“As of this writing, consumers and US-based distributors haven’t seen any direct announcement from Fuji and my requests for confirmation from Fuji have not yet been answered,” Casual Photophile writes. “That said, this is technically a rumor, but these sources should be reliable and this follows a historically consistent pattern.”
Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros is a professional ortho-panchromatic (i.e. reduced red sensitivity while being sensitive to all wavelengths of visible light) black-and-white film that’s praised for its sharpness and grain.
“The film is particularly suited for night and long exposure photography due to its reciprocity characteristics,” Wikipedia states. “[I]t does not require adjustments for exposures shorter than 120 seconds, and only requires a ½ stop of compensation for exposures between 120 and 1000 seconds.”
Due to its popularity, the apparent imminent demise of Acros will be a heavy blow to film photographers. If Acros is among your favorite film stocks, now might be a good time to start stocking up.
While there are several methods that already exist for this type of style transfer between photos, they require several minutes to run on a low-resolution image, and the results are inconsistent and contain noticeable artifacts.
FastPhotoStyle’s results are both faster to generate and more realistic: results can be generated 60 times faster than traditional methods, and they were found to be twice as preferred by human subjects compared to what existing algorithms could produce.
The big breakthrough in NVIDIA’s algorithm is splitting the task in two separate steps. During the stylization step, the style of a reference photo is transferred to the content photo. Next, a smoothing step helps make things photorealistic by encouraging “spacially consistent stylizations.”
Here are some examples of what FastPhotoStyle can do:
“For a faithful stylization, the content in the output photo should remain the same, while the style of the output photo should resemble the one of the reference photo,” the paper states. “Furthermore, the output photo should look like a real photo captured by a camera.”
The Laowa 25mm’s obvious competitor would be the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x. Of course, there are many ways to get this magnification range through the use of reversed lenses and bellows but in this post, I will just focus on these lenses and highlight the factors important to a macro photographer in the field.
There is a lesser-known Mitakon Zhongyi 20mm f/2 4-4.5x but it is not included in this review as I have not used it before. Based on the specifications, it has a much narrower magnification range of 4-4.5x, only 3 aperture blades and a short working distance of only 20mm, half that of the other 2 lenses in this review.
The Laowa 25mm is priced at less than 40% of the Canon MPE65’s current retail price, making it a really affordable and portable option for high magnification photography.
Laowa 25mm: $399 (plus $30 for a tripod collar) Canon MPE-65: $1,049 (tripod collar included)
The Laowa 25mm is available in most major camera mounts, while the Canon MPE65 is designed exclusively for the Canon EF mount. It is worth noting that with Nikon and Canon mounts, adapters are easily available to use the lenses on mirrorless systems which would have a shorter distance from the sensor. Hence to answer many who asked, all of the lenses can technically be mounted onto M4/3, Sony FE and Fuji X mounts with the correct adapters.
Laowa 25mm: Canon EF, Nikon F, Pentax K, Sony FE Canon MPE-65: Canon MPE-65
The magnification range determines the usability of each lens in the field. In this case, the Canon MPE65 is the clear winner as it covers a wider 1x-5x range. The Laowa 25mm has a more restrictive magnification range from 2.5x to 5x. It appears to compliment the Raynox DCR-250 on a 1:1 macro lens (approx 2.5x magnification) and the Laowa 60mm f/2.8 Macro (2x magnification) lens.
Laowa 25mm: 2.5-5x Canon MPE-65: 1-5x
The working distance of both lenses at 5x are comparable, differing by only 1mm. But at 2.5x, the Canon MPE65 has a working distance of 58mm, while the Laowa 25mm is shorter at 45mm. While some photographers prefer longer working distances, I prefer the working distance to have a narrower range so that the lighting set-up and results would be consistent. Having a consistent working distance also helps for those who use their left hand to control the distance between camera and subject. So no clear winner in this, as it depends on individual preferences.
The Laowa 25mm looks like a baby when placed beside the Canon MPE65. A smaller lens is definitely much easier to handle. It also allows for more consistent results for flash systems that are not mounted at the tip of the lens.
The Canon MPE65 had been known to be like a brick, weighing a hefty 730g. Despite the small appearance of the Laowa 25mm, it actually weighs more than it looks at 400g due to its full metal construction. Nevertheless, it is still 45% lighter than the Canon MPE65 and imposes less strain on the arm.
Laowa 25mm: 400g Canon MPE-65: 730g
A small diameter of the frontal tip of a macro lens has a huge advantage of allowing lower angles on a flat surface, such as on the ground or on a tree trunk. It also blocks out less light, allowing for better lighting coverage. For this, the Laowa 25mm is the clear winner with a frontal diameter of just 43mm, even smaller than that of a Raynox DCR-250 (49mm).
