Despite winter having barely started, blossoms have appeared on a tree in the garden, so a chance to put the Laowa 65mm f2.8 2x Macro into action.
Blosom 2 - this one was pushing close to the 2x magnification and it hasn't been cropped!
All shot with the above mentioned lens on a Fuji X-E3. Tripod and flash used, apertures around f/16-f/22 (not recorded obviously as the lens is totally manual).
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?
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?
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.
A few shots from the garden - that's as far as I can take the camera at the moment.
Going to seed
The Nikon D7000/Tamron SP90 combination continues to serve for macro. My current temptation to get a macro capability on the Fuji is Laowa 65 - anyone had any experience with any of their other lenses? Whilst I wait for a local dealer to get stock, I'm also rather tempted by their circular fisheye, which looks quite nicely priced. I suppose I really need to have a day shooting manual focus to see if I can cope with manual only. I think it is over 23 years since I've relied on manual focus for anything other than macro work.
Let us rewind to the analog film days of photography. The 35-50mm taking lenses were kings of their era and were present to almost every manufacturer systems offered. Their maximum aperture were ranging from a modest F3.5 to an astounding F1.2 if you were able to afford it.
With the introduction of electronic autofocus and motorized cameras they were replaced by a plethora of different trans-standard zoom lenses from the cheapest ones to the expensive "pro" such as the 24-70mm F2.8. And that tendency has been replicated right from the start of the digital cameras era.
With an angle of view of 63 degrees the Fujinon XF23mm F2 R WR can be assimilated as a "eye-normal" standard lens although for some their opinion is that this Fujinon model is a bit too wide to be classified easily in that category. Its close focusing ability is good and this caracteristic contribute largely to its versatility. It is not a (head) portrait optic but surely you can work full body view portrait with confidence and proximity of your main subject.
The Fujinon XF23mm F2 R WR lens is a useful "interior" lens providing you are not looking for a very wide view (the Fujinon XF16mm F2.8 or XF10-24mm F4 R OIS lenses for example should be more interesting choices in that case). For sure in some narrow contexts you will need to contorsion yourself to embrass the whole subject.
Because of its reduced size, this Fujinon XF23mm f2 R WR is a discrete optic and more if it is coupled with a Fujifilm X-E or X-M series camera body. This particular nature will be fully appreciated if you doing street, travel or casual photography in giving you the possibility to be more spontaneous in your activity.
We cannot escape the (Leica) Summicron lens series analogy even if we are speaking of two very different
lines of optics especially considering the electronic involvement into the Fujinon X-series.
The two control rings of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 R WR allow you to select your aperture and adjust your focus manually if needed or hoped. In the case of the aperture it is handy to be able to better control the deep of field of your subject and also with the focusing ring have the capacity to choose the optimal focus point. The Fujifilm lens hood furnished with the lens is small and none-protuberant (You can leave on almost permanently except if you intend to use optional 43mm screw-in filters).
What about the optical quality image output of the Fujinon XF23mm F2 R WR lens? Suffice to say that I cannot see any noticeable (for me!) between this optic compare to the others Fujifilm XF series lenses. To be more reassured you can consult the numerous technical tests over the web. But in my sens the best way of evaluating a lens for your specific needs is to take pictures with it. It can fit or not your style of photography and respond accordingly to your specific technical way of taking pictures. In some countries Fujifilm offers "try and test" session or even loan programs to do so.
So the Fujinon XF23mm F2 R WR lens is it for you or not? That is the big question. Focal fixed lenses are optics that are asking a photographer adaptability to be ensure their complete useful. So your mobility is a key point of success when you intend to select that category of optics. If you feel better and confortable to work from a fixed point of view and reframe with a variable focal zoom lens that can be a big issue. On the contrary if you are a kind of "active" photo takers this Fujinon XF23mm F2 R WR can be be an creative and easy manageable answer (as for all the others focal fix Fujinon lenses).
A few years ago I was discussing with Billy Luong of Fujifilm Canada about the possibility of creating a king of "bridge" new lens between the existing XF27mm F2.8 and the expensive XF23mm F1.4 R model and I have noticed his smiling facial expression at the moment. Less than one year after this conversation the new Fujinon XF23mm F2 R WR was introduced on the market. Additionaly the Fujinon XF 23mm F2 R WR is now offered as a complementary ("kit") lens combined with various camera body models at a very competitive price point. For many photographers it could a very wise and rewarding choice...
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