LAOWA 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens – first impressions

I mentioned few days ago that I ordered a new lens, the LAOWA 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D from Venus Optics. And since the seller was very quick on delivery, I just got it today. And of course I immediately went out to try it out, and here I will share with you some of my fist impressions and fist photos I took. You can also get a full RAW file from one of the shot at the end of this post, so you can see the results of this lens for yourself.

Specifications

The LAOWA 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens is a ultra wide angle lens with very small barrel distortion. It’s a fully metal build lens, that is completely manual. Here are the specsifications of it to be exact:

Focal length: 12mm, Aperture: 2.8 to 22, Angle of view: 121.96 degrees, Aperture Blades: 7, Weight: 609g.

A great thing, if you use filters is, that with either the Laowa or the Nisi filter holders designed for this lens, you can use standard 100x100mm square filters here. This is just great, as most of the time, you are forced with these ultra wide angle lenses to go with 150x150mm filters. Those are just less practical, and of course much pricier. My Nisi holder for this lens is already on the way, so I will revisit that soon.

LAOWA 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens - first impressions
LAOWA 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens - first impressions

Build quality

The build quality looks great. The lens is completely from metal, even the lens hood. It’s feels very solid and well build. It’s also relatively small for full frame lens. Regrettably its not weather sealed. The only plastic part is the lens cap, which is not attached the best way, but it is OK. The focus wheel and the aperture wheel feel smooth and the clicks of the apertures are easily recognizable.

Usability

This is a fully manual lens, so you have to focus and set everything yourself. Focusing was a bit stranger, as I had to rotate the focus ring much more than on other lenses, and for most of the time all is in focus anyway. It’s just how the ultra wide angle lenses are. The camera will not detect the F stop, so you will not see it on your screen or in Lightroom. I will have to get used to this over time.

My Canon 5D mark IV was able to detect exposure, but in the few test, it usually was around 1 stop brighter than I would think the correct exposure is. Still, if one compensates, this is not a problem.

How wide is 12mm?

You may wonder how wide is 12mm. So did I. So here is a comparison, with the camera on the same spot, with the same settings. All photos have the exact same RAW edits done in Lightroom, with also the same white balance. The 16,24 and 35mm shots were done with Canon 16-35mm f2.8 lens.

LAOWA 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens - first impressions
LAOWA 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens - first impressions
LAOWA 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens - first impressions
LAOWA 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens - first impressions

Picture quality

First impression is that is really good. The photos look sharp (its a bit misty and humid today, so I’m not making any final verdict from today’s photos), with very little distortion. There is some vignetting visible and even when that is removed, the corners feel a bit bluer than they should be. I will have to look into this more, but either way, it’s not so hard to remove.

The lens catches flares quite easily, but that is no surprise with such a wide lens. Again, with few simple techniques (check my guide here) they are easy to remove. I did so in the attached sample images.

RAW file

If you want to have a look, here is a RAW file from the 12mm shot shown in focal length comparison. You can have a look at the vignetting, chromatic aberrations and sharpness. But again, take into account the foggy weather (and that I used this lens only for few hours, should be better over time :)).

You can download the RAW file from here. If you cant open the CR2 file from the 5D mark IV, you can try this DNG conversion, that you can download from here.

Sample images

Here are few images to show how much you can get with this lens. The weather was not the best today, so they are not so great, but don’t worry, there will be more from this lens in the future :)

You can also see, this is really not the best for far away scenery. The city is just so tiny in the shot. Being close to big object is the complete opposite, you just get so much into one photo.

LAOWA 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens - first impressions
LAOWA 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens - first impressions
LAOWA 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens - first impressions
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