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How to DIY an Inexpensive Alternative Rig for the Probe Lens Effect

This affordable DIY rig is perfect for sweeping food or product videography and while nothing can quite replicate the probe lens, this is a good alternative and arguably more widely usable.

I wholeheartedly believe that the Venus Optics Laowa 24mm f/14 Probe lens is one of the most innovative lenses ever made. Its results are instantly recognizable — a difficult achievement in itself — and it is surprisingly versatile within its own remit. I have longed for one since its initial release, but for me, there was a problem of financial justification. While my commercial work would see use for it on occasion, it certainly falls under the category of "nice to have" rather than "need to have". I could justify the purchase at $500, for example, but the base model is $1,599 and the Cine-Mod version is $1,799 — that's a far more serious financial outlay.

So, to my disappointment, I still haven't bought one. There really isn't any cheaper alternative — or any alternative full-stop — but for the same style of sweeping shot across table landscapes, you can create DIY rigs. In this video, Jay P Morgan of The Slanted Lens goes through his own, self-built rig for that purpose. While he uses a motorized slider for the movement, it isn't necessary for the effect — you can replicate smooth movement in a number of ways. 

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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A interesting modification to the slider. Alternatively, you could probably get a similar effect using a gimbal, though I admit the slider would produce more precise movement for multiple takes.