At Photokina, we stumbled across a very odd-looking lens, a quite unusual macro: the 24mm Relay Lens by Chinese brand Laowa (Venus Optics). These lenses are also known as snorkel lenses due to their unusual shape: a long tube with a tiny opening at the end. Let’s take a closer look.
With normal Macro lenses, one sometimes runs into the problem of having camera or lens shadows all over your subject, which is why I usually prefer using a 100mm Macro over a 50mm Macro. The wider the lens, the bigger this problem of course, as a wider field of view means a bigger chance of capturing unwanted shadows. Not only that, but it is also physically often very hard to get close enough to your subject with a normal sized macro lens.
In come these snorkel lenses, which are niche lenses with very special purposes. For example, dip it underwater without destroying your camera, or get that otherwise impossible shot inside an anthill or small cave.
When checking out the lens at the Laowa booth at Photokina, I tried it out at their setup of small plastic soldiers, and the images you can capture are really quite unique. Imagine this on a stabilized rig, doing fast-paced miniature “action cam” between the figures, and you could really achieve quite a unique-looking video. I tried it and you can see a short shot of me doing that in the video above.
At f/16, this is of course nothing that can be used under bad lighting. It’s only logical that it’s slow because of the tiny opening and the long tube. Nevertheless, there’s a very shallow depth of field because of the fact that it’s a macro.
The Laowa 24mm Macro Relay lens will be available in early 2017, with pricing yet to be determined. From their past offerings, we can expect the price to be quite competitive.
Thanks for Stefan Haselgruber for helping out with filming on this video.