First Look: Laowa Lenses for Micro Four-thirds

by | Feb 4, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Anhui Changgeng Optics Technology Co., Ltd aka Venus Optics was established in 2013 and sells lenses under the brand name Laowa. The Hong Kong-based company makes different lenses in different mounts including, Sony FE, Canon EF and RF and Nikon Z; I recently received a batch of four different Laowa lenses in Micro Four-thirds mount.

All of these lenses (and that may be the case for almost all Laowa optics) are manual focus and if you’re relatively new to photography you may not be used to focusing manually but don’t panic, it’s not that hard. On the up side, manual focusing forces you to slow down and think about the photograph and its composition before clicking the shutter. One of my favorite tips is that after focusing but before tripping the shutter take a quick look at the four corners of the frame to see if there are any surprises lurking.

Here’s a quick overview of the four lenses.

  • 17mm f/1.8: On a Micro Four-thirds camera this lens ($179) provides the equivalent field-of-view of a 34mm lens. To reduce chromatic aberrations and color fringing, the optical design includes one Super ED element. Frog Eye Coating is applied to the front element to protect against water and dust. The lens will focus as close as 5.9-inches. The specs say it has a “built-in petal-shaped lens hood” but the one in my hand is clearly removable.
  • 9mm f/2.8 Zero-D aka zero distortion lens ($499) is also available for APS-C cameras including Sony E, Fuji-X and Canon M-mount models. On Micro Four-thirds camera it produces the equivalent angle-of-view of an 18mm lens. The optical design features three extra-low dispersion elements for increased clarity and color neutrality and two aspherical elements to limit spherical aberrations. A Frog Eye Coating is applied to repel dust and the “built-in” lens hood (again, mine is removable) should reduce flare and ghosting. It will manually focus down to 4.7-inches.
  • 7.5mm f/2: Laowa tells me this is the widest rectilinear lens on the market and for MFT ($499) produces a 15mm equivalent focal length. It’s compact, lightweight and focuses to 4.7-inches. The lens incorporates two aspherical elements and three extra-low dispersion elements to control distortion and aberrations. A Frog Eye Coating is applied to the front element to guard against water and dust. Build quality is jewel-like and the lens accepts inexpensive 46mm screw-in filters. A petal-shaped lens hood is included.
  • 4mm f/2.8 Fisheye: This lens ($199) covers 210 degrees and is said to be “amazingly sharp.” (Check my posted image on Instagram—@joefarace—by Barry Staver.) It’s a circular fisheye that’s characterized by noticeable distortion with a bulb-like look. For Micro Four-thirds cameras it provides an 8mm equivalent focal length and it’s manual focus design permits focusing as close as 3.1-inches. While I was playing with it today, looking at the image on the LCD screen made me smile.

Look for individual reviews of each of these Laowa lenses real soon now:

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