LAOWA 24mm f/14 Macro Lens: An Underwater "Bug Eye" Perspective
The LAOWA 24mm f/14 2X Macro Probe, aka “Bug Eye”, lens is undoubtedly one of the coolest lenses in the world. It is about as modern as a lens can get – from a crowdfunded origin to a 2:1 macro-wide-angle-hybrid capability. The field of view on this lens is so unique that it can’t be seen with the human eye. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to look through the eye(spot) of a nudibranch, hermit crab, or anemonefish, this lens does exactly that.
Because this lens is so weird, it requires an explanation before going into the specifics. At its core, the Laowa 24mm is a macro lens. Yes, 24mm is a wide focal length, but the long barrel construction and lens elements work some magic to give it macro capabilities. So the Laowa 24mm is a macro lens……with 27 lens elements! Moreover, the Laowa 24mm is a 2:1 macro lens – a true super macro lens rather than the traditional 1:1 macro lens. That means it can reproduce objects at twice life-size. However, the Laowa lens is also a wide-angle lens in many ways as it offers an 84.1 degree field of view. This means that even when you are shooting macro photos, you can still get a nice background in the image, creating a “bug eye” affect. Every macro photographer at some point wishes to get a background behind the tiny nudibranch they're shooting that isn't just sand and substrate. The Laowa lens finally offers a way to get a true sunball (not a double exposure) behind your macro subjects.
Laowa lens underwater video
Taken with the Canon 1DX II
Laowa 24mm macro probe specifications
- 24 mm focal length (f/14 max aperture)
- 2:1 macro photography - & infinity focus capability
- 27 lens elements (19 groups)
- 7 aperture blades
- 470mm minimum focusing distance
- Manual focus
- Multiple mounts – Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony FE, Pentax K. Cinema mounts: Arri PL/Canon EF
- Wide-angle macro “Bug-Eye” perspective – 84.1 degree field of view
- LED ring light embedded into lens tip
- Maximizes depth of field (f/14 speed lens)
- Compatible with both a 35mm full frame and Super35 image sensor
- Designed for both video and still photography
- Front of lens barrel is waterproof
- 40cm long lens barrel
- Weight: 474 grams (1.04 lb)
As you might imagine, the Laowa 24mm macro lens requires a unique design to accomplish a very unique perspective. The lens is actually called a probe by Laowa, and it is, in fact, a probe. The barrel of the lens is 40cm long and consists of a astounding 27 lens elements in 19 groups! That’s a lot of glass and complexity needed to produce an amazing perspective. The front of the barrel is waterproof which is ideal for top-side aquatic applications but you still need a housing while diving. However, the waterproof barrel comes into play again, because current ports for the lens leave the front end of the lens unprotected due to its length. This is great for getting into tight corners of the reef, but nerve-wracking when it comes to protecting the lens.
The lens was developed to fit on 35mm full frame sensor and Super35 video sensor cameras, but it can work with many cameras and mounts via mount adapters. The standard mounts that work with the lens include the Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony FE, Pentax K, and Arri PL. That’s right – it’s compatible with cinema cameras! There are adapters available for Fuji X and micro four thirds mounts.
One of the coolest features of this lens is the LED ring light at the front of the lens that can be used to illuminate very hard to reach places – a treat for professional macro photographers and videographers.
The lens is relatively light weight for the large barrel size considering that it weighs just over a pound.
Ring light on the front of the lens
The optical capability of this lens is as crazy as the build. Because the lens is a 2:1 macro lens, it has an unusual maximum aperture - f/14. Although it might seem insanely small for a max aperture, it’s necessary. Anything larger would produce too shallow of a depth of field for subjects to be captured in detail. One of the most impressive aspects of this lens is that it can focus to infinity which makes it a much more versatile piece of equipment than we initially presumed.
A “bug eye” perspective at 2:1 macro creates a viewpoint that can’t be seen by the human eye. Imagine being a tiny crab walking by a nudibranch and seeing ever ridge on its rhinophore with the sun shining behind. This lens can do that.
Implications for Underwater Photography
The implications of this lens for underwater photography is huge. As we’ve mentioned, the bug eye perspective is a unique view that is bound to be coveted by any wide angle or macro photographer. It might more difficult than a normal macro lens to capture photos given that it’s a 2:1 lens. We are excited to take it out underwater and try for ourselves. It will likely take even more patience and stability than a normal macro lens. The long barrel could make using the lens a little more awkward underwater and potentially more fragile. However, it will be great for getting into nooks and crannies.
Implications for Underwater Video
The Laowa 24 mm macro probe is optimized for video, which is an exciting and rare attribute in a lens. The lens is compatible with two cinema mounts – the Arri PL and the Canon EF mounts. It is a manual focus lens, so it will also be quite challenging to use underwater, but worth it.
Underwater Housing Compatibility
Although the lens is compatible with many cameras, with such an awkward design, there are very few manufacturers selling ports that work with the lens. In fact, currently only one manufacture has designed a port system that can be used with the lens – Nauticam.
The Nauticam N120 port adaptor is one of Nauticam’s most interesting ports, for a very interesting lens. The Nauticam port adaptor leaves the original front lens element outside of the port opening since the front of the lens is waterproof. The port adapter can be used with either cinema housing for DSLR housings. The port also has two Focus/Iris control options – the standard and cine-mod versions. The Cine-mod version comes with de-clicked aperture adjustments as well as cinema-styled focus to allow for easy focus. Check out the Nauticam Cinema Gear Set and Nauticam N120 DSLR Gear Set.
Nauticam Cinema Gear Set
Which Lens to Get
As a third party lens, the LAOWA 24mm macro is made with multiple mounts which makes it really versatile and able to fit a much larger number of cameras then normal native lenses. However, each LAOWA lens is made with a dedicated mount, so you need to choose what type of lens you purchase based on the mount of your camera. Here are the LAOWA 24mm macro lens types available now at Bluewater:
- Canon EF (standard) mount for Canon cameras
- Canon EF (cinema) mount for Canon cinema cameras
- Nikon F (standard) mount for Nikon cameras
- Sony FE mount for Sony cameras
- Pentax K mount for Pentax cameras
- Arri PL mount for Arri cinema cameras
You can select your desired lens type on our LAOWA 24mm f/14 macro probe page.
The Laowa 24mm f/14 macro probe is truly one of the world’s coolest lenses. The fact that it is ranked 2nd for all-time most funded lens project on Kickstarter is a testimony to this fact. With a unique macro bug-eye perspective, there’s just so much potential for capturing the smallest moments of life on the reef.
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