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Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons
  
 
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


In an effort to provide our readers with the latest and most up to date info, I will continue to update this review with additional tests and details as they become available.

Update:

The new Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D lens is now available for preorder at B&H Photo with availability in 2 weeks!

B&H Photo | Adorama ($849)

Help support FM by using our links for your purchase! - Thank you!

____________________________

Introduction:

Venus Optics prides themselves on providing “unique, practical and affordable lenses.” In fact over the last four years they have launched some appealing lenses into the marketplace.Main features:
  1. E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  2. Aperture Range: f/2 to f/22
  3. Three Extra-Low Dispersion Elements
  4. Two Aspherical Elements
  5. Rectilinear Design, Low Distortion
  6. Frog Eye Dust & Water-Repellent Coating
  7. Manual Focus Design
  8. Manual Aperture Ring Can Be De-Clicked
  9. 7-Blade Diaphragm (straight)
  10. Weight: 516g (measured)
  11. Filter thread: 72mm
  12. Elements/Groups: 12/9
  13. Angle of view: 110 degres
  14. Minimum Focus Distance: 15cm!!
The Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D is their first ultra wide lens designed for the Sony E-mount. We were offered a production model to test for a few weeks and here’s a glimpse into what we found.

First - I was curious about many aspects of this lens including resolution, contrast and aberration control. Since I own great number of native lenses that cover the 15mm focal lens, I thought it would be interesting to compare them side-by-side at infinity distance and find out how they differ...


Build quality and Mechanical Manual focus:

Next -- build quality. This lens has an all-metal construction and an attractive classic look. The mechanical focusing ring glides smoothly with perfect resistance and a long throw. The focus guide is engraved and the metric distances start at 0.15m with markings for 0.2m, 0.5m, 1m and infinity. Yes, you read that right! This lens focuses all the way to 0.15m! You will feel as if you are almost touching your subject at this distance.

The Laowa 15mm f/2 FE focuses pass infinity and on my copy, true infinity focus is located very slightly to the right of the middle of the infinity mark. At this setting, I can get optimal center, mid and edges which indicates low field curvature at infinity distance. The manual focus sensitivity is ideal in the field and it reminds me of how the Loxia line focuses. Every tiny rotation adjustment makes a big difference in the magnified viewfinder. That’s a big difference to the Voigtlander ultra wides where not much changes by slightly rotating the focusing ring.

The included reversible hood is strong with an all-metal build and it’s also removable. The lens features a 72mm filter thread which is very uncommon for a fast ultra wide. Supporting filters (including square filters) is a great feature and incredibly important for landscape, architecture and astrophotography. The aperture ring is also metal, with subtle clicks every 1-stop. Intermediate apertures can only be estimated. I find it to work well in the field, but would prefer if the clicks were a bit more precise. A metal switch de-clicks the aperture and allows it to rotate smoothly for video work.

I find this lens to be incredibly compact for a 15mm f/2 and takes up very little space in my bag. It’s not much taller than my Loxia 21/2.8 and only weighs about 100 grams more. The Sony mirrorless shorter flange distance, allows this lens to be thinner, shorter and lighter when compared to SLR versions and even with the robust all-metal construction, the lens weighs only 516 grams without hood and caps. With hood and caps, it weighs around 575 grams.





Size comparison: FE 12-24/4, Laowa 15/2, FE 55/1.8 ZA, Loxia 21/2.8, CV 15/4.5 III







Front elements: Size comparison: FE 12-24/4, Laowa 15/2, FE 55/1.8 ZA, Loxia 21/2.8, CV 15/4.5 III







Laowa 15/2 vs FE 12-24/4 with hoods attached







Laowa 15/2 vs CV 15/4.5 III E-mount with hoods attached




Jul 19, 2017 at 10:02 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


Comparison to the Sony new Sony 12-24/4 G @ 15mm at infinity:

Upon receiving the Lawoa 15/2, I tested it for centering and was surprised that it was not decentered. (rare nowadays!)
If it wasn't well-centered, I would not even attempt to run or posts these tests.

These side-by-side comparisons were taken at infinity distance and they were the best of 4 for each lens. (Manual focused at 12.5x magnification).
Aside from sharpening (same for both lenses), the RAW files were processed in Lightroom with default settings using the "Camera standard" profile. No vignetting or distortion correction was applied either.

I will post 'center', 'mid-field' and 'extreme edge' crops starting at f/4 (12-24/4 is wide open) and at their sweet spot for sharpness across the field which seems to be f/6.3 for both lenses.




Center at f/4






Mid-field at f/4






Extreme edge at f/4




Jul 19, 2017 at 10:08 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


Feel free to post your thoughts on how they perform at f/4.
To me, this is the first lens that challenges the new Sony zoom at 15mm. The nickname for this zoom is 'freaky' for a reason.

The CV 15/4.5 III is not too far behind but it's noticeably inferior at edges and mid-zone.

Next I will post crops at f/6.3 (sweet spot for both lenses)



Jul 19, 2017 at 10:11 PM
mreynolds767
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


Looking good, really good!
But when will it be available, I checked and don't even see the big US retailers offering it for sale as a presale right now?

How much does it cost / will it cost?

