I’m a big fan of macro photography – I’ve used inexpensive options like reversing rings and extension tubes. I have also purchased several dedicated macro lenses. But I’ve never found a macro solution that made me feel this excited until now. Is this the Laowa 90mm f2.8 “Dreamer” the best macro lens for the Sony E Mount system? I definitely think it is – read the review and how it compares to other macro lens options.
What is the Laowa 90mm Macro Lens?
Venus Optics released the 90mm Macro lens in June of 2022. Explicitly designed for full-frame mirrorless cameras, this lens supports the most popular mount – Canon RF, Nikon Z, Sony FE, and L.
The lens is pretty unique among macro lens options, offering an incredible 2:1 magnification ratio. This means that the lens can magnify an object by up to twice its size. Allowing you to get astonishing detail on even the smallest of subjects.
This lens does have one little drawback – it’s fully manual. Both focus and aperture control are controlled by hand, and it does not send aperture information to the camera body. However, when shooting macros, I’m almost always in manual control of the focus and aperture, so I don’t see this as a big issue.
The unique design of the lens
Because this lens was designed specifically for mirrorless cameras, the designers could optimize the internal lenses and design for sharpness. They also decreased the lens’s size and weight, something anyone can appreciate when shooting handheld macros.
This lens weighs only 619g (22oz) and is 120mm (4.7in) long, making it a great lens to carry around and capture images in the field.
Another significant feature is the APO or apochromatic design, which decreases the images’ color fringing (chromatic aberration). This saves the post-processing effort to remove the off colors CA creates around high-contrast areas and detracts from the final image.
One thing that drove me nuts with my old macro lens was that the front element would extend and retract while focusing, so I had to constantly move the camera to prevent bumping the lens into a subject.
The Laowa 90mm uses a completely internal focusing system. The front of the lens never moves when focusing. I found I could put the camera on a tripod and easily shift focus without any worry about the lens touching my subject.
The internal focusing feature of this lens makes it more resistant to dust. While the lens is not entirely waterproof, there’s little risk of picking up anything from the outside.
The 2:1 magnification ratio
A 2:1 magnification means that the image in the camera is twice the size of the subject. At maximum magnification, you can capture high-resolution details of your subject.
The minimum focusing distance at maximum resolution is 20.5cm (8 in) from the sensor or about 6.35 cm (2.5 in) from the end of the lens. So you’ll still almost be rubbing noses with your subject and may have to use off-camera lighting to prevent the lens from creating a shadow.
The wide aperture of F/2.8
Low light and smooth bokeh are no problem with this lens’s fast f/2.8 aperture. It also means that the depth of field is shallow, making it easy to isolate subjects from their backgrounds.
If you work in low light at this wide aperture, you may have to start working with focus stacking to get a subject in focus. But with the stability and clarity of this lens, I had no problem creating a decent stack by moving the camera away and shooting in burst mode.
This lens is an extraordinary tool to help me with my macro photography. Here are some examples macro images using this lens on my Sony A7Rii from my library and the Laowa site –
Overall, I am incredibly impressed with this lens and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great macro lens for their Sony E-mount camera. If you’re serious about macro photography, this is your lens! It’s easily the best option on the market right now and is priced very reasonably.
Checking on Amazon, I see the price of the Dreamer has increased since I picked up my lens. I’d suggest acting fast and getting one before they’re discovered by more photographers!
Thanks as always for reading. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.