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Laowa 100mm f2.8 CA-Dreamer Macro 2x Review

Venus Optics has successfully shaken up the market in recent years after the launch of many unique optics and “World’s First” kind of lenses. Under the brand name “LAOWA“, a great deal of their focus was on the niche market of macro photograhy, introducing wide-angle macro lenses, the crazy-looking macro probe lens, extreme macro lenses and a line-up of lenses that offer higher magnification (2:1) while retaining infinity focus.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when I received a review unit of their new 100mm f2.8 CA-Dreamer Macro 2x lens that was made available in June 2019.

First Look

Upon unboxing the product, I was delighted at the gorgeous full-metal construction of the lens. Made completely out of glass and metal, the lens only weighs 638g. Compare this to the widely popular Canon EF 100mm f2.8 L that weighs in at 625g, while giving twice the amount of magnification at 2:1. Its overall size and length is also similar to other 100mm lenses in the market.

cr: nikonrumours

The internal movement of the internal lens elements are pretty large from infiinity to 2:1. However, all the moving elements are kept within the lens housing and there is no external visible movement that can be seen during use. Focus travel is short as well, it does not require you to turn the focus/magnification ring multiple rounds before reaching both ends of the magnification spectrum. The lens also comes with a standard 67mm UV filter to protect the front element and to prevent dust from entering.

The front element moves to the edge of the lens barrel at 2:1 and retracts about 3 inches into the lens barrel at inifinity as shown above.

A lens hood is also given but I would think it is more useful for outdoor portraiture rather than outdoor macro work as it affects your focusing distance and cuts out too much light. You may purchase a separate tripod collar for $30 USD but it may be uneccessary for most experienced macro photographers due to its light weight and size.

This lens can be used on both full-frame and cropped sensor cameras. For this review, I used both the Canon EOS 80D as well as the Canon EOS RP (coupled with the Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS).

Technical Specifications

cr: https://www.venuslens.net/product/laowa-100mm-f-2-8-2x-macro-apo/#tab-description

The lens is available in the Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony FE and Pentax K mounts and all come with slight variations. According to Laowa, the Canon version has a 9-bladed iris, Nikon/Pentax has a 7-blade aperture diaphragm and the Sony version has a 13-blade aperture diagphram. This ultimately affects the bokeh rendering which I am unable to test across systems. Physically, the Canon model does not have a manual aperture ring whereas the others do.

The Canon model is the only one that is equipped with a CPU chip and aperture motor which allows the user to control aperture values and exposure through the camera body itself as well as record EXIF data in the photos. This auto-aperture feature is the first of its kind in Laowa lenses. The aperture only closes during shutter-release which allows you to compose your image without the viewfinder getting dark when using smaller apertures.

Should you use a different system and want to get the Canon model, you have to use an electronic adaptor with the appropriate contacts to be able to change your aperture settings.

Image Quality & User Experience

A 100mm focal length is perfect for macro photography as it allows you to get closer to your subject without bothering it. It also grants you a fantastic minimum working distance. For this lens in particular, even at 2x magnification the distance to your subject from the front element (not sensor) is 7.5cm.

The 12 elements in 10 groups optics design delivers crystal sharp images at both ends of the magnification spectrum. You get great subject isolation and smooth bokeh too.

<Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda venatoria)
EOS 80D
1/200th, f/9, ISO 100 (single shot @ < 1:1)

Depth-of-Field

The ability to get to 2x magnification makes it a breeze to photograph smaller arthropods. In the case of Depth-of-Field (DOF), we all know that when magnification increases, the DOF decreases. However, the DOF does not suffer much at the maximum magnification. Technique (such as aligning focus planes, stacking etc) however, play an important role in how much DOF you get.

<Forest Ant (Polyrhachis armata)>
EOS 80D
1/200th, f/9, ISO 100 (single shot @ 1:1 and cropped)
<Green Crab Spider (Thomisidae)>
EOS 80D
1/200th, f/9, ISO 100 (4-image stack @ 2:1 and cropped)

The lens is so sharp and it delivers amazing image quality. If conditions do not allow 2x magnifcation, you can photograph at 1:1 and crop in without sacrificing too much image quality while retaining a larger DOF as compared to a single shot at 2x. If the photograph is taken well, you won’t have issues making large prints even if you crop.

Here are some sample images shot at full 2x magnification, uncropped. Note the DOF and detail.

The lens does not have image stabilization and autofocus. However, in the hands of the experienced, this is not an issue. Furthermore, modern camera bodies are equipped with In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS) which may help you in some tricky situations. I’ve seen reviews online that mention a tripod/monopod is a must. I’m here to debunk that. All the images you see here are shot handheld (even the stacks) and are shot at 1/200th or less. In fact, I find carrying a tripod out in the field a hassle unless I’m looking at capturing more abstract work (UV) or going for extreme macro images. Good technique and skill is all you need.

<Lacewing Larva>
EOS 80D
1/200th, f/9, ISO 100 (6-image stack @ 1.5:1 and cropped)

Macro photographers mostly manual focus especially when dealing with higher magnification and low contrast/light situations as it is both accurate and fast, so no autofocus? Not much of an issue. However, for those who want a macro lens that can double up as a portrait lens, it may not be that enticing without autofocus.

<Eight-Spotted Crab Spider (Platythomisus octomaculatus)>
EOS RP + Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS
15s, f/10, ISO 100 (single shot)
<Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda sp.)
EOS 80D
1/200th, f/9, ISO 100 (single shot @ 2:1 and cropped)
<Ant-mimicking Jumping Spider (Synemosyna(?))>
EOS 80D
1/200th, f/10, ISO 100 (single shot)

Ant-mimic jumping spiders are known to be tough subjects to photograph due to their constant, erratic movement. This individual measured only about 5mm. I shot this close to 2x and cropped in further.

Colours

This lens also features an Apochromatic (APO) characteristic that generally, only premium macro lenses have. It renders chromatic aberration (CA) non-existent. Laowa prides itself in the performance of this lens as it suppresses CA in the entire image and not just areas in focus. Thus, this makes it easy for photographers who want to get better backgrounds for subject isloation/contrast and not worry about any color fringing.