Appreciate you testing this and your excellent post just surprised by how little info is available about this lens.
Interested to see how it handles sun/flare control and also coma for stars/astro.




Jul 19, 2017 at 10:15 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


Here they are at f/6.3:




Center at f/6.3






Mid-field a f/6.3






Extreme edge at f/6.3




Jul 19, 2017 at 10:16 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


They both improve at f/6.3 everywhere. The Laowa 15/2 more than the zoom though. Its mid-field gets stronger and the edges show more resolution.

I will post f/2 and f/2.8 crops for the 15/2 prime next and then compare it to the CV 15/4.5 III E-mount.



Jul 19, 2017 at 10:17 PM
kdrk888
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


sonyalpharumors said Tokina may be making super wide lenses for E mount. The more the merrier. Now how about a Sigma 150-600 for E mount?


Jul 19, 2017 at 10:21 PM
nekrosoft13
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


i would like someone to make a 24-70 (or 105) F4, that smaller then 24-70GM, but better then Zony 24-70.

I really liked my Zony 24-70F4 even when iq wasn't the best, I really like my current 24-70GM, but often is just way to big to walk around with.




Jul 19, 2017 at 10:35 PM
GMPhotography
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


Looking good Fred. Thanks for posting these. I'm probably going to get one


Jul 20, 2017 at 12:01 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


Here are the Laowa 15/2 FE @ f/2 (wide open) and f/2.8 crops next to each other. I'd say great performance wide-open.




f/2 (LEFT) | f/2.8 (RIGHT)




Jul 20, 2017 at 12:35 AM
 

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Fred Miranda
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


Laowa 15/2 FE against the Voigtlander 15/4.5 III (great copy) at their sweet spots.

What I mean by sweet spot is best corners without impacting the center area...Next will will post some coma tests.






Center at f/6.3






Mid-field at f/6.3






Extreme edge a f/6.3




Jul 20, 2017 at 12:42 AM
AGeoJO
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


Thank you, Fred! That lens looks very promising.

Yours is well centered, I understood but I wonder whether they hand picked that one for your evaluation. It would be great if they would do that for every single production copy. They are small enough company and that that maybe feasible albeit they may pass on some extra costs for that QC process to the end users. I know a lot of users wouldn't mind that if that's reasonable.



Jul 20, 2017 at 12:46 AM
lightskyland
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


Very tempted to sell my Zeiss ZE 15/2.8 and pick this up instead (and maybe a Voigtlander 10/5.6 as well!)


Jul 20, 2017 at 01:30 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


It's insane how close you can get with this 15mm. Usually the MFD is about 0.25-0.30m for a 15mm lens.

Here is a close-up shot at MFD (0.15m). The background just melts away while the focusing area is very sharp at this distance.




Full image resized






Crop at 1:1 showing the focused area




Jul 20, 2017 at 02:00 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


GMPhotography wrote:
Looking good Fred. Thanks for posting these. I'm probably going to get one


I'm looking at pre-ordering one as well. They told me pre-orders will start at the end of this month. It seems to be a great complement to the FE 12-24/4 G zoom.



Jul 20, 2017 at 02:02 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


AGeoJO wrote:
Thank you, Fred! That lens looks very promising.

Yours is well centered, I understood but I wonder whether they hand picked that one for your evaluation. It would be great if they would do that for every single production copy. They are small enough company and that that maybe feasible albeit they may pass on some extra costs for that QC process to the end users. I know a lot of users wouldn't mind that if that's reasonable.


I'm not sure about that Joshua. Frankly, I don't believe manufacturers even know how to properly test a lens at high frequencies. Sure they may be able to spot a lemon but other than that, I think it's just normal variability. I agree with you that's pretty irritating that copies are not closer in performance though.

Perhaps Roger will take interest on this lens and test a dozen copies.



Jul 20, 2017 at 02:08 AM
Schlotkins
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


Thanks for the info on the lens. When can we see the coma test?
Chris



Jul 20, 2017 at 02:54 AM
mjm6
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


Fred, did you do coma shots? It looks like the 12-24 beats it pretty solidly, but as an astro shooter, this lens could be great if it has low coma. Two stops faster than the zoom, and if better coma, it would be a great combo.

What is the list price? I don't think I've seen it posted yet.



Jul 20, 2017 at 04:13 AM
pdmphoto
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


Look good so far. Your copy is performing much better than at least one other What what about flare? At f6.3 I don't see that much difference IQ wise from it and the Voigtlander. I'm thinking that it has to have good coma and flare performance or it may not be worth the extra size and weight (price?) for normal landscape shots.


Jul 20, 2017 at 04:30 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Laowa 15mm f/2 FE: Rolling Review and Comparisons


mjm6 wrote:
Fred, did you do coma shots? It looks like the 12-24 beats it pretty solidly, but as an astro shooter, this lens could be great if it has low coma. Two stops faster than the zoom, and if better coma, it would be a great combo.

What is the list price? I don't think I've seen it posted yet.


I am not getting clear skies since I got the lens but I think I was able to get some real stars yesterday and will try again tonight. From my initial tests, it looks good at f/2.8.



Jul 20, 2017 at 04:40 AM
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