Lens review

Venus Optics LAOWA 12 mm f/2.8 ZERO-D

9 January 2019
Arkadiusz Olech

3. Build quality

As we already mentioned in the introduction, lenses that can compete with the Laowa tested here are hard to find – most of them we compared in the following chart. As you can notice there are no f/2.8 models among them. The minimum focusing distance is another feature which makes the Laowa 2.8/12 distinguishable among them; it amounts to just 0.18 of a meter and because of it you get 1:5 reproduction ratio. What’s interesting, the Laowa is hardly big and heavy especially when you take these extreme parameters into account.

In the photo below the Venus Optics LAOWA 12 mm f/2.8 ZERO-D is positioned between the Sigma A 35 mm f/1.4 DG HSM and the Canon EF 35 mm f/2 IS USM. Compared to them it hardly looks like something big and clumsy, quite the opposite – actually it’s the Sigma that seems to be bigger and bulkier.

Venus Optics LAOWA 12 mm f/2.8 ZERO-D  - Build quality

The tested lens starts with a metal mount; its rim features an inscription “MADE IN CHINA”. A rear element is 23 mm in diameter, surrounded by well matted and ribbed tube. The element moves, being positioned at its shallowest when the focus is set at infinity. The lens doesn’t have any contacts so it is not able to communicate with the camera. It means EXIF files won’t contain any information about apertures and focal length.

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Venus Optics LAOWA 12 mm f/2.8 ZERO-D  - Build quality

The proper body of the lens starts with a metal ring on which you can find a red dot, making an alignment with a camera easier. Right behind it there is a manual aperture ring, 12 mm wide. Most of its surface is ribbed to ensure you a firmer grip. In the click-stop mode you can set the aperture every 1EV stop but there is a possibility to change that, choosing among integral values.

Further on there is a depth of field scale with markings by f/11, f/8, f/5.6 and f/2.8. Above you find a manual focus ring, 28 mm wide. It turns smoothly and is properly damped, with a working range amounting to as much as 180 degrees. For those parameters it is a great value, allowing you very precise settings.

Venus Optics LAOWA 12 mm f/2.8 ZERO-D  - Build quality

The last part of the body is a metal ring flaring outwardly on which you see an inscription “Entrance pupil”, a blue stripe and a hood mount. It should be emphasized that, contrary to the majority of wide-angle lenses, the hood is of the removable kind.

A convenient solution; still there is a price to pay. When the hood is in-built, the front cap, protecting the front element, can be firmly attached to it. In the case of the Laowa you see just two narrow projections to which you can fix the friction-fit cap. The result is such that the cap is hardly secure. I have tested about half a thousand of lenses so far and I don’t remember losing the front cap of any of them in the process. In the case of the Laowa I managed to lose that part during the first sample shots outing on the Sopot beach… Anyway, pay close attention to the front cap if you don’t want to lose it too quickly.

The front element is 54 mm in diameter and it doesn’t move. It is surrounded by an inscription with the name and parameters of the lens and its serial number. You don’t get any possibility to use classic filters but you can buy an optional holder system which will accept huge circular polarizer filters, 95 mm in diameter.

Venus Optics LAOWA 12 mm f/2.8 ZERO-D  - Build quality

When it comes to optical construction you deal here with 16 elements positioned in 10 groups. As many as three of them are made of low dispersion ED glass and two others are aspherical in shape. Inside you can also find a round aperture with seven diaphragm blades which can be closed down to a value of f/22 at the maximum. The outer element features also hydrophobic Frog Eye Coating (FEC).

Buyers get both caps (the photo below lacks the front one but only because I lost it) and a hood in the box. There is no lens case or pouch included.

Venus Optics LAOWA 12 mm f/2.8 ZERO-D  - Build quality