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First Impressions - Laowa 65mm f2.8 2x Macro


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Since switching from Nikon to Fuji, deciding on a suitable macro lens has been something that I have given a lot of thought to.  On the Nikon system I had been using a Tamron SP90 which I have had for over 20 years, so the prospect of finding something new was a challenge.  One of the objectives of my move to Fuji was building a compact system, so the size and price of the Fuji 80 macro was off-putting.  The Fuji 60 macro was a little more tempting, but only goes to 0.5X.  In the end, I decided to give the Laowa a try - it is manual focus only but does go to 2X!

 

So what is it like?  This isn't some cheap, second rate third party lens - even the box gives an impression of quality.  The lens itself has a metal body and mount, even the included lens hood feels metallic.  Size wise, it is taller but slimmer than the Fuji 18-55 zooms.  It actually looks unusually slim, but I guess that is what you can manage when you don't have to fit circuit boards and motors around the outside of the optics.

 

To start using it you have to dig into the Fuji menu system and set "Shoot without lens' to ON (On my X-E3, it is on the second page of "Button/Dial Settings" of the Setup menu (Wrench).  Whilst in that menu, I also set the function button on the top panel to "Focus Check" so that I could access focus peaking. The focus peaking doesn't automatically appear when you twist the focus ring, because the camera obviously doesn't think there is a lens present.  In that regard, there is no aperture setting visible in the view finder or recorded in the EXIF data.

 

The focus feels smooth and takes just under 3/4 of a turn to get from 2:1 to infinity.  The aperture ring clicks at the full stops but moves continuously between these stops - the stops aren't evenly spaced, they get closer as you stop down.

 

So what does it look like?

 

50731640753_508c2a18a1_o.jpg

Red-back preparing dinner  

 

It looks pretty sharp and seems quite well behaved optically.  I do need to remember not to drift in the lower shutter speeds I sometimes use with my other lenses as it doesn't have IS.

 

And what about the 2X?

 

50732371466_7086dc1c7b_o.jpg

2X macro 

 

That is a crop from the icon on my iPad screen - the icon was about 12mm (0.5") wide and the published spec of the screen is 264 pixels per inch (although I'm not sure if that means each colour element or the combination of the three colours.

 

A couple of other things - I stuck the 16mm extension tube on and that looks like it pushes the magnification up to approximately 2.4X.  Also tried it with an R72 infra-red filter and, good news, no hot spot.

 

Hopefully over the weekend, I'll get to some more time to put it through it's paces.

Edited by crowecg
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Since switching from Nikon to Fuji, deciding on a suitable macro lens has been something that I have given a lot of thought to.  On the Nikon system I had been using a Tamron SP90 which I have had for

Finally got around to shooting a bit more with this lens.  I'm getting used to shooting without the electronic connection to the lens - I'm generally ok with the focusing, although when focusing close

crowecg

Finally got around to shooting a bit more with this lens.  I'm getting used to shooting without the electronic connection to the lens - I'm generally ok with the focusing, although when focusing close with the focus peaking on, things can jump around a lot when handheld.  The thing that is catching me out is the aperture as the only way to know what the setting is, is to look at the lens or count the stops from the end, however, on mirrorless this isn't a problem for metering.

 

One feature I forgot to mention earlier is that there is no movement or extension of the front element while focusing.

 

50793670533_24ee2ea966_o.jpg

macro 2 

 

50794540157_91d205d51a_o.jpg

macro

 

 

It also seems to perform well at various distances.

 

50794540072_c6333f1577_o.jpg

reflection

 

50793670023_f17576dd24_o.jpg

city 

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Alan7140

These last four shots certainly show it to be a very versatile lens. As my Zeiss Touit 50M macro has started showing similar behaviour to the first copy I bought many years ago and was replaced by Zeiss as being a DOA non-salvageable thing, I have a feeling that its replacement, now well out of warranty, is headed for the tip in the near future (when it hits 1:1 max magnification focus - in either AF or MF mode - it crashes the camera with a "turn camera off and on again" message on the LCD.

 

In order to get 1:1 I have to use an extension tube to avoid that crash - until the focus maxes out again, of course. As it is years out of warranty now I might be tempted by the Laowa as a replacement given these example photos, that is of course if  I ever get any work again that needs 1:1 or greater; Covid seems to have killed off my little niche part of the industry pretty effectively. I have lost confidence that the Touit is going to stop at its current state and will probably start crashing the camera throughout the entire focusing range as it's predecessor did when new.

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crowecg
On 05/01/2021 at 17:40, Alan7140 said:

These last four shots certainly show it to be a very versatile lens. As my Zeiss Touit 50M macro has started showing similar behaviour to the first copy I bought many years ago and was replaced by Zeiss as being a DOA non-salvageable thing, I have a feeling that its replacement, now well out of warranty, is headed for the tip in the near future (when it hits 1:1 max magnification focus - in either AF or MF mode - it crashes the camera with a "turn camera off and on again" message on the LCD.

 

In order to get 1:1 I have to use an extension tube to avoid that crash - until the focus maxes out again, of course. As it is years out of warranty now I might be tempted by the Laowa as a replacement given these example photos, that is of course if  I ever get any work again that needs 1:1 or greater; Covid seems to have killed off my little niche part of the industry pretty effectively. I have lost confidence that the Touit is going to stop at its current state and will probably start crashing the camera throughout the entire focusing range as it's predecessor did when new.

 

If you do end up thinking about this lens and have anymore questions, let me know and I will try and answer them.  I guess the idea of a totally manual lens isn't as scary a prospect for you as it was for me.  Which leads to another thought - if your Zeiss continues to play up, could you simply remove the electrical contacts or is the focus or aperture also electrical?

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Alan7140
7 hours ago, crowecg said:

 

If you do end up thinking about this lens and have anymore questions, let me know and I will try and answer them.  I guess the idea of a totally manual lens isn't as scary a prospect for you as it was for me.  Which leads to another thought - if your Zeiss continues to play up, could you simply remove the electrical contacts or is the focus or aperture also electrical?

 

Thanks, Chris, I will do.

 

Unfortunately the 50M Touit is all electronic focus and aperture actuation (even though it has an aperture ring with click-stops) and in line with Fuji's specs for the XF line - it was the original 1:1 macro made for the XF system by Zeiss, along with a 12mm f2.8 and a 32mm f/1.8, all labelled as "Touit" lenses. I do use the AF button often when using the X-T2 on the copy stand (which is where it spends most of its time these days), but that's mainly because I've never liked the feel of focusing lenses with electric focus drive (plus you can add "laziness" into my current working method :D ).

 

I have no problem at all with the firm feedback of a good manual-focus helicoid lens, though, and wouldn't have a problem reverting to a fully manual lens again as that's what I use with all my other 35 mil & 120 cameras, of course.

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crowecg

Here is an example of this lens in IR (shot with unmodified X-E3 with an external R72 filter).

 

50808798563_989c6fd488_o.jpg

IR 

 

It seems to be performing well at all apertures.

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