Beginning of 2015 first rumors came up that a small chinese company called Venuslens located in Anhui, China is developping an Ultra Macro Lens with a reproduction scale of 2:1 which is also capable to focus objects at infinity to use it for portraiture. Let me introduce this lens today.
The lens is available for Nikon F, Canon EF, Pentax K, MFT and Sony A mount. An overview on the technical specs:
LAOWA V-DX 60mm f/2.8 Ultra-Macro Lens
|Angle of View||25.3 degrees|
|Format Compatibility||APS-C (Both Macro and Normal shooting)Full-frame (Macro shooting only)
i.e. Slight vignetting will appear for Full-frame camera at normal shooting, while no impact for Macro shooing
|Lens Structure||9 elements in 7 groups|
|Min. Aperture Size||22|
|Min. shooting distance||18.5cm|
|Max. Magnification Ratio||2x|
|Dimensions||95 x 70mm|
Length and build format are somehow surprising for a 60mm lens – if it would have a reproductions scale of 1:1 it could have been a third shorter. The build quality is good and feels robust and solid. Looking at the front of the lens is eye-catching when using it in regular, non-macro mode. As shown in the lower three pictures of the collage the group of lenses moves to the front of the lens like attached to a bellows when the focus is turned from infinity to 2:1. The lower left picture shows the position of the lenses when focussing at reproduction scale 2:1 is reached.
A look into the lens tube shows the aperture handle and the worm gear and that this is something to protect against dirt and dust. I recommend to use a protection like a UV filter to avoid problems caused by dust or sand grains. The manufacturer of this lens has the same opinion on this because the delivered package includes a simple UV filter. My recommendation is to replace this filter with a multicoated filter to reduce reflections, althought the included filter did not show any negative effects on the pictures at the first glance.
Although this is a lens for Sonys A-Mount, there is no lever for aperture control. This means, that the aperture can only be controlled by the aperture ring on the lens. The positive side effect is, that I can use the A- to E-Mount adapter from Novoflex which is prepared to move the aperture lever on the lens, but will not move the aperture on this lens by incident when touching the aperture ring on the adapter.
Just in case the term „reproduction scale“ means nothing to you: „reproduction scale“ basically describes how and in which size an object is depicted on the sensor. The reproduction scale 1:1 means that on object with a size of 1 cm in real life is projected onto the full-frame sensor (36 x 24 mm) with thes same size of 1 cm. This can be easily shown with pictures of a folding rule.
The firsts picture is an uncropped picture showing (almost) 36 mm of the folding rule. The sensor of the Sony alpha 7 is 36 mm wide which defines the reproduction scale as 1:1 because 36 mm in nature are 36 mm on the sensor.
The next picture is uncropped as well and shows 18 mm of the folding rule on the sensor. This calculates to a reproduction scale of 2:1 (a magnification of factor 2) because approx. 18 mm in nature are projected as 36 mm on the sensor.
Many tele lenses have a macro mode with a reproduction scale of e.g. 1:4, which means that an object of 1 cm is projected onto the sensor with a size of 2.5 mm which is a quarter of the real size. I do not talk about that as macro anymore, although the german DIN 19040 talks about macro photography when reproduction scales of 1:10 to 10:1 are applied – well, I think Germans need to queeze everything into a standard rule. Further information can be found on Wikipedia.
The following pictures show the effect of magnification and the challenging depth of field on the example of an espresso cup – sorry, that was the best object available at that time:
First hands-free macros
Hands-free macro-photography is always difficult, because when it comes to a reproduction scale of 1:1 the depth of field is shrinking to a very low range that way the finding the right focal point and sharpness become a matter of luck when using an aperture of 8 or smaller. The following pictures are perfect examples of this because the focal point is not correctly set. There is something positive with this lens for hands-free macros: Size and weight of this lens help to hold this lens in the left hand and to turn the focus ring with thumb and trigger finger at the same time. The second helper is the Sony alpha 7 with the tilting display and the focus peaking in MF mode to produce reasonable hands-free macros.
Focus stacking – a first try
The following picture shows the inside of tulip on reproduction level 2:1. This image is rendered out of 92 single frames using HeliconFokus as software to compensate the small depth of field.
The depth of field is only approximately 0.4 mm in each single image when using an aperture of 8. This indicates that you absolutely need a high quality adjusting slide in addition to camera, lens and a stable tripod. My first trials with a cheap adjusting slide coming from China were rather frustrating, but buying the Novoflex Castel including the adjustment handle solved this – my recommended choice.
This is a second example for focus stacking using the first car of my wife which is a small Matchbox VW Golf. This picture has been rendered out of 88 single frames covering a distance of 4 cm – damn, this car needs a cleaning:
I was positively surprised by this rather cheap macro lens coming from China. Of course I only purchased this lens after thinking about my decision and looking at some example pictures on the web. Although this lens is produced for APS-C sensors and the manufacturer clearly states that there will be some corner shading when used on a full frame sensor while focussing on infinity this lens is fully usable on a full frame sensor – the corner shading is easy to compensate. Venuslens/Laowa brought a good product to market and I hope for them that they quickly find a distributor in Germany or at least in Europe. Buying in China and handling all the customs stuff is a pain.
You can buy this marvelous lens through these affiliate links:
Laowa 60 mm f/2.8 2:1 Super Macro-Objektiv on eBay.com
Laowa 60mm F2.8 Macro Lens – Canon bei Amazon.de
Laowa 60 mm F2.8 Macro Objektiv für SONY A bei Amazon.de
Laowa 60mm F2.8 Macro Lens – Nikon bei Amazon.de
Laowa 60mm F2.8 Macro Lens – Pentax bei Amazon.de