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Is It Worth Buying a Probe Lens in 2022?

Logan Baker

Let’s talk about the most popular probe lens on the market, and if it’s worth the investment . . . or if you should just stick to renting.

Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to film the inside of a bottle? What about seeing every pore on a person’s face?

Okay, that might not sound as enticing, but the possibilities are endless if you have enough light to work with and a probe lens.

So, let’s discuss working with a probe lens.

What Is a Probe Lens?

A probe lens is a macro-style lens capable of capturing footage of tiny objects and things in everyday life with an insanely close focusing distance. They’re long and skinny lenses with small LED lights wrapped around the end of the lens, due to the stopped-down aperture of the lens.

As of writing this, at the end of 2021, the only “probe lens” widely available on the market is the Venus Optics Laowa 24mm f/14.

There are smaller brands that have periodically released probe lenses in the past—like the Innovision Optics Probe II and the T-Rex Superscope—but, overall, the Laowa is the go-to probe lens.

The lens has mount options for literally every type of mount, even Leica. So, whatever system you’re shooting with, Laowa has a probe lens for you.

Venus Optics Laowa 24mm f/14 Probe Lens

Let’s go over the specs real quick:

  • The lens weighs 1lb
  • 16 inches in length
  • 24mm lens
  • 27 glass elements throughout the barrel to achieve a wide macro lens
  • Focuses from 2:1 macro to infinity f/14-f/40
  • LED ring light at the end of the lens for getting up-close-and-personal with your subject—the light quality isn’t optimal, but it’s better than nothing

One thing to note: Due to the lens being significantly stopped down (f/14), make sure the lens and camera sensor is immaculately clean. Any dust, dirt, or specs will show up on your shot. So, just be sure to clean it up as best as possible because you might not see the dust on your monitor while shooting.

You should also be mindful that keeping your products clean. It’s extremely important to keep anything you’re shooting spotless.

In addition, the lens is waterproof, which really raises the bar for what’s possible with underwater photography/videography.

Price: Roughly $1,599

Why It Can Be Awesome

Now, I know for most of this article I talk about using the lens to shoot product shots. While that might be the majority of what shooters use it for, I think one of the best examples of pushing its capabilities to the limit and trying new things is Todd from Am I A Filmmaker?, with his breakdown of using the lens for VFX sequences and miniature work.

So, let this be a solid example of a “pro” for the lens. You can nail old-school Hollywood filmmaking techniques and flex your chops with miniature practical effects.

Why It Might Sit on Your Shelf

Like any piece of gear, at this point, you know that most cameras and lenses being released are of exceptional quality. Technology has advanced enough that we don’t really get crappy products being released to big hype around the filmmaking world.

So, if you know it works, and the results are stellar . . . why would someone not really want this lens? Well, look at it!

A couple of reasons why this lens isn’t the lens of your dream—it isn’t something that easily fits into your camera bag. You really need to bring a probe lens designated case or spot in your bag.

It’s also exceptionally long, adding a crazy amount of space needed for your camera to be in position. You also need a stable tripod or slider to get any usable shots.

Is It Worth It?

If you’re regularly shooting product shots and commercials focused on small products, or wildlife photography—yes. If you’re not doing those things—no.

If you’re not shooting this product-focused content, then you’ll definitely not get your money’s worth, and it might end up sitting on your shelf for months on end.

However, if you’re not and happen to book these shoots occasionally? Just rent the lens.

I think when the lens was initially released, there was definitely a vibe of it already being a “hyped” release. It offered up cool imagery and frankly looked absolutely crazy. Similar to a GoPro or anything DJI puts out.

YouTubers had the lenses sent to them with glowing reviews saying it produced incredible shots, only to then never show up on their channel again—womp womp.

Good luck in the coming year!

A few more gear-related articles for you:

Cover image via Peter Gudella.