A Review of the Inexpensive Opteka 15mm f/4 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens

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MarkSturtevant
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A Review of the Inexpensive Opteka 15mm f/4 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens

Post by MarkSturtevant »

I am not sure where this should go since it is a review, but I also show several pictures taken with this interesting lens. Anyway, here goes...

Wide angle macrophotography has garnered a fair amount of attention from hobbyists and professionals since it provides a refreshingly different “look” to close up and macro photos. With this form of photography, a subject is seen up close and personal, while it also provides a wide angle view of the surrounding environment. A wider story can be told in a single wide angle macro picture.

A very much respected lens for this form of photography is the Venus/Laowa 15mm f/4 1:1 wide angle macro lens. Reviews of this fully manual lens have been done by several people, including the great Orionmystery: (https://www.photomacrography.net/forum/ ... p?p=172707 and https://www.photomacrography.net/forum/ ... p?p=173661 ), and also the great Thomas Shahan ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZcYXUMkhek). T. Shahan provides descriptions of other wide angle macro set ups besides the Venus/Laowa w.a.m. lens. A snag for myself and maybe for others is that the Venus lens retails for $500, although used ones can be had for around $350 now. Still, that is a chunk of money for a lens which would be really for specialty purposes. It would not ‘live’ on my camera like my trusty 100mm macro lens.

There is a rather blatant clone of the Venus lens made by Opteka. The Opteka 15mm f/4 1:1 wide angle macro lens retails for $109 U.S. (on Amazon), and it is reviewed as being nearly identical to the Venus model although some reviewers and commenters bring up various design flaws (more on that below). None of the claims for flaws seemed to be deal breakers for me, so I bought it, and I’ve been using it off and on for about a year. Here is my informal review of this lens.

I assume you will want to see pictures taken with the Opteka lens, and so here are some below. These pictures were all done with the Canon 5dmiii (full frame) body, and they are all un-cropped. I did do other post-processing as I would for any picture, but I also left some artifacts to provide lessons. I will post more pictures into the Nature Photography forum so that the post here is arguably a review. Of course you can see larger versions of these pictures by clicking on them, and then "embiggening" the picture on the Flickr page.

ImageMushrooms. Wide angle macro by Mark Sturtevant, on Flickr

ImageMonarch butterfly. Wide angle macro. by Mark Sturtevant, on Flickr

Lesson 1: Watch for lens flares! The lens hood would be useful sometimes.
ImageEuropean praying mantis. Wide angle macro. by Mark Sturtevant, on Flickr

Lesson 2: Watch those horizon lines. I used to never have to think about that.
ImageCoral-winged grasshopper. Wide angle macro. by Mark Sturtevant, on Flickr

Lesson 3: This lens practically sees around corners, so watch for lighting accessories in the field of view. The things at the top of the picture are part of the flash reflector that I was using.
ImageWide angle macro landscape by Mark Sturtevant, on Flickr

Lesson 4: The lens hood does not line up properly (see below). And this causes vignetting in the corners.
ImageWide angle macro landscape by Mark Sturtevant, on Flickr

Lesson 5: Wide angle macro is fun!
ImageChinese mantis. Definitely wide angle macro by Mark Sturtevant, on Flickr

The above pictures were usually taken at very small apertures, f/16 – f/32. Its hard to be sure of the actual apertures since there is no Exif data from the manual lens, and the aperture ring is easily moved while shooting.

For comparison of the two lenses, here is the Venus lens: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/ ... macro.html
And the Opteka lens: https://opteka.com/products/opteka022322
You can easily see the strong similarities.

Closing comments.
A. Reported design flaws. I did find several claims of design flaws with the Opteka lens. Here they are, and my personal view on them.

1. The lens mounts poorly, and the mount can be loose. If I recall correctly, there was a claim about a screw head that interfered with mounting the lens. I have no problem with mounting the lens on both of my Canon bodies (5dmiii and t5i), so maybe that was a problem with that copy. The lens does wiggle very slightly when mounted, but I consider the amount to be barely noticeable. I have other lenses and extension tubes that wiggle more. There is no light leak problem. Of course the $108 lens is not weather sealed.

2. The focus ring is extremely stiff. The focus ring is indeed stiff to a degree that one has to guard against moving the camera out of position while focusing. I don’t struggle with turning the ring in my copy, though. It is a "turn with two fingers" focus ring, not a "one finger" ring. I do wish the focus ring was wider.
While here, I should mention that the aperture ring turns easily, and I wish it had more resistance. This ring is de-clicked like the one on the Venus lens. When handling, it is easy to change the aperture when you don’t want to.

3. Infinity focus is reached a bit before the infinity marker, so that the focus ring continues to turn a little past infinity. This is true on my copy as well, but it seems a curious complaint since all of my lenses (including my pricey ones) do exactly the same thing. I suspect this is normal, actually. While at it, I should mention that the aperture ring stops precisely when wide open at f/4, but that it does continue to turn a bit past the smallest aperture (f/32). I don’t think this is unusual for manual lenses.

4. The lens hood does not align correctly. The lens comes with a tulip shaped lens hood (see product pictures online). It feels cheap, and it does indeed not mount correctly so that the deeply scalloped corners do not line up with the corners in the field of view. This is surprising! It is also hard to figure out how to mount the hood correctly. Because the hood does not align correctly, there is vignetting on a full frame body (see the autumn landscape picture above for an example). With some jiggering, you can mount the hood so that the corners are aligned properly, but the hood then is not secure and it easily falls off.
I am not happy about the lens hood, but I am not inconvenienced by it since wide angle macro requires extremely close working distances. Used for macro, the hood would bump into the subject anyway. I usually don't miss the hood.