<Planthopper nymph (Fulgoromorpha)>
EOS 80D
1/200th, f/9, ISO 100 (single shot)

Although white balance and light play a vital role in colours of the image, I would say that the colours captured without much post processing, is very accurate.

<Jumping Spider (Cosmophasis)>
EOS RP
1/125th, f/9, ISO 100 (single shot)

Summary

To sum up my opinions on this lens, here is the list of its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros:

  • Overall construction and build quality
  • First inclusion of electronics for automatic aperture control (Canon)
  • In-built 2:1 magnification
  • APO charateristic grants good contrast and CA control
  • Accurate colours
  • Simple handability
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Presence of greese within the lens barrel that facilitates the internal movement of the front element.
  • No weather sealing

In my time spent with it, there really is not much to dislike as the lens truly delivers when it comes to performing in the field and getting great images. That said, I would definitely prefer to pair this with a mirrorless system due to it being a full manual lens, focus peaking will immensely increase your hit rate and help in low light situations.

This review is solely based on macrophotography which is why I did not touch much on bokeh which potrait photographers may be more interested in.

The biggest drawback for me would be the greese in the lens barrel. My only advice is to leave the UV filter that it comes with on permanently. You do not want any dust or fine particles to come into contact with the greese for obvious reasons. Laowa should definitely find a better way keep internal movement smooth instead of using greese.

At its price point, the value you get far supercedes its imperfections. It would be an exciting lens to add to your arsenal. Do feel free to contact me should you have any queries and do share this article if you enjoyed reading it!

If my review has enticed you to get one of these lenses, do refer to this link to further support me in generating more content like this!

https://www.venuslens.net/product/laowa-100mm-f-2-8-2x-macro-apo/ref/429/

For more sample images, do visit my instagram portfolio.

Mirrorless macro with the Canon EOS RP

Exciting times are ahead of us with Canon entering the mirrorless market with a bang. After the successful launch of the EOS R, Canon had followed up with the release of an ‘entry-level’ full-frame mirrorless camera, the EOS RP.

In Canon’s current full-frame lineup, the EOS RP is comparable to the EOS 6D mark ii (announced 2017) using a very similar sensor and packed with new technology and upgrades. After having reviewed the EOS R for wildlife photography, I decided to change things up and use the EOS RP for macro photography, highlighting some new features and discussions on using this mirrorless system for macro work.

I had the opportunity to test out Canon’s older mirrorless systems (EOS M5, M50, etc) specifically for macro work, but it steered me away from the mirrorless systems for the many reasons I mentioned in an older article I wrote regarding equipment for macro photography. This review serves as a follow up to that article.

Many macro photographers have been using mirrorless systems for years but I was never convinced and stuck to DSLRs. That being said, the new R mirrorless system is truly a game changer in my opinion, here are some of my insights regarding:

  • Exterior & Ergonomics
  • User experience (Image quality & performance)
  • New possibilities with focus stacking (extreme macro & focus-bracketing feature)
  • Making the switch to mirrorless

Do note that this review is based on field work/shooting and not studio shooting. Most images were created using the Canon EOS RP, Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM unless otherwise stated.

Disclaimer: Locations would not be disclosed to protect the arthropods from poaching.


Exterior and Ergonomics

The first thing to strike you when you see this camera would be the sheer size and built. This body is made of magnesium alloy, has weather sealing and weighs ~485g. It comes in the standard mirrorless body size everyone is so used to (unlike the EOS R). However, Canon decided not to retain the touch bar and mode screen you see on the EOS R but rather kept to the traditional design of their camera bodies.

Compared to DSLRs, it definitely has an advantage in terms of size and weight. Often, macro photographers are required to shoot with one hand and mirrorless systems are less taxing on the wrists. This affects stamina in the field and you’ll see lesser motion blur even when you gradually tire out. If you have larger hands and need more surface grip, you may purchase the Canon EG-E1 extension grip for EOS RP. The grip only serves as an extension to the body and it’s not your typical battery grip.

The body uses the LP-E17 battery (same as the M5, M50) and located next to the battery is the single SD card slot. Buttons are in their standard positions and you should have no problems adapting to the body especially if you are a Canon user.

The articulating screen makes it easy to photograph subjects in unusual positions without disturbing them, particularly useful if you need to get down real low. In the full frame lineup, only the EOS R, EOS RP and 6D mark ii bodies have this articulating screen.

Tiger Beetle (Cicindela aurulenta) @ 1/160th, f/11, ISO100 (single shot)

Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda sp.) @ 1/160th, f/13, ISO 100 (single shot)


User Experience

Being equipped with a similar sensor as the 6D mark ii, image quality from the CR3 files are exceptional. Having the 26.2MP Dual Pixel CMOS sensor would grant you enough pixel density for extended cropping power.

Stick Insect @1/125th, f/10, ISO 100 (single shot)

As you can see, every detail is retained even at tight crops, definitely a delight for macro photographers.

Spiny harvestman (Podoctidae) @1/125th, f/10, ISO 100 (single shot)

Additional cropping power is fantastic to have for any kind of macro/wildlife photography. Firstly, it gives you loads of compositional freedom if you did not nail the image to start with. Secondly, there are many occasions when the subject is so tiny that even 1:1 magnification does not suffice, the additional cropping power can still render your image usable. Other mirrorless/micro four-thirds systems that I have come across have terrible cropping ability.

Yes, you should always aim to compose and get your framed shot right out of the camera to reduce the need to crop and retain that resolution, but in the field, circumstances change and only with practice can you increase your hit rate. Cropping is inevitable in a lot of scenarios, just use it to your own discretion and purpose (printing, web use etc). The Weevil below stood at no more than 5mm.

Giraffe Weevil Beetle @1/125th, f/10, ISO 100 (single shot)

Colours were accurate once you make minor adjustments to your white balance settings. Auto white balance would not work well due to different flashes emitting different colour temperatures. Once set, the tonal quality you get is amazing, take note of the colours in all the images.

