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First test

PRICE: £409

LAOWALENS.CO.UK

Laowa 65mm f/2.8 UltraMacro A macro lens, traditionally, should focus close enough to give 1:1 or lifesize magnification. But Laowa is not a stickler for tradition and its latest macro lens gives twice (yes 2x!) lifesize magnification

ABOVE The Laowa 65mm f/2.8 has magnification ratios marked on the barrel, together with focusing distance in metric and imperial. There’s also a depth-of-field scale LEFT A 10p coin has a 24.5mm diameter. You can see on the 23.5x16.5mm APS-C format of the Fujifilm X system that, at 1:1, it more than fills the frame. At its minimum focus, the lens gives 2:1. Both shots taken with flash at the same power output at f/11 – the ISO for the 1:1

1:1

SPECS ›  Price £409 ›  In the box Front and back caps, bayonet fit hood ›  Format APS-C ›  Compatibility Fujifilm X, Leica L, Nikon Z, Sony E ›  Filter size 52mm ›  Construction 14 elements in 10 groups ›  Special lens elements Three extra low dispersion ›  Aperture range F/2.8-22, in 1EV steps ›  Diaphragm Nine blades ›  Magnification 2x lifesize ›  Autofocus No ›  Manual focusing ring Yes ›  Coating Not specified ›  Minimum focus 17cm (from sensor) ›  Weather-sealed No ›  Depth-of-field scale Yes ›  Internal focus Yes ›  Dimensions (dxl) 57x100mm ›  Weight 335g (Fujifilm X version) Contact Laowalens.co.uk potential using LED and flash lighting. My test chart shots showed this lens to be a fine performer optically, with sharp images at every aperture value, especially at the centre of the frame, although edges at f/2.8 and f/22 looked marginally less good. While wider

THE LAOWA 65MM F/2.8 ULTRA MACRO is a manual focus lens with a maximummagnification of twice lifesize or 2:1. When you can get in this close, a wonderful newworld awaits. Laowa also has a 100mm full-frame equivalent version for Canon R, Canon EF (auto and manual aperture versions), Leica L Nikon F, Nikon Z, Pentax and Sony E, and costs £469. For Micro Four Thirds owners, there’s a 50mm f/2.8 version offering the same maximum magnification at £409. The 65mm focal length gives an effect of 97.5mm on APS-C format cameras with a 1.5x crop factor, so it’s a modest telephoto, good for all-round shooting, and also handy for macro because it gives a little room between you and the subject. The smooth manual focus ring covers from infinity to 1m in less than 2cm of travel; one more third of a rotation gets you to 19cmwhere you get 1:1; another one quarter turn gets you to the minimum focus distance of 17cm and 2x magnification. That works well in practice and focusing is internal, so lens size is constant. In normal shooting, a wide distance is covered very quickly, and when you get in close, the extra travel makes critical focusing easier. It is worth saying that when you get in close for 1:1 or even more, depth-of- field is very shallow. You have to take your time and open up the lens to focus at f/2.8, then stop down to the aperture for the exposure. As with most Laowa

lenses, the aperture is manual – i.e. the iris changes as you adjust aperture and it’s not auto, where the iris closes to the set aperture at the point of exposure. This means set a smaller aperture and the viewing image gets darker, although the camera corrects for this to a degree and you’re getting a live depth-of-field preview. You may be tempted to focus at a smaller aperture and may not have a choice in some cases. But if you have time and are working with a tripod, I’d focus at f/2.8. As you move in closer to the subject, you will also see the light levels reaching the sensor drop with the inverse square law. No problem if you’re aware of it and there is a significant difference between shooting at normal distances and at 2:1. The quoted 17cmminimum focusing distance is from subject to focal plane. With the lens measuring 100mm and lens hood an extra 48mm, this means you have to not block out the light or cast a shadow over the subject. If you prefer to work hood-free, a 52mm fit protection filter is ideal – if you inadvertently get too close, you don't dink the front element. The aperture is click stopped in 1EV steps and the travel between f/2.8 to f/4 is more pronounced compared with f/16-22 – depth-of-scale is provided. Focusing distances are marked in metric, imperial, and the magnification ratio is shown, too. I tested my sample on a FujifilmX-T2, shooting my custom test chart to check out optical performance at different apertures and explored its macro

2:1

shot was 200, and to get the same level of

exposure at 2:1 the camera’s ISO was increased to 800

apertures looked impressive at the centre, stopping down to f/5.6 and f/8 improved image crispness and detail. This also had a positive benefit on the edges. Basically, if you get focusing spot on, I think critical users would be happy with what this Laowa lens delivers. WC

PROS 2x magnification is awesome, good price, optically a good performer CONS Manual iris, needs extra care with focusing, notably at the high magnifications The Laowa 65mm f/2.8 Ultra Macro opens up new creative avenues for macro shooters. And while it is a challenge when you start exploring its close focusing opportunities, it’s great fun. Using it also makes you think visually, as well as about your technique, and that is a good thing. If macro photography is something you want to explore more, the Laowa 65mm f/2.8 (or the Micro Four Thirds or full-frame equivalent) is definitely worth a serious look. Verdict

ONTEST Test chart shots were taken with the Laowa 65mm f/2.8 on a Fujifilm X-T2 at ISO 200, mounted on a Leofoto LS-324C tripod, with Raws processed in Lightroom with default sharpening applied.

F/2.8

F/2.8

F/4

F/4

F/8

F/8

F/16

F/16

F/5.6

F/5.6

F/11

F/11

F/22

F/22

Issue 86 | Photography News 57

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