The Laowa 24mm f/14 2:1 Probe lens is definitely the weirdest macro lens I’ve ever seen. It was presented at Photokina way back in in 2016, and now it’s finally available for preorders. Venus Optics has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund this “weird, but revolutionary” lens and the funds have already gone through the roof. The company has also published a video with plenty of sample footage, and seeing that, I’m not surprised that so many people want to own this crazy lens.
Laowa has announced four rather interesting lenses. Well, three interesting lenses and one’s kind of a “huh?”. It’s an odd assortment to release all at once, but all four lenses do boast a little something special.
Laowa has introduced a couple of interesting lenses so far. Now they’re adding two new primes to their family: 25mm f/2.8 2.5-5X Ultra Macro and 9mm f/2.8 Zero-D. Both lenses come in several different mounts and promise high-quality image at a pretty affordable price. Check out the specs and a hands-on review after the jump, and see if there’s something new to add to your gear bag.
Adapters that let you mount a lens from one camera system to a body of another are nothing new. Even so-called “Speed boosters” which allow you to get much of the benefit of full frame lenses on crop bodies have been out for a while now. The new Magic Format Converter from Laowa, though, takes things in the opposite direction. Putting smaller format lenses onto larger format sensors.
The adapter gives the ability to mount full frame Nikon and Canon lenses onto the Fuji GFX-50S medium format camera. There are a couple of other adapters out there that can also do this, too, but with one big issue. Nikon & Canon lenses don’t cover the complete GFX sensor. So, your image is cut off at the corners. This adapter compensates by expanding the image out to fill the frame.
Nikon’s 105mm f/1.4 lens made a big splash when it was announced last year. Being the world’s fastest 105mm prime lens, it’s not much of a surprise. Having been in the hands of photographers for a few months now, it’s done nothing but impress. It’s a top quality lens, with a price tag to match. But what about those who don’t want or can’t afford to spend $2,200 on a 105mm lens? Are there other options?
Well, there’s the Venus Optics Laowa 105mm f/2 STF at a mere $699. But how does it compare? That’s the question this video from Ling at Zero-Day Photography hopes to answer. Smooth Trans Focus (STF) is Laowa’s technology which “soften[s] the borders of the bokeh” to create the effect of a wider aperture lens. In theory, this should let it provide images with a similar appearance to the Nikon. Should. In theory.
What is it with all these “world’s firsts” lately? It almost seems like companies are trying to outdo each other for an ego stroke, no matter how ludicrous their announcement may be. Well, now, it’s Laowa’s turn. Again.
The first new lens is the 7.5mm f/2 for Micro Four Thirds cameras, the widest f/2 lens ever designed for MFT. The other is the 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D for full frame cameras. It’s another lens in the “Close-to-Zero Distortion” lineup and the world’s fastest 15mm rectilinear lens for full frame. I wouldn’t get too excited, though, it’s only available in a Sony mount.
You may remember Laowa fully funded their new 12mm f/2.8 lens kickstarter within 30 seconds of going live last month. Thanks to the claims of high quality and “Zero Distortion” (or really close to it), people took notice and they pre-sold over 700 lenses. At the time of the campaign launch, one of the videos for the new lens didn’t seem to get much notice. It does, however, show off a very cool feature of Laowa’s lenses.
That feature is the “Water Repelling Frog Eye Coating”. This hydrophobic coating means that when rain or other liquids splash it, they don’t stick. They immediately just roll off, leaving your front element perfectly clear. Ideal for photojournalists, street photographers, or anybody out there potentially shooting in rain or muddy conditions.
Ultrawide angle lenses are practical and fun. Almost every landscape, architectural, wedding or event photographer has one, as do many filmmakers. I have one, too. The problem with most of them, though, is barrel distortion. Usually, the wider the lens, the more of it you get.
You can fix Barrel distortion in Lightroom, but it’s easier if you don’t have to deal with it at all. The new Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D from Venus Optics uses 16 elements in 10 groups to eliminate barrel distortion almost entirely.