The Laowa 65mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO Review

Today Laowa released their newest offering for mirrorless camera systems. The Laowa 65mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO. I was so fortunate to be sent a copy late November 2019 to test out a bit and give my thoughts on.
Now, I’m NOT a macro photographer. I don’t do that kind of photography much. I don’t have the fancy ring lights, I don’t have fancy turn-around-lenses-and-mount-them rigs. I don’t particularly like spisers or bugs, so really Laowa was wise in sending this lens to some good Chinese macro photographers for testing as well.

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Ice crystals from frozen morning dew. At 2x macro is quite beautiful

So what can I possibly add to the table regarding this lens, when I don’t even consider myself a macro-shooter? Well, for starters this lens is a 65mm focal length. That makes it really nice for portraiture and just an all-round short range tele lens. And I LIKE that! Second, I shoot all the official gear-porn shots for Fujifilm, whenever they launch something new. I’m pretty well trained in shooting products and their details. This lens looks to be superb for that. Third, Laowa has been churning out some seriously impressive lenses these past two years ranging from medium format wide angle lenses to probe-macros and cinema lenses. They’re a growing force to be reckoned with. And I’ll be damned if I miss some great products from such a company.

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My beautiful little niece. Great sharpness for portraits at f/2.8

Now let’s clear some things off first:

  1. Not paid by Laowa. 
  2. I like Laowa A LOT
  3. All images in this article were shot by me. And please refrain from using them without my prior permission.
  4. I just had the best burger of my life. And I bloody made it myself!

Now that’s over and done with. Let’s get down to it.

Build and feel

Like all Laowa lenses, the Laowa 65mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO has a very nice build quality. The barrel and mount is all metal. It has very nice ridged focusring and the focus runs very very smooth. A full focus throw from 2x macro to infinity is about a 270 degree turn. Pretty nice to work with.

The lens is a manual focus only! There is no communication between the lens and the camera, so you will not get any info on focal length and aperture. You have to set the focal length setting in your lens menu. The X-Pro3 is very much enhanced in this manner. I wrote about that HERE

The aperture ring clicks every full stop from f/2.8 to f/22.
One thing I wish Laowa would implement is a more dampened feel when you go to either end of the focusing range and/or the aperture range. It feels a little metal-to-metal. I do hope they but a rubber dampener in there some day. Seriously, I’m nitpicking here. But I need to find something, right?

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Nice and compact with no from markings. Way to go Laowa!

The lenshood supplied is an all-metal lenshood that is mounted via a bayonet mount, and can be stored in reverse over the lens. The filter diameter is 52mm.  Near the front of the lens you have the signature Laowa blue ring. A pretty good branding move.

When you look at the lens, you can see that it has a set front element, and that there’s a smaller complete lens-group inside that moves closer from back to front within the lens when you go into macro territory. This makes sure that everything is nice and sealed inside, and you avoid the usual “alien head within a head” protrusion when going in closer.

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My sons eye at 1,5x macro @f/2.8. Fun stuff.

Specifications

The specifications are down below. (Taken directly from Laowas website)65mm28_LensStructure-05-1200x622.jpgScreenshot 2020-01-24 at 19.59.12.png

When looking at the Laowa 65mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO product page you can also see some pretty impressive looking MTF charts, but I don’t care much about such charts. I care about how the lens perform on my camera. And without giving too much away I will say this. It performs really really well.

Usage and image quality

Using this lens is very nice! There is seriously not much to dislike with this lens. I’m a photographer that really think in creative and versatile picture taking, so a versatile lens is right up my alley. And the Laowa 65mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO is VERY VERY versatile! The fact that it is relatively light strong with a maximum 2.8 aperture, as well as the incredible enlarging power of the 2x macro function gives it an incredible range of applications.

For what the lens does, it’s really quite small. It really fit the small mirrorless cameras quite well.

When I was using the lens I found that I lost some light when I went into 2x macro mode. I had to add approximately 1 stop on either the ISO or the shutter speed to make up for it. No biggie, unless you plan on using it for sweeping through the focus when doing video.