Dead Leaf Mantis (Deroplatys dessicata) @ 1/125th, f/10, ISO 100 (single shot)

Shooting with a mirrorless system for macro work proves to have numerous benefits you won’t find in DSLRs. For one, using an EVF (electronic viewfinder) provides a live preview of how the image would be rendered before taking the shot, useful when you need to switch up camera or flash settings.

A large advantage of the EVF would be focus peaking, a function that only a handful of DSLRs have when shooting in live view. Compared to other mirrorless cameras I’ve used, the lag in the EVF when shooting in low light is present but very subtle. It did not affect my shooting at all.

Bird Dung Spider (Pasilobus sp) @ 1/125th, f/14, ISO 100 (single shot)

Focus peaking is extremely useful in macro especially when we use manual focus most of the time. You can easily set the colour and level of peaking in the EOS RP menu and you are good to go. Nailing focus on tiny subjects and getting those compound eyes have never been easier!

Twig Spider (Ariamnes sp.) @ 1/160th, f/14, ISO 100 (single shot)

However, having also used the EOS R for macro, I find that the peaking in the EOS RP is not as pronounced compared to the EOS R even at the high setting. The EOS R comes with a focus guide, another feature used along with focus peaking for even more accurate focus. I was hoping the EOS RP would come with it but it did not.

Wrap-around Spider @ 1/160th, f/10, ISO 100 (single shot)

What about battery life? Mirrorless systems have a bad reputation when it comes to this. I requested for more batteries from Canon to aid in doing this review and even on 3-4 hour shoots, I did not need to change a single battery. Surprisingly, I was getting more battery life than I ever could on the M5/M50 even though they use the same battery.

Ixorida (Mecinonota) pseudoregia @ 1/125th, f/10, ISO 100 (single shot)

Similar to the EOS R, the CR3 raw files produced by the EOS RP can be easily used with Adobe software once you convert them to DNG if the adobe raw update does not work. Alternatively, Canon’s Digital Photo Professional Express (DPP Express) software can handle the new raw format. A DPP Express app is also available on the App store for iPads.


New Possibilities with focus stacking

In my opinion, probably the largest benefit of the EVF and the mirrorless system for Canon users is the use of extreme macro lenses such as the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1–5x Macro, my review can be read here. This lens is notoriously difficult to use in the field and is much preferred for studio work and experienced macro photographers.

Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1–5x Macro at 1x magnification (left) & extended at 5x magnification (right)

Being fully manual, this extreme macro lens needs a lot of ambient light for you to even see and locate your subject, which is why a simple focus light will not be enough when shooting in the field at any magnification larger than 1. The EVF and focus peaking helps a lot with using this lens out in the field, making it easier to do handheld focus-stacking due to the shallow depth of field the lens produces. The image below is shot with the MP-E 65mm lens.

Jumping Spider (Hyllus keratodes) @ 1/100th, f10, ISO 100 (4 image handheld stack at 4x magnification)

When I first heard about the new focus-bracketing feature of the EOS RP, I was extremely excited to test it out. The end result is the same as traditional focus stacking, to obtain a larger depth of field.

You will find four settings in the menu to control this feature.

  1. Activate Focus Bracketing (Enable/Disable)
  2. Input number of shots (2 to 999)
  3. Focus increment (1-10)
  4. Exposure smoothing (Enable/Disable)

Activation is pretty much self-explanatory. Next, you simply input how many shots you want the camera to take. It will only shoot an appropriate number of photographs until infinity focus is reached, you can choose 100 shots but the camera may stop at just 30. Focus increment depends on how narrow or wide you want the focus change to be, 1 being narrower (smaller) changes, or 10 being wider (broader) changes. Lastly, although exposure smoothing is disabled by default, I would suggest to keep it on for macro work. It helps to keep exposure consistent throughout the different focusing distances in case of any light change.

Do note that focus-bracketing would only work on lenses capable of autofocus, Canon has compiled a list of compatible lenses for this feature and the MP-E65 is not one of them.

Jumping Spider (Hyllus keratodes) @ 1/100th, f/2.8, ISO 800 (25 image handheld stack)

What I noticed when using this feature is that you definitely need a tripod to keep perfectly still, as you can see above, the hairs are not aligned perfectly. The camera is adjusting the autofocus of your lens between each shot and any small vibration you make can affect the final image when you stack. Your flash will not go off as well as it can’t keep up with the fast shutter and number of shots. Thus bumping up your ISO or using a larger aperture is inevitable.

In summary here are my thoughts on it:

  • As with all stacking, your subject has to be static, a few seconds is all you need for traditional stacking. For this focus bracketing you will need to set up your tripod and get the right framing before hitting that shutter.
  • The feature will not work well out in the field at night, unless you have elaborate light set ups to keep ISO levels down. It will work much better in the day, although finding static subject may be challenging.
  • Without a flash, aperture has to be large. the shallow depth of field would require even more shots if that is what you desire. Harsh light coming from your focus light may introduce highlights in your final image.

Making the switch to mirrorless

A major concern for most DSLR users are the compatibility of the current native DSLR lenses with the mirrorless system in terms of performance and reinvesting in getting those mirrorless lenses. The ability to seamlessly blend Canon’s new R mirrorless system with the current EF lenses in the market without a drop in performance is simply mind-blowing. In addition to the already massive lineup of EF lenses, Canon is releasing a lot more native RF lenses to go alongside the R system.

The only native RF macro lens currently available is the RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM which only goes to 1:2 magnification (1/2 life size). It can be used as wide-angle prime lens delivering fantastic sharp images and close ups. However, for macro work, I do not see myself using it due to the lack of at least 1:1 magnification.

In the present macro landscape, I strongly believe getting the EOS RP is really bang for the buck. At that low price point, it is the simplest way a beginner or anyone in fact, can jump into full frame easily. I focused this review on a very niche genre of photography. There is so much new technology packed in this little body that I did not cover, but just imagine the results you can get with all the other lenses you can use with the EOS RP!

