Author Topic: LAOWA 100mm f/2.8  (Read 546 times)

Birna Rørslett

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LAOWA 100mm f/2.8
« on: September 29, 2020, 16:14:06 »
Just got a sample of this lens, entitled "100mm F2.8 CA-Dreamer Macro 2X" no less. This is a manual focus lens made for various mounts; Nikon F, Z, Pentax, Sony E, Canon EF (the latter with electronic-controlled aperture). I obtained an F-mount version.

It weighs a substantial 685g and is all metal casing, with a good exterior finish like shown by other recent Laowa lenses. The surface is satin black and they have the 'blue ring'  -their trademark- in the front section of the barrel. A low-profile 67mm "UV" filter is included, and so is a plasticky lens hood.

The focusing is rather stiff yet precise. Unfortunately, the rotation of the focusing ring to go from infinity to near limit is just 90 degrees thus the lens needs to be focused very carefully. As the image thanks to the fairly bright f/2.8 aperture snaps into focus pretty decisively, I for one had little problem putting focus where I wanted.

The optical design is complex with 12 elements in 10 groups and there are two ED glass elements to boost performance. Their literature speaks of "APO performance" which probably is the idea of their PR department. Likewise, the superior performance expected by their  labelling the lens "CA-Dreamer" is not perfectly manifested. Some residual CA is plainly visible, although it must be said Nikon's own Micro-Nikkor lenses tend to do the same or worse. The LAOWA is no match for the CV 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar in this respect, yet in terms of sharpness it is pretty good. How good exactly, and whether the impression of a nice bokeh is for real, remains to be investigated in further shooting. All I had time for now, being tied up in writing these days, was some cursory testing. Read the above with that caveat in mind.

I will report more in depth later, but any NG members having this lens are free to chip in with their experiences of course. Any addition of another decent lens for close-up work is highly welcomed. The playing field isn't that extensive, and this not very expensive lens could be the answer many users would be seeking.

 

Michael Erlewine

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Re: LAOWA 100mm f/2.8
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2020, 00:33:06 »
Looked it over, but did not buy one. For me, because of focus stacking, the very short focus throw makes for very difficult to stack easily. The CV-125 APO has a huge focus throw and the APO Leica Elmarit R 100mm is twice that.
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Birna Rørslett

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Re: LAOWA 100mm f/2.8
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2020, 12:07:44 »
When one puts the camera + lens on a tripod, the shortish focusing travel is less of an issue than I considered previously. For stacking approaches by altering the focus directly on the lens, the outcome is different though as this in practice would be pretty difficult to do in a precise, reproducible manner. Preferably the entire package has to be mounted on a macro rail (Stackshot or similar) and operated via the rail's movement.

As the lens is available also in Z mount, I briefly considered getting that version when I first decided to order the Laowa. However using the F version would be more versatile as it could work on both F- and Z-systems (through the FTZ). I also had in mind a future CPU upgrade which *is* possible, but typically a task for which I would call upon the legendary skills of Erik aka Dr. Lens. Turns out the lens balances very nicely on the Z cameras with the FTZ attached, and there is an option to add tripod support at the centre of gravity as well. So in the end I think the choice of obtaining the F mount model was optimal.

A series of quick'n'dirty tests told me that the Laowa is a a very capable performer, in fact better than I initially thought. Still there is the merest vestige of CA to be seen if the lens is pushed hard enough, but for ordinary shooting this issue is virtually non-existing in practice.

I did a run in UV and IR, just for fun, and found -- not unexpectedly -- that the Laowa 100/2.8 did exhibit a weak, but plainly visible, hot spot in IR. However, its UV performance was surprising not the least in terms of image sharpness which compared favourable to the legendary UV-Nikkor 105/4.5. The Laowa responded -3EV in terms of exposure re the UV-Nikkor, which is about average for non-UV optics. What surprised me the most was that the UV image was bitingly sharp and lots of UV "false colours" were present. The UV "colours" compared to the UV-Nikkor were way off, but highly useful for more artistic approaches to UV photography. (I used my trustworthy Nikon D3200 with its built-in Baader U filter for these tests).

I'll post some sample pictures later today. Now back to my scientific writing which ties me down at present (brings in good money, though, so the overall impression is not entirely bleak).

Birna Rørslett

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Re: LAOWA 100mm f/2.8
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2020, 11:53:20 »
To sum up my impressions after a few days' use of the LAWO 100/2.8 'ultra-Macro' lens. Below presented in no particular order, by the way.

- it is very sharp and renders impressively crisp footage

- focusing is on the tricky side as the focusing travel is just 90 degrees, thus a split image screen is highly recommended. Or focus peaking on a mirrorless if you believe in such implementations

- rear bokeh is very smooth, front bokeh can be a little more on the busy side thus plan your shot carefully

- the lens hood is flimsy, difficult to attach or remove, and utterly useless in the situation where it should have most impact, viz. at 1:1 or greater magnification (there simply is no space left for it besides it blocks the illumination). Fortunately, for all ranges infinity down to near 1:1, the lens barrel itself provides adequate shielding from stray light

- the lens barrel is very nicely satin finished, but scratches easily

- balance on an F camera (I used Df) is superb and using it with the FTZ on a Z camera the same applies

- the focusing collar has too fine and slick surface thus is prone to slippage. I added a band of focusing rubber to improve the matter

- no CPU (unless a Canon model is used) so there is loss of recorded EXIF information, most so on the Z cameras as the non-CPU lens selection seems to get lost through the FTZ adapter

- adding a bespoke CPU (F mount) is possible, but apparently a major undertaking necessitating the expertise of my friend Erik aka Dr. Lens

- given its ridiculously low price at the performance level delivered by the lens, it is a no-brainer purchase

- it can do UV with amazing sharpness, however IR is troubled by a pesky hot spot


Birna Rørslett

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Re: LAOWA 100mm f/2.8
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2020, 11:57:48 »
An illustration of the quality delivered by the LAOWA 100/2.8 on the Z7.

First the entire frame, thereafter a 100% crop of the centre (to show detail sharpness) and likewise 100% crop showing the foreground rendition of the pine tree going out of focus. The very low level of CA is evident on the picket fence and the branches against the slate-grey sky.

NEF run straight through Photo Ninja, no additional sharpening.

Erik Lund

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Re: LAOWA 100mm f/2.8
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2020, 13:25:00 »
Looks like a very fine performer, very clean looking images indeed!Sure, I'll assist with a CPU transformation as soon as the world health situation is under control again  ;)
Erik Lund

Birna Rørslett

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Re: LAOWA 100mm f/2.8
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2020, 13:31:27 »
Erik - you made my day - again. There will be future opportunities to accomplish the task of CU-modifying this lens.

Michael Erlewine

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Re: LAOWA 100mm f/2.8
« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2020, 15:23:17 »
How about a coup0le of close macro shots, please?
MichaelErlewine.smugmug.com. Founder MacroStop.com, MichaelErlewine.com (articles), https://www.youtube.com/user/merlewine (video tutorials), All-Music Guide, All-Movie Guide, Classic Posters.com, Matrix Software, SpiritGrooves.net, DharmaGrooves.com

Birna Rørslett

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Re: LAOWA 100mm f/2.8
« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2020, 23:46:38 »
This is 100% of a 1:10 close-up of my bookshelf. ISO 100 Z7, the LAOWA set to f/2.8. In my world that is pretty sharp. No additional sharpening applied.

rosko

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Re: LAOWA 100mm f/2.8
« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2020, 03:17:42 »
No bad at all at the first sight !

Many fine and crisp details on the close-up shot. :)
Francis Devrainne