This is one of the weirdest and most extraordinary new camera lenses we've ever seen. Laowa's 24 mm f/14 probe lens looks bizarre, works like nothing else we've come across, and offers a truly immersive and endlessly fascinating way to experience and document the world at the microscopic level.
The vast majority of macro lenses offer long focal lengths – typically 60 mm and upward – and razor-thin depth of field. This gives them a terrific ability to isolate subjects and obliterate the background into bokeh. But that's the opposite of what Laowa has gone for with its outrageous new probe lens.
This crazy magic wand of a thing makes the background part of the story, with a wide-angle 24-mm perspective and an f/14 aperture that keeps a lot more of the background visible. The creators call it a "bug's eye view," and it's hard to think of a better way to put it.
With a minimum focusing distance of just 2 cm (0.8 in), and a 40-cm-long (16 in) probe of a barrel, you can stick this bad boy right into a pile of ants and get a magnificent idea of what their world feels like. A 2:1 max magnification can show details that simply aren't visible to the naked eye.
What's more, it's waterproof, so you can take the same perspective and apply it underwater. Or nudge it through a salad to let a viewer have the experience of walking through a cathedral of lettuce. Because shooting in tight spots like these, with a narrow aperture, is going to cause lighting challenges, it's also got its own LED ring light on the end.
The Laowa probe lens weighs a very reasonable 474 g (1.04 lb) and comes with your choice of Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony FE or cinema PL mounts for full-frame or APS-C cameras. We're a little disappointed there's not a similar gadget for micro 4/3rds cameras with a similar field of view; pairing something like this with the detail and slow motion capabilities of a Panasonic GH5, for example, would get you some truly special shots.
It's up on Kickstarter now at a price of US$1,299, or US$200 more for the PL mount cinema version. Retail will reportedly be US$1,499 once they're out of crowdfunding. The campaign has already blasted though its goal with nearly a month left to run. Deliveries are slated to begin from next month.
Now, you've read enough, time for the main event: check out what this thing can do in the videos below.
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