Field Test: Laowa's 24mm Macro Lens Offers a New Sense of Scale and Perspective

Credit: Charles Haine
This odd-looking lens offers a unique perspective on the tiny universe.

When Laowa Optics first teased its new 24mm macro in 2016, we were fascinated by its snorkel design. While periscope and snorkel style systems exist, they are by no means common, and the idea of an affordable snorkel macro that would allow us to focus practically on the front of the lens element (while keeping the background in play) was intriguing. 

We were able to play with one for a few days and found it to be a lens that positively changes the way we think about macro work.  

Credit: Matthew Bell

Traditionally, if you wanted a shot that emphasizes relationships, you would go wide, but if you wanted to isolate a detail, you would go for a longer lens, often a macro which allows for very close focus.  The 24mm macro offers both. You can simultaneously get very, very close to an object, while still having a sense of scale and perspective for the world around it in the background.  For certain storytelling moments, it's a real bonus to be able to get super close and still see the world around your object.

To be clear, this lens isn't going to be perfect in all situations.  Its widest stop is an F14 (which is an 11/16 split) and requires a lot of light or a long exposure. This is a lens designed for day exterior or tripod work. 

We did some time lapse testing with the lens on a tripod, and we loved the results we got at an F40, but of course, an F40 isn't a stop you're likely to use on a day-to-day basis. To compensate for this, Laowa has smartly designed a USB-powered LED ringlight into the lens with variable power. While this might seem like a gimmick, we found it to be exceptionally useful in most of the situations where the lens would play.

Credit: Charles Haine

One thing we hope they roll out in the future is clip on diffusion for both the LED ring light and ND filters for the lens. While ND filters might seem a bit crazy on a lens that only opens to a 14, we don't want ND for stop control but rather an ND grad for exposure control when staging a shot where we might want more brightness on one half of the image. 

While we accept that this is unlikely, we think a diffuser for the LED would be a major bonus. It's amazing to have that little light built in, but it's also a bit harsh and we'd love to easily soften it with just a magnetically mounted diffuser. Of course, if the company never launches such an accessory, it's not too tricky to cut some tracing paper to fit.

Almost no color fringing at all.Credit: Charles Haine

Another thing we have to mention is to please be careful with this lens. While testing at dusk in a building overlooking New York, we couldn't help but be very conscious of the fact that it looks like a gun barrel. It isn't likely to cause problems, but we would be reluctant to shoot with this lens on a rooftop overlooking a political rally or the Boston marathon, for instance. 

While we can certainly imagine shots that might make this intriguing (a macro shot of a discarded runner's vest with a marathon in the background, for instance), you would definitely want to check with law enforcement before going on a rooftop near a crowd with this. This is no criticism of Laowa, but rather a reflection of the importance of being conscious of your surroundings. For normal office, stage, or set macro work, however, the biggest risk is accidentally knocking something over with the lens.

Credit: Charles Haine

The lens is currently launching via Kickstarter, so be sure to take a look over there for more info.

Tech specs:

  • 2:1 (2x) Macro
  • f/14 maximum aperture
  • Canon and Nikon mount available, PL coming
  • Full Frame (36mmx24mm) image coverage

Your Comment

7 Comments

None of the shots look sharp at all. I would consider them unusable. No comment was made about this in the article. Was sharpness not a problem or are these shots the best it could do?

August 20, 2018 at 9:21AM

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Completely agree. Scratching my head wondering why no mention of sharpness in the article. The first thought I had was "wow that's blurry". You could get better sharpness that close with a cell phone camera. Maybe this is just a super niche 1-trick-pony lens.

August 20, 2018 at 12:57PM

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I've seen some great examples of images and video from this lens. I'm pretty sure the guys at NFS just took some really terrible images. If you ask me, it's obvious they didn't put any real effort into them.

I just found examples on Flickr and they look awesome.

August 21, 2018 at 6:14AM, Edited August 21, 6:16AM

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Joe O
Videographer/Editor
354

Wow, this article makes one of the most exciting lenses around look pretty boring and average.

August 20, 2018 at 6:29PM

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Sean Loftin
Cinematographer
278

Well, NFS has been pretty boring and average lately. Are you surprised?

August 21, 2018 at 6:17AM

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Joe O
Videographer/Editor
354

They kinda gave up on, you know, putting some effort into coming up with useful content. They now rely on re-posters, like that hack V. Renée, to polute the site with useless content from clueless hyperactive youtubers. The fucking energy-drinking millenial kind.

Sad...

I mainly come here to bitch about it.

August 24, 2018 at 11:03AM

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A few weeks ago, I saw some amazing shots related to that lens.

Now, thank you NFS, I see that you can also shoot some shitty images with it.

August 24, 2018 at 11:04AM

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