In June 2015 Venus Optics announced the release of their Laowa 15mm f4 1:1 Macro Lens. I discovered this lens a few months ago and became quite intrigued by it’s specifications, most notably the ability to focus down to 4.7mm from the front element of the lens. There is currently no other lens on the market that is capable of doing what this lens can do. It is a master at wide-angle macro imagery. I had a hunch that this lens would be deadly for creating my frog-scape style imagery even though the lens requires 100% manual operation, including focusing and setting of the diaphragm as there is no coupling to the camera meter. I had hoped to include within this review the results of how the lens performs for landscape photography but unfortunately I suffered a very painful flare-up of my chronic lower back problems. As a result my mobility has been severely limited for the last week or so. I will do an update to this review at a later date to give my impressions of the lens’ performance for landscape use.
A handheld Nikon D800 was used for each of the images in this review and were photographed using the full frame sensor or the 1.5 DX crop. Notations within the image captions will indicate FULL FRAME or 1.5 DX CROP.
Each of the featured images in today’s blog post were created in my favorite wetland on Horseshoe Lake in Muskoka near Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada.
The Laowa 15mm f4 1:1 Macro Lens is a well built lens of metal construction. The front lens cap, rear lens cap, and lens hood are of plastic construction. Do note I did not use the lens hood for any of the images within this post as the lens hood would have either shadowed the subject or created unpleasant reflections in the foreground water due to focusing so closely on the subjects. The lens will accept 77mm threaded filters and I was quite pleased to see that my Singh-Ray 77mm Warm-Tone Thin Mount Polarizer did not vignette when used. The lens also incorporates a shift mechanism that allows for 6mm of upward or downward shift, but I did not test this feature as I did not photograph any landscapes as of yet. The focusing and diaphragm rings both have smooth and easy operation. One downfall of the lens is that it does have strong barrel distortion, but since I am primarily using the lens for my frog-scape imagery it is of little concern to me – each of the images featured in today’s post have had no distortion correction applied to them. Chromatic aberration is very well controlled and when present is easily corrected. Center sharpness is excellent but corners do get a little soft, which improves when the lens is stopped down and is seldom worrisome at macro distances such as those in the featured imagery.
In the next series of photos I will illustrate how I go about creating my frog-scape imagery while handholding this set-up.
The Laowa 15mm f4 1:1 Macro Lens is a versatile lens that is capable of producing dramatic wildlife imagery when focused closely on the subject matter. There are many pros to this lens such as:
- low chromatic aberration
- excellent center sharpness
- 1:1 Macro capability
- Focuses down to 4.7mm from the front element of the lens
- smooth focusing
- smooth aperture control
- shift mechanism
- inexpensive at approximately $499 US
The only downfalls I noticed were the barrel distortion and soft corners. When focusing in at macro distances and stopping down to f16 I found the corners to be more than acceptable for my frog-scape style images. The barrel distortion while more noticeable in some images than others again is of little concern to me. In nature we do not encounter perfectly straight lines that often, therefore, I find the distortion to be not too big a deal and can sometimes be used to one’s advantage for creative effect. I will likely not be using this lens for architectural work or for ocean sunrises where the barrel distortion would become very problematic.
Here are a few additional images that I created using the Laowa 15mm f4 1:1 Macro Lens.
And one B-Roll image from the wetland. A very co-operative Northern Watersnake that was found sunning itself on a log within the wetland. The front element of the lens is roughly one inch away from the snake’s head in the photo below. This extreme close focusing capability of the Laowa 15mm f4 1:1 Macro Lens makes it my new go to, never leave home without it lens. It is quite simply to versatile and deadly for creating up-close and personal photos of wildlife subjects within their habitat. Spending my hard-earned money on this amazing lens was a good investment!
Please do remember to click on each of the images to view the sharper, larger versions.