Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO -My Take

Background :

Recently I bought Laowa 100mm f/2.8 Ultra Macro for Nikon Mount  to compliment my aging Sigma 180mm F3.5 which is a brilliant lens by itself but its has started giving me problems with auto focus and since it is a discontinued lens I was forced to look at other alternatives.

This blog is all about my first take on the lens and not really a technical review ; For technical review pls visit

https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/reviews/laowa-100mm-f28-2x-ultra-macro-apo-review 

or look at many youtube videos like

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkNOmMxOwIY

Please Note

  • I have not really tested this lens at 2X yet and may not really use it at 2x as I like lot of space in my images.
  • I have tested it on only Nikon Mount Nikon D750 Fx full frame body ; Only Canon EF version is equipped with a CPU chip and motor for aperture control via the camera. All other mounts are manual and aperture is controlled by the aperture ring on the lens.
  • The aperture gets deployed when shutter clicks, so while focussing you will have full brightness across F stops ( This is an issue only when an adapter is used )
  • Also I’m a hobby photographer and really do not have any association with Laowa ( would love to have one if I get to test their latest lenses  )  or any manufacturer and this is a not a paid review.

Specification

  • H/AI-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
  • Two Low Dispersion Elements
  • Maximum Magnification: 2:1
  • Minimum Focusing Distance: 9.7″
  • Manual Focus Design
  • Aperture Blades 9 (Canon); 7 (Nikon); 13 (Sony)
  • APS Equivalent 1.5x: 150mm; 1.6x: 160mm
  • No Front element rotation
  • Filter Size 67mm
  • Available Mounts: Canon EF, Canon RF, Nikon F, Nikon Z, Sony FE

Note : The lens comes with a UV filter and keep this on , removing this will expose the moving parts of the lens to weather.

Test Images and my take:

Testing Bokeh

First thing I do for with any lens is test Bokeh. The above shot was shot at 2.8 with a square LED at the back , as you can see the bokeh is smooth and round.

Bokeh at f8
Bokeh at F2.8

As you can see in the in above images the bokeh is perfectly round at 2.8 ! At F8 it is septagonal ( 7 blades ) , which is good with more blades it would have been more round , canon and sony mounts might give you near round bokeh.

Color Contrast

Color contrast is one thing I always suspected in this lens because my sigma gives an excellent color contrast and this lens did surprise me with color contrast and the contrast is very good.

Sharpness

The above image was for testing sharpness , here also the lens performed exceptionally well as you can see in the result.

Some More sample shots ( Let the images speak for themselves )

Neriidae this was on paddy grass
Exposure:
F2.8 , 1/600 , ISO 100, Natural light
Lynx spider with eastern honey bee kill.
Exposure:
F8 , 1/128 , ISO 100, Natural light
Long-jawed orb weavers
Exposure:
F8, 1/100 , ISO 400, Natural light
Hand of goddess
Exposure:
F8
Feet of Goddess Exposure:
F5.6
Exposure:
F5.6, 1/160 , ISO 400, Natural light

Some Points:

  • Focus : It is a Manual focus lens; Since manual focus lens are by design “not  designed” for faster focus the focus rotation is smooth and gives you longer rotation but  not much as I would have liked ( throw is about 60 degrees )!  However focussing is smooth and pictures are super sharp. If you are a photographer who uses manual focus like me, you will love this and for photographers who swear by AF and vibration reduction/image stabilization .. my advice is stay away from this lens and this is not for you guys
  • Build Quality: The lens has a solid, metal body with engraved markings. It measures 2.8 x 4.9 inches (72 x 125 mm) and uses the common 67mm filters. At 1.4 pounds (650g), it is fairly heavy. The lens is officially “internal focusing”, but that’s not strictly true. The outer barrel doesn’t extend, but the whole lens assembly moves inside the barrel, just like it did on older lenses. However to prevent damage to the inner components of the lens, Laowa ships it with a UV filter which should remain permanently attached to the front.
  • Aperture control : The aperture ring is located close to the mount. On most versions, the aperture can only be controlled on the lens, with no communication with the camera, but Canon’s EF version comes with a chip for aperture control and Pentax’s version uses a mechanical coupling for aperture control (thanks to the K-mount’s backward compatibility) However for a guy like me who started with Nikon FE, Pentax K1000 and Kiev-19 this is nothing new and It’s not a great disadvantage.
  • Sharpness and resolution:  Macro lenses come with high expectations regarding sharpness. In this regard, the lens  does not disappoint and the lens is sharp from f2.8 onwards till f22; However it performs best between f8 and f16 after which diffractions can be seen.

