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The Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2:1 is Value-Oriented, Sharp, and Goes to Show How Great Chinese Lenses Have Become

It wasn't long ago that Chinese lenses were synonymous with, well, crap. But with brands like Venus Optics, Zhongyi, and 7Artisans we are beginning to see high quality, unique lenses that have very few compromises.

The new Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2:1 was recently reviewed by Christopher Frost to beautiful results. Christopher pushes the lens to the max, testing it on the Canon 6D, Sony A7RII, and Sony A5100, the last of which giving an incredibly high pixel density for an extreme test and it shines. 

While the lens begins to get diffraction at F8 when focusing close, and when shooting closer you have to open up your shutter this is the same with literally every macro lens out there because of, well, physics. Venus Optics describes this lens as apochromatic, meaning that they have done their best to eliminate chromatic aberration and, judging by Chris' sample images, they have done a darn good job.

One of the biggest downsides to this lens seems to be that it seems to flare easily, but the lens should ship with a lens-hood and the unique 2:1 macro ability while being so sharp, even at 2.8 is really a feat of engineering especially at $450 USD. 

While the lens is Manual focus only, with electronically controlled aperture, I don't see this as a bad thing, as a focus-by-wire situation or even autofocus at these distances would make getting any macro shot a nightmare to capture. 

Overall, this lens seems like a fantastic, affordable, lens without too many competitors in its category. What do you think of this new 2X macro lens? Are you going to be picking one up?

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EL PIC's picture


Ever hear .. “ Invest in Glass “ ??

Spy Black's picture

I suspect it will be the Chinese having the last laugh. I remember guys like you back in the 60s-70s with the same LMAO attitude towards the Japanese...

Guy Incognito's picture

I remember people having a similar attitude towards Korean car manufacturers a couple of decades ago.

While I still think China makes a heap of crap - usually filling a Western desire for cheap - there are some companies where good quality products are being made. It is a shame they have to compete with the crap made in China and the stereotype everything from a Chinese brand is crap.

K G's picture

I have the same reaction to most of your images

william hicks's picture

I am so sorry you think possessions are the measure of an artist

Lee Stirling's picture

Is this lens really better than something like a Tokina 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro 1:1 Macro, which is available for $250 used?

Michael Aubrey's picture

On the bare specs, I suppose it depends how much 2:1 is worth over 1:1.

Tom Reichner's picture

In the past, Chinese lenses were synonymous with cheap crap.

Today, I am afraid that Chinese lenses are associated with "good value, but manual focus only".

I look forward to the day when Chinese lenses represent a great value and have no drawbacks or shortcomings or compromises. Until that day, I will stick with the high-end Canon and Sigma lenses.

Spy Black's picture

When the Chinese start building entire systems (cameras, AF lenses, etc.), it'll be the end of the status quo in photography.

Matthias Rabiller's picture

Well, they actually have, with that Yi MFT camera a while ago (we shall not go all the way back to the Seagull and Pearl River licensed Minolta SRTs). I think they had a lot of interesting ideas in merging a smart phone like experience with a real camera, but it doesn't appear to have worked very well for them. One of their problem was that considering their target audience, they needed very good out of camera JPEG, and they simply fell far from the mark. In any case they clearly established that Chinese companies have competence and interest in developing "real" cameras. They'll get there. Rather sooner than later.

Logan Cressler's picture

I wish it had auto focus, because frequently with macro I will run a focus stacking program, and the lens has to be able to be controlled by the camera in order for that to work. But it’s not specifically necessary. I would be interested in trying it but it’s not at the top of my list as I already have the tokina which while not 2:1, has other advantages over it such as AF

Sue G's picture

I know China and their mentality
I also know Japan and their mentality

If you think China will follow Japanese quality and mentality, you don’t know China or even Asia.

Keep those fortune cookies rolling

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Tested their 60mm macro and boy was I put off by the extreme vignetting on my Sony FF. Returned it the same day.