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Posts Tagged ‘laowa’

Crab Spider

Crab Spider on Ox-Daisy Blossom

Over the course of the last several months I have been using a Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO CA Dreamer lens that has been on loan to me from Venus Optics. As you read through this blog post you will learn my thoughts on this lens. In short, I was impressed enough with the lens that I purchased this loaner lens and promptly sold my workhorse Nikon 105mm f2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor.

Each image in this blog post is a single capture. No focus stacking techniques were deployed. Some images were photographed at 4X lifesize and this was accomplished by adding a Raynox DCR-250 Diopter to the front of the Laowa 100mm 2X Macro lens. All images, unless otherwise noted, were photographed handheld using the Meike MK-MT24 Flash Speedlite with 2.4G Wireless Trigger supported by a Wimberley dual arm F-2 Macro Bracket.

Gray Tree Frog (Dryophytes versicolor)

Gray Tree Frog chorusing at night

First and foremost, the full metal construction of the lens is in-line with the build quality of other Laowa lenses I own making them durable and able to stand the test of time. The CA Dreamer designation refers to the apochromatic design that significantly reduces, if not eliminates, chromatic aberration in both in-focus and out-of-focus areas of the image.

Robber Fly species

Robber Fly species with prey

The Laowa 100mm 2X Macro lens is a fully manual lens. There is no autofocus, no image stabilization, and the f-stop is selected by manually rotating the aperture ring to the desired setting. Being fully manual also means that no information will be transmitted to the camera, such as f-stop used. Do note that the Canon mount does not have an aperture ring as the f-stop can be selected by the camera. If you have grown accustomed to relying on autofocus and/or image stabilization you will have a bit of a learning curve on working with a manual macro lens. My first forays into macro photography were in the days of film whereby I used a Minolta X-700 with a Minolta 100mm Macro lens. It took me a couple of days to get back into the swing of manual focusing for macro work, as I had become reliant on autofocus, which can actually be a hindrance to successful macro photography.

Grasshopper

Grasshopper photographed at 4X lifesize with the Raynox DCR-250 Diopter attached

The “2X” designation for the lens refers to the ability to achieve twice lifesize at the minimum focusing distance of 9.7” which refers to the distance from the camera sensor to the subject. No other macro lens on the market today, in the 100mm range, offers the ability to achieve 2X magnification. I have often wished my old Nikon macro lens had the ability to focus closer than 1:1 magnification. At a very affordable price the Laowa 100mm 2X Macro lens provides twice lifesize and superb image quality.

Green Bottle Fly

Green Bottle Fly at 2X lifesize

The lens does come with a plastic lens hood, however, at 2X lifesize I recommend removing the lens hood as it will cast heavy shadow over subjects. I seldom use the lens hood because at infinity focus the front element of the lens is recessed in the lens barrel about 3 inches and moves towards the front of the lens barrel as you get closer to 2X lifesize. As a result, the lens barrel often acts as a lens hood.

Thistl-head Weevil (Rhinocyllus conicus)

Thistl-head Weevil (Rhinocyllus conicus) with Raynox DCR-250 Diopter attached

There is an optional tripod collar for the lens that can be purchased. I currently do not own the tripod collar, nor do I have any experience with using it. I have read some unfavorable reviews for the optional tripod collar, however, my thought on the tripod collar is that it may be a useful tool to support two flash units on small homemade brackets to keep the set-up compact rather than using brackets to hold flash units. I will provide an update on this after I have had time to test out my theory.

Baby Garden Spiders

Baby Garden Spiders with Raynox DCR-250 Diopter attached for 4X magnification

Venus Optics (Laowa) have clearly created another lens that offers superior image quality at a very affordable price point. I shudder to think what Canon, Sony, or Nikon would charge for a 100mm f2.8 2X Macro lens if they took the time to design one. Let’s compare pricing from Vistek and do note that the Laowa is the least expensive lens, offering superior results with the ability to capture subjects at twice lifesize:

  • Venus Optics Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO: $699.99 CAD
  • Sony FE 90mm Macro G OSS: $1499.99 CAD
  • Nikon Micro-Nikkor VR 105mm f/2.8: $1129.99 CAD
  • Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro IS USM: $1199.99 CAD
  • Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro: $769.99 CAD
Stink Bug nymph

Stink Bug nymph at 2X lifesize

I am often asked how I am able to manually focus on such tiny critters. It is not as hard as it looks when you practice and perfect good macro techniques. I tend to predetermine the magnification I desire for an intended subject. The next step is to use myself as a human focusing rail and slowly move in and out until sharp focus is achieved. I strongly recommend using inanimate objects placed on the kitchen table as practice subjects.

Green Burgundy Stink Bug (Banasa dimidiata)

Green Burgundy Stink Bug (Banasa dimidiata)

Another techniques I will often use if the subject is cooperative is to physically hold the leaf or stem the subject is on and move it towards the lens until sharp focus is achieved. By utilizing this technique I often find that I am able to support the front of the lens on my left hand for added support, especially when photographing at 4 times lifesize!

