Bubba’s bought a Laowa probe lens, a.k.a a snorkel lens. Buying such a unique piece of camera equipment raises common questions surrounding equipment investments – mainly, what is the ROI? And, is it practical for our scope of work? The price tag on the PL ‘cine’-mod’ Laowa probe lens is just north of $1,700.00 after taxes. Not an outrageous splurge for camera equipment until you consider how specific your shoots need to be in order to maximize the lens’s performance. Our team was aware of the learning curve when we made the purchase so, with that in mind, we began experimenting with the probe lens as soon as it arrived at our studio. For our first shoot, we collected every weird knick-knack within our studio that we felt would be an interesting object for the lens to interact with. The results were so-so.
Our initial takeaway from our first test was the visuals on the Laowa probe lens are truly as unique as advertised, however, it was evident to our team there were some factors that needed to be ironed out. The minimal depth of field accompanied with very low aperture means you need a ton of light and fairly small subject matter to achieve optimal results. Measuring in at almost 1 and a half feet, with a max aperture at f/14, this 24mm macro lens, unlike anything we had worked with before. My ideal shooting matter would be a rave inside of an anthill but we haven’t found any EDM loving ants, yet. We figured the best course of action was to find some real miniatures and insert them into a controlled space with tons of light. Our team set out to create a war epic utilizing miniature figurines from the popular tabletop game, War Hammer. The results were much more in line with our original expectations.
A key to working with the Laowa probe lens is figuring out the right subject matter that will benefit from being shot on this lens. The in-camera practical effects with the Laowa probe lens is nothing short of spectacular. I would encourage anyone with an application for this lens to strongly consider adding it to their arsenal. A few other examples of showcase work include Daniel Schiffer’s video utilizing the lens moving through a variety of objects & this fun music video directed by Tyler Casey (probe lens at 1:58).
Our team will continue to explore new ways to utilize the probe lens. One thing we are particularly excited about is running our practical shots through our VFX pipeline. As previously mentioned on Bubba’s blog, we are knee-deep in motion control robotics with some of our early tests of the probe lens happening on the bot itself. Tabletop is a growing component of our business. Our goal is to build out a reel of high-end motion control capabilities. We believe the probe lens is well worth the investment to capture products in unique ways capitalizing on the practical effects of a motion control robot in combination with the Laowa probe lens.