As owner of the Laowa 24mm f-14 Probe macro lens for several years (combined with Sony A7III), I decided to write this article to give some very useful advice for making some types of shots.
I read a lot of articles about it and watched a lot of videos to get some ideas, but the way I use the lens I mainly invented by myself.
Let’s look at some main ways I use this lens.
SHOOTING WITH A TRIPOD
Use with a tripod for a static shot is very limited, as the filmed object will have to create movement.
I almost never use it this way, only in rare cases when the idea of the scene requires it.
ON THE MOTORIZED SLIDER
The first thing I bought with the Laowa lens was the motorized electronic slider, which cost around $350.
This is the way I recommend, especially for studio shooting.
The movement of the slider allows you to create dynamics which combined with the 24mm wide angle in macro creates a very particular effect, especially when the lens is surrounded by objects.
These are two examples of my shots made in the studio with the motorized slider and Laowa 24mm lens.
Can I use the normal slider, not the motorized one?
Of course, but the result will not be the same in very close shots, as the lens is very sensitive to hand movements and the movement will not be so smooth.
I’ve done it many times and the result satisfied me.
HANDHELD VIDEO SHOOTING
We come to the most important part of this article. Handheld shooting.
Everyone says don’t do it, as the lens is too sensitive to micro movements, but this is the main way I use this lens.
I make most of the videos in the middle of nature, filming insects and other small creatures and unfortunately I don’t have time to prepare the slider, you understand why, animals can’t wait for me. In these cases the speed factor is one of the most important.
Let’s see some examples of these videos and then I’ll explain how I can make them.
Yes, it looks like moving a slider, but the two shots above are Handheld.
To make a fake slider movement you need to have a support on the front of the lens, I use the tripod handle, so that I can raise or lower it quickly in any situation.
The space available for moving will be less than in the slider, as it is only the part up to the USB port of the light.
To take the shot, just slide the lens on your support. The movement will have to be as fluid as possible, it will take some practice, but the result is really worth it.
The support must not create friction with the lens, otherwise you will have a shaking shot and you also risk dragging the lens. To do this I wrapped the handle with tape.
When shooting, I also try not to breathe, as this also creates shaking.
Is it possible to stabilize this type of footage?
In most cases NO, so you have to try to get them clean right away.
In some cases, when objects are not too close to the lens, you can use stabilization. The video above for example (The one with the mushrooms) has been stabilized in post production.
Can I change the focus while shooting handheld?
Yes, I learned to do it, but it took me several months. I suggest you first learn how to move with fixed focus and then learn how to change it.
Here’s an example
E’ Is it possible to shoot handheld without a support?
I can only do it for slow motion shots, for real time ones I don’t think it’s possible, the shot shakes too much.
Here’s an example
It is very difficult to follow fast moving insects, as the lens is very close to them and it is very easy to lose focus and frame.
To do this, I advise you not to look in the camera but at the lens, in this way you can better control the distance in focus and follow the insect.
You have to try to keep the pet in the center of the lens, hoping that the shot is good.
It will take a lot of practice, but I assure you that the result is worth it.
For slow motion shooting (but also the others) I recommend filming on sunny days, possibly not in the shade, as the lens is very dark and needs a lot of light.
The light on the lens helps, but it’s not enough.
Do I recommend this lens?
I use it for making Stock Footages.
I invite you to take a look in the macro section of my website where you will find many shots taken with this lens.
You can purchase these video footage and use them in your projects, even for commercial use.