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Lens review

Venus Optics LAOWA 12 mm f/2.8 ZERO-D

9 January 2019
Maciej Lata³³o

4. Image resolution

The resolution test (resolution meaning MTF50 function) of the Venus Optics LAOWA 12 mm f/2.8 ZERO-D was based on RAW files from the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. In the case of that reflex camera the decency level is situated near 30-32 lpmm and high quality, top-of-the-range fixed focal length lenses can reach a maximum level of 45-50 lpmm . Not so long ago the resolution record for that sensor belonged to the Zeiss Otus 1.4/28 (49.2 lpmm) but then it’s been slightly beaten by the Sigma A 85 mm f/1.4 DG HSM, and the Sigma A 135 mm f/1.8 DG HSM so currently it amounts to 51.6 lpmm .

Let’s check how the Venus Optics LAOWA 12 mm f/2.8 ZERO-D compares; its results in the frame centre and on the edge presents a graph shown below.

Venus Optics LAOWA 12 mm f/2.8 ZERO-D  - Image resolution

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There are no reasons to complain when it comes to the frame centre. Already at the maximum relative aperture the image quality is good and it gets only better on stopping down. The peak of its possibilities the tested lens reaches by f/5.6 and it amounts to 40.2 lpmm. Such value could be impressive a decade ago, when most of good quality lenses achieved about 40-43 lpmm. Today, when the best fixed focal length lenses get near 50 lpmm, you can feel a bit disappointed. On the other hand there are no f/2.8 lenses with the field of view wider than 120 degrees available on the market. It seems the standards are set very high here – if no other producer has tackled such a challenge so far it cannot be something easy. Still the problem is that when you look at results of such lenses as the Irix 4/11, the Sigma A 12–24 mm f/4 DG HSM or the Canon EF 11–24 mm f/4L USM you can find out that resolution exceeding 40 lpmm at an angle of view of 120 degrees is hardly something unattainable.

When it comes to the border of the APS-C/DX sensor, the results at the maximum relative aperture are below the decency level. In order to reach that much the lens has to be stopped down to near f/4.0. Slower zoom models produced by Canon and Sigma have been able to provide higher resolution already from f/4.0 than the Laowa stopped down by 1 EV. Once again, it would be difficult to say the tested lens impressed us in any way. The situation is perhaps not bad but it could have been better.

If you want to enjoy decent images on the most demanding edge of full frame you have to limit yourself to the f/5.6 – 11 range and even there you land on the borderline of decency level. Once again better results have been provided by the shortest focal lengths of the Sigma 12-24 mm f/4 and the Canon 11-24 mm f/4L as these instruments provided resolution slightly exceeding 30 lpmm already from the maximum relative aperture.

To sum up we fully appreciate the fact that Laowa attempted such a difficult combination as f/2.8 aperture and 12 mm focal length on full frame; we also appreciate very good image quality in the frame centre. Still edges of full frame should have been corrected better; it is completely doable and slower zoom lenses with similar angles of view proved that much by their better results. If the Laowa was cheaper, its performance would be acceptable. As you deal here with a product of a relatively new market player which comes with a price tag of about $950 we think its price quality ratio is not especially enticing.

Traditionally, we end this part of our test by presenting crops taken from photos of our resolution testing chart which were saved in JPEG format.

Canon 5D MkIII, JPEG, 12 mm, f/2.8
Venus Optics LAOWA 12 mm f/2.8 ZERO-D  - Image resolution
Canon 5D MkIII, JPEG, 12 mm, f/5.6
Venus Optics LAOWA 12 mm f/2.8 ZERO-D  - Image resolution