Laowa 25mm: 43mm Canon MPE-65: 58mm
The number of aperture blades determines the shape of out of focus highlights. In general, more blades will result in rounder apertures and more pleasing results.
Laowa 25mm: 8 Blades Canon MPE-65: 6 Blades
The Canon MPE65 tends to produce hexagonal bokeh highlights, while those produced by the Laowa 25mm are rounder.
Some may ask why a tripod collar is important for such a small lens. On tripod setups, having a tripod collar allows the frame to be rotated without adjusting the tripod. It is a great advantage for high magnification set-ups. For handheld situations, the tripod collar can also be rotated upwards to mount a flash or focusing light.
Laowa 25mm: Optional Arca Swiss Mount Canon MPE-65: Included Screw Mount
Interestingly, the Laowa 25mm’s tripod mount comes ready with an Arca-Swiss mount. That reduces the need to screw a base plate to the tripod collar, but that also rules out usage on other mount types. Plus point if you use Arca-Swiss mounts.
Auto Aperture Control
The Laowa 25mm is a completely manual lens and lacks auto aperture control, or aperture coupling. This means that when composing, the image that you are seeing is already stepped down (i.e. dark) and viewed at the actual aperture setting of your shot. This is probably its biggest disadvantage over the Canon MPE65.
Focusing will be more challenging due to the deeper depth-of-field in handheld situations. The only advantage of manual aperture control is that it would be much easier to locate your subject in the viewfinder. Even when the subject was 1cm out of focus, it was possible to see where the subject was when the aperture was stepped down.
Lack of aperture control does not affect tripod set-ups as the aperture ring can be adjusted after focus and composition are set.
Laowa 25mm: Manual Canon MPE-65: Auto
Depth of Field (DoF)
Although the depth of field (DOF) of each lens is the same at the same magnification and aperture setting, the DOF characters of each lens are different. Due to the wider angle of view of the Laowa 25mm as compared to the MPE65, it has a deeper “perceived DOF”. Areas in the frame that are out of focus would appear clearer on the Laowa 25mm when compared with the Canon MPE65. Because the DOF fall-off of the Laowa 25mm is not as steep as in the MPE65, it is easier to locate the subject in the viewfinder when the subject is slightly out of focus.
The examples above were tested on the Sony A7 with respective adapters to Canon and Nikon mounts. They are not conclusive as I did not use precision equipment to position the lens for the test. However, the Laowa 25mm does show slightly more detail for out of focus objects.
The optical qualities of both lenses are on par, with the Laowa 25mm slightly sharper at f/2.8 and 5x magnification. Many others had already done detailed side-by-side reviews on image quality and I do not own a Canon body for a more accurate test, so I would not go into too much detail here. Instead, I will focus on recommendations to optimize the image quality of your shots with this lens.
Diffraction & Light Loss
Those who are new to high magnification photography must know about the effects of diffraction and light loss. The effective f-stop is (Magnification+1) x f-Stop. So if one were to try 5x magnification at f/16, the effective aperture would be (5+1)x16, or a mind-boggling f/96. To minimize diffraction and light loss, I would recommend using f/4 or f/5.6 at 5x magnification when shooting handheld, or f/2.8 when on a tripod. At lower magnifications like 2.5x, it is fine to use f/11 or f/16. To minimise diffraction, the settings listed in red below should be avoided while those in blue are borderline acceptable.
Another important factor for better image quality when using these 2 lenses is the presence of a lens hood. I find that images from the Canon MPE65 tend to be washed out, especially with protruding diffusers. The same can happen on the Laowa 25mm as well. This can easily be addressed with a little lens hood. There is a lens hood available for the Canon MPE65, but some DIY is required for the Laowa 25mm. Alternatively, shift the diffuser a little further behind the front of the lens to avoid stray light from entering the lens.
Ease of Locating Subjects in Viewfinder
Locating the subject in the viewfinder is made easier when the lens diameter is smaller, when the DOF fall-off is less, and when the working distance range is consistent. In these aspects, it was definitely easier to get the subject into the frame when using the Laowa 25mm. It was challenging on the MPE65 but it can be overcome with sufficient practice.
Due to the unique lens design with the aperture ring at its frontal tip, auto aperture control is not possible with this lens, leading to darker images on the viewfinder. This problem can be addressed by attaching a focusing light to the setup.
