The Dreamer - Re-Visited
Laowa's new 90mm f/2.8 2 times APO Macro lens started the Laowa fans talking big time, and all the talk is very positive! Why not when you now have yet another awesome option for your macro photography bag, except this lens can do more than macro photography, such as portraits? I own and use several Laowa Macro lenses - because I enjoy macro photography, and you will too with this lens - maybe.
I will start with this
Nikon 105mm with DCR-250 Full Crop
, and some Nikon shooters already know. If you want the finest, sharpest macro lens made for a Nikon Z mount, get yourself a Nikon 105mm MC - The Nikon 105MC is hands down the best macro lens made, and if you want to dive into 2x macro, buy the Raynox DCR-250. The Nikon 105mc is FULLY weather-sealed and has 5x image stabilization, with a programmable function button, and control ring + has a focus limiter for macro shooting. You can often find the Nikon 105mc on sale, which is sharper than the Laowa. The Nikon 105MC is only 2 oz heavier.
How about the Laowa 90mm 2x Macro? Let me point out the obvious first. The Laowa 90mm is a FULLY manual lens with no electronics, no EXIF data, and no automatic aperture control or autofocus. To use this lens on your mirrorless camera body, you need to set your camera to shoot without a lens and set up a Non-CPU lens (for Nikon Shooters). If you own several "manual" lenses, you must go into your camera menu and set the lens you are using, if not, the camera will report the incorrect lens focal length for all the images you shoot. It is one of several pitfalls of a manual-only lens.
Macro Work: This is the area where the Laowa 90mm f2.8 Macro lens shines. This lens provides very highly detailed sharp images corner to corner from f2.8 through about f/11. The Laowa 90mm macro produces exceptional 1:1 through 2:1 macro images - you will be very pleased with the results, and like most lenses, the images become less sharp due to diffraction beyond f/11. No fault of the lens, just the way the world of optics work.
General Purpose Work: The Laowa 90mm f/2.8 Macro Lens works well for a general-purpose lens, but the results solely rely on your ability on achieving proper focus. Today's modern Mirrorless Cameras' focus assist tools (focus Peaking, Focus Highlights) help the photographer achieve proper focus, especially for static shots. That being said, don't expect to use the lens to capture faster-moving subjects.
Physical Characteristics: Visit the Laowa site for size and weights, In my opinion, it is of moderate weight but not heavy and depends on your mount choice. The lens itself is a masterful art of craftsmanship, with smooth controls and very slight indents for the aperture that make the lens fun to use. Unlike the fly-by-wire lenses such as Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc., you get immediate feedback during focus - NO LAG.
Color or Other Imperfections: Wide Open, No CA to speak of, color fringing is only minimal. Very slight vignetting at wide open, with some very minimal distortion. Lens flare is horrible. Bokeh is very pleasing.
My Nik Picks: I have no idea why Laowa does not at least add a simple rubber seal at the flange end for "some" weather sealing. I can understand no electronics because some camera manufacturers REFUSE to share specifications with third-party lens manufacturers. The lens flare is very bad and indicates a lack of coatings, most likely to reduce cost.
Other online reviewers sometimes state, "you don't need autofocus," as if to sell you on the notion autofocus is nonsense, they fail to grasp the concept lenses like the Laowa 90mm "might" be used for work beyond macro and not having autofocus or electronics is a handicap for the lens when used outside the world of macro, this is why I push Nikon users to the Nikkor 105MC, and yes it cost more - but you get more.