Photography News Issue 47

Photography News | Issue 47 |


First tests

Laowa12mmf/2.8Zero-D £899

Price Format Full-frame, APS-C (18mm effective) Mounts Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony A, Sony E Construction 16 elements in 10 groups Special lens elements Two aspheric elements, three extra-low dispersion elements Coatings Multi-layer low reflective coating on every element. Water repellent ‘frog eye’ hydrophobic coating on front element Filter size Via Laowa 95mm filter adaptor (£24.90) and Laowa 100mm filter holder Lite (£69.90) and Original (£79.90) Aperture range F/2.8-22 Diaphragm Seven blades Internal focus Yes Manual focus Manual only Minimum focus 18cm Focus limiter No Maximummagnification 0.2x Distance scale The fascination with prime lenses, especially fast aperture wide-angles, seems ever growing, fromlensmakers and photographers alike. Laowa is a relative newcomer to the independent lens market and is thebrainsbehindthisexcitingmanual focus ultra-wide that is full-frame and impressively fast at f/2.8. My test sample was Nikon fit so I used it fixed onto a D810. On that camera the lens is well matched in terms of size giving a combination that is balanced. As you’d expect from an ultra- wide, the front element is quite bulbous but doesn’t protrude beyond the lens lip so there is a degree of physical protection for the lens front. A bayonet hood is supplied which offers greater physical and a degree Specs £899

of flare protection. This hood does not click-lock into position and if it does shift from its correct position you will get vignetting but this will be obvious in the viewfinder so just twist the hood into place. Filters can be used and Laowa has a compatible 95mm adaptor that accepts Laowa’s 100mm filter holder. This should mean that if you own 100mm filters (Lee, NiSi etc) these should fit, although we didn’t have a Laowa holder to check this out. The full focus range was achieved with one half turn but for most shooting situations you will only be using the first centimetre or so of travel. Infinity to 1m is covered in about 1.5cm of focus barrel rotation. Minimum focus is 18cmwhich at that distance means the subject is about 5cm from the front element. Focusing isn’t easy in low light but the camera’s focus confirmation does work and the depth-of-field is so extensive that focusing as such isn’t needed in most normal shooting occasions. A depth-of-field scale is provided and it shows that at f/2.8 everything from infinity to about 2m is sharp. Close down to f/5.6 and everything fromunder 1m to infinity is sharp. The firm aperture ring is click- stopped in full f/stops and there is no A setting beyond f/22. On the Nikon, you do not get an aperture readout. What you do get in- camera is a number that relates to the set aperture. So, when 1 is shown this indicates f/2.8, 2 is f/4, 3 is f/5.6 and so on. Also on the Nikon there is the loss ofMatrixmetering. The lens’s optical skills are impressive considering the ultra wide coverage, fast aperture and price. It is an ultra-wide lens not a fisheye so straight lines stay straight. With its name, Laowa reckon there is no distortion and in that respect the lens pretty much delivers the goods with straight lines staying straight with faint barrel distortion at the edges. There is wide-angle distortion so if you position a round object at the corners of the frame it becomes ovoid but this is normal with ultra-wides. Test pictures were shot on the D810 mounted on a Gitzo Systematic GT4553S tripod and an Arca Swiss ball head. The resulting Raws processed through Lightroom with default sharpening. Viewing the images at 100% on screen showed the lens to be decently capable and adding some unsharp mask Photoshop gives results that stand critical scrutiny. Wide open images are pretty sharp with edges a little way behind and the same applies at f/4. If there is a weakness, it is towards the corners where fine detail is rather indistinct. At f/2.8 there is clear vignetting; this can be corrected in software and it goes with stopping down. Quality continues to pick up at f/5.6 and the far corners improve slightly and that overall improvement continues at f/8. For optimum sharpness across the frame including the corners you need to use f/11. F/16 is still good before resolution falls away and is softer at f/22. WC


Wide open images are pretty sharp with edges a little way behind




Landscape, architecture and astrophotographers will appreciate the potential of this lens and it does represent excellent value for money, given its angle of view and decent level of optical performance. At the wider apertures, the central and the edges are pretty good but sharpness falls away as youmove off-centre towards the corners. It is no real surprise that the lens does need stopping down to f/8 or f/11 for a high level of sharpness across the whole 35mm frame. Use this lens on an APS-C format camera the corner softening will be less of an issue.



Yes, metres and feet Depth-of-field scale Yes Image stabilizer No Tripod collar No Lens hood Bayonet fit supplied Weather-sealed No Dimensions 82.8x74.8mm Weight 809g Contact



Pros Decent performer when stopped down to f/8 or f/11,


massive depth-of-field even at f/2.8, compact for focal length and f/stop Cons Bayonet hood doesn’t lock in position, soft corners at f/5.6 and wider

Images The Laowa 12mm f/2.8 does a great job keeping straight lines straight but does need stopping down to give sharp fine details in the corners.

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