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Lens review

Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 33 mm f/0.95 CF APO

21 September 2021
Maciej Latałło

3. Build quality

The following chart presents a comparison between basic parameters of different fast standard lenses designed for mirrorless cameras with APS-C sensors. It's obvious at once that the Argus is physically the biggest and the heaviest in this group, but certainly not optically most complex; the slower Fujinon remains a leader in this area.

In the photo below the Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 33 mm f/0.95 CF APO is positioned between the Sigma C 30 mm f/1.4 DG DN and the Fujinon XF 35 mm f/1.4 R.

Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 33 mm f/0.95 CF APO - Build quality

The tested lens starts with a metal mount that surrounds a rear element, 25 mm in diameter which is hidden in a black, well-matted tube that sticks out over the mount a bit. The rear element is movable and it is positioned on the same level as the mount when you set the focus at infinity; it hides about 1 cm inside when you pass to the minimum focusing distance. The inner tube, surrounding the element, is properly blackened and ribbed.

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Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 33 mm f/0.95 CF APO - Build quality

The proper body of the lens starts with a smooth, black ring that doesn't move and is made of metal. On the ring you can find a red dot, making an alignment with a camera easier.

Then you see an aperture ring, 11 mm wide, half of it covered by metal ribs. The ring features markings at f/0.95, /1.1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6 and f/11, with just a dot for f/8.0. The ring moves smoothly but in one working mode only, a pity. Rivals often offer rings with two working modes and Laowa should think about such a solution as well, especially as their ambitions seem to be higher and higher.

Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 33 mm f/0.95 CF APO - Build quality

Further on you see an immobile ring with a depth of field scale and markings for f/0.95, f/40, f/8.0, and f/11 apertures.

A manual focus ring, as wide as 36 mm and increasing its diameter, is the biggest component of the lens. On its part with a smaller diameter you get a distance scale, expressed in feet and meters, and the wider part features fine ribbing, quite pleasing to the touch. The ring moves smoothly and is well damped, with a focus throw amounting to an angle of 320 degrees, a very high value indeed.

Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 33 mm f/0.95 CF APO - Build quality

That value would allow you to get very precise settings if only the lens had a contact plate and could communicate with a camera body. Without any contacts the camera doesn't know whether you move the focus ring or not and it can't enlarge images automatically. Without that enlargement you set the focus with a far less precision. It seems it should be another position on a 'to do' list of Laowa; after all adding contacts to ensure communication with a body is not a task that would be too difficult for a producer of this class, quite active on the market for several years. It's time to stop treading water and move forward. After all we don't speak here about adding autofocs to all lenses in Laowa's line-up; still, in case of such a company, efforts that involve adding contacts to lenses should have been certainly past the initial period.

Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 33 mm f/0.95 CF APO - Build quality

An imobile ring, getting a bit larger after a while, is the last part of the lens. It features a blue stripe, an inscription 'Argus', the parameters of the lens, and its serial number and it ends with a hood mount and a non-rotating filter thread, 62 mm in diameter.

Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 33 mm f/0.95 CF APO - Build quality

The front element, positioned very shallowly inside the casing, doesn't move, is quite flat, and 47 mm in diameter. What's more, it is not direclty protected by any cover plate. You just get a cap that is rectangular in shape, with cut corners that are adjusted to a metal hood added to the lens in the box. Unfortunately, this cap falls off the hood quite easily so it isn't an especially well-thought-out solution. Not only the parts don't fit each other seamlessly, but also if you want to protect your lens you have to carry it with the hood on. Mind you that hood is quite big, making the whole insrument quite unwieldy. Perhaps the intentions were good but it seems someone over-thought the whole issue.

Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 33 mm f/0.95 CF APO - Build quality

The optical construction consists of 14 elements positioned in 9 groups. Producers weren't stinky when it comes to special elements – you get as many as three lenses with very high refraction index, one low dispersion ED glass element and one aspherical element as well. Inside you can also find a circular aperture with nine blades that can be closed down to a value of f/11 at the maximum.

Buyers get in the box: a rear cap, and a metal, rectangular hood with a separate cover fitted to it. You get neither a cap just for the lens nor any kind of a case.

Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 33 mm f/0.95 CF APO - Build quality