Laowa 90mm F2.8 APO Macro 2x Image Gallery
June 13th, 2022
Earlier in 2022 I revisited the Laowa 100mm F2.8 APO 2:1 Macro because when I had initially reviewed it in 2019, my review was conducted on an EF mount lens on a Canon 5D Mark IV DSLR and was interested in how it performed in the transition to mirrorless. I did a fresh review on the Canon EOS R5, and I found that the experience of using the lens was a lot more fun on mirrorless, and the image quality remains incredible on the high resolution 45Mp sensor of the R5. I liked the lens enough on the R5 that I ended up purchasing one. I had one significant complaint, however, and that was that the lens was much larger than it needed to be. Additional length was added to the lens barrel to accommodate the difference in the flange distance (necessary distance from sensor to optical path) as the lens was optically engineered for DSLRs. Lenses purpose designed for mirrorless have the potential to actually be smaller and lighter, but a lens designed for DSLRs has to have some space added (essentially like an adapter without glass) to have focus properly calibrated on mirrorless cameras. Laowa apparently recognized the same thing, as they are back with a new and improved lens specifically designed for mirrorless mounts in the form of the Laowa 90mm F2.8 APO 2x Macro. No, the focal lengths aren’t identical, but this lens is very similar in performance to the 100mm, but, because it was designed for mounts like Canon RF (tested here), Sony E, Leica L, or Nikon Z, it is significantly smaller and and a bit lighter, as you can see here.
I measured the RF version of the Laowa 100m at 155mm in length and 72mm in diameter. I personally weighed it at 696g. The new Laowa APO 90mm macro is (by my measurement) 115mm in length, 74mm in diameter, and weighs 589g. That’s a big difference, and you aren’t really going to find a smaller and lighter macro lens on the Canon RF platform, much less one made all of metal and glass like this one. I’ll also note that I much prefer the shape of this lens to the long, skinny profile of the 100mm lens.
The Laowa APO 90mm is a fully manual lens without any electronics. That may immediately turn many of you off, but manual focus on a macro lens is far less of a penalty than most lenses. Many macro photographers actually prefer manual focus for the great precision it affords, and I can say for the most part really, really enjoyed using the Laowa 90M 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 APO 90mm is exceptionally sharp and has very high contrast due to its Apochromatic (APO) design. Apochromatic designs allow colors to be focused more accurately/consistently, resulting in much lower levels of chromatic aberrations and thus higher contrast than typical lens designs. Images from this lens really “pop”!
The Laowa 90M macro combines that 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 90M can achieve this level of magnification:
And it is no gimmick, either, as macro performance at the 2:1 ratio remains very high, as you can see.
This isn’t a perfect lens (I miss not having any electronics in the lens), but it allows for an optical performance right up there close to Zeiss Otus range, has a (mostly) excellent build, 2x magnification, and a price tag of around $500 USD. That’s a winning combination, and that price point dramatically undercuts the first party options…so this will definitely be a very tempting option for your Canon RF, Sony FE, Leica L, or Nikon Z mirrorless camera. You can get the full picture by either watching my video review below or reading my text review here…or just enjoy the photos below!
Thanks to Laowa for sending me a review loaner of this lens. 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.
Images of the Laowa APO 90mm F2.8 2x Macro
Images from the Laowa APO 90mm F2.8 2x Macro
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