#970. Meet Up – Jonathan & Marko (i.e. Zeiss Milvus 100 Makro vs Laowa 100 Macro)

By Dallas Thomas | Review

Feb 23

Two friends (Dallas and Philippe), two similar 100mm macro lense, one location. Do they produce similar photographs, and how do the lenses compare on looks?

Dallas (Milvus 100 Makro) begins

Philippe and Pascal have a tradition of naming their equipment (photographic). Naming things has never really been my thing. Until I purchased a Zeiss Milvus 100 f2 Makro Planar.

“Ah”, I thought, when it arrived: “Marko you shall be named”.

And then, a meeting was arranged between Philippe’s Laowa 100mm f2.8 macro (a.k.a Jonathan) and Marko.

It took place at Philippe’s favourite shooting place. Its location is a tightly guarded secret, so enough said.

Can two very similar lenses get on in real life?

Of course they can …

or … can they?

Marko and Jonathan come from vastly different backgrounds.

Marko for instance has a nearly Prussian upbringing, precision in every aspect, build, IQ and feel.

Jonathan, excuse the pun, comes from a Johnny-come-lately background but still performs extremely well.

I will let Marko’s images tell his story using the Nikon Z7 as body.

And I’m sure Philippe will have something to say about Jonathan using his Sony.

But, in the end, what could be more enjoyable than friends from vastly different backgrounds enjoying their love of photography together?

Philippe (Laowa 100 Macro) takes over

Taking Dallas to my favorite, most personal shooting place was like inviting him to share my safety blanket. Wondering whether there would be enough safety to be found for two souls… Wondering whether an outsider would not upend the magic….

So I wimped out, and went only half-out, staving off the risk of total failure. I organised it 45mn before the start, on the same location, of a Meetup that was bound to include people he and I knew, which would change the dynamics of our own shoot.

Plus, this outing also incorporated elements of the old Wild-West shoot-out between 2 pseudo-similar lenses, in that they sport the same focal length (100mm), are both manual focus and boast macro capability.

I know Dallas’ lens fairly well, having owned its predecessor (Zeiss ZE 100mm f:2.0 Makro Planar), so I had a fair idea where I was going, gear-wise. He called his lens Marko in reference to Makro, but he might as well have called it Mako in reference to the sharp bite of the similarly-named shark.

Jonathan on the other hand is both less and more:

Less glamorous, obviously, than the mighty Zeiss, less expensive, less perfectly engineered, less fast (f:2.8 Vs f:2.0), less obviously geared towards a macro rendering. No bias towards übersharpness here, rather the opposite, with a proclivity for the gentle and beautiful.

More magnification, as it goes all the way to 2:1, as opposed to Marko’s 1:2. More optical correction, as it is designated APO whereas Marko has a bit of CA wide open.

But now to the results… and my take. Dallas is too kind, too much of a gentleman and a friend to call this a less-than-totally-satisfying exercise, but his picture count and the number of images post-culling pretty much tell the story. This is a location you need to really, really get into, and his results are close to what I got in my early efforts there.

Plus, he used his gear in the intent in which it is designed. Show everything you got! Whereas I use mine (including heavy PP) towards a much dreamier style than reality. Dallas, on the other hand, chose to show the glass, dirt and all, on the flowers-and-leaves-through-the-glass.

One can see in the flower images, where Dallas and I matched our shots pretty much, that he chose to make use of Marko’s structured bokeh, whereas I reduced Jonathan’s to smooth, colourful blotches. Different style and storytelling…

In the green leaf shot, also closely matched, you can see how the Dallas-cum-Marko team show it essentially as it was, almost flattened against the greenhouse glass, whereas Jonathan and I take it well into dreamy territory.

Which brings me to a simple and highly unoriginal conclusion. The technical differences between fairly similarly specced gear (Dallas could easily have purchased Jonathan had he chosen to, instead of Marko, and shot similar images) are minute compared to

(a) the differences between shooters and

(b) where the gear “takes” us.

It being understood that Dallas was fairly new to Marko and totally new to the location and shooting style, and I was quite familiar with both my lens and the spot, and that factor weighs heavily on the results.

Based on this brief example, it is not gear in itself that is going to “take” you where GAS tells you you think you want to be (whatever this convoluted phrase means, or your think it means!:-). But gear can help or hinder you on your own evolution path towards your elusive goal…

Once more, it is the old saw… whatever floats your boat… there is no bad gear. Only gear that suits, fits and pleases more or less.


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  • jean pierre guaron says:

    To be honest, I’ve completely given up on GAS wars over which gear. It seems to me that it’s simply a question of personal choice – and with that, comes this! – it’s not even what you’re used to – it might end up that way, but it’s what you are comfortable with.

    The depth of any “argument” about “which gear” is about as illuminating as that American song about how to pronounce “potato” and “tomato”. And once the argument starts, my eyes glaze over – my mind drifts of to things like “what’s Cris [my dog] doing?” and “what should I cook for dinner, tonight?”

    But putting all of that to one side – I found the article illuminating and interesting, and enjoyed all the photos from the pair of you. I don’t have Marko – I have his original manifestation, still a Zeiss f/2.0 100mm Makro. I also have Jonathan.

    I’ve had hundreds of photos with my Makro – and although I only recently acquired Jonathan, and have yet to transfer the first shots to my iMAC for post, I think I’ve bagged one, with a wild bee about to land on my crepe myrtle – doing her early morning round, to collect as much nectar as possible before the heat of the midday sun sends them all scurrying back to their hive – one wing virtually stationary (frozen my my high shutter speed) and the other blurred almost beyond recognition.

    So I’m going to vote for BOTH of them. 🙂

    As to your photos – the two that stand out in my head are the first one (just before Dallas starts writing) and the final one from Philippe. I think that’s one each. If not, it must be 2-Nil. 🙂

    • jean pierre guaron says:

      Rather than upvote my own comment, I thought I’d put forward a suggestion. Hands up all the members of DS who have Jonathan! I think I can already identify at least three, and I suspect there are more amongst us! Which puts Jonathan WAY up there, in the popularity stakes! 🙂

  • jean pierre guaron says:

    Since nobody else has commented on this post, I thought I might use it to add this piece of information about new gear that we can acquire.

    As drones become more popular and cellphone accessories like selfie sticks increasing come under fire, new opportunities open up as old ones close, in the market place.

    This morning’s new addition, at least within my range of knowledge of what’s out there, was an extremely ingenious one. At least, in my view.

    A buying guide to drones introduced me to this idea. The ultimate fashion accessory for the ‘tog who already has it all. A GAS sufferer’s dream!

    Here it is folks – a special circular disc, a blue background with appropriate white markings – and it is your own private landing pad, for your drone – with it’s a MAVIC or what it is!

    Which surely takes the biscuit, for new product of the year!

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