Archive for the ‘Laowa LED Ring Light’ Category

Post update: What is it?

February 28, 2023

The mystery object shown in my last blog post is a macro composite image of the right eye of Benjamin Franklin, as he appears on a $100 bill. The $100 bill is the largest denomination Federal Reserve note currently issued for public circulation.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tech Tips

2.5x magification | aperture f/4 | shutter speed 1/250 s | ISO 160

The preceding image is a focus stacked composite of 77 JPG photos taken with my Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera plus a Laowa 25mm Ultra Macro lens. The lens was set for 2.5x magnification and an aperture of f/4, the “sweet spot” for this lens.

The camera was mounted on my NiSi NM-200 manual focus rail. A safe step size of 50 microns was used in order to avoid focus banding, as determined by using Zerene Stacker DOF Calculator.

For better composition of the final composite image, I created the stack by focusing past the farthest focus point and moving the rail backward to slightly beyond the closest focus point. (Remember, the subject looks bigger at the farthest focus point than the closest. This almost certainly means it will be necessary to crop the final image if you shoot front-to-back. Going back-to-front helps to avoid this problem.)

The carriage of the focus rail traveled a total distance of 3.85 mm.

77 steps/1 x 50 microns/step = 3,850 microns

3,850 microns/1 x 1 mm/1,000 microns = 3.85 mm

77 steps is probably more than necessary but I wanted to be sure the entire image is acceptably in focus.

Helicon Focus was used to create the focus stack. The final rendering is saved as a TIF file, by default. I converted the TIF to JPG for posting in my photoblog. The final output, shown above, is unedited otherwise.


A micrometer (also known as a micron) equals 0.001 of a millimeter, or 1/1,000 of a millimeter. In other words, there are 1,000 micrometers in one millimeter. The symbol for micrometer is µm.

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Copyright © 2023 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

When is close too close?

October 14, 2020

Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensisexuvia was collected on 27 May 2017 along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female. The prominent horn on the head — a key field mark for exuviae from Family Macromiidae (Cruisers) — is noticeable in the following photo, although maybe not recognizable.

This photo is one of several test shots using “The Macroscope,” my nickname for the Laowa 25mm Ultra Macro Lens. The Laowa lens was mounted on my Canon 5D Mark II digital camera with a 12mm Kenko extension tube between the lens and camera body.

My new Laowa LED Ring Light was mounted on the front of the lens, powered by an Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD 45W battery. The Laowa LED Ring Light was used to light the subject. A Sunpak LED-160 Video Light was used as a focusing aid. A Godox TT685C external flash was used to backlight a translucent white plastic background, using the “Meet Your Neighbours” technique. The flash was triggered wirelessly by a Godox X2TC.

The image is full-frame (5616 by 3744 pixels), that is, uncropped. The lens was set for f/4 (the “sweet spot” for the lens) at 4x magification. The camera was set for single point focus and spot metering, centered on the right eye of the exuvia.

Look closely at a full-size version of the image. At this magnification, the depth of field is very shallow: remnant ommatidia are clearly in focus; most of the image is out of focus.

In order to provide some context for what is shown in the first photo, the last photo shows the entire specimen. The photo gear used to take the shot is specified in a previous blog post.

When is close too close?

Close is too close when most of the subject is unrecognizable. At 4x magnification, it’s essential to use focus stacking to create a composite image.

The bigger take-away from this test shot is the Laowa LED Ring Light seems to work fairly well, albeit a sample size of one.

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Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD 45W

October 12, 2020

In my experience, digital camera batteries are the weak link during extended macro photo shoots — it seems like they never last long enough and always go dead at the worst possible time! So I started searching for portable power solutions that would solve the problem.

I stumbled across an FAQ page on the Fujifilm Global Web site that provides information regarding two mobile batteries recommended by Fujifilm. Warning: Be patient — the FAQ page takes a LONG TIME to load!

Both batteries are made by Anker; the more powerful model is no longer available. As far as I can tell, the PowerCore+ 26800 PD 30W version of the battery featured on the FAQ page was replaced by a new model (Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD 45W). Editor’s Note: One or more upcoming blog posts will be related to using the Anker battery as a power source for select Canon- and Fujifilm digital cameras.

The same battery can be used to power the Laowa LED Ring Light that is featured in my last blog post. When I was doing my homework before deciding to buy the ring light, the first thing I noticed is it doesn’t feature an On/Off switch. I thought, “No problem, the Anker battery has one.” See that big button on top of the battery, shown below? Naturally I assumed it’s an On/Off switch. Wrong! The fact is, I have NO IDEA what that button does other than indicate whether the battery is fully-charged. This battery is essentially a fire hose of power that’s always on when a device is plugged into one of its USB ports. Needless to say, that’s less than ideal for use with the LED ring light.

Product image courtesy AnkerDirect.