Benefits compared to other mirrorless systems:

  1. The ONLY full frame mirrorless body in the market that costs ~$2k SGD
  2. Ability to use ALL EF, EF-S lenses seamlessly
  3. Huge support of professional RF lenses
  4. Packed with new technology and features
  5. Lesser EVF lag in low light
  6. Fantastic battery life

The EOS RP however, is not for the serious videographer and I would not use it for wildlife/sports photography. Any other genre would be a sure win for me.

My experience the EOS RP has been remarkable and exciting. I used it in several of my shoots over the past month and I’m glad to have used it to photograph and discover rare and exotic arthropods I’ve not encountered before! Here are shots of an extremely rare Crab Spider you can find locally.

Bird Dung Crab Spider (Phrynarachne ceylonica) @ 1/160th, f/14, ISO100 (4 shots handheld stack)

So what do you think? Would you invest in the EOS RP?

Do share this article if you like what you see! More to come!

For more content, follow me at www.instagram.com/thru_de_lenz

Wildlife photography with the Canon EOS R

Is the EOS R suitable for wildlife photography?

Here is my experience using the EOS R. I will not discuss too much technical specs and all the features of the camera. My aim is to discuss the capabilities and suitability of the EOS R for wildlife photography while providing some insights on how you can set up your EOS R to shoot wildlife.


In my time spent with the EOS R, I focused only on certain aspects that will affect you as a wildlife photographer. This review covers my testing and thoughts on:

  • Exterior & Ergonomics
  • Image quality & Performance
  • User experience + customisation
  • Using extenders
  • AF system (acquisition, tracking & capturing action)

To set things straight, I don’t fancy using mirrorless systems simply due to the nature of the photography I do, especially wildlife. Which is why it was challenging adapting from being used to shooting with an EOS 1Dxii / EOS 7Dii to the EOS R. Having used mirrorless bodies (M5, M50 etc) from Canon before, none of them gave me the confidence in getting my shots. Here’s why :

1) Shooting with an adaptor (EF-M to EF) slows down autofocusing, rendering quick AF acquisition and tracking an utter pain. Not even mentioning the loss of image quality.

2) The ergonomics of the set-up is poor for handheld shooting. Mounting a large lens on a tiny body throws everything off balance. Imagine all the weight resting on your left hand and being almost weightless on your right.

3) EVF slows everything down. Nothing is faster than seeing your scene as it is, in real-time with 0 lag.

4) Slow frame-rates and inferior auto focusing systems.

5) Battery life. One battery is never enough.

So did the EOS R change my opinions on these issues? Read on!


Exterior & Ergonomics

When I first received the EOS R, I was pleasantly surprised about its size. Definitely no where near the size of your usual mirrorless body but just slightly smaller than a DSLR.

The weather-sealed magnesium alloy body is built like a tank. At first glance, you would have noticed the new Multi-Fn touch bar and the new LCD screen. As expected, the functions of these buttons, dials and bar can be customised according to your workflow. I personally did not find the need to use the touch bar at all. The new LCD screen is pretty cool. Even when the camera is switched off, it will still show the last mode the camera was in.

The EOS R only uses a single SD card slot. Heave a sigh of relief, it’s not one of them XQD cards slots.

Best part yet? It uses the same LP-E6 batteries as the semi-pro / pro Canon bodies.

Using the Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R, I mounted an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens and headed out to get some shots. The camera felt just like a downsized DSLR and had great balance for handheld shooting.

Minimal edits were made to each photograph.


Image quality & performance

Copper-throated Sunbird (female) @ 1/400th, f/5.6, ISO2000 (Sungei Buloh)

Copper-throated Sunbird (male) @ 1/250th, f/5.6, ISO1250 (Sungei Buloh)

This couple was nesting in the mangroves of Sungei Buloh, lighting was terrible and these sunbirds as you would expect, have very erratic movement, not staying in one place for long. The EOS R handled low light situations really well and images shot at higher ISO are completely usable, preserving all that detail. More examples below, shot approximately 30min before sunset.

White-breasted Waterhen @ 1/640th , f/5.6, ISO 1250 (Pasir Ris Park)

Yellow Bittern @ 1/640th, f/5.6, ISO 2500 (Pasir Ris Park)

The image quality is truly fantastic. The 30.3 megapixel sensor is the same one found in the highly popular EOS 5D mk iv and the results speak for itself. The camera’s dynamic range is awesome. Although you should always aim to get your exposure right the first time, it always helps to bring out detail when your subject is mostly black/white, or when shooting in harsh lighting.


User Experience & Customisation

Oriental Magpie Robin @ 1/160th, f5.6, ISO 2000 (Pasir Ris Park)

The EOS R lacked a joystick, something I rely on a whole lot with moving my AF point(s). You most definitely would not want to keep tapping on the 4-way control, you would’ve missed the shot by then. A workaround is to use the responsive vari-angle LCD touch screen 3.15″ (8.01cm) to move your points.

Shooting handheld, I would not be using the camera in live mode (live preview) but rather through the electronic view finder (EVF).

Under the AF menu, head to Touch & drag AF settings and use these settings.

1) Touch & drag AF – ‘Enable’

2) Positioning method – ‘Relative’

3) Active touch area – ‘Btm right’

While looking through the EVF, I could simply use my thumb to move points around swiftly and get the compositions I want. Especially since I shoot with single point AF 95% of the time, the touch & drag makes it much faster than using a joystick.

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo @ 1/50th, f/5.6, ISO 200 (Lor Halus)

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo @ 1/160th, f/5.6, ISO 800 (Lor Halus)

With 5,655 manually selectable AF points covering almost the entire screen, it gives you further compositional freedom.


Usage with the 1.4x iii Extender

Shooting at 400mm on a full-frame body can only give you that much reach, more often than not, it is not enough. The AF system in the EOS R is Canon’s most advanced system yet, allowing full autofocus control, even at f/11 (100-400mm mkii + 2x iii extender). I didn’t have a 2x extender so I slapped on the 1.4x extender (560mm @ f/8) and gave it a shot. To keep it short, I was blown away by the results.