Gray Wall Jumping Spider (Menemerus bivittatus)

Gray Wall Jumping Spider at 2X lifesize

The Gray Wall Jumping Spider above was discovered on the brickwork of my home. I carefully encourage it to climb onto a small twig that I could have more control over and move towards the lens until the spider’s eyes became sharp in the viewfinder. After grabbing a few quick images I let the spider go back to its business on the brickwork of my home.

Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Labidomera clivicollis)

Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle at 2X lifesize

Many of these images were created during self-isolating on my half acre country home. It is quite amazing what can be found hiding in plain sight when we take the time to explore the microcosm

Ambush Bug with prey

Ambush Bug with prey at 2X lifesize

The Ambush Bug above was preoccupied with its prey and the Milkweed Beetles below were preoccupied with each other and this allowed me to use my technique of holding the stem and leaf to take better control of the situation and to focus more easily on the insects.

Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)

Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus)

Since many of my images were being photographed at either 2X or 4X lifesize I did select an aperture of f22 for maximum depth of field. I think you would agree that the lens performs very well stopped down 🙂

Lichens

Lichens photographed using ambient light and tripod

Having a lens such as the Laowa 100mm 2X Macro in your gear bag will allow you the luxury of being able to photograph tight details, itty bitty critters, or large animals such as the portrait of the 3 foot Ball Python below.

Royal python (Python regius) - captive bred

Royal Python (Python regius) – captive bred

Below is a single frame at 2X lifesize of a butterfly wing. While photographing the fine details of the butterfly wing, even at f22 it was critical to keep the the sensor plane parallel to the wing to ensure sharp focus throughout the image, otherwise the delete key would have been utilized 🙂

Papilio multicaudata (Mexico)Dead specimen from private collection

Papilio multicaudata (Mexico) Dead specimen from private collection

A couple of nights ago at dusk I lucked out and found a Gray Wall Jumping Spider exploring the lichen encrusted bark of one of my large Silver Maple trees. Rather than go in for the tighter images I deliberately stepped back to create a scene that illustrates the spider’s ability to blend in to its surroundings.

Gray Wall Jumping Spider (Menemerus bivittatus)

Gray Wall Jumping Spider camouflaged on tree trunk

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this post I loved the Laowa 100mm f2.8 2X Macro APO lens so much that I purchased it and sold my Nikon 105mm Micro lens. This is my third Laowa lens that I have added to my gear bag. First was the incredible 15mm 1;1 Wide Angle Macro that allows me to capture my signature frog-scapes. The second Laowa lens added was the 12mm Zero D lens, which quickly became my workhorse lens for both landscapes and architectural photography. If you are intrigued by the Laowa 100mm 2X Macro please consider purchasing the lens through my affiliate link by clicking here.

Leafhopper nymph - Coelidia olitoria

Leafhopper nymph with Raynox DCR-250 Diopter attached for 4X magnification

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Rusty Old Wreck Interior
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm Zero D Lens

Without a doubt rusty old dilapidated automobiles look great with a touch of grunge processing added to them. On Thursday June 21st I visited a nearby auto wrecker to photograph several old abandoned cars and trucks. I was quite fascinated by the state of decay inside this particular old car.  Using my amazingly wide and razor sharp Laowa 12mm Zero D Lens on my Nikon D800 I set out to create this extreme wide angle, interior view. The above image was created from one RAW image file. In Adobe Camera Raw I made adjustments to the Clarity, Contrast, Shadow, and Highlights slider and also tweaked the Vibrance slider as well. I then opened the image into Photoshop CC and went straight for my Nik Color Efex Filters to apply my simplified grunge processing technique. First a treatment of Detail Extractor was applied, which in Photoshop I reduced the opacity of the layer to roughly 70%. Secondly I applied a touch of Nik Color Efex Pro Contrast filter. I then saved the image as an 8-bit TIFF and created my watermarked low-res JPEG for web use. I spent no more than 10 minutes on optimizing this image using the two NIK filters for a simplified, but incredibly effective grunge look.

 

WORKSHOP NOTES:

I was pleased to sign up 3 additional participants for the Lake Superior Wild & Scenic Photography Retreat in October over the last couple of weeks. There is now only 1 spot available.

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Brooks Falls, Almaguin Highlands, Ontario, Canada
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 200
f16 @ 0.5 sec

On Friday October the 13th I awoke at 5:00 a.m. to commence driving into Ontario’s Almaguin Highlands situated just north of the town of Huntsville. I was hoping for stunning autumn colour along the Magnetawan River at Brooks Falls, however, that was not to be as there was already some significant leaf fall in the area. Fall colour in Ontario has been a bit odd this year with some areas having stunning colour while other parts of seen dull colours, and some locales have even seen leaf fall without much colour change at all. Perhaps this has to do with our overly wet, cool summer. Nonetheless, I arrived at Brooks Falls and was pleased to see that the river was full and ragging.

