Macro Probe Lens Comparison: AstrHori 28mm vs Laowa 24mm

For a while now, Laowa’s 24mm probe lens has been the go-to choice for filmmakers looking to capture high-quality macro video. It’s an undeniably impressive piece of kit.

But at around $1800 new, its price tag may put it out of reach if you're working on a tight budget.

Enter the AstrHori 28mm F13 macro probe lens, designed to deliver similar results to its Laowa rival at less than half the price. How does it compare?

In this video, we put both these probe lenses through their paces in a series of tests. We look at contrast, colour balance, sharpness, depth of field and more.

Check it out to learn more about the amazing things you can do with lenses like these, and to find out whether the AstrHori can really match the Laowa on quality.

Test #1: Donuts

For our first test, we staged some donuts and Smarties on a white surface. We attached each lens to our Sony A7Siii camera, which we in turn attached to a Rhino Slider. We then programmed the slider to move back and forth so that we could capture some fun macro footage with each lens, for comparison purposes.
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Testing the AstrHori and Laowa lenses on a selection of donuts.

With tested each lens in SLOG 3 with a standard LUT and a little additional grade, and then again with the LUT only. The light source was shining indirectly into the lens.

In both cases, the contrast achieved by the AstrHori was lower than that offered by the Laowa. The AstrHori also seemed to suffer more from flare.

It was also easy to spot the difference in focal length, with the 24mm Laowa offering a noticeably wider view.

Lighting the shot
In Test #1, the AstrHori lens suffered from flare and lower contrast.

Test #2: Coffee Beans

For our second test, we staged a bag of coffee beans on a wooden surface. The lens, camera and slider setup was essentially the same as in the first test. The main difference was the direction of the light source, which was not aimed directly into the lens.
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Test #2 involved a bag of coffee beans.

We also used the LED light on the end of each probe, which acted as a small fill light for the shadows within the coffee bag. We switched this light on and off as we filmed to show its effect.

In this test, contrast and optical quality were excellent for both lenses, meaning the AstrHori matched the more expensive Laowa.

The only noticeable difference related to colour balance, with the AstrHori giving slightly bluer tones, while the Laowa stayed more neutral.

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In this test, we tried out the LED fill light on the end of each probe.

Test #3: Book

In this test, we wanted to test both lenses at minimum and maximum aperture to see how they performed in terms of optical quality and depth of field. The maximum aperture for the AstrHori is F13, while the Laowa goes to F14. Both have a minimum of F40.
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In Test #3, we used a book to compare the two probe lenses at their minimum and maximum apertures.

Both lenses performed well at F40, though optical quality did look sharper with the Laowa. When we tried each lens at its maximum aperture, the AstrHori lost more clarity in the corners of the frame than the Laowa did.

It’s worth noting that the feeling of shallower depth of field produced by the AstrHori may be preferable for some videographers.

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At maximum aperture, the AstrHori lost some clarity in the corners of the frame.

Conclusion

Overall, the Laowa did perform better than the AstrHori across all of our tests. The AstrHori lost contrast and suffered from flare when the subject was backlit. It also struggled to achieve perfect neutrality in terms of colour balance.

The AstrHori also has a slightly greater diameter, making it harder to manoeuvre through particularly small spaces – donut holes, for instance!

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The final test will feature in a forthcoming class in our Filmmaking section.

However, as mentioned above, the cost difference between these two lenses is significant. Considering that it costs less than half as much as the Laowa, the AstrHori is an impressive macro probe lens for the price.

One final note: though we tested these lenses with video, they can also be used for photography. 

Have you tried either of these lenses yet? If so, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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Comments

  1. Will you be adding product videography to your channel?? You’re already miles ahead of any education online with what you currently offer, but having product videography on here will make you a one stop shop for me and im sure for more people around the world as well!

  2. Hi Karl,

    I used the Laowa probe lens extensively for a campaign for Fullers Brewery.

    I needed to film the motion of the bubbles, from inside their pint glass. The lens was extremely impressive in regard to clarity. Also due to it’s unique shape, it opened up many creative options.

    https://vimeo.com/574389277

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