#860. Monday Post (20 May 2019) – A tale of two 100s – May challenge – Pixel madness

By pascaljappy | Monday Post

May 20

Over the past few weeks, two new 100mm lenses have been announced and alarmingly stretched my zygomaticus : the super duper Zeiss Otus 100 f/1.4 and the intriguing Laowa 100/2.8 Macro Apo. In many ways the two are similar, in many ways they are polar opposites.


The Otus is a surprise because an 85mm version of the lens already exists. And, according to Ming Thein, myself and many observers, not only is that possibly the best of the 3 existing Oti, it’s also one of the best lenses out there, period. So it’s really difficult to understand the positioning decision for the 100. Who, unconvinced by the 85 would be swayed by it? And who already owning the 85 will elect to spend 5 large on the extra 17% of reach?

It makes you wonder whether focal length has anything to do with the new release. Zeiss marketing mentions robustness and reliability (which is not reassuring for owners of the previous 3, btw). It also alludes to medium format photography. And ultimate image quality. As exceptionnal as I’m sure the lens is in every conceivable way, it’s difficult not to find the launch a little confusing and defensive. Still, though, yum …


In the opposite corner, and at 10% of the price, the new Laowa 100/2.8 couldn’t have a more explicit core benefit : a 2:1 macro abilty. Apochromatic correction and high optical quality only contribute to make this new Venus Optics lens a very desirale proposition.

I’m seriously tempted. By both lenses, but more particularly by the Laowa. While the Otus 100 might push the optical quality of the 85 that little bit further, initial comparison tests online also make it look a little harder edged. The Laowa, on the other hand, appears to have the most poetic rendering. And, having recently fallen for small environmental portraints with my 120 Macro, the prospect of a 2:1 ratio is mezmerising.


So far, my requests for review loans have met with enthusiastic silence by both manufacturers, thank you very much, so this might be the end of that. But stay tuned, you never know.


A brief reminder to all about the May photo challenge entitled “Loved ones”. If you missed the announcement or my prose was unclear, here’s the gist of it again.

It’s easy for us to photograph plenty of stuff we love (a tree, a house, a person, a dog, a mountain …) but much more difficult to convey in the photographs that sensation of admiration and attachment. Viewers unaware of your bond might just think “yup, that’s a dog, that’s a tree, why am I looking at that, exactly?”. Even if the photograph is technically well executed.

When you are really attached to something or somewhere, the familiarity that has developed over time can sometimes make it through to the photograph. That’s what we are looking for in this challenge. And, again, it’s very difficult. Particularly to advanced photographers who have learned to recognise shape and composition and light and who could craft a good photograph rather than an emotionally charged one, like a beginner might. To be honest, I don’t know even where to start myself …

So let me once again refer to some of the happiest moments in recent years with a kitten before it was taken away from us too soon and too brutally.


You can also send photographs of loss. For example the stump of that loved tree, if it was chopped down. The same conditions apply: feelings count more than technique.

If you send photographs of people, please make sure you have their explicit permission to publish photographs of them and send it to me with the photographs. We live in a strange old world, these days. Otherwise, please send me (pascal dot jappy at gmail dot com) your photos of locations, animals, objects … anything that won’t cause trouble 😉

But, enough love around here! Let’s talk about important stuff, manly stuff. Let’s talk about pixels, while we pound our chests! Isn’t it great to know so many more are on their way? Pixels, that is, not chests. In a brief roundup of rumours, mirrorlessrumors recently revealed the full extent of the sensor inflation to come in 2019. Fuji and Hassy: +100%. Canon > 100% … Oh my! Time to buy Intel and Sandisk stock, I’m telling you. And Xanax.


Meanwhile, the megaton woolly mammoth in the room, the smartphone, only mentions pixels in passing, focusing on convenience, envelope expanding innovation, fun, ease of use, integration …

This is actually getting hilarious. The more photographers are leaving the room, the louder the dinosaurs are roaring their old routine: “pixels, pixels, we have pixels”.

In a few months, when the damage is done and the status quo is once again reestablished, ISO will again be the emperor’s new groove, then FPS, then AF speed, ’til we’ve come full circle again. Like it’s 2006 all over.


In the past, we have seen Kodak invent the technology that would bankrupt it, we heard of poor Edward John Smith and 1500 other people dying because of a snubbed iceberg and iffy rivets. We are now seing what coporate greed can do to airliners and their passengers.

But, in all that dark history, I don’t recall anyone actually begging so eagerly for a wall in which to slam at full blast. It’s almost amusing to watch it unfold, that slo mo crash. Or it would be if so many workers didn’t rely on those companies for food and shelter.


Oh well … I guess the quality vs quantity farce is here to stay a little longer 😉

A happy week to you !


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  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Dustin Abbott has reviewed some Irix, Kamlan and Laowa lenses – so maybe he’ll review this one too?
    ( He does look at different aspects if the rendering.)

    Btw., talking of ~100mm:s, he applauded the new version if Tamron’s 90mm Macro and thought the stabilization good enough at short distances to be useful also for macro work.

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    I particularly like the Red & Yellow-green!
    And, of course, Biskit – obviously feeling totally safe and at home, but what is she thinking, or dreaming…?

