Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D lens Lens Review

Introduction

Anhui Changgeng Optics Technology Co., Ltd (Venus Optics) was established in 2013 and has its headquarters in China. Quite frankly, up until early 2017, we had never even heard of this company nor the name Laowa and not sure how it eluded us :-).

It wasn’t until early 2017 that we decided we were in the market for a second wide-angle lens for our Sony A7R and A7II  cameras (we now both use the Sony A7Riii). We already have the Sony 16-35mm F4 lens which is a superb piece of glass, however, as we both shoot, if either of us hogs the 16-35 then there is no alternative for the other person to shoot ultra-wide.

It was at this stage that we came across a few YouTube videos about the launch of the Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D lens at Photokina 2016 and also the always thorough review by Christopher Frost. This lens looked great and really suited our needs as it was specifically made for Sony FE mount cameras (and now the Canon RF and Nikon Z mounts), and had a 72mm filter thread which meant that it would take our NiSi 100mm filter system and offer close to zero distortion (which means you don’t have to lose that much resolution when correcting for any distortion – if any).

Fantastic! So, when can we get one? We waited and waited….nothing. It also seemed that there were a lot of people online that thought that this lens was pure fantasy and that it would never be released. Finally a couple of months ago and almost a year after it was announced, it was ready for pre-order and we jumped at it. Another month passed before we finally received our copy. Laowa included, as an added bonus for the first 200 buyers, a 72mm UV filter*, 72mm CPL filter* and a 72mm ND1000 (10 stop) filter*. These were all Slim Fit filters so there would be no vignetting. Nice!.

*We highly recommend the Urth range of filters. Click on the banner below to get a great price on all their products

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Laowa 15mm f2 Zero-D lens

Above: Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-Distortion. Hover over images for a closer look.

Luminar Neo

Above: The Californian Redwood trees in Otway National Park – Sony A7ii and the Laowa 15mm f/2 Zero-D lens at f/11 for 6sec at ISO 100

Peak Design Travel Tripod

The Lens

The lens build is fantastic. It has a full metal construction, including the lens hood, however, the lens hood annoyingly does not lock into place so you have to be careful to check it every now and then (or not use it at all) otherwise you can be left with vignettes in your images.  The lens is fully manual, however, that is not an issue when being used with the Sony cameras, especially in conjunction with Focus Peaking. As there is no electronic chip in the lens you will not receive any EXIF data after importing your photos other than the ISO and Shutter Speed.

The lens has some pretty nifty features which are bound to impress. For those of you who love to shoot panoramas and use a panoramic bracket, then the nodal point of the lens is marked with “Entrance Pupil” on the front of the lens. This will save you time trying to find the correct position. Another cool feature is the switch at the base of the lens that allows you to de-click the aperture ring which will be great for those that want to use the lens for video. The aperture ring only has markings with full-stop increments, however, if you de-click the aperture ring, then you could estimate the 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments if needed.

Silence Corner Atoll

To read our review of the Silence Corner Atoll click here. We strongly recommend this product for those that frequently use a tripod.

The metal focus ring turns extremely smoothly. As with many manual lenses, it has a focus guide engraved into the metal in both white (metres) with 0.15m, 0.2m, 0.5m, 1m markings and red (feet) with 0.5ft, 0.7ft, 1ft, 3ft and infinity markings.  A guide is also included for the hyperfocal distance, with markings for f/5.6, f/11, and f/22 engraved on the lens barrel. In our testing, we have found that focusing on the right edge of the infinity symbol at f/11 will produce very sharp images from foreground to background which makes it ideal when shooting in portrait orientation. Having said that we have found this lens to be extremely sharp at all apertures in the centre of the frame with ideal sharpness from edge to edge occurring from f/5.6 onwards.

The real benefit of this lens other than the sharpness is the filter thread. At the time of writing, we’re not sure if there are any lenses currently available that will let you use the 100mm filter system on such a wide-angle lens with an aperture as wide as f/2. As the lens has such a wide aperture you will also be able to focus and compose your shots when using the dark ND filters without having to remove them from the front of the camera. The 72mm filter thread also opens up the opportunity of using 72mm screw-on circular filters which is a huge benefit for those that don’t want to invest in the large, expensive 100mm filter systems. Having said that we would recommend you use the slim filters to prevent vignetting and always avoid stacking screw-on filters.

Photography Planner

Above: La Perouse – Sony A7r and the Laowa 15mm f/2 Zero-D lens at f/11 for 10sec with a NiSi 6 stop ND filter and a 2 stop Hard Graduated ND filter

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Kyoto, Japan

Above: Kyoto Railway Station, Japan. A7Rii + Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-Distortion lens

Miyajima Island, Japan

Above: Miyajima Island, Japan. Sony A7Rii + Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-Distortion lens

Grand Hyatt, Shanghai

Above: Grand Hyatt, Shanghai – China. Sony A7Rii + Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-Distortion lens

Cockatoo Island, Sydney Australia

Above: Cockatoo Island, Sydney. Sony A7Riii + Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-Distortion lens

Specifications

Name: 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D
Focal Length: 15mm
Max. Aperture: f/2
Angle of View: 110°
Format Compatibility: Full Frame
Lens Structure: 12 elements in 9 groups (2pcs of Aspherical Elements + 3pcs of Extra-low Dispersion Elements)
Aperture Blades: 9
Min. Focusing Distance: 15cm
Max. Magnification: 1:4
Filter Thread: 72mm
Dimensions: 66 x 82 mm
Weight: 500g
Mounts: Sony FE, Nikon Z, Canon RF, Leica L

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The Price

This lens is not cheap although it is also not as expensive as some other brands on the market. At the time of writing, to buy at Adorama it will cost USD$749.00, and to Buy in Australia it will set you back AUD$1299.00 less the 5% discount when you use the Wide5 discount code at checkout.

The Verdict

We really love this lens. It is a joy to use and the results are phenomenal. We will be testing the lens further, especially with close-up subjects at f/2 which can give a different perspective. In due course, we will be posting more about this lens, however, our first impression is that this lens will remain in our bag for a very long time.

If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you.

Peak Design Slide Camera Strap

Here is a list of the lenses that they currently produce. Don’t forget, if purchasing in Australia to use the Wide5 discount code at checkout for a 5% discount on any product on the Laowa Australia website –

If purchasing in Australia use the Coupon Code: Wide5 to receive a 5% discount off the above prices at checkout.

Please Note: We may receive commissions when you click links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews or recommendations. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice.  

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