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Lens review

Venus Optics LAOWA 100 mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO

9 September 2019
Maciej Latałło

3. Build quality

The following chart presents a comparison between basic parameters of the Laowa 2.8/100 Macro and other full frame 2.8/100 macro lenses without stabilization. The Laowa is here the longest but hardly the heaviest – in that category the optically complex Samyang remains the leader. The Laowa sticks out with the highest number of aperture blades (but you have to remember their number depends on the mount version) and the minimum focusing distance – it is, of course the effect of 2:1 reproduction.

 In the photo below the Laowa is positioned between two other macro lenses: the Canon EF 100 mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro and the Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar 65 mm f/2 Aspherical 1:2 Macro.

Venus Optics LAOWA 100 mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO - Build quality

The tested lens starts with a metal mount with an inscription 'Made in China'. The mount goes round a contact plate and a rear element, 31 mm in diameter. The rear element is positioned on the same level as the contacts with the focus set at infinity and, after passing to 2:1 reproduction ratio, it hides in an inner tube about 2 cm deep. The interior of that tube is black, matted and ribbed.

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Venus Optics LAOWA 100 mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO - Build quality

The proper body of the lens starts with a long, black, smooth ring made of metal; on its end you can find a depth of field scale with markings at f/22, f/11, f/5.6, and f/2.8 apertures. That scale is a bit suspicious to be honest but we are going to look closer at it in one of the following chapters.

Venus Optics LAOWA 100 mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO - Build quality

A very big focusing ring, as wide as 55 mm, is the next part of the lens. Most of its surface is covered by ribbing and below there is a distance scale, expressed in feet and meters, and a reproduction scale, with markings ranging from 1:4 to 2:1. The ring moves evenly and is properly damped. Running through the whole distance scale takes a turn through an angle of about 120 degrees. Taking into account that it has to serve a huge macro range, reaching 2:1, not 1:1 reproduction ratio like in classic macro photography lenses, we think that angle is too small to ensure you precise settings.

Venus Optics LAOWA 100 mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO - Build quality

Further on you see another immobile part of the casing with a blue stripe, the producer's logo and an inscription with the name and basic parameters of the tested lens.

The barrel ends with a bayonet mount for a hood and a non-rotating filter thread, 67 mm in diameter. If you work using the 2:1 ratio the photographed object is situated in a distance of 7.5 cm from the front element.

Venus Optics LAOWA 100 mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO - Build quality

The front element itself is 34 mm in diameter and it moves. For the minimum focusing distance it is situated on the same level as the hood mount and when you pass to infinity it hides inside the tube almost 6 cm deep. The appearance of the inner tube makes us a bit worried – it is a smooth, dark, shiny surface and we would like to see something black and matted, preferably with a lot of ribbing.

Venus Optics LAOWA 100 mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO - Build quality

When it comes to optical construction the producers boast of 12 elements positioned in 10 groups. Still, while looking at the diagram above, I cannot notice those 10 groups, it seems there are 9 of them. The construction includes two low dispersion glass elements, that's why the lens has APO letters in its name, and an aperture with a changeable number of diaphragm blades - there are 7 of them in the Nikon F instrument, 9 in the Canon one, and as many as 13 in the case of the Sony FE mount lens.

Buyers get both caps, a hood and an UV filter in the box with the lens.

Venus Optics LAOWA 100 mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO - Build quality