Nikon 180-400mm Review: A First Test and Sharpness Comparison

Nikon 180-400mm Review: A First Test and Sharpness Comparison

So, here’s the story: Nikon announced its new 180-400mm f/4 lens, and I’ve been more than a little curious about it. However, I’m not 100% sold on it just yet, so I decided to rent one and give it a whirl for a few days and share what I’ve discovered with you.

In the video below, I’ll tell you what I think about the lens overall, performance, and sharpness. There are a number of sharpness comparisons including with the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR, 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR, 300mm f/4E PF ED VR, and 600mm f/4E FL ED VR.

After watching the video, check out the images below if you want to give the sharpness test photos a closer inspection. I have included both center and corner crops. Please watch the video first, though, because there’s more to the sharpness tests than just what you see below.

Also, keep in mind that this is not a full field report. If I do decide to get the lens later this year, I’ll do the full review after I get to use it for more than just a few days.

I was only able to use the lens in the field for a few hours, but I did want to include a couple of images from it. Based on my preliminary usage, I think this can be one heck of a nice lens for wildlife photographers.

Below are the images from the video for closer inspection. Click each one to view them in their full size.

200mm Tests

300mm Tests

400mm Tests

500mm+ Tests

About the author: Steve Perry is a nature photographer and the owner of Backcountry Gallery. You can find more of his work, words, photos, and videos on his website, Facebook, and YouTube channel. This article was also published here.

Source: PetaPixel

Nikon 180-400mm Review: A First Test and Sharpness Comparison

The Rising ‘Pay To Be Featured’ Economy On Instagram

The Rising ‘Pay To Be Featured’ Economy On Instagram

Instagram is a great platform for making connections and getting work out there to the masses. Reach hasn’t been affected like it has on Facebook just yet. However, on the topic of getting your work out there, “feature accounts” have really begun to take hold.

Many of them start accumulating a large audience with over 100,000+ followers. The distribution is instant and larger than many magazines, so it’s no wonder they’re appealing to photographers to be featured on.

On the flip-side, there’s a problem having images being re-posted without permission. That in itself is hard enough to keep up with. Another trend I am seeing more regularly is how feature accounts now approach creatives and ask for payment for a feature.

As you can see from this conversation shared by David J. Crewe, they sent a message to him asking if they can share his work. The problem isn’t permission or compensation for David, it’s that they want to get paid to do it. The approach seems completely backward, but based on them saying they are the “cheapest on Instagram,” it begs a few questions:

1. How many accounts now do this?
2. How many people are paying to be featured?
3. Is there anything wrong with this, and how does this differ from paid advertising?
4. It’s morally strange, but is it against Instagram’s Terms of Service?

Personally, I don’t think this is a great way of approaching people in trying to earn some cash, but are enough people paying into this system that it’s become so common and profitable for both sides?

I can see the allure, pay a few bucks and get in front of a wide audience, hoping to attain real traffic (if they’re even real). It sounds just like paying for ads, but the approach is uncommon. It can rub people the wrong way, and it can be insulting based on how you read into it.

I wonder if this will ever go away, or will it become the new norm?

Have you ever been contacted on Instagram about buying exposure?

Have you ever paid to be featured on a popular Instagram account?

(via Retouchist)

Thank you, David, for sharing this with us. You can follow him on his website or on Instagram.

About the author: Pratik Naik is a photo retoucher specializing in commercial and editorial work. To see his work, head over to his website or give him a follow on Instagram and Facebook. This article was also published here.

Image credits: Header illustration based on photo by Pictures of Money and licensed under CC BY 2.0

Source: PetaPixel

The Rising ‘Pay To Be Featured’ Economy On Instagram

Martin Stavars, The One Man in a Web of Online Photo Contests

Martin Stavars, The One Man in a Web of Online Photo Contests

Online photo contests are a popular way for photographers to test their skills and vie for global recognition and bragging rights. But some contests are more reputable than others. A number of popular photo contests are now at the center of a growing controversy, and all indications seem to point to the fact that there may be one mysterious man behind all of them.

