How many macro lenses does one lens manufacturer need? Macro lenses are, admittedly, a speciality of Venus Optics, the company behind the Laowa brand, and the 100mm f/2.8 joins its line-up of high-magnification macros, which already includes a 60mm f/2.8.
This lens’s longer focal length means you can shoot with longer working distances, which is especially useful for timid subjects like insects.
The 2x macro capability is especially significant given that most macro lenses offer a magnification of just 1x, or in other words a reproduction ratio of 1:1.
For non macro experts, this needs some explaining. True macro photography (as opposed to just ‘close ups’) starts at a reproduction ratio of 1:1. This means that the subject is reproduced on the sensor at the same size it is in real life. So if you’re photographing a bee 10mm long, it will be 10mm long on the sensor. Given that even a full frame sensor is only 36mm wide, this is going to come out as one big bee!
So the Laowa 2x ‘ultra macro’ lenses go even further than this, wit ha reproduction ratio up to 2:1 – our 10mm long bee is now 20mm long in the sensor. Regular macro lenses already offer a huge magnification of tiny objects, but these 2x Laowa ultra macros go twice as large again.
Laowa lenses are typically cheaper than their mainstream own-brand counterparts, but they are mechanically simpler too. There’s no autofocus mechanism nor even any automatic diaphragm control, so both focus and exposure are entirely manual.
But although they are physically simple, the optical designs are both modern and sophisticated. The Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO has 12 lens elements in 10 groups, and the ‘APO’ in the name refers to an ‘apochromatic’ optical design aimed at eliminating chromatic aberration (colour fringing).
Laowa does make an even higher magnification macro lens than this – its 25mm 2-5x ultra macro – but that is a specialised lens that can’t be used for regular photography. The Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO has a full-range focusing system that goes from from 2:1 magnification to infinity, so it can also be used as an everyday telephoto or portrait lens.
Venus Optics has yet to release pricing information, but says the Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO will go on sale in mid/late 2018.
Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO specifications
Focal Length: 100mm
Max. Aperture: f/2.8
Min. Aperture: f/22
Angle of View: 24.4 degrees
Format Compatibility: Full Frame
Lens Structure: 12 elements in 10 groups
Aperture Blades: 7 (Nikon/Pentax) 13 (Canon/Sony)
Min. Focusing Distance: 24.7cm
Max. Magnification: 2x
Filter Thread: 67mm
Mounts: Canon EF/Nikon F/Pentax K/Sony FE
Availability: Mid/late 2018
More information: Laowa website