Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens: first look

DCW - Laowa 12mm f/2.8

I’ve been after an ultra-wide lens for quite a while. I really enjoy the results from my EF 17-40mm f/4L USM (Canon, DPreview), but have been keen to produce wide panoramas in a single shot (rather than stitching), as well as play with the perspective from the maximum available width. I knew I wanted a rectilinear lens rather than a fish-eye, as it’s more versatile.

Initially, I was tossing up between the Sigma 14mm F1.8 DG HSM prime and the Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM zoom in the Art lens series. Neither quite had the mix of features I was after. The zoom was deemed unsharp in the longer half of its range, and the 17-40mm is also limited to f/4. The 14mm looks to be a lovely lens but is more expensive and not a significant increase on 17mm. Both are quite heavy.

The Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D was exactly the right balance for me (Imaging Resource), so I picked one up from Digital Camera Warehouse (who were open on Sunday afternoon and offered a fair price). It’s a pleasure to use. I often use fully manual lenses, and usually shoot in manual mode, so this is definitely not a disadvantage.

  • It’s light (609g – half the weight of the Sigmas), and solid (aluminium body – it’s nice to hold)
  • Sharpness, chromatic aberration and distortion management are excellent
  • It’s about as wide as a 35mm rectilinear lens can go, and is still quite open (f/2.8)
  • It’s supposed to perform reasonably well at minimum aperture (f/22)
  • Being able to focus as close as 18cm is a bonus (to complement all the macros I shoot)

Laowa first shots on Flickr

I’m very pleased with the initial results. The images are pretty sharp and natural looking, it handles brightness well without a polarising lens (which you shouldn’t use), and it’s fun.

Johnstons Creek, Tramsheds and Harold Park

Harold Park

I’m heading bush soon to give the Laowa more of a run…

I know, I’ll have to be careful not to overuse it, but I’m looking forward to getting in close.

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Posted on November 1, 2018

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