Changeable Lizard @ 1/100th, f/8, ISO 500 (Lor Halus)

I have no idea what happened to this lizard but it was dried up and stuck on a tree. Look at those details!

Red-breasted Parakeet @ 1/250th, f/8, ISO 800 (Lor Halus)

Yellow-vented Bulbul @ 1/250th, f/8, ISO 100 (Lor Halus)

Little Grebe @ 1/800th, f/8, ISO 2000 (Lor Halus)

Images were not soft and the details you get even after cropping is insane. This is truly a game changer. Note that all the shots were handheld.


AF System

I got used to operating the EOS R and decided to take it a step further, making the attempt to photograph the endangered Grey-headed Fish Eagle (GHFE) hunting at Ulu Pandan. To fully commit to doing this review, I left my usual set up at home with the risk of missing all the shots.

The DSLR bodies I use, the EOS 1Dxii or the EOS 7Dii, are fast bodies with superior auto-focusing systems. Similarly, the EOS R gives you precision control over tweaking Tracking Sensitivity, Accel./Decel. Tracking and AF pt auto switching.

As you can see in the photos above, the EOS R performs well with fast subject acquisition (Canon claims focus speeds as short as approximately 0.05 seconds) and the ability to focus in low light (EV-6) / low contrast situations (getting the eyes sharp despite the black feathers).

But how does it deal with birds in flight? Are action shots possible?

Purple Heron @ 1/320th, f/5.6, ISO 125 (Ulu Pandan)

The lighting conditions were terrible that day. Harsh light casted shadows and blown out the highlights. This Purple Heron came by the canal for breakfast and was definitely not disappointed by the abundance of fish. As expected, a family of Smooth-coated Otters showed up and enjoyed their Catfish meals too.

Brahminy Kite @ 1/1600th, f/8, ISO 1600 (Ulu Pandan)

Brahminy Kite @ 1/1000th, f/8, ISO 1600 (Ulu Pandan)

Soon after, two Brahminy Kites started circling and made several attempts to snatch the fish from the Otters. Despite the harsh light, the EOS R handled it pretty well and I could still save some feather details on the raptor.

I was shooting with a single-point AF / expand AF area and AI servo (continuous focusing). A huge downside is that the EOS R can only shoot at 5 fps in AI servo. Without those extra frames, it’s likely to miss out on interesting shots that could have been captured. Furthermore, you will lose a second or two when you visually acquire the subject through the EVF (since it takes time to switch from live view to the EVF preview) and this can’t be helped, an optical viewfinder will obviously not have this problem. Many people have also mentioned a “lag” in the EVF during bursts, but that is due to the image preview that shows up on the EVF after each shot. Turn off image preview in the menu and it would be less frustrating.

Grey-headed Fish Eagle @ 1/160th, f/5.6, ISO 250 (Ulu Pandan)

After 2-3 hours, the Sun rose high as ever, but eventually, the star of Ulu Pandan appeared. The GHFE is near-threatened but they seem to be doing well in Singapore! This particular individual had captured the hearts of residents and photographers by hunting for catfish everyday in the canal.

In wildlife photography, it is of utmost importance that you are familiar with your camera and being quick to adapt to the situation. For example, I always shoot in manual mode (M) but I register presets on C1,C2,C3 for a quick switch of settings, for static subjects, or birds in flight. Being able to anticipate the subject’s behaviour and change crucial settings fast when you need to will get you optimal results.

The absence of the mode dial on the EOS R made it tough to switch over to my custom modes and changing modes was a two step process.

Grey-headed Fish Eagle @ 1/2000, f/5.6, ISO 500 (Ulu Pandan)

You can see the dive sequence I managed up above, note that there were many other frames that you don’t see here. Although I was shooting at only 5fps, I was pleasantly surprised at how the AF system acquired and tracked the eagle in every single frame.

After the successful dive, it flew to the barrier but clumsily dropped the fish. That only meant more opportunities for action shots.

Grey-headed Fish Eagle @ 1/1000, f/6.3, ISO 200 (Ulu Pandan)

Well, I would consider that shoot a success!

Be reminded that all these were shot with the EF-EOS R adaptor, at 400mm and cropped. The image quality coming from the new CR3 raw files were simply amazing. If your adobe software isn’t reading the new format, download the raw update from Adobe’s website, or simply convert them to DNG.


The following are other shots I made with the EOS R, Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens combo.

Little Egret @ 1/800th, f/5.6, ISO 200 (Sungei Buloh)

Little Egret @ 1/1250th, f/5.6, ISO 320 (Sungei Buloh)

Smooth-coated Otter & Estuarine Crocodile @ 1/1250th, f/5.6, ISO 400 (Sungei Buloh)

Golden Orb Weaver @ 1/400th, f/5.6, ISO 500 (Pasir Ris Park)

I had a really positive shooting experience with the EOS R. I absolutely had my doubts on using a mirrorless system to shoot wildlife, especially with Canon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera. It still isn’t the perfect camera for wildlife photography but it truly surpassed my expectations. A higher fps capability would certainly entice me more to switch over. Critics talk about the EOS R lacking in-body image stabilisation (IBIS), I believe with great technique, you can overcome this easily.

This camera is definitely not a toy. In Canon’s lineup, it is on par with the 5D mkiv and at a similar price point. The EOS R has many other capabilities I did not cover here that is meant to improve workflow and give users the best of new technology. I was also sent the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens. The inclusion of the control ring in front of the new RF lenses (also customisable) is another awesome innovation by Canon.

However, looking at the 2019 lineup, Canon photographers can look forward to more professional-grade R lenses to be coupled with the EOS R or the EOS RP.

Even if Canon does not release any super telephoto R lenses, just use the adaptor for your EF lenses. It gets the job done!

Do share this article if you like what you see! More to come!