My intention for this day’s outing was to explore several waterfalls with the Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero Distortion Lens. When using such an extreme wide angle lens getting the camera into the right position is very critical to success of the image. Strong foreground subjects are a must to grab the viewer’s attention. Often my chosen perspective for each image was not much more than about 12 inches from the rushing water, which added complications in having to deal with water spray and droplets of water hitting the front element of the lens. Before each frame that was captured I would give the lens a wipe with a micro fiber cleaning cloth. Patience and perseverance did result in several frames without water droplets being present.

When I had finished photographing Brooks Falls I ventured south to the Skeleton River in Rosseau, Ontario to a couple of waterfalls that I was certain would still have some nice colour due to the sugar maple trees that line the river banks. Below are the images created at both Skeleton Falls, and Hatchery Falls. Skeleton Falls is a little known waterfall that is accessed by hiking down a very step grade within the forest, while the more popular Hatchery Falls is accessed by a well worn foot path through easy terrain.

Skeleton Falls, Rosseau, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 0.6 sec

What is my most important piece of gear for photographing waterfall imagery? Hip waders. More often than not the best perspective to photograph many waterfalls is from within the river itself. River banks tend be messy environments with distracting elements such as twigs/branches intruding into the scene. By photographing from within the river you can often eliminate or at the very least reduce these distracting elements impact on the scene.

 

Hatchery Falls, Rosseau, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 0.3 sec

 

Hatchery Falls, Rosseau, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 1/4 sec

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Lower Rosseau Falls on the Rosseau River, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f11 @ 1/6 sec

 

In the summer of 2016 Venus Optics released the Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D lens, the world’s fastest 12mm lens available for full frame cameras. The Zero D designation stands for zero distortion. Recently I purchased one of these lenses for both commercial and landscape photography. The Laowa 12mm lens is a fully manual lens (exposure and focusing). The Exif data recorded for images created with this lens will show no value for f-stop used or focal length of the lens, but that is by no means a deterrent to using this lens. All metal construction give this lens a “built like a tank” feel. It is also a very small lens and light weight at only 609 grams!

Hatchery Falls on the Skeleton River, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f11 @ 1/6 sec

While this is not intended to be a lens review I will mention a few of things I like and dislike about the lens. First of all, light fall off is very acceotable and virtually disappears as the lens is stopped down. Chromatic aberration is also very well controlled and any that does become visible is easily fixed by simply checking the Remove Chromatic Aberration box in ACR. As mentioned the lens is an all metal build and this includes the two lens hoods. Yes I said two lens hoods. The lens has a small built-in lens hood that helps to protect the bulbous front element and there is also a removable petal-style lens hood as well. A disappointing note about the removable lens hood is that it causes slight vignetting. I simply choose to not use the removable lens hood when photographing with this lens, although at some point I will likely modify it so that it can be used with no vignetting.

Lower Rosseau Falls on the Rosseau River, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f11 @ 0.3 sec

The front element of this lens has what is called a “Frog Eye Coating” for repelling dust and water. What I have noticed with the coating is that water droplets will bead on the front element and can thus be easily wiped off the lens. I love this feature!

Does the lens live up to the claim of zero distortion? Yes! If the camera is square with the world straight lines will be straight. When you point the camera up or down you will notice that trees will have a tendency to lean in or out depending on the angle at which the camera is pointed, but this common to all wide angle lenses so it is not really a downside to the lens.

Oxtongue River, Dwight, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 1/8 sec

 

Hatchery Falls on the Skeleton River, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f11 @ 1/13 sec

As mentioned this lens is a manual focus lens. It also has an excellent hyperfocal scale engraved on the lens barrel that can be reliably used for focusing the lens. I simply compose the scene before, dial in my chosen f-stop, set the hyperfocal distance on the lens barrel, and click the shutter – everything from near to far is in sharp focus. To learn more about hyperfocal distance please click here for an excellent article that explains it in depth and how to apply it to your own photography.

Lower Rosseau Falls on the Rosseau River, Muskoka, Ontaro
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 50
f16 @ 1/10 sec

The Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D lens will not accept filters due to the bulbous front element, but there are specialized filter holders available that will permit the use of polarizers and 100mm square or rectangular Graduated ND Filters or ND filters. I am currently awaiting the arrival of the NISI filter holder and will post a review of the functionality of that filter after I have had a chance to  put it to use. Today’s images were all created without a polarizing filter. I would normall prefer to photograph waterfalls and rivers with a polarizing filter.

Lower Rosseau Falls on the Rosseau River, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f11 @ 1/5 sec

 

Oxtongue River, Dwight, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 0.3 sec

If you are looking for an affordable, extreme wide angle lens for your full frame camera then look no further. The Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D lens will produce razor sharp imagery at a fraction of the cost of the Canon 11-24mm or Sigma 12-24mm lenses and at a fraction of the weight.

Please do click on each of the images to view the larger, sharper versions.

 

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