The first murmurings of trouble began earlier this month, when a number of photo contest judges publicly sounded an alarm. It turns out the judges recruited for the International Photographer of the Year (IPOTY) contest weren’t asked to judge a single photo before the winners were announced.

It was also observed that the Monochrome Photography Awards had a website structure and contest format that was eerily similar to IPOTY. An anonymous Monochrome representative denied to PetaPixel that the two contests are related (admitting that there was a “partnership” that ended in 2016), but PDN soon discovered that this year’s Monochrome judges weren’t involved in picking the contest’s winners either.

So, we began digging into this mystery in an attempt to unravel the truth behind these photo contests, and one name has continually appeared in every corner we’ve looked: Martin Stavars.

Mentions of Stavars have been disappearing from the Internet in recent days, but cached versions of web pages still contain details that paint a picture of who Stavars is.

“Martin Stavars was born in 1981 in Czestochowa, Poland,” states a deleted page at ND Magazine. “He studied economics, computer science, and photography, which he ultimately focused on.”

So Stavars is a ~37-year-old Polish man who has a formal education in money, programming, and photography. He currently resides in London.

It’s also clear from mentions of Stavars online that he’s the founder and managing editor of ND Magazine which operates the Neutral Density Photography Awards (ND Awards) photo contest. Here’s a bio that Stavars has used in multiple places:

The tagline on the ND Awards homepage states: “Be internationally recognized in the world of photography with ND Awards.” Like IPOTY and the Monochrome Awards, the ND Awards is pay-to-play: photographers pay fees of $15 to $30 to enter a single photo in the contest (and $10 for additional photos).

A reverse IP lookup reveals that Stavars’ personal website, ND Magazine, and the ND Awards are all hosted on the same server. It also shows the server hosts the domain name, which doesn’t point to any website. But a cache search of that domain reveals a server directory listing captured in 2014:

This finding suggests that Stavars originally hosted the Monochrome awards on his own server before moving it to its own at some point since 2014.

Now here’s where things get interesting: as recently as November 2017, the ND Magazine website listed a group of online photo contests in its footer: MonoVisions Photography Awards, ND Awards, Fine Art Photography Awards, Monochrome Awards, and International Photographer of the Year.

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine reveals that these links were completely removed from the website earlier this month, on March 15th, two days after we published our story about the International Photographer of the Year contest on the 13th.

A reverse IP lookup also reveals that International Photographer of the Year and MonoVisions Photography Awards are currently hosted on the same server.

Interestingly enough, Stavars has been listed as a jury member for at least two of these photo contests without any mention him being affiliated in any way. He was judged the Monochrome contest between 2014 and 2017 and is even currently listed at this year’s MonoVisions contest.

There’s also one glaring feature shared by all 5 of these contests linked to Stavars: none of them state who the operator of the contest is, and all of them feature a simple web form and email address as the only means of contacting the contest.

Jury members were invited to judge the IPOTY contest via an email from a man named “Sebastian Markis.” An online search for him mostly reveals a number of empty and abandoned social media profiles created under that name. One page has him linked to the Monochrome awards, but in 2015, photographer Bill Allen says he was interviewed by Sebastian Markis, who claimed to be the editor of Monovisions magazine.

Based on the evidence we’ve found, it seems likely that “Sebastian Markis” doesn’t actually exist and is simply a pseudonym used by Martin Stavars.

So why would someone anonymously start, promote, and operate online photography contests? Well, it can apparently be an extremely lucrative business.

Based on our previous calculations, taking into account number of entries and entry fees, the latest IPOTY and Monochrome contests may have received upwards of $131,400 and $223,550, respectively, from entry fees alone — thousands of photographers around the world paying “small” entry fees through PayPal adds up.

It’s difficult to determine how many entries the 5 photo contests linked to Stavars have received over the past several years, but it seems likely that these contests have collected well over $1 million in fees while paying out relatively little in cash prizes.

