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Posts Tagged ‘arachnids’

Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) – female at 5 times lifesize (ISO 100, f8 at 1/100 sec)

Throughout this summer I have been using a Laowa 25mm 2.5-5X Ultra Macro Lens on my Nikon DSLRs for photographing insect and spider imagery at magnifications much greater than life-size. The images in this review are all single exposures with exception of the Hyperparasitic Wasp which was a 4 image focus stack. These images are also hand-held captures using the Laowa KX-800 Twin Macro Lite for illuminating the subject.

The Laowa 25mm 2.5-5X Ultra Macro Lens is a fully manual lens that lacks auto aperture control, or aperture coupling. As a result when looking through the viewfinder we are already seeing the image at the stepped down aperture which results in a darkened viewfinder. The LED focusing light on the KX-800 Twin Macro Lite helps overcome this issue and provides ample light to achieve proper focus.

The lens construction is on par with all other Laowa lenses that I currently own, which can only be described as superb! At a weight of 400 grams and all metal construction this is a relatively light macro lens for the gear bag. The aperture ring is located at the front of the lens and is designed with click-stops at each aperture setting. To change the magnification from 2.5X to 5X you simply rotate the large focusing ring counter-clockwise.

Hyperparasitic Wasp (Taeniogonalos gundlachii) handheld 4 image focus stack at 4X life-size (ISO 125, f8 at 1/125 sec)

Locating the subject in the viewfinder does take a bit of practice, but it does get much easier as you get accustomed to photographing subjects at extreme magnification. The aid of the LED focusing light on the KX-800 Twin Macro Lite again is very beneficial here. At extreme magnifications the DOF (Depth of Field) becomes very shallow, which is why many photographers prefer to focus stack such imagery. My approach to focus stacking extreme macro images has been one whereby I capture a small selection of images to increase the DOF of a particular past of the insect of spider. An example would be the above image of the Hyperparasitic Wasp whereby I captured 4 images at different focusing points to allow for sufficient DOF in the wasp’s eyes and mandibles. I allowed the remainder of the image to be out of focus. In other situations I have been more than happy with capturing shallow DOF imagery where at least the subject’s eyes are in sharp focus.

Zebra jumper (Salticus scenicus) at 5X life-size (ISO 200, f8 at 1/250 sec)

My approach to photographing insects and spiders is to do so hand-held. I like to be able to move around quickly and effortlessly with my subjects. At extreme magnifications I find it is very beneficial to use my left hand to hold a flower stem or leaf, with a cooperative subject, while resting the lens barrel on my left hand as well for much greater stability. This technique also allows for easy hand-held focus stacking techniques in the field.

Jagged Ambush Bugs (genus Phymata) at 5X life-size (ISO 160, f8 at 1/160 sec)

Aside from the Laowa 25mm 2.5-5X Ultra Macro Lens there are two other options that may be considered for extreme macro lenses. The first being the inexpensive Mitakon Zhongyi 20mm f/2 4.5x Super Macro Lens which I have had no experience with whatsoever. The second option is the expensive Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Lens. To see a hands on comparison between the Laowa and Canon lenses please click here. My decision to purchase the Laowa lens was based on this excellent review.

Mayfly at 5X life-size (ISO 125, f8 at 1/160 sec)

Another very nice feature on the Laowa 25mm 2.5-5X Ultra Macro Lens is the narrow tip of the lens. At roughly 43mm in diameter it allows the photographer to get low to the ground. The below portrait of the Gray Wall Jumping Spider was captured when the spider was discovered on one of the patio slabs leading up to my front door of my house. I was able to easily lay on the patio and rest the lens barrel on the patio slab to capture this ground level scene.

Gray Wall Jumping (Menemerus bivittatus) at 5X life-size (ISO 125, F8 AT 160 sec)

In summary, I think this is a fantastic lens with razor sharp optics. Is it a lens that I will use in the field on a daily basis? No probably not. It is a niche lens that will be reserved for those special occasions where extreme macro photography is required for a desired outcome. At the low cost of $399 USD and small lens size it is incredibly easy to justify carrying it in the gear bag for those special moments.

If you are considering adding the Laowa 25mm 2.5-5X Ultra Macro Lens to your gear bag please consider using my affiliate link for your purchase by clicking here.

For my affiliate links for other Laowa lenses please click on the lens below:

Laowa 100mm 2X Macro Lens

Laowa 15mm f4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro Lens

Laowa 12mm Zero D Lens

Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) at 4X Life-size (ISO 320, f8 at 1/250 sec)

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