Similar to GoPro’s dizzying array of nearly identical action cameras, Anker sells so many types of batteries (including variants of the same model) that it can cause decision paralysis! For what it’s worth, I bought the PowerCore+ 26800 PD 45W that includes an AC charger.

Product image courtesy AnkerDirect.

If you have purchased a product from Apple, then you know the unboxing experience is one of life’s simple pleasures — the attention to detail is astounding! And so it is/was with the packaging for the Anker battery I bought. Regrettably the joy ends abruptly when you attempt to read the documentation provided with the product — it’s practically unintelligible! Seriously, I have learned more about the battery by watching independently-produced YouTube videos than by reading the User Manual.

Product image courtesy AnkerDirect.

On/Off Switch

After an exhaustive Google search, I discovered a (relatively) short USB extension cable that features an on/off switch. The product is sold in a two-pack of cables.

Product image courtesy RIITOP Store (on Amazon).

In my opinion, it’s important to choose a USB extension cable that can be used for both data and power in order to maximize the usefulness of the cable.

Product image courtesy RIITOP Store (on Amazon).

A USB power cable is provided with the Laowa LED Ring Light. I connect the Laowa cable to the LED ring light, then connect the other end to one of the RIITOP cables with an On/Off switch. Finally, plug the RIITOP cable into the Anker battery.

What are the take-aways?

In my strong opinion, the Laowa LED Ring Light would be greatly improved by adding two inexpensive features: an On/Off switch; and a dimmer switch. C’mon Laowa — my suggestions are a no-brainer!

And if Venus Optics (Laowa) were feeling ambitious, they should engineer a solution that would enable the LED ring light to be powered directly from the hot shoe of a digital camera. Hot shoe pin-outs vary by brand of camera, but the middle pin is always used for power so one connector should work with all types of cameras. Do it!

And while I’m talking about no-brainers, c’mon Anker — is there a compelling reason your mobile batteries don’t feature an On/Off switch?

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This blog post is one in a series of posts related to continuous AC power and long-lasting battery power for select Canon, Fujifilm, and Panasonic digital cameras.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Laowa LED Ring Light for 25mm Ultra Macro Lens

October 9, 2020

I prefer artificial light from electronic flash units rather than continuous light sources such as LEDs. That being said, when the working distance between lens and subject is small, a lens-mounted LED ring light makes sense to use.

Minimum focusing distance versus working distance

The “minimum focusing distance” is the distance from the subject to the focal plane. The “working distance” is the distance from the front of the lens to the subject. For macro photography, usually the latter is more important than the former.

According to Venus Optics (Laowa), the minimum focusing distance for the “Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5x Ultra Macro lens” is 23.4 cm at 2.5x magnification and 17.3 cm at 5x. According to several Web sites, the working distance is 45 mm (4.5 cm) at 2.5x and 40 mm (4.0 cm) at 5x, or a range of working distances from ~1.8 to ~1.6 inches.

Adding one or more extension tubes reduces the working distance and increases magnification. For example, adding a Kenko 12mm extension tube reduced the working distance from 45 mm to ~30 mm at 2.5x.

And it’s worth noting that adding the Laowa “Canon EF lens to Fujifilm X mount camera adapter” to the lens further reduces the working distance — the adapter is ~26 mm wide, essentially equivalent to adding a 26mm extension tube. Combined with the 1.5x crop factor of Fujifilm X-Series cameras such as the X-T1 and X-T3, it’s no wonder the magnification of the lens is increased dramatically when used with select Fujifilm cameras!

Ultra Macro Lens

The first two photos, courtesy B&H Photo, show the version of the Laowa lens for Canon EF. For what it’s worth, f/4 is the “sweet spot” for this lens.

Product image courtesy B&H Photo.

Look closely at the front of the lens. Notice a “flange” (one of two) that is visible around the outer rim of the lens. Those flanges are used to mount the Laowa LED ring light on the lens.

Product image courtesy B&H Photo.

LED Ring Light

The next two photos, courtesy Allen’s Camera, show the Laowa LED ring light.

Product image courtesy Allen’s Camera.

The LED ring light ships with a USB power cable. A power source for the ring light is NOT INCLUDED. My next blog post will feature a discussion of the pros/cons of the power source solution I decided to use.

Product image courtesy Allen’s Camera.

LED mounted on lens

The last photo shows the Laowa LED Ring Light mounted on the Laowa Ultra Macro Lens that is mounted on my Canon 5D Mark II digital camera. The USB power cable is connected to the LED ring light but not connected to a power source. (Don’t mind the clutter in the background!)

Notice the face of the LED ring light extends ~5 mm beyond the front of the lens, thereby reducing the working distance by ~5 mm (~0.5 cm). Plan accordingly.

Laowa LED and 25mm Ultra Macro lens mounted on Canon 5D Mark II.

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Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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