The ND Awards, the highest-paying of the 5 contests, has a total cash prize for winners of around $7,500.

Of course, operating a photo contest for the purpose of profit isn’t out of the ordinary these days, but there are a few aspects of this strange network of photo contests that likely won’t sit well with photographers.

First, at least two of the contests (IPOTY and Monochrome) are no longer being judged by actual jury members, which is how this whole thing turned into a scandal. If the contests had continued asking its judges to judge, perhaps the world of photography wouldn’t have looked at these contests more closely.

Second, it seems that Stavars may be judging his own photo contests, which would be a major conflict of interest.

Finally, prestigious photo contests are always operated with transparency in their operations, clearly disclosing the company or organization behind them. These five contests have been operated under a shroud of secrecy.

In summary, the five known photo contests that appear to be operated by Stavars are: International Photographer of the Year, Monochrome Awards, Fine Art Photography Awards, ND Awards, and Monovisions Photography Awards.

We’ve spent many days attempting to reach out to the contests’ “organizers” and to Martin Stavars, but all of our efforts have been met with complete silence.

Source: PetaPixel

Martin Stavars, The One Man in a Web of Online Photo Contests

What Should You Charge for Your Pro Photography?

What Should You Charge for Your Pro Photography?

Figuring out how much to charge clients is a struggle shared by many photographers, particularly if you’re trying live off the fruits of your craft. In this 30-minute episode of their Picture This Podcast, photographers Tony and Chelsea Northrup spend half an hour discussing this topic and sharing advice.

“It’s REALLY hard to decide what to charge for your professional photography business,” the Northrups write. “We dig deep into different portrait photography pricing models, discuss the benefits of both low and high price points, and show you how to calculate what you need to make a real living wage from your art.”

There are all kinds of fears and anxieties that rise up when pondering the problem of pricing, the Northrups say. You could worry about overpricing your potential clients away, or underpricing and missing out on potential profits.

There are many different things you can consider when trying to settle on a fair price. Here’s a quick rundown of the subjects and tips covered in the episode (watch the video above to hear the duo elaborate on each one in more detail):

  • Confidence: Be confident and know your prices.
  • Location: Research and understand your location and customer demographics.
  • Time: Know how much time things take. It’s east to underestimate.
  • Perceived Value: Underpricing can give your photos a perception of lesser value.
  • Expenses: Know exactly how much your expenses are.
  • Competition: Be aware of how much direct competitors are charging.
  • Experience: Make sure you have the experience to back up your pricing.
  • Final Product: Control your final artwork because your name will be on it.
  • Fees and Markups: Make sure you get fair compensation for extra work and services done.

Tony and Chelsea also discuss various pricing models that photographers use.

If you’d like an idea of how much actual photographers are charging these days in the US, Tony also looked up listed prices of photography businesses in his area of Connecticut.

“Please, please take the time to figure out what you’re worth,” Chelsea says in conclusion. “Look at what other photographers in your area are charging, think about your business model and how you can deliver a final product to your clients, and then charge enough to live.”

If you found this information helpful, you can follow along with the Picture This Podcast by subscribing to the Northrups’ channel on YouTube.

Source: PetaPixel

What Should You Charge for Your Pro Photography?

Here’s an 8K, 360° Video of a Lunar Eclipse with the Northern Lights

Here’s an 8K, 360° Video of a Lunar Eclipse with the Northern Lights

Back on January 31st, photographer William Briscoe set up his cameras near Fairbanks, Alaska, and shot this awe-inspiring 360-degree interactive video of a lunar eclipse in the sky above the dancing green glow of the Northern Lights.

“It was a challenging night due to the temperatures,” Briscoe writes. His primary focus during the eclipse was getting his time-lapse 360° camera rig (custom-built out of multiple DSLRs) operating correctly, as it was a frigid -31°F (~-35°C) that night during the 3-hour shoot.

The extreme dynamic range of this project also required Briscoe to pull out some digital trickery: the video is actually a composite created with images captured by two different camera rigs at the scene.