I like to use T6 bike lights as they can be easily mounted onto the lens without any DIY work, with an external battery pack (not in pic) latched onto my belt to offload the weight off my hands. With this, I could see easily at 5x magnification stepped down to f/5.6 and even f/8. The bike light usually functions as a headlamp, so I just had to tie the elastic bands 2 or 3 times around the lens.
Lighting and Diffusion with a Single Flash
The small diameter of the Laowa 25mm allows for better light diffusion as the surface area of the diffuser increases. Here’s a simple light diffusion system that can be used with a single flash. In fact, the same can also be used for dual flash systems.
I used 2 layers of diffusion material made from translucent plastic (get from flexible chopping boards or plastic folios) layered with packing foam. It is lightweight, portable and easy to set up. To improve on this further, reflective materials can be wrapped around the diffusers to create a softbox.
Handheld Field Test Shots
I’ve tried the Laowa 25mm handheld in the field, as well as for deep stacks on some cooperative live subjects. Here are some of the results.
Deep Stacking Test Shots on Tripod
I decided to test the lens at higher magnifications by adding 104mm of extension tubes to reach a magnification of 9.1x and photograph some of the spiders that we found. The following shots were taken using StackShot on a tripod and cropped as there was vignetting. A 12V battery was brought along to power the StackShot.
As all the spiders were very much alive when I did the stacks, some micro-movements were recorded which resulted in less-than-ideal stacks.
The Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5x shines in most categories with the exception of its lack of aperture coupling. Without aperture coupling, handheld shooting would lose its focusing precision and the viewfinder’s image would be much darker when stepped down. However, these shortfalls can be minimized with sufficient practice or use of a tripod.
So the big question is: should you get it? This lens is definitely a worthy purchase for fans of high-magnification macro photography, but one should be aware that nailing good shots at 5x magnification is no easy task for any beginner.
Shipping is expected to start from the end of March 2018. You can pre-order now at venuslens.net or macrodojo.com (it helps me if you order from here).
A special thanks to Victor for loaning me the MPE65 for tests, and Andrew for loaning me the Metabones Sony-Canon adapter so that I could test both lenses on the same camera body.
About the author: Nicky Bay is a macro photographer based in Singapore. You can find more of his work and follow along with his adventures through his website and Flickr photostream. This article was also published here.
335-Acre Wildfire Sparked by Drone That ‘Caught Fire’ Upon Landing
Earlier this week, a wildfire burned through 335-acres of forest land near Flagstaff, Arizona, before it was brought under control and stopped by about 30 firefighters. The cause of the blaze? A drone that landed and “caught fire.”
The fact that a drone was involved in sparking the fire was repeatedly announced by the U.S. Forest Service on March 6th in its updates on the progress of stopping the wildfire.
WILDFIRE FINAL UPDATE: Kendrick Fire ? Joint operations with Summit Fire Dept stopped forward progress at 335-acres ? Chapel of the Holy Dove made safe by back burning? Drone caught fire after landing@12:35 p.m. ? Watch for smoke overnight? @CoconinoSheriff@AZTRAILpic.twitter.com/cMonJ5pjgz
“Several Forest Service engines, patrols and a water tender truck from Summit Fire responded to a smoke report from a drone on fire north of Flagstaff at approximately 12:35,” the final update states. “The fire began near Forest Road 514 & FR 524 intersection by a drone which caught fire upon landing. The fire was reported as 50-acres in size upon the firefighter’s arrival.”
“Flights in security sensitive airspaces, and over National Parks and Monuments are prohibited,” the Coconino National Forest website states on a page dedicated to drone flying. “Flying near fire operations puts firefighters and communities in danger. Even if a TFR has not been declared for a fire or emergency incident, do not fly near it.”
No word on what kind of drone it was that burst into flames after landing.
Photographer Receiving Death Threats for Using Live Ducklings and Bunnies
A portrait photographer is receiving death threats this week after his photos began circulating online. Critics are accusing him of animal abuse over his use of live ducklings and bunnies in portrait photo shoots with babies and young children.
Photographer Mercer Harris of Mercer Harris Photography in Washington, Georgia (population 4,295), has been shooting as a professional portrait photographer for over 30 years. He has incorporated live rabbits in his sessions for most of those 3 decades, and he began offering shoots with live ducklings about 10 years ago.
Earlier this week, however, controversy erupted when several of Harris’ photos that were purchased by clients began circulating online through different groups and channels. As the photos have gone viral, critics began slamming Harris’ practice of allowing babies and toddlers to hold tiny ducklings and bunnies.
