Lens review

Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 25 mm f/0.95 MFT

30 November 2022
Maciej Latałło

3. Build quality

Although the Micro 4/3 system is as old as a dozen years or so it cannot boast of many standard lenses with very fast aperture. It's true it doesn't lack f/1.4-1.8 lenses but in case of such a small sensor you wish you had also many f/1.2 instruments or even faster. Meanwhile there are just four such lenses available, so we present all of them in the following chart.

As you can notice, the Argus is physically the heaviest in this group even though its dimensions are very similar to those of the slower Olympus, and it is a bit bigger than the shapely Nokton. The Voigtlander is optically less advanced for a change but it prevails when it comes to the number of diaphragm blades and the shortest minimum focusing distance. The Mitakon is a real midget here.

In the photo below the Laowa Argus 25 mm f/0.95 MFT is positioned between the Voigtlander Nokton 25 mm f/.95, mentioned earlier, and the Olympus PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8.

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Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 25 mm f/0.95 MFT - Build quality

The tested lens starts with a metal mount that surrounds a rear element, 22 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 a tad higher than the mount when you set the focus at infinity; it hides about 0.5 of a cm inside when you pass to the minimum focusing distance. The inner tube, surrounding the element, is properly blackened and ribbed.

Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 25 mm f/0.95 MFT - Build quality

Unfortunately, the producers didn't add any contacts so a camera doesn't know what kind of lens is attached; respectively EXIF data don't feature any information concerning the aperture value or the focal lenght. What's more important, the camera also doesn't react when you move the focusing ring and it doesn't enlarge images automatically. It is a serious flaw because in case of such a fast instrument you have to be as precise as possible during focusing. Of course some camera bodies allow you to allot image enlargement to one of their function buttons but still, it is not as useful as automatic enlargement; apart from that, you have to sacrifice one button on the body to just one lens type.

By they way, the Laowa has been present on the market for seven years now. I think it's long enough to add basic electronics to the lens. It's not as difficult as autofocus implementation so I suppose potential customers should expect that much.

Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 25 mm f/0.95 MFT - Build quality

The proper body of the lens starts with a narrow, 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, 12 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 I found its resistance too weak. As a result, during the test sometimes I changed the aperture accidentally while I intended just to turn the focus ring or improve my grip on the camera and the lens. Then I took photos at different apertures than I wanted; the lack of contacts meant the camera didn't inform me about aperture values in the viewfinder or/and on the screen. Unfortunately the producers don't offer you another aperture ring mode and it's a pity. Rivals often give you rings with two working modes and Laowa should think about such a solution as well, especially as their ambitions seem to soar higher and higher.

To be honest I don't like such an approach at all, when producers try to make things easier for movie recorders and more difficult for photographers. An aperture ring should either be turned every 1/3 EV step, a classic solution, or should be given two working modes to choose from. A shortcut like this, economizing under the pretext of making movie recorders more happy, is not the right tactics.

Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 25 mm f/0.95 MFT - 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 300 degrees, a very high value indeed. Still, you should mention the fact that the majority of its rage concerns the area close to the minimum distance. The range from 0.7 of a meter to infinity is included within an angle of 90 degrees and it becomes problematic as you can't be helped with the automatic image magnification. Let's remind here once again that this lens is devoid of any contacts.

An immobile ring, also 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.

The front element doesn't move, is quite flat, and 37 mm in diameter, surrounded by a well blackened and ribbed part of the barrel.

Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 25 mm f/0.95 MFT - Build quality

The optical construction consists of 14 elements positioned in 8 groups. Producers weren't stinky when it comes to special parts – you get as many as three elements with very high refraction index, one low dispersion ED glass element and one aspherical 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: both caps, and a petal-type hood made of metal. You don't get any kind of a case.

Venus Optics LAOWA Argus 25 mm f/0.95 MFT - Build quality