DIYP Reviews the Laowa Argus 28mm f/1.2 lens for still photographers
Not every day, I get to put my hands on an f/1.2 lens. And a 28mm at that. So obviously, I was curious to test the new Laowa Argus 28mm f/1.2 lens. While my guess is that Laowa is targeting video photographers with this lens, I think it could be a wonderful asset for still shooters.
Before diving in, let me make sure that we are clear on the two most important spec points of this lens: It is an f/1.2 lens, and it’s manual. I guess you can see where I am going with this.
Laowa Argus 28mm f/1.2 lens Specs
A 28mm with an opening of f/1.2 is not a common lens, so let’s look at the specs for a minute. Those will come in handy later on. But for now, keep in mind that the lens has no electric contacts, so you set both focus and aperture with rings on the lens. This means that the camera is not aware of those settings, and they will not appear in your exif, not be available for image correction in lightroom.
|f/1.2 – f/16
|Angle of view
|13 elements in 7 groups
|(2 ED glass and 2 UHR glass)
|Minimum Focus Distance
|19.69″ / 50cm
|Ø2.7 x 4.2″ / Ø68.5 x 106.31mm
|19.82oz / 562g
|Sony E / Nikon Z / Canon RF / L mount
The Laowa Argus 28mm f/1.2 lens comes in a wonderful box, but it also comes pretty spartan. A lens, a guide, this is it. It is a very basic kit, but what Laowa gave up in accessories, they made up with a gorgeous lens.
I tested the Canon RF variant, and it comes in at about 560g, and about 10.5 centimeters long. While this is not the lightest lens, on a camera like the R5, it was a great balance. On the other hand, the lens feels incredibly solid. I am not sure if that weight went for glass or metal, but either way, it felt tank-ish. I guess that a little bit of weight also went into the meta lens hood. The 28mm f/1.2 has a square hood that also holds the lens cap. A square lens cap.
This is not to say that you can’t use a regular lens cap with the lens – it has a standard 62mm thread – but the default cap that Laowa supplies mounts on the hood, and is square. If you want a standard cap, say goodbye to a few more Dollars.
Laowa Argus 28mm f/1.2 – Focusing
The Laowa Argus 28mm f/1.2 is a 100% manual lens. Forget about running and gunning or mounting it on a gimbal. Or, actually, you can do both, but not at f/1.2. To enjoy the shallow bokeh that you get at f/1.2, you’d need to take you time and carefully focus the lens. I do not recommend it for fast-moving objects. If you can get your subject to sit down, you will be rewarded with a beautiful reach bokeh, and amazing sharpness for where the DOF hits. But for a running cat, dog, (or bride and groom), you’d be better off with an auto-focus lens.
If you do know how to focus manually, this lens would be epic for nighttime city/street photography, as so much light is coming into the sensor.
My other big wish for the lens would be a closer minimum focusing distance. The declared minimal focusing distance is 50cm, and it felt pretty much on-spot with my initial tests. With a lens that tickles wide-angle on a full frame, I really wish I could have gotten closer to my subjects.
That said, if you are a fan of manual focusing, it feels amazing. The focus ring is amazingly smooth, and gives the same feeling you would get from an old vintage lens.
Lastly, the lens has an internal focusing mechanism. This means that if you are using a filter that depends on rotation (like a CPL), you’ll have an easy life.
Laowa Argus 28mm f/1.2 – Sharpness, Aperture, and Bokeh
I must hand it to Laowa. This is not a “get some light in at f/1.2 for stop down to 5.6 for sharpness kind of lens”. It is tack-sharp straight from f/1.2 all the way to f/16 (min aputure). It is also pleasantly distortion free. I know it’s not a sire wide lens, but yet…
On the flip side, at f/1.2, you get a gorgeous bokeh even at 28mm. It just takes a
little whole lot more practice to nail focus. Once you master focusing though, you will be rewarded with the creamiest bokeh possible.
I don’t shoot video (a 100 weddings of stills is enough for me), but I do appreciate the fact that you can choose if you want the aperture ring to click for still photographers, or to be smooth for video shooters. I’m a click person myself.
Hitting it right on manual at f/1.2 is not easy. If you take the patience and persistence to focus, the bokeh, sharpness, and contrast are amazing. For $599.00 it is a great foray into wide-aperture lenses.
Tom Saimon is a boutique wedding and fashion photographer based in Haifa, Israel. Tom founded one of most sought-after wedding photography boutiques in Israel and shoots over 100 weddings a year, making him not only an established photogrpher, but also an authority in the industry. Tom is regularly featured in fashion and wedding magazines as a style benchmark