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Settings and controlling Depth of Field (Macro)

This article serves as a guide to those who are venturing into Macrophotography.

Images are all taken with the Canon EOS 80D & Canon EF 100mm f2.8L IS USM.

1/200th, f/10, ISO 100

To get your settings right, it is imperative that you understand basic exposure, and how aperture, ISO and shutter speed work together with your camera’s metering modes to achieve a properly exposed shot. With all kinds of photography, your settings will change based on the conditions you are faced with, whether shooting in the day or night, photographing a skittish subject, a tiny or large subject and the list goes on~ However, the nature of macro photography does not need you to be blazing fast with assessing situations and switching settings on the spot as you would with wildlife photography (birding) for that matter.

As you read further, once again I reiterate that most of my shoots happen at night, where there is minimal or no ambient light at all. Shooting with sufficient ambient light would definitely make it much easier, just master shooting at night and you will have no issues in the day.

Here is your basic exposure triangle (photo cr. https://photographylife.com/what-is-exposure-triangle)

As you can see, I added the red circles for reference.

To make things simple, I always shoot at ISO 100. With the aid of artificial lighting from your flash units, this is not a problem obviously. ISO 100 will get you the cleanest shots and it is a setting that I use 90% of the time.

Sometimes, you may need to bump up a few stops (I usually cap at 400) when you are faced with larger subjects that you can’t go 1:1 or more, subjects like this Deroplatys desiccata below. With larger or distant subjects, depending on how your diffuser directs light, you may need more ambient light to light up your subject, increasing your ISO may help this slightly. Full frame cameras perform better in this situation. You may utilise brighter torches (preferably those without hotspots) to light up your subject as well. All in all, just keep it at ISO 100 unless you really need to.

Dead-Leaf Mantis (Deroplatys desiccata) @ 1/160th, f/11, ISO100

Next shutter speed. As a general rule of thumb for all kinds of hand held photography, if you are shooting at 100mm focal length, use 1/100th of a second to eliminate motion blur. But as mentioned in my previous article, “Introduction to Macrophotography“, you will be shooting at high magnifications in macro which means magnified vibrations. To curb this, bump up your shutter speed a stop or two. As you get better with your technical skills in the field, you can bring down your shutter speed. Needless to say, if you are faced with a skittish subject or one that moves about a lot, bump it up. Something people may oversee is that your exposure settings directly affect your flash power, whether manual or ETTL. By reducing your shutter speed, you allow your flash to give out lesser output and in turn allows your flash to recycle much faster, essential if you intend to do handheld stacking.

Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda davidbowie) @ 1/100th, f/11, ISO100

Lastly, your aperture settings. This is an important one as it determines how much Depth of Field (DOF) you are getting, I will discuss this below. The sweet spot of most lenses are at the f/8 region and you can get a decent DOF at f/8 but I would recommend anywhere between f/8 to f/16. As a rule, do not go above f//16. Simply put, any value larger than f/16 introduces diffraction and loss of detail when you zoom in. You can get away with those shots for your Instagram or what not, but not for large prints.

If you want to understand the physics behind diffraction, check out this link: https://photographylife.com/what-is-diffraction-in-photography

However, if you are using adaptors/diopters like the Raynox DCR150/250, or any specialised macro lenses that enable you to go further than 1:1, you may want to bump this up a little simply because of the shallow DOF but diffraction will still occur. Remember, we are shooting in the field, not the studio. If you want to shoot at extreme magnifications, you need to focus stack to get a decent DOF.

Okay, so what’s this whole DOF thing?

DOF is basically the focused region of your photo. Having certain areas of your photo in focus and the rest blurred out can help draw the attention of your audience to the subject matter, just like in portraiture, isolating the subject from the background and creating beautiful bokeh. On the contrary, you need a large DOF in macro to get more regions in focused. Here are some rules that govern the control of DOF:

1) Aperture

Larger aperture (smaller f-stop value) = Shallower DOF

2) Magnification

Higher the magnification = Shallower DOF

3) Focal Length

Longer focal length = Shallower DOF

4) Subject Distance (SD)

Closer SD = Shallower DOF

As you can see, many factors affect DOF. You can also achieve a larger DOF if you align your subject on the same focus plane. A slight difference in shooting angle can affect how much your photo gets in focused.

Trilobite Beetle @ 1/125th, f/10, ISO 100

Huntsman Spider (Gnathopalystes sp.) @ 1/160th, f/11, ISO 100

If you simply are not getting enough DOF for your liking, or that your set up (usage of higher mag/adaptors) requires f/16 and above, you may need to do focus stacking (another article on that soon).

White-banded House Jumping Spider (Hypoblemum albovittatum) @ 1/200th, f/10, ISO 100 Handheld Stack

To achieve accurate colours, Auto White Balance may not always work as different flash units emit different colour temperatures. By shooting RAW, you can easily adjust this in post. When out in the field, you can take a photo of your finger and see if your camera is capturing the correct skin tone, and adjusting your white balance (K) as needed.

Spot metering will work best, especially in low light. Evaluative metering will not make sense if there is nothing behind your subject, rendering the background black as your flash is unable to light up background

Twig Spider (Ariamnes sp.) @ 1/125th, f/14, ISO 100

I will not go through all the benefits of shooting RAW, there are tons of articles out there. Simply put, shoot RAW and you will have a better platform to adjust exposure and colour correction.

Look out for the next article on “Techniques in Macrophotography” where I will teach you how to focus and overcome the absence of ambient light with proper techniques as well as light manipulation.

Contact me if you have questions or clarifications!

Do share this article if you like what you see! More to come!

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#macrophotography #singapore #biodiversity #wildlife #discovery #insects #arthropods #photography #tutorials

“Tarantula Fishing” at Bukit Fraser, Malaysia

During our 3 day trip to Fraser Hill, there was no doubt that we were going to head out to explore and discover the creatures of the night. Our goal was to look for the 3 species of Tarantulas that Fraser Hill is known for, mainly from the Coremiocnemis Genus. They are Coremiocnemis hoggi, Coremiocnemis cunicularia and Coremiocnemis obscura (ranked in order of rarity). To sum it all up, we had a pretty productive trip, scroll down for more photos and a video!

