The Laowa 25mm f2.8 2.5-5x Ultra Macro is now the second macro lens from Venus Optics that I’ve tested. Its range of magnifications from 2.5x to 5x nicely complements Laowa’s 100mm f2.8 2x Macro APO making it one of only three lenses I know of that reach 5x magnification without the use of bellows or extension tubes. And like its longer sibling the lens has a lot going for it: it is quite sharp across the full frame, copes pretty well in contra-light situations and has very little field-curvature which is important when reproducing flat objects. Bokeh is also nice, the lens comes at a low price, and Venus Optics offers a very useful front LED ring light as an add-on.
What’s not to like? First and foremost, the lens cannot focus to infinity (limiting it to close subjects only), it is manual focus only, aperture has to be operated manually too, and no EXIF data is transmitted to the camera. This may not deter you when doing macro work. But the missing autofocus prevents the use of focus bracketing which some mirrorless cameras now offer. This, together with the razor-thin depth-of-field and the extreme movement of the front lens group while focusing means the lens is best used on a (sturdy) tripod and a focus rail. But to be fair, none of the other lenses reaching 5x magnification offers autofocus. There is one other limitation to be aware of when using the Laowa 5x Ultra Macro: Working distances are only around 4cm/1.6in. There are also other, minor drawbacks: the lens shows some longitudinal colour aberrations, it has no weather sealing, and distortions and vignette have to be manually corrected in post-processing.
Let’s have a closer look at how the Laowa 25mm f2.8 2.5-5x Ultra Macro compares to Laowa’s 100mm f2.8 2x Macro APO to help you decide which of the two lenses you might want to get for your macro work.
Compared to Laowa 100mm f2.8 2x Macro APO
Laowa’s 100mm f2.8 2x Macro APO is a good macro lens which also doubles up as a light telephoto as it is able to focus to infinity. It produces sharp images with very little field-curvature – although for best results it should be stopped down a bit. It has pretty soft Bokeh and less colour aberrations than the Laowa 5x Ultra Macro but is much more vulnerable to flare and glare in challenging contra-light situations. Both Laowa macro lenses have in common that they are manual focus only, aperture has to be operated manually too, no EXIF data is transmitted to the camera, and they are similarly priced. The decisive difference for choosing one over the other is their maximum magnification: While the optical quality of the 100mm f2.8 2x Macro APO at 2x magnification is certainly good enough for cropping the images to achieve 2.5x magnification, the maximum magnification of Laowa’s 5x Ultra Macro is practically out of reach: You would be cropping a 45MP large original image at 2x magnification down to 7MP to achieve 5x magnification. That’s throwing away 84% of the pixels. So deciding between both lenses is pretty easy: if 2x magnification is enough for your intended purposes I’d go for Laowa’s 100mm f2.8 2x Macro APO. And remember: 2x magnification is already double what most standard macro-lenses can achieve. But if your macro ambitions go beyond 2x magnification the 25mm f2.8 2.5-5x Ultra Macro is the lens to consider.
For more details see my Laowa 100mm f2.8 2x Macro APO review where it earned a recommendation.
Laowa 25mm f2.8 2.5-5x Ultra Macro final verdict
Laowa’s 25mm f2.8 2.5-5x Ultra Macro is a very special macro lens: Its major attraction is being able to achieve up to 5x magnification (at working distances around 4cm/1.6in) without any additional gear. But – like other lenses achieving 5x magnification – it has only manual focus and cannot focus to infinity. The lens produces sharp images with very little field-curvature across the full frame, copes well in contra-light situations, has pretty nice Bokeh, and comes at an affordable price. This all clearly earns the 25mm f2.8 2.5-5x Ultra Macro a recommendation. Just make sure to use a good focus rail and focus stacking software.
- Goes up to 5x magnification.
- Good resolution across the full frame at all magnifications.
- Very little field-curvature.
- Nice Bokeh.
- Useful front LED ring light as optional accessory.
- Affordable price.
- Does not focus to infinity.
- No autofocus, no EXIF data, no lens profile.
- Working distances of around 4cm/1.6in.
- Manual operation of aperture.
- Longitudinal colour aberrations could be better controlled.
- Focus ring not practical for manual focusing.
- No weather sealing.