Laowa 12mm f2.8 Review
A while ago Laowa sent me the 12mm f2.8 ultra-wide-angle lens for the Canon EF mount. In this quick review I want to have a closer look at the lens and its features.
The Laowa 12mm f 2.8 is very small considering how much wide angle it gives – which is great. The lens comes with manual focus and manual aperture, which I prefer for landscape photography; I actually never use the autofocus of my camera and when you set the manual focus to infinity almost everything is in focus anyway at 12mm.
The lens feels very solid and the build quality is top notch. The lens is super small and light, it’s a very compact design which I really like, the only part that is basically useless is the lens cap, the design is not very efficient, and the cap just falls off very easily.
When shooting landscapes this lens performs perfectly; it’s super sharp – indeed, sharper than a lot of other 16mm ultra-wide angles from big brands.
Barrika Beach North Spain, Laowa 12mm f2.8, Canon 6D
The focus ring and the aperture ring work very smoothly, there are no problems even using them during bad weather or with gloves.
North Spain, Laowa 12mm, Canon 6D
Tenerife Spain, Laowa 12mm f2.8, Canon 6D
Another area I wanted to try out the Laowa in was astro-photography. When I went out and took the first test shots I was not to impressed with the performance. The plain of focus seemed partly uneven and the corner didn’t look too good. Another thing the Laowa 12mm f2.8 has is coma, which is very clearly visible at 2.8.
Alpe Di Siusi, Dolomites, Italy. Irix 15mm f2.4 (1/40 sec, f8, iso 100)
Tenerife Bugloss under the Milky Way, Laowa 12mm, Canon 6D
Here is a crop of the corner problems I encountered using this lens.
It is possible to use the lens when shooting panos because the corners are then not as important and because you are using multiple images blended. But the uneven results still made me not use the lens at night that much.
Javea Spain, Laowa 12mm, Canon 6D, Panorama
The only situation where I found it half decent was when used on a tracking device and stopped down to F4. I took a couple of test shots with a Ioptron tracker and the results were okay.
South Spain, Laowa 12mm, Sony A7R, tracked exposure sky, untracked foreground
So, what about the almost zero distortion? I was most excited to try the Laowa 12mm in Dubai because one thing that you never can have enough of is wide angle there. Some locations are impossible to shoot with a 16mm wide angle lens on a full frame camera, so the Laowa opens new doors when it comes to cityscape locations. In some cases in Dubai, the building next to you is too close, so having 12mm and shooting a panorama allows you to get a completely new view and you capture everything from top to bottom.
Downtown Dubai, Panorama,Canon 6D, Laowa 12mm f 2.8
The lens creates some really nice light stars, so when shooting long exposures during blue hour you get some great results with the Laowa 12mm f 2.8, the sharpness and details are impressive.
The distortion levels of the Laowa are perfect, considering how wide the angle is there is literally almost no distortion, all lines are nice and straight.
Downtown Dubai, Laowa 12mm f2.8, Canon 6D
During my workshop in Dubai, I really enjoyed shooting with the Laowa 12mm lens. I would even say for someone who shoots a lot of cityscapes and extreme wide images this lens is a must-have in your kit. There are many situations where you can use the 12mm wide angle, especially because of the low distortion, which makes it perfect for cityscapes.
Rub Al Khali Desert, UAE. Canon 6D, Laowa 12mm f 2.8.
After using this lens for a while now I can say the Laowa 12mm f2.8 is a good all-rounder. It has its weak points here and there, but overall the performance for landscape and cityscape photography is excellent. You get perfectly sharp and straight images; it outperforms even big brands in that segment. The sharpness and the low distortion made it one of my new favourites for cityscapes as it allows completely new angles, and when you shoot panoramas with it you get a crazy field of view which sometimes looks really good. The Laowa 12mm is a specialty lens – you don’t need 12mm all the time, but when you do its zero limitations makes new angles possible.