Being a nocturnal species, Tarantulas are more active at night, look carefully and you just might spot some long hairy legs sticking out of a hole. In the day, these burrows would just appear to be plain, empty holes in the ground. Take a look at some of my shots of these arachnids in their natural environment~

Some of these photographs are light 2 image stacks.

Disclaimer: Locations for macro shoots would not be disclosed to protect the arthropods from poaching.

Look at how the colours blend in with the environment!

<Coremiocnemis hoggi>

Tarantulas whether they are arboreal or terrestrial species are ambush predators, waiting in their burrows for crickets, roaches or even small mammals like mice to come along. These spiders have poor eyesight but that does not stop them from being formidable hunters, the tiny hairs that cover their body are hyper-sensitive to the surrounding environment, sensing and feeling out any vibrations close by. Once the potential prey comes close enough, Tarantulas strike with insane speed and accuracy (arguable haha), injecting venom from their large fangs.

<Coremiocnemis hoggi>

“Tarantula Fishing” (not an official term) is essentially teasing the arachnid out of its burrow using an object like a stick or blade of grass. When coaxing, think “cricket” and gently brush along the parameter of the burrow and you will see the Tarantula slowly creeping out of its burrow, waiting to strike. Some species are more skittish than others and would not stay out for long once out of its burrow, take a video that you can review later for your own purposes.

<Coremiocnemis hoggi> grabbing the stick we used.

Look at that deep purplish-blue colouration! Coremiocnemis hoggi can be identified by the two hind legs that are “bushier” than the other legs. This was also the first shot I took where the entire spider came out of its burrow. Its sheer size was astonishing.

<Coremiocnemis hoggi>

This is a widely known method used by biologists, scientists, hobbyists and photographers/film makers (just to name a few), for a myriad of purposes like observation, documentation, research etc. Do note that the spiders are not harmed in any way and this is just part of their natural behaviour. Needless to say, continuous attempts to coax the same spider out from its burrow would cause unnecessary stress to it and it would probably just stay in the burrow and ignore you.

One of my favourite shots from the trip!

Entire spider out from its burrow.

Fun fact: This species of Tarantula is named after Stephen Hogg, a.k.a. the Stephen of Stephen’s Place in Fraser. He observed and documented these spiders years before they were officially described.

Another method people use to coax the spider out from its burrow is the “flooding method” where a low pressure stream of water is introduced into the burrow and the spider will naturally exit the burrow. I’ve seen people do this to rehouse their Tarantulas at home and it seems pretty effective (we did not do this).

Sling

There is definitely a healthy population of Tarantulas in the area we found them. Burrows were rather close to one another and we saw many slings (lingo that refers to baby spiders, or early instars). Juveniles are hard to ID as they mostly look similar but this one is probably hoggi.

<Coremiocnemis cunicularia>

Another species known to be found in this area is Coremiocnemis cunicularia and it has a pretty similar colouration to hoggi but does not have the bushier hind legs. This particular individual has a really dark, black colouration and its a possible cunicularia.

<Coremiocnemis cunicularia>

This species is rather uncommon as compared to hoggi and we probably only encountered only 2-3 of them. Some Tarantulas stayed in their burrows and some did not come out enough for us to get a positive ID.

Still awaiting a positive ID of this one, but it could possibly be the rare obscura. The temperament of this individual was so different from the rest. It was daring enough to grab onto the stick, refusing to let go and kept its pursuit. Watch the video I compiled below to see what I mean!

Being the largest spiders in the world, they inject fear into the majority of people, but do know that although they inflict a painful bite, their venom is not potent enough to kill and is only comparable to a bee sting. As long as you keep a distance and respect the arachnid, you would not be harmed!

Watch the simple video compilation I did to show you how these shots were taken. Disclaimer: I had no intention to do a video in the first place so you could probably tell its pretty messy~ video is unlisted on Youtube.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqSi71-QZxg

The Tarantulas shared this wonderful habitat with other spiders like the Huntsman Spider you see above. I could not find an ID for this one but it has a gorgeous pair of chelicerae. Black stripes and a dash of blue in front? I’ve never seen that before on a huntsman. Do dm me if you know huntsman this is!

This one had an overall redder coloration but with similar chelicerae. Possible Lunula?

Other interesting ambush predators you can find there are the Funnel Web Spiders, much smaller in size than the Tarantulas with smaller burrows. These guys are way more skittish and don’t stay out at all, at most a second or less.

Lastly, the elusive Malaysian Black Trapdoor Spider (Liphistius malayanus) can be found in that area as well. It is one spider with a really unique round abdomen! This specimen was not extracted from its home, but instead, this was just a really unusual and pretty sad sight to see.

You will rarely find Trapdoor Spiders out of their burrows especially in the day, they cannot survive in hot temperatures and stay in their burrows to keep cool. We chanced upon this huge Trapdoor Spider crawling and tumbling across this sandy slope in the scorching Sun with no burrow in sight when we were birding in the morning (this was shot with a telephoto lens). Naturally we returned to the location at night and found that this individual had been crushed along the roadside, probably a victim of roadkill.

If you want to see how the trapdoor hunts and how its home looks like, check out this video done by bugsnstuff on Youtube.

It will give you a good idea on how interesting this species is 🙂

Do share this article if you like what you see! More to come!

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#macrophotography #singapore #biodiversity #wildlife #discovery #insects #arthropods #photography #malaysia #bukitfraser #fraserhill #hoggi #coremiocnemis #tarantula #spiders

Wildlife Encounters in New Zealand (Part I)

During my 3 week road trip touring both the North & South islands of New Zealand, I chanced upon a large array of wildlife the country had to offer. This was not a pure photography trip and the wildlife photographed were all seen during hikes, along the roadside where convenient to stop and other random places we visited. Definitely a bugger to miss some of the common yet beautiful endemic birds but I was so lucky to even spot species like the Royal Spoonbill on a random wetland I drove past, amongst many others like the rarest penguins in the world. There were of course the really common birds which I did not pay much attention to. I also had a chance to visit the famous Gannet colony where I could observe and document their unique behaviour. This series is split into 3 parts to retain the best resolution and viewing experience.

