Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D Review

August 15, 2017 | Tim Coleman | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


What can we say about the Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens? Well, we have to start with the image quality, because it is so good. 

Detail is pin sharp in virtually all of the frame and even at f/2.8 the fall off is controlled admirably. 

Lens distortions are really well controlled, save for the usual vignetting. We expected to find chromatic aberrations in our images but struggled to locate any. Where we did, CA was minimal and easily corrected. 

Then there is the hugely impressive control over barrel and pincushion distortions. Use the lens properly by making sure the camera/ lens is level and curvature (barrel) distortions in buildings are not present. Architecture photographers are very well catered for with the Laowa 12mm lens. 

Of course, detail is stretched in the corners and particularly obvious in people and general objects, but this is unavoidable. 

When making the most of the wide f/2.8 aperture for astrophotography - which is currently unrivalled this wide - lens corrections for vignetting should be applied and minor editing to correct astigmatism is beneficial. That said, images look pretty good right off the bat, especially if you stop down to f/4. 

Handling wise, manual focus lenses demand more time. It’s very difficult to obtain critical focusing without using focus magnification through live view. However, with the focus distance set to infinity when using apertures of f/8 to f/22, one can be sure that virtually everything is in focus. In this regard the user can just point and shoot. 

Additionally, depending on the camera being used, the aperture is displayed in camera (albeit incorrect), so you don't need to keep checking the lens barrel. 

Size and weight wise, the lens balances really well on a full-frame DSLR. It is not weather-sealed and we haven’t tested it in extreme weather conditions to judge how well it holds up. 

It’s a bonus that Laowa offers lens filter accessories specifically for the 12mm f/2.8 lens - we can see landscape photographers using this lens. 

Competition wise, there is nothing this wide and sharp. Sigma (12-24mm f/4 Art DG HSM) and Canon (EF 11-24mm f/4 L USM) have wide angle zoom lenses that go as wide yet their widest aperture is f/4. Both lenses are much heavier and more expensive, though both offer autofocus. 

As for fixed ultra-wide angle lenses, there is nothing as wide, though there are a couple that are faster. Sigma has it’s 14mm f/1.8 lens which is twice the price, while Samyang has a 14mm f/2.4 lens which is the same as the Laowa 12mm. Both lenses were released within the last 12 months. 

Sony and Pentax users in particular have not been well catered for with ultra-wide angle lenses, so the Laowa should be of interest. 

We haven’t directly compared any of these lenses. Without comparing though, we can confidently say that the image quality of the Laowa lens is second to none. 

The Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D is as easy to use as manual focus lenses can be and provides pin sharp images with massively impressive control over lens distortions. Photography Blog therefore highly recommends the lens, especially for landscape, architecture and astro photography. 

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 5
Value for money 4