Here’s a selection of the widely-circulated photos that are at the center of the firestorm:
Angry critics have been flooding Harris’ online social media accounts with vitriolic comments, both on relevant posts and also on unrelated portraits that don’t show animals at all. Here’s a sampling:
One commenter stated he wished Harris would get cancer and die. Another wrote that she wanted to slit Harris’ daughter’s throat. Yet another called Harris’ studio and told his secretary that he wanted to choke her to death. Other commenters have been posting Harris’ address and phone number online.
Harris tells PetaPixel that people have even been calling his local agricultural authorities, city hall, and even the sheriff’s office to complain about the photos, but the authorities have all determined that the studio has not done anything wrong.
In response to the hateful comments flooding his accounts, Harris has deleted his portraits that involve live animals and has removed much of his online social media content.
Harris says his critics are selectively picking out and cropping a small number of photos selected from his entire body of work, and that misinformation is also being spread about what’s seen in the shots.
“We’ve never had an animal harmed or die” over 30 years of photography, Harris tells PetaPixel. “There’s not a single duck that died during these sessions. We completely understand that the ducks are babies.”
Harris says that the goal is to share the love and handling of animals with children, and that adult supervision is always standing just outside the frame to step in and take the animals away if they’re ever handled too harshly (such as when rabbits are grabbed by the ears).
The ducklings have a natural inclination to jump into his in-studio temperature-controlled pond, Harris says. And when the ducklings get wet, the team hand-dries each duckling with cloth baby diapers and use warm air to dry the ducklings.
The ducklings purchased for the 2 days of photo shoots every year are all Peking ducks, Harris says — ducks that would otherwise be sold to commercial growers and be slaughtered for food. After the shoots, both the ducklings and the bunnies are donated to private homes. The ducks are raised to live out their lives in private ponds, and the bunnies are given to interested customers (many of whom are farmers in the area) to serve as pets.
“People have just blown this thing way out of proportion,” Harris says. “Threatening our customers and our children… I don’t know where telling someone that you want to slit their throat is alright. That’s just beyond the pale.”
The source passed along several observations about the prototype they saw.
The first is that the camera features a top-down LCD similar to what’s found on the Leica SL, which displays important camera settings for photographers at-a-glance on a 1.3-inch monochrome LCD:
The prototype camera seen by the source lacked markings and branding on the body, and the flange distance looked like it was too short for the camera to have a native Canon EF lens mount, Canon Rumors hears, “but no lens was attached to the body to be sure.”
Finally, the source was able to listen to the camera shooting in burst mode and estimates from the shutter sound that the shooting speed is above 10 frames per second.
“These sorts of leaks are rare, but they more often than not turn out to have some kind of truth to them,” Canon Rumors writes. “I expect multiple full frame mirrorless prototypes to exist.”
There were hopes at the end of 2017 that Canon might be planning to unleash a full frame mirrorless sometime in 2018, but Canon Rumors believes that the chances of this happening are slim based on what’s currently known about the 2018 roadmap.
Eddie Adams’ NYC Bathhouse Studios is For Sale for .95 Million
Have extremely deep pockets? You could be the owner of the New York City photo studio created by famous American photographer Eddie Adams. Bathhouse Studios is on the market, and the asking price is a cool $19,950,000.
The one-of-a-kind multi-level studio and event space is located in Manhattan’s East Village at the address 538 East 11th Street. It was originally built in 1904 as a public bathhouse with Neo-Italian Renaissance style architecture, and the facade still reads: “Free Public Baths of the City of New York.”
Adams passed away in 2004, and his wife Alyssa Adams, co-founder and executive director of the prestigious Eddie Adams Workshop, continued on as the proprietor of the building. But Alyssa has now decided to put the building up for sale, and it seems likely it will be radically transformed and no longer be used for photographic purposes by the new owners.
Among the many spaces in the 13,298-square-foot building are a main 20-foot-high Studio A on the ground floor, a secondary 11-foot-high Studio B in the basement, a 2,200-square-foot roof deck, an equipment room, and a 16-foot-high residence on the second floor.
Other features of the building include oak floors, exposed brick, antique frosted windows, electric black screen shades, antique ceiling light fixtures, a kitchen and two grand bathrooms with high-end appliances, and a central HVAC system.
You can find the full details and some photos of the building’s interior spaces in this document by Cushman & Wakefield:
“This is an extremely rare opportunity for residential and commercial end users to acquire the only first class freestanding building featuring an expansive studio, event space, fully renovated residence and landscaped roof deck in the heart of the East Village,” writes Cushman & Wakefield, the real estate company retained to handle the sale.