“The difference between the settings required to properly expose the moon and the Aurora is too great to do it in a single shot,” Briscoe says. “The 360 camera was set to expose the aurora and landscape, while a second camera attached to a telephoto lens was used to time lapse the lunar eclipse itself. I combined them in post.”

If Briscoe hadn’t composited the two drastically different exposures, the moon would have appeared as a white dot in the sky even during the eclipse’s totality.

(via William Briscoe via DPReview)

Source: PetaPixel

Here’s an 8K, 360° Video of a Lunar Eclipse with the Northern Lights

Insect Photographer Sues Pest Control Company for $2.7 Million

Insect Photographer Sues Pest Control Company for .7 Million

A well-known insect photographer has filed a $2.7 million copyright infringement lawsuit against a pest-control company. He accuses the businesses of using his photos without permission on its website.

Alex Wild is the curator of entomology at the University of Texas-Austin, and his photos have been featured everywhere from the Smithsonian to National Geographic. He allows schools and non-profits to use his photos for free or at discounted rates, but he strictly enforces his copyright when it comes to for-profit uses.

Wild’s website states that his photos can generally be licensed for between $40 and $400 per image, and there are warnings about infringing upon his copyright. Wild shared his copyright enforcement strategy here at PetaPixel back in 2015.

Courthouse News Service reports that Wild filed a copyright infringement lawsuit last month in federal court against Innova Supply, which does business as Solutions Pest and Lawn.

Wild says that after he came across the company using 10 of his insect photos without permission on its website, he had a lawyer send a cease-and-desist letter in February 2017. After that letter was ignored, Wild’s attorney sent a second letter the following month.

A screenshot of one of the infringements at the center of Alex Wild’s lawsuit.

According to Wild’s lawsuit, the pest company’s CEO, Zach Colander, responded to the second letter by email.

“I received your letter and did my research into it,” Colander wrote. “It does look like one of our outsourced content writers was taking images off Google. Internally we have a company Shutterstock account and policy of using only that. I am working on getting them all removed.”

But when Wild checked the website months later in January 2018, he found that the 10 photos had not been removed. What’s more, he discovered another 8 of his images being used without permission.

Here are some of the photos that were used without authorization:

Wild then decided to sue the company, seeking statutory damages of $150,000 — the maximum allowed for photos registered with the US Copyright Office — for each of the 18 infringements for a total of $2,700,000.

“I cannot comment publicly about this particular infringement case, but I will say this is the largest of several lawsuits I’ve filed recently,” Wild tells Fstoppers. “These typically do not proceed to filing unless the infringing company repeatedly fails to respond after being made aware of the problem.

“In some of the more incredible cases, including this one, the infringer not only does not respond but continues to upload new infringing copies. It’s maddening how often this happens.”

Image credits: All images courtesy Alex Wild

Source: PetaPixel

Insect Photographer Sues Pest Control Company for .7 Million

NVIDIA’s AI Can Magically Transfer One Photo’s Style to Another

NVIDIA’s AI Can Magically Transfer One Photo’s Style to Another

NVIDIA has unveiled a new AI algorithm called FastPhotoStyle that can transfer the style from any photo to another photo, producing impressive, photo-realistic results seemingly by magic.

The algorithm was developed by a team of scientists at NVIDIA and the University of California, Merced. It was published last month in a paper titled “A Closed-form Solution to Photorealistic Image Stylization.”

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.

A comparison of the results created by various leading algorithms.

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.”

If you’re savvy with software, you can grab the source code of the algorithm and run it yourself on photos through the Github repository.

(via NVIDIA via Retouchist)

Source: PetaPixel

NVIDIA’s AI Can Magically Transfer One Photo’s Style to Another

The $399 Laowa 25mm Macro Lens vs the $1,050 Canon MP-E 65mm

The 9 Laowa 25mm Macro Lens vs the ,050 Canon MP-E 65mm

In January 2018, I had the opportunity to test a pre-production version of Laowa’s first lens in 2018, the Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5x. It is a niche high magnification macro lens touted to be the answer or alternative to the Canon MP-E 65mm for non-Canon users (especially Nikon macro photographers).

