Laowa has been on quite a roll with releasing new lenses. And on paper, the Laowa 58mm f2.8 ultra macro APO lens is supposed to blow things out of the water. It’s lightweight, focuses closely, has an apochromatic lens element. I mean, what’s not to like? Well, in real life use, we weren’t overwhelmed or underwhelmed; we were just…whelmed.
The Big Picture
The Laowa 58mm f2.8 is a pretty unique macro lens for a variety of reasons. First off, it’s a macro lens. There’s a 2x magnification which is good enough for a wide variety of things. Then it’s also an apochromatic lens, which means that whatever is in focus will get a contrast boost. Since it’s a Laowa lens, the lenses have coatings that render a unique image quality. And that quality is visible to the trained Sony shooter. While it provides great image quality, it’s a bit more complicated to use for the typical photographer. It’s manual focus with no electronic contacts or ability to communicate with the camera. This has been a problem with Laowa for a while now though. I hope they fix it sooner or later.
Personally speaking though, this lens is missing some sort of magic to get excited about. I’m not really excited about it, nor do I think I’d use it for anything but macro photos. That’s partially because I own the very good Sony 55mm f1.8. And if you already own that as well, the only reason why you’d get the Laowa 58mm f2.8 is for its macro feature.
The Laowa 58mm f2.8 receives four out of five stars. Want one? Check them out at Adorama.
- It’s only $599
- It’s got really nice bokeh because of the apochromatic element
- Very close focusing
- Beautiful bokeh
- Pretty small size
- Nice overall render because of the optics
- I wish it had weather resistance
- No AF/AE lens contacts
- Only f2.8
We tested the Laowa 58mm f2.8 loaner unit with our own Sony a7r III.
The Laowa 58mm f2.8 is pretty much a one-of-a-kind. It boasts an apochromatic lens, a 2x macro feature, and a super affordable price point. Even if you don’t want to use this lens for macro reasons, it can do a great job.
Here’s a look at the Laowa 58mm f2.8. The front element has a filter thread and a removable lens hood in case you want to change up how large the final package is when attached to your camera.
Here’s a look at the lens overall. The aperture ring is towards the back while the main section of the lens is dominated by the massive focusing ring. In between all that is the zone focusing and distance focusing scale.
And of course, there’s the big Laowa label on it too (just so you know)!
The Laowa 58mm f2.8 isn’t weather resistant at all, so don’t bother trying to take it into inclement weather. And that’s even worse if you own an older Sony camera where the weather resistance isn’t all that great anyway.
Besides the lack of weather sealing, this lens has a fair amount of metal on the exterior as well as a bit of a plasticky feel to it. But it’s mostly characterized on the outside by the giant focusing ring. It doesn’t feel cheap. However, it also doesn’t feel super high quality for what it’s worth.
Ease of Use
This lens will undoubtedly feel complicated for many photographers to use if you’re not aware of how to use it. There are no AF/AE contacts, no autofocus, and a manual aperture. So you’ll need to use a combination of focus peaking and magnification to get it perfectly in focus. That becomes even more complicated when shooting macro photos. I strongly suggest using it with a tripod when doing that.
The Laowa 58mm f2.8 is a manual focus lens. And it doesn’t have AF/AE contacts at all, so trust us when we say that it’s going to be difficult to focus with when shooting macro photos. In fact, generally speaking, I found it difficult to focus partially because of how Sony’s focus peaking works. Always use magnification and peaking together.
Image quality from the Laowa 58mm f2.8 is a pretty good overall. But while the bokeh is beautiful and the colors are lively, again, I just am not completely blown out of the water by this lens like I am with many others out there. It surely has character and good quality. However, it really needed to be maybe a stop or so faster.
This lens is supposed to have really something special because of the apochromatic element. Apochromatic elements put higher contrast on whatever is in focus. The effect is mostly evident at f2.8. As a Leica shooter, this kind of just makes me yawn. Granted, the price points are vastly different. But once you’re used to f2 apochromatic glass, you can’t go back. Granted, the bokeh is nice. It’s not unlike anything that I haven’t seen before though.
The colors from the Laowa 58mm f2.8 are on the muted side of things. Sony’s own lenses and Tamron’s too are much more punchy and vivid. If you’re going for that look, then you’ll like it for sure.
We couldn’t find any issues with distortion or anything like that. And overall, the apochromatic effect that this lens is supposed to exhibit doesn’t appear all that strong compared to other Laowa apochromatic lenses.
The sharpness of this lens, though not as sharp as Sony optics, is pretty good. It’s a bit behind what Tamron can do with their sharpest lenses. However, this is a macro lens. And at macro levels, you’ll see really how nice and sharp this lens can be. Use it with off-camera flash manually metered for the best results.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Who Should buy The Laowa 58mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO?
As I scroll down to this section of the review to give my analysis, I find myself asking this question of myself. And quite honestly, I don’t know what the answer could be; especially if you’re a Sony camera user. So that leaves me to think about pretty much every other camera system out there. With that said, I still can’t think about what camera system except for maybe Nikon could use the Laowa 58mm f2.8. So if you’re a Nikon camera owner and you need a Macro, give this one a shot.
These specs are taken from the Adorama listing:
- Up to 2x Magnification
- Apochromatic (APO) characteristic
- Outstanding sharpness
- Longer depth of field
- Internal focusing
- Smooth bokeh
- Lens Format: Full Frame
- Fixed Focal Length: Focal Length: 58mm
- Lens Type: Standard Lens
- Image Stabilization: Image Stabilization: No
- Special Features: Bokeh Effect