A little review of a little lens (Laowa 7.5mm f2)

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Luke Forrest Regular Member • Posts: 428
A little review of a little lens (Laowa 7.5mm f2)
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I must admit I was a little apprehensive about buying the Laowa 7.5mm f2 lens for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this is my first fully manual lens. I'm an AF guy, never even used MF on my AF lenses. And if this lens had been a longer focal length I may not have bought it. As it is, I read a lot of reviews and was convinced when I read that you can set this lens to f5.6 and infinity and as long as what your focusing on isn't within a metre, everything would be in focus. I liked the sound of that for my use. The second thing is that Laowa is a Chinese lens company. Whether it's deserved or not Chinese companies tend to have a reputation for QC issues. Having bought this lens now, I'll definitely have more of an open mind in the future.

Before I start with this review I just want to say that I'm an amateur and I don't do any formal testing. In fact this is not really a review just some of my own thoughts about a lens. If you want to see how well this lens truly performs, you're better off going to Lenstip or Photozone or some other formal lens testing website.

First lets start with the Good.

Size:

It's very small and doesn't weigh much either. I think I read somewhere that it only weighs 170g! It's perfect for travel. Even if you don't use it much it will take up very little space in the bag. Here's an image of it attached to my GX800 with an SD card to show scale.

Sorry about the poor quality pic. My iPhone is old.

Build Quality:

It feels solid. Made of of mostly metal and glass. The focus ring is smooth and the aperture clicks feel reassuring. It doesn't feel like it's going to fall apart any time soon.

Sharpness:

A while ago I had the Panasonic 7-14mm f4 lens. It's well known for being very sharp and I had to agree. From the images I've taken so far I'd say this is at least as sharp or dare I say it maybe even a tiny bit sharper. It's close anyway. The image centre is sharp wide open while the corners are a bit softer here. Not really surprising given the size and price of the lens. The corners aren't that bad though and I'd still be happy to use the lens wide open. Optimum sharpness seems to be around f5.6 where it's sharp corner to corner.

Now for the not so good.

Distortion:

There is some barrel distortion and it's noticeable. If you don't shoot RAW this can be a problem because being a fully manual lens with no electronic contacts the camera won't correct it. If you do shoot RAW it's less of a problem because the distortion uniform and pretty easy to correct. I use Lightroom and I just enter +10 on the manual lens corrections slider and the distortion is gone with a really small crop.

Vignetting:

It's very noticeable at f2 and while it gets much better as you stop down it never truly goes away. I don't find it a big issue but it's something to be aware of.

Flare:

It can be prone to flare. I haven't actually shot into the sun yet so this isn't my experience, just something I've read. I thought I'd mention it anyway.

Lens cap with the hood on:

This is just annoying. It's tricky to put the lens cap on. The centre pieces that you pinch aren't very deep so it's difficult to put the cap on with out slipping out of your hands.

Other things I've noticed.

There's no lens exif data. No electronic contacts to pass the info to the camera. I like knowing what settings I used so I might have to start doing it old school with pen and paper.

Oddly the aperture clicks are wider apart at larger apertures. The distance gets less and less as you stop down. There must be a reason for this but I have no idea what it could be. It doesn't bother me but it's strange.

This isn't a Laowa specific issue but rather a Panasonic issue with fully manual lenses. For some reason the camera won't let me select mechanical shutter with a manual lens no matter what setting you put it in. If you like shooting fast moving subjects this can be a big problem. The electronic shutter of course causing the jello or rolling shutter effect.

Some images taken with the lens.

Ultra ultra wide! This is a Pano of six vertical shots. I had to correct distortion and vignetting  manually before stitching. Shot at f5.6 I think.

Manual lens correction +10 applied to this image. Shot at f8 I think.

The f2 came in handy here. It was very dark inside this cathedral. Of course if you have a camera with IBIS then perhaps f2 wouldn't have been needed.

Thanks for looking!

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