When I shot the lens it was pretty abysmal with both lighting conditions and weather cooperation here in Denmark. We really have had the shittiest, most grey and flat winter in recent memory. It’s goddamn depressing! So most of the time I had to crank the ISO to get a well lit image. This is in part due to the fact that I don’t have any fancy-schuancy macro lights, but also due to the fact that at 2x macro the f/2.8 aperture is about as useless as it gets. The DOF is so thin that you will see front AND background blur within the width of a human hair. It’s so silly! So when you go into macro-mode. Plan on using AT LEAST f/5.6.
I shot most of it on my X-Pro3, but I also shot some of the images on my X-H1. The IBIS inside the X-H1 makes it possible to lower the ISO quite a bit when using this lens. So I definitely advice an IBIS capable camera for optimum output from the Laowa 65mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO.

Image quality is really really good! It’s very sharp even wide open. The out of focus areas that this lens renders is very creamy and very pleasing. And this is true at both 2 x macro as well as normal shooting distances for portraits and general use.

When shooting products using my Godox AD200 system, the lens at f/16 renders just as nicely as my Fujinon XF60mm f/2.4 which is my go to lens on the X-series for productshooting. I did NOT expect that!!!
Below is a gallery of product shots I shot of both my Leica M and my Fujifilm TX1. The rendering is stunning. Do make sure to click the full gallery.

The corners are also quite good at normal usage range, and at macro ranges I couldn’t tell if there was any significant field curvature because of the insanely thing DOF.

Conclusion and samples

I really shouldn’t be surprised by Laowa offering high quality at a very affordable price. The last couple of lenses that I’ve used from them have all been stellar performers, and the Laowa 65mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO is probably the best of them so far. It’s incredibly versatile. Incredibly sharp. Renders beautiful out of focus areas and focus falloff while keeping it all in a very well-built compact package. This is indeed another hit lens from Laowa if you ask me. And I’m not even into macro!

The lens will cost you $399 and you can find more info by going to the dedicated Laowa site HERE: https://www.venuslens.net/product/laowa-65mm-f-2-8-2x-ultra-macro-apo/

The samples below have all been shot by me on either my X-Pro3 or my X-H1 using the Laowa 65mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO. I have post processed the images to my liking using Adobe Lightroom. I’m not a reviewer, I’m a photographer, so I choose to shoot how I use the lens instead of SOOC pixelpeeper jpegs. Make sure you click the gallery for 3000px wide end images as well as metadata from each file. 

20 comments

  1. Very tempting lens for my occasional macro needs. Also would round out my focal lengths as I don’t have anything in this length for Fuji X. Thanks for an excellent review as always.

  2. For those on a budget, I recommend the Macro Extensions by Fuji. I have the 11mm and paired with the 90mm f/2 the images are pretty amazing. If you already have the 90 the cost is much less than buying a whole other macro lens. The details and imagery are awesome here and im not trying to put it down just adding my two cents. Cheers.

  3. Will be good to have a comparison between touit 50mm or xf80mm or a 1:1 macro lens with raynox dcr 150/250. This is a macro 2:1 lens which major objective is to shoot macro. Just my 2cents thots.

  4. I’m looking for something similar to Canon EL 135mm f2. Was thinking about xf 90mm but this came up. @Jonas Do you think this could be better alternative than 90? (doing automotive mostly)?

  5. Nice review as always, Jonas! My question is, how does this lens compare to the stellar Fujinon XF80mm f/2.8 Macro in terms of image sharpness at 1:1, at ISO 160 and, say, f/8? That would be an interesting comparison, but my money’s on the Fuji, just in terms of sheer image sharpness and detail rendition.

  6. I just purchased this lens for my XH-1 but can not seem to get the shutter to activate. Can someone be so kind as to share with me what settings I need to share in the XH-1 menu? Thank you very kindly!

      1. You need to activate the option “Shoot without lens”. I don’t have my camera to tell you where is is but Google these words.

        Also, there is another menu where you can set the focal length of your manual lens. So even if the exif won’t capture lens data, the focal length will be there.

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