B. Other assorted remarks.
1. Both the Venus and Opteka lenses come in different camera mounts, but the Venus is built for a wider range of cameras. Another difference is that the Venus lens has a lens shift mechanism. This is where you can shift the lens from side to side, and this makes it easier to stitch together panorama shots. It can also be used to straighten out linear perspective distortions that otherwise appear in photographs of tall buildings and trees. The Opteka lens does not have a lens shift feature.

2. Like its “master” version, the Opteka clone is one solidly built lens. All metal, and the various moving parts have the feel of quality. It has 14 aperture blades! I think it’s acceptably sharp, but I did not test that against a regular macro lens. Also like the Venus lens, the Opteka lens will produce chromatic aberration, especially when photographing against a bright sky. I reduced CA in some of the pictures above, but I am sure you can still find CA in the pictures.

3. All reviewers mention that it is hard to use a wide angle macro lens. That is certainly true! At 1:1 the subject is only millimeters from the front glass, and there is even less working distance with a protective filter cover (which is definitely recommended since you will be pushing leaves and stuff right into it). Vexingly, the field of view is very dim, even wide open, and at 1:1 the subject still seems far away. The close up pictures above were generally taken under an inch away from the subject. To get an idea of what it’s like doing w.a.m., take binoculars and look through them backwards at your finger tip. The effect is pretty similar. It took me several sessions, and many failures, just to figure out what this lens wants from the “monkey behind the camera”. So if you get the hankering to try w.a.m., be prepared to find it challenging for a time.

4. Because of the super close working distance, it is also hard to get light on the subject for both focusing and for taking a picture. I have not yet been very successful at 1:1 because of the lighting challenges involved. Below is the current system that I used. It consists of a single flash head and a top + bottom reflector made with heavy card stock paper that has a mirror surface. These are secured with elastic straps, Velcro, and staples. I sorely need to improve the lighting.
ImageWide angle macro rig by Mark Sturtevant, on Flickr

5. Finally, I mentioned that I did not expect this specialty lens to spend much time on my camera. That proved to be wrong! Once I got the hang of it, the lens was so much fun to use that I would spend entire outings with my full kit – a regular macro, big zoom lens, and this wide angle macro. But the entire time would be spent just looking for reasons to use the w.a.m.

Thanks for looking!
Mark Sturtevant
Dept. of Still Waters

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Re: A Review of the Inexpensive Opteka 15mm f/4 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens

Post by Chris S. »

Really thorough and thoughtful review, Mark. :D Thanks for posting it.

--Chris S.

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Re: A Review of the Inexpensive Opteka 15mm f/4 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens

Post by rjlittlefield »

A very useful review!

I'm curious about what happens if you try focus stacking from 1:1 all the way out to infinity.

In Charles Krebs' OlyMinCan system, there's no change in perspective viewpoint (entrance pupil location) at any focus position. So, that system will stack perfectly over its whole focus range.

With the Opteka, what happens to the entrance pupil position as you sweep from 1:1 to infinity? Do the images stack cleanly, or is there some degradation of the edges as discussed HERE in the by-rail case?

--Rik

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Re: A Review of the Inexpensive Opteka 15mm f/4 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens

Post by MarkSturtevant »

rjlittlefield wrote:
Sun Dec 27, 2020 10:19 pm
A very useful review!
I'm curious about what happens if you try focus stacking from 1:1 all the way out to infinity.
In Charles Krebs' OlyMinCan system, there's no change in perspective viewpoint (entrance pupil location) at any focus position. So, that system will stack perfectly over its whole focus range.
With the Opteka, what happens to the entrance pupil position as you sweep from 1:1 to infinity? Do the images stack cleanly, or is there some degradation of the edges as discussed HERE in the by-rail case?
--Rik
Thank you.
I do have some results that might answer your question. I have tried some stacks with this lens. Over in the Nature Photography section I had posted several more pictures, and among them are some stacked pictures taken while looking up trees. I like the oak one in particular. These were 4 picture stacks, starting at ~ 1:1 and out to infinity. There is no cropping, and there was no radial artifacts (which I think is what you are asking about).
Here is another stack. Its' messier, not touched up, and taken with a wider aperture so it required 10 hand-held pictures. I don't think it started at 1:1. Again, there are no artifacts of that sort -- though plenty artifacts b/c of movement of weeds, etc.
FinishedStackSmaller.jpg
Mark Sturtevant
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Re: A Review of the Inexpensive Opteka 15mm f/4 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens

Post by rjlittlefield »

Excellent, thanks. I think this addresses my question perfectly.

--Rik

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Re: A Review of the Inexpensive Opteka 15mm f/4 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens

Post by Lou Jost »

That raises another question: How did you make the stacks? By ring I imagine? That's quite different (and much better when it works) than the rear-standard focus stacking of the Krebs OlyMinCan.

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Re: A Review of the Inexpensive Opteka 15mm f/4 1:1 Wide Angle Macro Lens

Post by MarkSturtevant »

Lou Jost wrote:
Mon Dec 28, 2020 1:18 pm
That raises another question: How did you make the stacks? By ring I imagine? That's quite different (and much better when it works) than the rear-standard focus stacking of the Krebs OlyMinCan.
I just turned the focus ring. Sort of by guessing where the focus peaks would overlap.
Mark Sturtevant
Dept. of Still Waters

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