Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF Lens

INTRODUCTION

Late last year a friend gifted us the Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 Heliar Hyperwide Aspherical lens which we took to Japan in November 2023. This was our third visit to Japan over the last 5 years so our pace was a little slower and more experimental. The Voigtlander lens was used quite a bit, especially in the busier towns and cities. The versatility of the Voigtlander lens surprised us, proving that sometimes stepping out of our comfort zone leads to unexpected photographic treasures. The new perspective was uplifting.

Shortly after our return Venus Optics announced the launch of their first AF (Auto Focus) lens – the Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF. Based on the lens specs alone, we were keen to get our hands on this latest offering. We are not strangers to Laowa as we have been using the Laowa 15mm f/2 Zero-D lens since its launch in 2017, and knew how optically good the lenses are. This lens is always in our bag when we travel and despite being an MF ( Manual Focus) lens it has taken some magnificent images over the years.

Although the mega-wide 10mm focal length (Full Frame) is primarily designed for use in architectural interiors/exteriors and astrophotography, and not entirely for street or landscape photography, compositions can still work if there are enough elements in the frame.

We are extremely grateful to Laowa Australia for a loan copy of the Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF lens, however, although we are affiliates with Laowa Australia we were not paid for this review and all opinions expressed in this review are ours alone.

Fortunately, we also had the lens for the beginning of Vivid 2024 in Sydney so we were able to give the lens a good workout in low light for the review.

Venus Optics
Laowa 10mm f/2,8

Above: The Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens

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THE LENS

The new Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF lens has a metal construction and features a sleek and modern design, which is a departure from the look of other Laowa lenses. This design change is due to being Laowa’s first AF lens. The lens is 108g heavier than our Voigtlander 10mm lens and is much larger, especially in diameter, probably due to being a f/2.8 lens. The lens body has a slight gunmetal blue tinge, which may look strange on a black camera body, suggesting it might be a new colour for lenses with AF – only time will tell.

The lens has a wide focus-by-wire focusing ring that rotates smoothly without hard stops. Additionally, there is an AF/MF switch on the side of the lens to toggle between Auto Focus and Manual Focus. There is no OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) switch on the lens but this can be activated in-camera. Notably, the front of the lens has a removable plastic lens hood, and we are pleased that Laowa now provides a lock when attaching the lens hood. This addresses an issue with our Laowa 15mm f/2 lens, where inadvertently rotating the lens hood resulted in vignetting.

With a filter thread allowing for circular 77mm filters to be attached, we found that attaching an ultra-slim Urth UV, CPL*, and even a thicker Variable ND8-128 filter only showed the slightest hint of vignetting with the latter. Once the lens profile has been applied in editing, there should be no issues with vignetting when using a single circular filter, which is quite impressive given the 130º angle of view.

There are three versions of the Laowa lens. There is an Auto Focus version (for Sony FE and Nikon Z) and a Manual Focus version (for Canon RF and Leica L), which have 5 aperture blades. Additionally, there is a Manual Focus version with 14 blades for all mounts. For this review, we only have access to the 5-blade Auto Focus version for the Sony E mount.

We congratulate Laowa for their first AF lens, however, we’re not sure why this particular focal length was released as an AF (autofocus) lens. Manual focus works well for this type of lens. You can set the focus to 1m at f/5.6 or f/8 and everything from about 0.5m to infinity will be in focus. Nevertheless, there are a few instances where AF can be useful if you want to focus on a specific subject in the composition. It’s also quicker than setting manual focus and reduces the chance of inadvertently moving the focus ring.

*Although it is an advantage to be able to add a CPL filter, the lens will struggle to polarise across the field of view especially when there is a blue sky in the composition. Generally, CPL filters on an ultra-wide-angle lens will result in light corners and dark polarisation in the centre of the sky.

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.

Laowa 10mm f2.8

Above:  The Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF mounted to a Sony A7Riii. The Laowa lens is NOT compatible with the Silence Corner Atoll S+ which is a permanent fixture on our camera body, so we have used our L-bracket.

ON1 Photo Raw 2024
Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF

Above: The image is uncorrected. The dark edges of the image will be significantly improved once the lens profile has been used, however, as there is currently no Lightroom profile for the Laowa lens we can only presume that once applied it improve the dark edges.

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SHARPNESS

The lens is very sharp in the centre when used at all apertures from f/2.8 to f/11 until diffraction softens the image at f/16 and beyond. The corners are slightly soft at f/2.8 and f/4 but this is to be expected for this type of lens design. By the time it is stopped down to f/5.6, there is a lot of improvement in corner sharpness.

VIGNETTING

Due to the design of ultra-wide lenses, there is always some degree of dark edges and this lens is no exception. There’s dark edges at ALL apertures using this lens. As mentioned, Lightroom has still not released a profile for the Laowa lens so we cannot show you a corrected version at this time. The below before/after image is uncorrected.

Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF lens @ f/11Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF lens @ f/11
Hohem

CHROMATIC ABERRATION

Ultra-wide lenses almost always suffer some Chromatic Aberration, and once again this lens is no exception. Nevertheless, chromatic aberration is a simple fix in post-processing. Strangely though, when shooting at f/2.8 with bright light sources in the composition, the lens exhibits a rainbow lens flare. This has been eliminated once the lens is stopped down to f/4. In every instance, this only occurred near the outer edges of the frame

Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF @ f/2.8 - Rainbow Effect

Above: The rainbow effect when shooting at f/2.8. This seems to only occur with bright specular light sources.

Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF @ f/8 - CA CorrectedLaowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF @ f/8 - CA Corrected

Above: Chromatic Aberration. Shot at f/8.

Peak Design Travel Tripod

WEATHER SEALING

Unlike most Laowa lenses, the Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF lens IS weather-sealed. You’ll see the thin rubber gasket at the rear of the lens. We’re not sure why lens manufacturers do not add this feature to all their lenses.

STARBURSTS

At f/8 and slower the Laowa lens produces magnificent 10-point starbursts (see below) due to its 5 bladed aperture. If you want more points in you starbursts then you may want to consider the Manual Focus 14-blade version of the lens.

Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF lens

TIPS FOR SHOOTING AT 10mm

Similar to using a fisheye lens, a 10mm lens with its 130.4º angle of view may not be suitable for every scene. Each photographer will utilize this focal length differently based on their individual creativity. Needless to say, this focal length needs foreground, midground, and background interest. We have used this focal length in Japan recently and found that it worked in street scenes where a lot is happening in the entire scene. In many cases, you will need to get very close to your subject otherwise you will have too much foreground. Regardless of how well the distortion is controlled in a lens this wide, we suggest you try to keep the lens as level as possible to obtain optimum results. Most distortion, including those taken with the Laowa 10mm lens will display stretching towards the edges of the frame. Therefore, always try to avoid placing subjects or any important elements of your composition anywhere near the edges of the frame.

The shots below relate to the focal length as they were all taken with the Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 lens.

Tokyo, Japan
Lake Kawaguchiko, Japan

Above: Lake Kawaguchiko, Japan during Autumn. This shot would not have worked without the autumn leaves at the top of the frame using the 10mm focal length.

Tokyo, Japan

Above: Tokyo, Japan. Avoid placing subjects at the edges of the frame when using a 10mm lens unless you like the result above. 

SPECIFICATIONS

Here are some of the key specifications of the lens. Other specs can be found on the Venus Optics website.

Aperture Range: f/2.8 – f/22
Min. Focus Distance: 0.12m (0.39ft)
Filter Size: 77mm
Weather Sealing: Yes
Mount: AF Version Sony FE, Nikon Z – MF Version Canon RF, L Mount
Angle of View: Full Frame – 130.4º, APS-C – 43.8º
Dimensions: 82mm x 70.8mm (3.23in x 2.79in)
Weight: 420g/.925lbs

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Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF

Above: 10mm | f/8 | 1/800 |ISO500

Looking up in Sydney, Australia with the Laowa 10mm f/2.8 Zero-D FF lens. After Chromatic Aberration was corrected we still had to add a Manual Adjustment for some purple fringing. To view some more images click on the gallery images below.

THE VERDICT

We won’t mince words here – this is a brilliant lens. Venus Optics has produced a gem of a lens that’s been in huge demand since its release.

The focal length is a challenge for most photographers, however, those who master this mega-wide beast will get a huge amount of enjoyment when using this lens.

The lens stands out from its competition due to the inclusion of autofocus, weather sealing, filter thread, and price. The filter thread alone justifies the investment in a lens like this. You will be able to add ultra-slim 77mm circular filters to the lens with practically no vignetting. The lens is also several hundred dollars cheaper than our Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 which has no weather sealing, filter thread, or autofocus.

Naturally, there are a few minor flaws with the lens but this is only to be expected on a lens like this. Some photographers may not like the unusual colour of the lens but photography is not about walking down the runway at a fashion parade (although for some, we think it is 🙄).

Would we buy the lens? Yes & No. We already shoot with the Voigtländer 10mm f/5.6 E Hyper Wide Heliar lens and whilst it is only a f/5.6 lens, it is a much smaller lens and more suitable for us to carry in our sling bags (basically, we just don’t have the territory in our bag for a lens the size of the Laowa). From f/5.6 onwards the Laowa and the Voigtlander are on equal terms, in our opinion, although the Laowa is a tiny bit sharper. If we did not own the Voigtlander and the territory in our camera bag was not at capacity, we would buy this lens in a heartbeat.

Should you buy this lens? If this focal range intrigues you or you are in a photography rut and want a new challenge then yes, place your order NOW. This focal length will open new perspectives on how you see the world and this lens is the gateway (sorry for the corny finish 😂)

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WHERE TO BUY?

If you live in Australia you can buy the lens from most camera retail outlets, however, depending on their price you may want to buy directly from Laowa Australia. If you purchase directly from Laowa Australia you can get a 5% discount using the ‘Wide5‘ discount code at checkout. This should save you just over AUD$70.00. Click the BUY HERE button below to take you directly to Laowa Australia. If buying from outside Australia click on the Buy Here button in the Venus Optics table below.

RATED: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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