Laowa RF 100mm F2.8 APO 2X Macro Gallery
January 3rd, 2022
In 2019 I reviewed this lens, the Laowa 100mm F2.8 APO 2:1 Macro, though, at that time, my review was conducted on an EF mount lens on a Canon 5D Mark IV DSLR. I was very positive about the lens in my review, though I didn’t feel compelled to purchase one at that point. Manual focus on DSLRs was/is sometimes too limiting, but since that point I’ve moved completely to mirrorless, and that 5DIV was replaced with a Canon EOS R5. The fact that Laowa offered the lens in an RF mount made me curious as to how different my experience with on a mirrorless body would be. The short answer is that the experience of using the lens is a lot more fun on mirrorless, and the image quality remains incredible.
I’m not here to completely redo that review, but rather to update my original findings with some specific observations on using the lens on mirrorless as opposed to the original DSLR mounts that it was available for. So, let me start by saying that I have for the most part really, really enjoyed using the Laowa RF 100mm Macro on my Canon EOS R5. There are a variety of reasons, but the first thing that stands out to me is the great viewfinder and LCD screen on the R5 that makes using manual focus lenses so much more fun. A really sharp lens like the Laowa means that focus overlays (I use focus peaking in red and set on the “high” level”) show up very crisply in the high resolution viewfinder, and I found that focusing in most situations (more on that in a moment) was really, really easy. I rarely felt like I had to magnify the image at close to medium focus distances, which meant that the focus process was very organic and quick. The crisp LCD screen means that high resolution, high contrast images like this lens can produce really just pop off the screen, which made my shooting time out in the field feel very rewarding. Finally, the addition of IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) means even a manual everything lens like this gets decent stabilization (I manually input the focal length to get the best performance). Having a stabilized macro lens only adds versatility to this lens, and the Laowa RF 100mm has always been unusually sharp even for a macro lens.
In many ways the Laowa 100mm F2.8 2x APO Macro is the most conventional of their lenses that I’ve reviewed, and even it has some unique attributes. Venus Optics launched their Laowa brand with some unconventional macro lenses and have continue to tackle projects outside the scope of mainstream lens development. This includes unique wide angle lenses wider than most competitors and even a unique probe lens unlike anything I’ve seen before. The Laowa 100mm macro combines an apochromatic (APO) optical design (typically seen on very expensive lenses) with a 2x macro ratio of 2:1 rather than 1:1 life size. This means that while most macro lenses can only achieve this level of magnification:
…the Laowa RF100M can achieve this level of magnification:
That’s obviously incredibly useful, and the Apochromatic design helps assure that images have unbelievably low levels of chromatic aberrations and incredibly high clarity and contrast. The only drawback to moving to an RF mount lens is the fact that the auto aperture is (for some reason) only for the Canon EF mount. What is “auto aperture”? It is an electromagnetic auto aperture iris and electronic contacts (full EXIF information is communicated to camera). I thought at the time that this was beginning of a new phase for Laowa, but that hasn’t proved the case. Essentially all of their subsequent lenses (to my knowledge) have continued to ship without any electronics and a more traditional manual aperture ring…and that’s the case with the Laowa RF100M as well.
Still, we’ve got an amazing apochromatic lens optically with a mostly excellent build, 2x magnification, and a price tag of around $500 USD. That’s a winning combination, and, frankly, I’ve tested a dozen macro lenses since and still haven’t seen one as sharp as this one on full frame…so this remains a very interesting lens on mirrorless cameras like Canon RF, Sony FE, or Nikon Z. If you want more information, you can watch my video review or read my text review of the lens…or just enjoy the photos!
I purchased a retail copy of this lens from Amplis Foto in Canada (the Canadian Laowa distributor) for this review. They have a great price on the lens, and using the code AMPLIS52018DA will give you an additional 5% off. As always, this is a completely independent review. *The tests and the photos shown in this review have been taken on my 45 MP Canon EOS R5.
Photos of the Laowa RF 100mm F2.8 APO 2:1 Macro
Photos from the Laowa RF 100mm Macro on Canon EOS R5
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