After a few rounds of testing both handheld in the field as well as on a tripod, I’ve compiled a list of pros and cons of the Laowa 25mm vs the Canon MP-E 65mm.

At the end of the review, I will also show sample shots of how I stacked 104mm of extension tubes behind this lens to push it to 9.1X magnification.

All test shots in this review were made with the Laowa 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5x on Nikon D800, lighted with Meike MK-MT24 twin flash mounted on FotoPro DMM-903s Flash Arms. Automated deep stacking shots were done using Cognisys StackShot.

The Laowa’s Competitors

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

Magnification Range

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

Working Distance

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.

Laowa 25mm: 40mm (5x) – 45mm (2.5x)
Canon MPE-65: 41mm (5x) – 101mm (1x)


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.

Laowa 25mm: 82mm (2.5x) – 137mm (5x)
Canon MPE-65: 98mm (1x) – 228mm (5x)


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

Diameter (Front)

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

Aperture Blades

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.

Tripod Collar

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.

Image Quality

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.

Lens Flare

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.

Focusing Light

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.

Wandering spider (Ctenus sp.). 3-shot handheld stack at 2.5x f/11. I was surprised to find the subject easily with a focusing light despite having a stepped down aperture of f/11.
Wandering spider (Ctenus sp.). 100% crop from the earlier shot to show the details up close.
Longhorn beetle (Epepeotes luscus). Single handheld shot at 5x f/5.6. The DOF was expectedly thin at 5x — I took several shots before getting a decent focus.
Nursery web spider (Pisauridae). Single shot at 2.5x f/11. Found a beautiful pisaurid clasping onto her egg sac. 2.5x was barely enough to keep her completely in the frame.
Nursery web spider (Pisauridae). 2-shot handheld stack at 5x f/5.6. Closer view of her eyes and egg sac.

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.

Tree-stump orb weaver (Poltys elevatus). 37-shot tripod stack using StackShot at 9.1x, f/2.8. I actually took 211 shots, but the spider moved midway through the stack and I didn’t notice it.
Tree-stump orb weaver (Poltys elevatus). 86-shot tripod stack using StackShot at 9.1x, f/2.8. View from the side shows the ocular region on an elevated tubercle.
Wrap-around orb weaver (Talthybia sp.). 318-shot tripod stack using StackShot at 9.1x, f/2.8. 300+ shots sounds crazy and an overkill, but I probably overdid it.



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 or (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.

Source: PetaPixel

The 9 Laowa 25mm Macro Lens vs the ,050 Canon MP-E 65mm

This New Instagram Shadowban Tester Examines Your Last 10 Posts

This New Instagram Shadowban Tester Examines Your Last 10 Posts

Instagram has been accused of “shadowbanning” users and posts starting about a year ago, preventing tagged content from properly appearing in searches for those tags. After photographers and others complained last year, someone made a tool for checking to see if you’ve been shadowbanned. Now there’s a new and improved one: Triberr’s Instagram Shadowban Test.

Triberr, a company that develops a content marketing automation suite, created the tool to provide Instagram users with a more comprehensive look at whether their photos and posts are showing up correctly for other Instagram users.

While the original tester has seemingly been neglected — the username search no longer functions — Triberr’s version will be maintained by the company’s team of developers.

Instead of just looking up the visibility of an account’s most recent post, Triberr’s checker checks the last 10 posts, verifying that the post does indeed appear in the search results for each hashtag.

“The shadowban applies to individual posts and may occur for various reasons,” Triberr writes. “For example, overuse of a hashtag or a banned hashtag can trigger this occurrence. Therefore, we provide an analysis of your latest 10 posts so that you can easily identify culprits in your posts.”