Thats it friends , I just wanted to share my experience and my take for detailed review there are many sources on the net.

Thanks if you like the blog, you can leave a comment at Home Page

Cheers

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Goutham Ramesh

Natural Light Macro with my 180mm.

I usually do not give too much importance to the equipment, however if there is one lens that’s been close to my heart it’s been my beloved Sigma 180mm Macro EX HSM ; This lens has been with me for close to 2 decades and has given me great images. In this blog I will share some images shot with this lens in natural light.


Sigma 180mm Macro EX HSM 3.5, a brief overview:

The Sigma APO 180mm F3.5 EX DG lens was (yes, it is no longer manufactured) a telephoto/macro lens produced by Sigma Corporation.

  • Lens style:       Telephoto , Macro
  • Focal length:   180 mm
  • Maximum aperture:    f/3.5
  • Closest focusing distance :     0.46 m
  • Maximum magnification:       1:1
  • Minimum aperture:     32
  • Number of diaphragm blades :9
  • Auto focus type:         AF HSM
  • Lens Construction:     13 elements / 10 groups
  • Filter diameter :72 mm

What I liked about this lens!

  1. Shots  taken with this  lens were quite impressive.
  2. The shallow DOF.
  3. The  working distance has always been excellent.
  4. This lens performs extremely well even when the aperture is fully opened at 3.5.
  5. Excellent build , even though the powder coating matte finish peels off.
  6. Lovely Circular Bokeh at 3.5

Me , with my Sigma 180mm on field

Some techniques that I follow with this lens:

  1. Always stay parallel to the subject , this allows me to get the subject of interest in the shallow DOF that this lens provides
  2. Always use a tripod stand! This lens is heavy and is not for people who like to do handheld photography
  3. Use a Macro rail
  4. Use a right angle viewfinder , since most of the subjects are at ground level or very close to the ground, this helps a lot and saves my back as well.
  5. Start shooting with a fully open aperture and keep closing the aperture till i get right DOF
  6. Carry a white sheet of paper as a reflector to bounce natural light and use it to fill shadows.

Some Images:

Argiope in light drizzle. This was a challenging shot due to wind and I also wanted to show the raindrops ( Exposure : F14 , 1/125 second , ISO 400, Natural light )

Argiope after the drizzle . ( Exposure : F10 , 1/320 second , ISO 400, Natural light )

Owl Fly ( Exposure : F10 , 1/320 second , ISO 400, Natural light )

Owl Fly with Bokeh ( Exposure : F16 , 1/50 second , ISO 400, Natural light )

Plains Cupid , Here i have opened the aperture almost full to get a very shallow DOF and have gone almost parallel to the subject ( Exposure : F4 , 1/1250 second , ISO 800, Natural light )

Assassin Bug back lit with a paper reflector in the front ( Exposure : F8 , 1/125 second , ISO 400, Natural light )

Crab Spider back lit with a paper reflector in the front ( Exposure : F13 , 1/60 second , ISO 100, Natural light )

Red Veined darter back lit with a paper reflector in the front ( Exposure : F8 , 1/125 second , ISO 400, Natural light )

Assassin Bug back lit with a paper reflector in the front ( Exposure : F16 , 1/40 second , ISO 400, Natural light )

Back lit Tawny Coaster ( Exposure : F6.3, 1/1000 second , ISO 400, Natural light )


Rant!

These days , Macro photography has changed! ; The way we shoot pictures have also changed with good close up lenses , attachments , great diffusers and lighting support and there is a decline in people using natural light ( Even I don’t use this lens and natural light quite often these days ) . Today we can  get much more greater details in the images which is amazing. However personally for me charm of natural light macro is still very close to my heart even though I do shoot  a lot of my recent macro’s with close up attachments and diffusers  and I do love my Raynox and Radiant diffuser.

Having said that these days manufacturers have stopped making lenses like 180mm due to lack of demand and it’s very sad, one day I hope the demand for macro lenses and this focal length is back on track and we get to see some great macro images in natural light .


Thanks if you like the blog, you can leave a comment at Home Page

Cheers

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Goutham Ramesh