All wildlife photographs were taken with the Canon EOS 7D mark ii and the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. All rights reserved.


One of the highlights of the trip happened when we visited the Katiki Point Lighthouse (10min drive down south from the Moeraki Boulders). Katiki Point is a protected area due to its breeding population of the endangered and rare Yellow-eyed penguins amongst other birdlife in the area. We arrived 30min before closing and tried our luck, following the coastal path and looking down to the beach.

<New Zealand Fur Seals>

The first animals I spotted were the New Zealand Fur Seals , some carefully camouflaged with the rocks and seaweed on the beach (looking like plump sausages). We saw a great deal of these seals throughout the trip in various locations but the best shots were taken at Katiki. It was almost sunset and the tide forced one of the seals to get up from his slumber and move further into the beach. I was lucky to capture that moment when the seal was thrashing up sand with those flippers!

The photos in the slideshow above were taken at the Nugget Point Lighthouse. Just wanting to show you how well these seals camouflage. Can you spot it?

<Yellow-eyed Penguins>

We were told that the Yellow-eyed penguins should be returning home from sea at any time now but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Thankfully, I managed to spot just one individual at the far end of the beach with my lens. Shots were from high above but i’m definitely pleased with these record shots. Came here with no hopes of seeing any but what an experience that was! Other species that we saw were the nesting Red-billed Gulls, Southern Black-backed Gulls and Variable Oystercatchers (Torea).

<Red-billed Gulls>


The famous trek to Roy’s Peak was a fulfilling one, definitely worth it lugging up that heavy gear.

< California Quail>

One of the birds that kept appearing during the trek was the gorgeous California Quail. Check out those beautiful colours and the unique forward-drooping crest it has! The female is the one in brown~

Besides the wonderful endemic species of birds, many introduced bird species (mostly from Europe) also call this place home.

<Common Redpoll>

After many failed attempts, I managed the following shot of the Common Redpoll. Skittish and sparrow-sized! Pretty happy with this one (cause it’s the only usable shot -.-).

As you would have guessed, Sheep are everywhere in NZ. Like everywhere. The juveniles are cute though.

<European Goldfinch>

A heavily cropped image of a Goldfinch. Took a better shot in Europe before, showing those vivid colours but this was all I managed. Juvenile was shot somewhere in the North Island.

<Silvereye>

I read that Silvereyes are common in NZ but this was the only one I saw the whole trip and it appeared for just that split second! Lovely feather details in this one.

<Common Chaffinch>

Chaffinches are common but rather skittish as well. Spotted this individual on a nice and rather open perch down the hill. Heavily cropped.

<Yellow Hammer>

Yellow Hammers are gorgeous balls of gold and pretty hard to photograph as well. This little bugger refused to turn around!

<Song Thrush>

Saw quite a few Song Thrushes throughout the trip and they almost always have food in their mouth. Who says only the early birds catch the worms?

<Dunnock (Hedgesparrow)>

Quiet and unobtrusive, this species is often seen on its own. Spotted only one the whole trip.


Milford Sound is an area with magnificent landscapes and it’s also the place with the highest chances of seeing the World’s only alpine parrot, the Kea!

<Kea>

These endangered parrots are highly intelligent and curious. Unfortunately, they are so used to being fed by people and you’ll often see them waddling about on the roof of cars and near parked vehicles. They have a gorgeous olive green plumage and orange feathers on the underside of their wings which I didn’t manage to capture.

<Fiordland Crested Penguin (Tawaki)>

I took these images on board the Milford Sound Nature Cruise and we were told we were so lucky to see 3 of these endangered penguins as they are hardly ever seen during the day. Similar to the Yellow-eyed Penguins above, this species is also dubbed as one of the World’s rarest penguins with a breeding population of less than 3000 due to a large variety of threats. These shots are heavily cropped.

Near Milford Sound is a place called Glenorchy and I managed to photograph some cool species there too!

<New Zealand Scaup>

<House Sparrow>

<Banded Dotterel (Double-banded Plover)>

Thats all for Part I!

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#newzealand #birding #wildlifephotography #wildlife #discovery #kea #penguins

 

Wildlife Encounters in New Zealand (Part II)

All wildlife photographs were taken with the Canon EOS 7D mark ii and the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. All rights reserved.

The South Island is filled with amazing wildlife and the following shots were just random places I stopped by to shoot.

<Royal Spoonbill>

Spotted a pair of Royal Spoonbills in breeding plumage on a random wetland we passed by. Super lucky that I was able to stop and make my down to the wetland. These are one of the six species of spoonbills and are the only ones that breed in NZ. Just watching them wade in the shallow water with that constant sweeping motion to hunt for prey just made my day! Only the adults in breeding plumage will have that yellow chest and those distinctive long feathers behind the head. Was so eager to just prone to get better shots but with a 3hr drive ahead, I just could not make that sacrifice. Definitely happy with these record shots! Royal turd in the last photo.

<Variable Oystercatcher>

<Goat>

<Welcome Swallow>


I shot some nice subjects in the North Island too. They’re rather common, but it was where I mostly got improvement shots~ The following shots were taken at Te Waihou Walkway, Blue Spring where 70% of New Zealand’s fresh bottled water comes from.

<Spur-winged Plover>

<Mallard Duck>

<Paradise Shelduck>

The female is the one with the white head and the male has an overall darker plumage.

<Black Shag>

The highlight was definitely documenting this Shag hunting for fresh water shrimp in crystal clear water!

<Purple Swamphen (Pukeko)>

Thats all for Part II!

Do share this article if you like what you see! More to come!For more content, follow me at www.instagram.com/thru_de_lenz#newzealand #birding #wildlifephotography #wildlife #discovery #kea #penguins