Laowa 12mm lens
It has been over a year now since I got the Laowa 12mm F2.8 Zero-D lens. In that time I had the opportunity to try it out a lot of times, so today I will share with you my thought on it, and if I’m happy with the purchase.
Taking photos at 12mm
There are not many lenses where you can go that wide. This is great, but also makes this a very specific use lens. One can only use it when something is really close, or very big. In all other situations, all will look very small, or you get too much of empty space. Also, pointing the lens up or down results in a huge amount of perspective distortion, so it’s best used when perfectly leveled.
Still, the moment you are in a situation that fits this lens, it’s great. The distortion is minimal, the sharpness is great. Also having the F2.8 aperture is perfect if you want to do star photos or auroras (have not tried this personally, but have a friend who uses it all the time). It’s also great when you want to do a panorama, but are not able to do multiple photos. As it’s so wide, you can just take a photo and crop it later into a panoramic aspect ratio.
The ability to use a circular polarizer and 10cm square filters make it very practical. Now I can use the same filters on my lenses and don’t have to get the big 15cm ones. This makes it much cheaper and much harder to damage the filters. You still get strong vignetting, but that’s a small tradeoff for how easy is to use them. I wrote more about this here.
There are actually only two things I don’t like about this lens. First is, the aperture ring is very easy to randomly rotate. When I get back to the lens, it never is at the same aperture I left it at. Usually, just by touching the sides of my camera bag, it moves to F22.
The second thing, it’s a bit harder to focus for me. I always manually focus, so being a manual focus lens is not a problem. The issue is the aperture. Normally, when you focus on a camera, the lens first opens to it’s biggest aperture, to let in the biggest amount of light it can. There is a button on the side of the most camera, that when pressed, steps the lens to the aperture you selected.
On this lens, you have to change the aperture manually, so it’s always set to the one you have chosen. Like this, you see the resulting focus right away. But since the DOF is usually very high, you don’t really know where you are focused at all and have to check multiple areas of the photo. This is not really a problem of the lens, more of my workflow when taking photos. It’s just different from my other lenses, that I forget about it, and then end up with out of focus photos.
In the end, the Laowa 12mm F2.8 Zero-D is a great lens, and I’m happy I got it last year. And of course, all photos in this post are taken with it. You can also see my favorite composition with it. I like to have a path, railing or something similar on one side, pulling your eyes into the photo.