article, chances are that you’ve already stumbled on some of the incredible footage being produced by the Venus Optics Laowa Probe Lens (Macro Room’s, Shooting Macro for example).
Just like any other video production crew we are always keeping our eye out for any new gear on the market. Which usually means an upgrade to an existing form or function but when we saw the probe lens from Venus Optics we not only did a triple take, we all simultaneously said, “We need that!” Not often does something come along that is almost completely new to the scene. So we logged on to LensRentals and hit rent.
For those of you not familiar with a probe lens outside of a doctor’s office it’s a long, slender specialty macro lens that allows you to put the lens in tight, small places that couldn’t be reached before. Now you understand the reason for our excitement. And since the lens is a 24mm (is equivalent to about 38mm on APS-C) it has a wide-angle view with a 0.8-inch working distance and a 2:1 maximum magnification we quickly got a new sense of scale that other macros just couldn’t achieve. With this we were getting looks straight out of “Honey I Shrunk the Kids.”
Getting in tight with this lens really means getting in tight! You can put this lens through, in and around subjects that you never thought were possible outside of a 3D program. Throw in the added feature that it’s waterproof and we were quickly diving into a bottle of vodka, in a good, sober way that is.
Build Quality/Out of the Box
This lens is really something you have to use to understand what it is capable of and what position it puts your viewers in. But just like any added bonus, in order to get something you have to be willing to give something up. With this lens it is stability and light. With an aperture range of 14-40 you are going to need to flip the switch on some lights. It does come with a ring of LED lights around the lens, and while very bright given the size, we found these lights to be a little cumbersome. The lens doesn’t have any electronic communication with the camera, which means it needs an external power source. Something that can be addressed easily with any smartphone power bank but the input was in an awkward spot and often kept bumping into the stuff we were shooting. Not to mention the LED’s are not bi-color, (around 4000k), narrowing your lighting options. So the majority of the time we left the lights off.
Which meant more lights were needed. Which wasn’t a problem until the wide-angle view left us seeing a lot of light stands. This isn’t a deal breaker obliviously, just requires more planning and rigging. We found the best option was to head outside and let the sun do the work.
But when we encountered the stability issues brought on by the geometry of the lens, we really started to understand how this lens requires a lot of resources to shoot with. Camera shake with any macro is an obvious hurdle mixed with the proximity to the subject and our desire to make this little-boy weave in and out of all sorts of stuff we ended up with a lot of shaking going on. So we resorted to shooting at 120 fps, which exacerbated our light issue, but did steady up the footage and add to the sense of scale.
Overall while shooting with this lens does require adding some more gear to your shoot it does provide a look that isn’t possible with standard macros and a viewpoint that outside of pinhole cameras isn’t able to get any other way. It’s one of those pieces of gear that leave the savvy viewers wondering, “how’d they get that shot?” So if that’s something you need in your video, pick it up or test it out and do your best Rick Moranis impression.
- A look you can’t get any other way…serious “WOW” factor
- A very unique take on macro
- Good build quality and the focus ring feels good
- Did we mention it looks really cool?
- Bring the lights and be ready to shoot at F14
- Plan thoroughly for your lighting setup and staging ahead of time
- NEEDS stabilization, in-camera and out.