In this video, photographer, Christopher Frost, takes a look at six popular macro telephoto lenses from six different manufacturers to determine which performs the best and which is the best bang for the buck choice.
The following is a comprehensive comparison done by Frost to examine six popular lenses by Canon, Nikon, Sony, Laowa, Sigma, and Tamron. All lenses are between 90mm and 105mm, all are full-frame lenses although some are DSLR only and some are compatible with both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras (the Sony is only designed for E-mount).
It is worth mentioning that this sort of review is a bit misleading since different lenses had to be tested on different cameras with different sensors so this is not exactly apples to apples type of comparison but it is still worth watching.
Here are the competitors for this roundup:
- Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM ($700) – This was and still is a very capable lens but it is pretty old now. It is still a very good all-around performer but there are sharper options too buy for Canon now for less $.
- Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2x Macro ($450) – The performance of this manual lens took us by surprise. It might not have all the bells and whistles of the high-end Sony lens but in terms of pure image quality, it is very close to Sony in many respects (although handling flare isn’t one of them – coatings is still an area where the main manufacturers shine). It does come in a Sony E, Canon EF, Nikon F mounts (and possibly a few others if you can find them).
- Nikon AF-S VR 105mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor G IF-ED ($900) – the oldest lens of the six. It is still a pretty expensive lens but its optical performance isn’t on par with the others (we actually agree since we have this lens and we never liked the results that much, although it might be our copy and Frost’s copy of course).
- Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro – This lens is getting a bit old now although it is still O.K. and is very affordable if you are looking for a good entry-level into macro shooting and you want AF.
- Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS ($1100) – This is the most expensive lens of this test and is the best all-around performer and rightfully so (we also use it and it is our sharpest lens easily and possibly one of Sony’s sharpest lenses to date in any category). It has image stabilization, focus limiter and a clatch AF mechanism with nice markings and very fast and silent AF if you want to use it for non-macro shots.
- Tamron 90mm f/2.8 VC USD Macro ($600) – the latest version of Tamron’s 90mm macro lens is a good all-around performer and probably a better choice than the Sigma.
All six lenses can produce very good macro results (even the Nikon although we would not recommend it at this point, maybe as a second hand buy if you are a Nikon shooter and don’t want to buy 3’rd party glass). However, if you are looking for a dedicated macro lens and can work manually (and you really should), then the Laowa 100mm f/2.8 is really the clear winner here. Yes the Sony is fantastic and if you are a Sony shooter and want to shoot portraits and other things with a fantastic 90mm lens that has image stabilization and quick focus go for the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS but for more than twice the price you are not going to get anywhere close to twice the performance and the Laowa will outperform all other lenses regardless of price based on this test.