Two Times Macro Reproduction
Laowa offers a very compact full-frame 85mm 2 X macro that can satisfy the enthusiast and pro macro photographers. With a small, lightweight footprint and low cost, the Laowa 85mm Macro will appeal to many photographers - I recommend this lens.
I sold my Laowa 100mm f/2.8 in Nikon F mount macro once I moved to the Nikons Mirrorless system mostly because I did not like to hassle with the FTZ adapter to mount the lens. Spring forward 4 years, and today, Laowa offers most of their full-frame lenses in Nikon Z mount. Missing my old Laowa 100m macro, I started to look at the new Laowa 85mm 2x f/5.6 macro lens and finally pulled the plug and bought my copy at the onset of Spring.
My Summary Review of the Laowa 85mm f/5.6 2x Macro Lens:
- Weight: 0.6 Pounds or 314 Grams with a Nikon Z mount. Different mounts will result in slightly different weights.
- Length: 81mm or 3.1 inches, again different mounts will increase or decrease the length.
- Build Quality: Excellent, All metal. Accurate firm inputs, the f/stop ring is a little loose but nothing to really worry about.
- Image Quality: From f5/6 - f/11, the images are at their sharpest during 1:1 - 2:1 macro shooting. Higher f stops will result in diffraction and loss of image quality as you near the 2:1 macro end.
- Fully Manual with NO electronic contacts
In the field, the lens is a pleasure to carry and use - The Laowa 85mm f/5.6 is the smallest, lightest full-frame 2X macro lens. With its modest working distance of 16.2 CM or about 6.3 inches, you are able to get in close for 2:1 macro and leave room for your favorite diffuser attachment.
The overall image quality is very good to excellent but does require just a touch of contrast in post-processing to make the images really snap to life. The images do drop in contrast in strong backlighting conditions. The Laowa 85mm Macro lens is able to resolve the tiniest of details for most any macro work, I was very pleased with the results. This lens can focus down to 6.3 inches and all the way to infinity, making it a good general-purpose lens, but with the maximum aperture of f/5.6, you're not going to be getting serious subject to background separation.
To use this lens on a mirrorless camera, you will need to set your camera to fire without a lens, and in the Nikon menu, set the parameters as a NON-CPU lens (Wrench Icon), I also turn on focus peaking to assist me in acquiring sharp focus menu d11. Also, I suggest turning off the viewfinders what you see is what you get, and go with a "bright" viewfinder.
Pros: Very Lightweight with very good to excellent image quality. Given the fact it is so small and lightweight, I am willing to live with less than "perfect" image sharpness at apertures above f/11 when doing macro. Most of my images are shot at f/8, and when possible, I do focus stacking.
Cons: Front-mounted f/stop ring, no electronic couplings
Overall: The Laowa 85mm 2x macro lens is a great lens for both beginners and advanced macro photographers alike, I say this because the lens can be focused from infinity all the way to 2:1, making it more forgiving when you need to get close but not that "close." Once your skills are honed, you have the 2:1 macro at your fingertips to explore. Any and all frustrations I had using the Laowa 85mm 2x Macro was not due to the lens but to my "unsteadiness" :) I will say that a good homemade diffuser is a key to soft, evenly light, and sharper images.