Chinese lens maker Venus Optics is steadily increasing its range of Laowa brand lenses for digital SLRs and mirrorless cameras, specialising in macro lenses and ultra-wideangles.
And they don’t come much more ultra-wide than this lens, which is designed solely for Micro Four Thirds (MFT) cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. The Laowa 4mm f/2.8 Fisheye has the shortest focal length and hence widest angle of view we’ve seen for an interchangeable lens camera and boasts an amazing 210-degree angle of view – this means it can see further than sideways, if that makes sense.
It’s what’s called a ‘circular’ fisheye, producing a completely circular image within the camera’s image frame. This is the more extreme of the two types of fisheye lens. The other, less extreme type is the ‘full frame’ fisheye. That’s nothing to do with full frame sensors, however, and simply means that the image made by the lens fills the full sensor area and not just a central circle.
Olympus and Panasonic both make 8mm full frame fisheye lenses and both are relatively affordable at around the £600/$600 mark. They offer a narrower 180-degree angle of view (if you can call 180 degrees ‘narrow’ in any sense) but full frame fisheyes are much more usable on a regular basic than circular types like the Laowa, so it will be interesting to see what the final pricing is when it goes on sale later this year, and the kinds of uses it can be put to.
Like other Laowa lenses, this one has manual focusing (though fisheyes have so much depth of field they don’t need much focusing) and manual exposure and aperture control. This old-school simplicity has some advantages, not least this lens’s super-small dimensions. The barrel is narrower than the lens mount it’s attached to, the length is just 25.5mm and it weighs only 135g.
Laowa 4mm f/2.8 Fisheye MFT specifications
Focal Length: 4mm
Max. Aperture: f/2.8
Min. Aperture: f/22
Angle of View: 210 degrees
Format Compatibility: Micro Four Thirds
Lens Structure: 7 elements in 6 groups
Aperture Blades: 7
Min. Focusing Distance: 8cm
Max. Magnification: 0.11x
Filter Thread: N/A
Available: Mid/late 2018
More information: Laowa website