If a hashtag is found to contain the photo, it shows up as green in the results. If a hashtag was not found associated with the photo, it shows up as red and the post failed the test (i.e. it was shadowbanned).

To avoid getting shadowbanned, make sure you’re posting high-quality content, not buying followers, avoiding bot programs, and not spamming your posts with hashtags. If you find that you’ve already been shadowbanned, here are some things Triberr suggests you try:

  1. Delete hashtags from the shadowbanned post(s). Avoid the use of too many hashtags, repetitive hashtag sets, or banned hashtags.
  2. Disconnect third-party apps that may have resulted in the shadowban, especially bots or automation software that violate Instagram’s terms of service.
  3. Correct any post images or captions, or remove anything that can be perceived as spam or flagged by others.
  4. Refrain from any Instagram activity for the next 2 – 3 days. This includes posting, commenting, and liking. Just take a break and go outside!

Triberr’s tool also shows you at a glance how much reach each of the posts had in terms of likes and comments. And to see how much reach your account typically has, Triberr has also created an Instagram Engagement Calculator, which calculates the percentage of an account’s followers that engage with content based on the last 10 posts.

Source: PetaPixel

This New Instagram Shadowban Tester Examines Your Last 10 Posts

This Photographer Got Run Over by a 2.5-Ton Truck and Bounced Back

This Photographer Got Run Over by a 2.5-Ton Truck and Bounced Back

Kaleb White is an outdoor photographer who has had to overcome a difficult challenge that most people will never face. Two years ago, while shooting in New Zealand, White was run over and crushed by a 2.5-ton truck.

White had been spending a week in the great outdoors, shooting photos of wild stag and hunters pursuing them. One of his big goals that trip was to capture a photo of a stag roaring.

After getting dropped off by a guide to photograph one stag, White got low to the ground and attempted to approach it stealthily with his camouflage outfit.

Kaleb White (left) and the camo outfit he was wearing that day (right).

He managed to capture several photos of the stag, including this one before it ran away:

The guide then drove back to the spot to pick White up, but White’s camouflage worked a little too well — the guide didn’t see the photographer and ended up running right over him. Here’s his account of what happened next, as shared in an article for Modern Huntsman:

I should’ve bled out ten different ways within minutes. I remember the smallest details; the weight of the tire running over my legs, stomach, chest, and over my shoulder, inches from crushing my head, balling my body up like a ragdoll, and stopping on top of my body.

Instincts kicked in, and I attempted to yell for help, but my left lung was lacerated and collapsed and had started to fill with blood. The weight of the truck expelled the remaining air out of my lungs, and I kicked and punched the tires until I passed out from suffocation.

Just before I lost consciousness, I remember seeing the faces of my wife and our two boys…then nothing. I didn’t feel pain, didn’t know where I was, and didn’t know if I was alive or dead. Just blackness. I became calm, content, happy. Eventually I woke, gasping for air.

Photographer Kaleb White with his wife and two sons.

White was airlifted to the emergency room, where doctors found 10 broken ribs, 2 lacerated lungs, a fractured collarbone, and a herniated diaphragm. Thankfully, he escaped with his life.

The road to recovery was difficult, but eventually Kaleb’s body had healed up enough for him to resume his passion for photography. Not only that, but White even returned to the same location in New Zealand to capture that elusive photo of a roaring stag.

“”I knew I still wanted to capture the image I was after,” Kaleb tells 1011 NOW. “I was still in pain… I was still on opioids trying to get through all of this.”

He did manage to capture beautiful photos of stags roaring, and this year he entered several of his images in the prestigious 2018 Sony World Photography Awards, where he has so far made it to the Professional Shortlist.

The series, titled “The Roar,” was chosen for the short list as 1 of 10 selections in the Wildlife category from over 320,000 photos entered from around the world. The winners of this year’s contest will be announced in April 2018.

You can find more of White’s work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Image credits: Photographs © Kaleb White and used with permission

Source: PetaPixel

This Photographer Got Run Over by a 2.5-Ton Truck and Bounced Back