Venus Optics, the manufacturer behind the ‘Laowa’ branded camera lenses, have recently launched two unique wide angle prime lenses with a unique ‘Zero-D’ feature. ‘Zero-D’ actually refers to the extremely low (close-to-zero) optical distortion created by the lens and the distortion rate is close to zero.
Wide Angle lenses with fast aperture currently offered in the market by other manufacturers tend to suffer from a type of aberration named optical distortion. Optical distortion can mainly be divided into two categories, barrel & pincushion distortion, depending on its distortion pattern. When a photographer takes a photo of a straight line, the lens deforms and bends the lines and makes them appear curvy in images. Distortion can be extremely annoying for photographers, especially for interior and architectural photographers whose works inevitably contain a lot of straight lines.
“Distortion is one of the most critical aberrations in optical design. However, relaxing the optical distortion requirement makes the design so much easier. In order to reduce the size and improve the lens resolution, manufacturers tend to compromise on distortion.” said Mr Li, the chief optical designer of Venus Optics. Mr Li has been designing lenses for Japanese manufacturers for 15 years and he was heavily involved in the design of many popular lenses selling in the market. Most of his work has been on complex zoom lenses from ultra-wide, through standard and tele, to high magnification lenses.
Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D
The Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D is currently the widest f/2.8 lens for full frame cameras in the market with a 122° angle of view. Not only does it fall into the close-to-zero distortion line-up, it is also extremely sharp from corner to corner. The Laowa lens is an ideal lens for a variety of photography types. From landscape, architecture, interior and travel to the most important one, astrophotography. The combination of the ultra-wide angle and fast aperture makes this lens a perfect tool for creating impressive milky way shots. The lens incorporates 16 elements in 10 groups, including 3 Extra-Low Dispersion elements and 2 Aspherical elements. Chromatic aberration is also controlled to the minimal.
MTF of Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D tested on a Nikon D810 by ePHOTOzine
The Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Lens is designed for everyday use and hence the weight and size has been minimised. The lens weighs only 1.34 pounds (0.6kg) and has a front diameter of 77mm. Venus Optics also offers a filterholder which is designed to fit 100mm filters. Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E, Sony Alpha and Pentax K mounts are currently available.
Image taken with Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D (Photo Credit: Professor K)
Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D
The Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D is the second lens of the Laowa ‘Zero-D’ line up. It is currently the widest f/2 rectilinear lens in the market which comes with a native E-mount and so no additional adapter is required.
It is an ultra-wide and ultra-fast prime lens which covers both 35mm full-frame & APS-C sensors. Despite the extreme specifications, Venus Optics has successfully minimised the weight of the lens to around 500g (~1.1 pounds) and 8cm long. This compact and light lens comprises of 12 elements in 9 groups with 2 aspherical elements and 3 Extra-Low Dispersion elements. The patented optical design successfully minimises the distortion and chromatic aberrations to its lowest but at the same time, delivers a superb optical performance.
Image taken with the Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D (Photo Credit: Johan van der Wielen)
Ultra-wide & fast lenses in the market tend to be huge and have a dome-shaped front element. It is a headache for landscape photographers who need to use filters very often. Venus Optics understood their needs and managed to design a flat front surface and include a 72mm filter thread on the lens. 72mm screw-on filters can be used and no more investment in bulky filter holders is required.
Photographers can take advantage of the super close focusing distance (i.e. 15cm) and the f/2 aperture to create some fantastic bokeh shots and wide-angle close-up shots. The lens is specially designed with an aperture switch which allows users to quickly switch between click-less and clicked aperture. This feature is particularly beneficial for videographers.
Laowa Lens Line-up
Apart from the two ‘Zero-D’ lenses, Venus Optics has also launched some very unique manual lenses that no other manufacturers have offered.
|World’s First lens with 2:1 Macro magnification & Infinity Focus||Laowa 60mm f/2.8 2x Ultra-Macro|
|World’s only wide macro lens with 1:1 magnification+ Shift capability. Can also be used as landscape lens||Laowa 15mm f/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro|
|Super compact & lightweight for M4/3 cameras, DJI drones & gimbals||Laowa 7.5mm f/2 MFT|
|Incorporated APD elements to create the dreamy bokeh||Laowa 105mm f/2 Smooth Trans Focus (STF) Lens|
|Expand the image circle of full frame lenses and transform it into professional shift lens for full frame cameras.||Laowa Magic Shift Converter|