    (The end of “The naming of cats” in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot:)
    . . . .
    But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,

    And that is the name that you never will guess;
    The name that no human research can discover—

    But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
    When you notice a cat in profound meditation,

    The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
    His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation

    Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:

    His ineffable effable
    Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Is next week too late? – it’s still May!
    As for camera manufacturers – I don’t know how many people I told during my working life that everything is just a game of choice & consequences – and if you don’t like the consequences, don’t complain – just make better choices.
    Sony’s profits rose – Canikons fell – it wasn’t my fault, I bought more Nikon gear than I’d planned to -so I guess they have nobody to blame but themselves.
    Frankly, their performance is starting to become just as relevant to any decision to buy further gear from them as ALL the other stuff about pixels or ISO or f-stops on lenses, etc
    And yes, a macro with a 2:1perfòrmance would be tempting.
    So would a replacement fo Nik’s 24-85 zoom, with something as good as their current f/2.8 70-200.
    And no, I DON’T mean mirrorless – the vast majority of Nik owners shoot with DSLR’s, not Z6s or Z7s. Nik created that market and should continue to service it – properly – at least for some years yet.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Never too late 😉

      What I find interesting with the 2:1 macro is that it opens up a whole new universe of photo creation (at least for me). It would like learning something completely new. Initial results would be rubbish but the possibilities, at that scale, feel almost endless.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        ROTFLMHAO – “initial results would be rubbish”? What about my recent super tele panorama? Don’t worry about a thing – keep trying – each attempt will be better than the last one!
        I love macro – must get back into it – my last hasty attempt was trying to capture an image of a small lizard that somehow found its way onto my kitchen bench. My first macro was Nikon’s, and I didn’t like it, so I traded it in on Zeiss’s. It’s certainly sharper, but as it’s a 1:2 it needs to be sharper. I still think it’s better than Nik’s, but I crave something better still.

  • Georg says:

    I really like the Sony 100mm STF. Very sharp with some softening of the background. Where I found it shines is for closeups, although the STF works best in that capacity wide open, with a fairly narrow and planar subject. DOF with a 100mm lens is very narrow.

    I like it better than the Zeiss 100/2 Makro-Planar of Nikon 105/2 DC, although both have their strong suits. I found the Laowa 100 STF surprisingly bland (as opposed to neutral) in color, and wide open difficult to focus on high key subjects. But I keep trying with that lens. Maybe I’ll figure it out some day.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks Georg. The Zeiss Makro Planar is a bit hard, yes. It’s not my favourite in the lineup of Milvus lenses today, not bby a long shot. The 85 and 50 are much nicer and it’s possible to use them with extension rings to get up close.

      Shame about the bland Laowa. Thank you for letting me know.
      All the best.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Amazing – went out to dinner and came back to find two articles saying DSLR’s are far from dead & heaps of ‘togs won’t have a bar of mirrorless!
    You can’t make this stuff up – you don’t even have to!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Well, the market is definitely shifting. Have Nikon or Canon released lenses for DSLRs lately? I’m not aware of it. But that doesn’t mean DSLRs will die. The lens catalog is already enormous and, while there’s a fair chance most of the “innovation” will be on the mirrorless side of the counter, it would be very surprising for those brands to kill off a legacy so quickly.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        I bought Nik’s new 70-200. Don’t know & don’t care whether they released it before or after their Z6 & Z7 – because they must have planned it a long time before that anyway.
        But all their current FF w/angle to portrait length zooms are crappy out of date lenses and they won’t outlive their competitors if they continue to treat the vast majority of their existing customer base with more respect & concern! And their 2 mirrorless cams will NOT change that!

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Nik brought out a 24-70 for their mirrorless. It’s way past time for them to bring out a new one for their FF cams – the current version ain’t worth considering. And if they keep behaving like this, their sales of all their DSLR range (cams AND lenses) will sag or slump. Their choice!

  • Cliff Whittaker says:

    Back to the real point, photographic art: I really like the picture of the dustpan and brush and I love the one of the blooming weeds in the last picture. The contrast of the stems and the way the background dropped out but retained enough information to tell the viewer something about the location really pleased me.
    Black & white is really appealing to me right now. I spent the last week glamping at Reelfoot Lake State Park with my wife and photographing the last of the warbler migration up the Mississippi flyway. I’m kind of tired and burned out right now and I’ve spent the lasts three days processing colorful bird pictures. It has been a great week but I only want to see b&w for a while. Like when I was a kid and the whole world was still b&w.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Yes, pictures! Those are what matter, in the end 🙂

      I really like the two you have picked as well, mainly because of the limited depth of field that provides a bit of context but restricts the photographs to portraits of unusual objects, that we don’t ordinarily take any notice of.

      After years of using Capture One for my B&W conversions, I am still struggling with the starker Lightroom and the very limited Phocus. But it is always my favourite. There’s much more “focus” in a B&W photo, fewer distractions. That being said … for birds … it would be a shame 😀 (bbtw, if you ever want to share those bird photographs, I’d love to post them here!)


  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    A Laowa 100mm 2×1 macro review
    by Keith Cooper :


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