EV Grieve points out that although the building has been designated landmark status, the property has 10,000 square feet of air rights available, meaning a developer could purchase the building and build upwards.
A spokesperson for Bathhouse Studios tells us that no one from the photo industry has expressed interest in buying the building at the time of this writing.
Parent Seeking Photographer to Ruin Daughter’s Modeling Dreams
A PetaPixel reader was browsing for photography gigs on craigslist in South Florida today when he came across this bizarre request: someone was looking to hire a photographer to provide an “unhappy experience.”
The listing was apparently posted by a concerned parent whose daughter has dreams of becoming a model. Not wanting their daughter to pursue this line of work, the parent decided that the best way would be to secretly arrange for a photographer to show the daughter how terrible modeling is by paying for a faked photo shoot experience.
“My daughter wants to model and I don’t want her to so I’m agreeing to set up a shoot and pay you to make it an unhappy experience,” the parent writes. “Make her uncomfortable. Cold. Hold long poses. Whatever it takes. Interested? Email me”
We reached out to the poster to learn whether or not they had successfully hired a photographer for the gig, but we have yet to hear back. Less than 24 hours after being online, however, the post has already been flagged by other craigslist users for removal.
“Basically, you would be getting paid to mentally abuse their kid,” the photographer tipster tells PetaPixel via email. “Parent of the year.”
Update: Photographer Adam Sternberg tells PetaPixel that there’s evidence this listing may actually be some kind of hoax… or worse. He points out that a listing with the same request and very similar language was posted nearly a week ago in Las Vegas.
“It’s been in two other cities but it looks like they were flagged off,” Sternberg says. “It was a topic of conversation in a local photographer group the other day. My bet is [that the motive is] to somehow publicly dox people by posting somewhere online about the photographers who would actually take this job.”
Photographer Nitin Vadukul, who created surreal and eerie images for commercial, editorial and music clients, died February 17 in New York City, according to The New York Times. His brother, photographer Max Vadukul, told The Times the cause of death was colorectal cancer.
Born Nitin Shantilal Vadukul in Nairobi in 1965 to parents of Indian heritage, he grew up in a suburb of London and began shooting photos as a teenager. He began his photography career working in a London special effects studio in the 1980s. Much of his early commercial work for clients such as Wace and BNP featured composites—created first using Paintbox and then, in the 1990s, with Photoshop. “Effects just for effects aren’t interesting,” he told PDN in 1993. “I use them in unconventional ways to get ideas across.”
He moved from London to Paris in 1990, and shot for international advertising clients. In the mid-1990s, he moved to New York, and brought his flamboyant, surreal conceptual style to portraits of actors and music industry icons he photographed for magazines such as Details, Rolling Stone, The Source and New York magazine, and for record labels. His subjects included Ozzy Osbourne, Rick Rubin, Dr. Dre and Eminem. Some of his music photos were included in Hip Hop Immortals, published in 2003 and in the 2012 exhibition “Who Shot Rock & Roll” at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles.
After 20 years in New York City, he moved to Los Angeles in 2015.
According to The Times, he is survived by his brother and sister, his mother, and two children.
Overlooked will regularly feature new obituaries of people in the past that never received them for one reason or another. Today, on International Women’s Day, the project features the lives of accomplished women.
“Looking back at the obituary archives can provide a stark lesson in how society valued various achievements and achievers,” write Times editors Jessica Bennett and Amisha Padnani. “Since 1851, The New York Times has published thousands of obituaries. The vast majority chronicled the lives of men, mostly white ones; even in the last two years, about 20% of our subjects were female.
“This series recalls the stories of those who left indelible marks but were nonetheless overlooked.”
The Times describes Arbus as “a photographer whose portraits have compelled or repelled generations of viewers.” Here’s an excerpt of the new obituary:
Diane Arbus was a daughter of privilege who spent much of her adult life documenting those on the periphery of society. Since she killed herself in 1971, her unblinking portraits have made her a seminal figure in modern-day photography and an influence on three generations of photographers, though she is perhaps just as famous for her unconventional lifestyle and her suicide […]
After decades of intense examination of her work and life, perhaps there is room to understand Arbus as a woman driven by artistic vision as well as personal compulsion, and her photographs as documents of empathy as well as exploitation. Arbus herself hinted at the difficulty of understanding and interpreting images.
“A photograph is a secret about a secret,” she said. “The more it tells you the less you know.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Arbus and her work, here’s a 30-minute documentary about her that was part of the Masters of Photography series from the 1970s:
The Times will continue to publish new obituaries in Overlooked every week in 2018.
Image credits: Header photograph by Stephen A. Frank and courtesy The New York Times.