Chinese parent company Venus Optics says its new lens is the widest rectilinear f/2.8 lens yet made for APS-C mirrorless cameras. ‘Rectilinear’ means it still reproduces straight lines as straight, unlike fisheye lenses – the only wider option – which do not attempt to correct distortion at all and produced a strong bowed effect.
Venus Optics produces a range of manual focus prime lenses for close-up and wide-angle photography, and while they are relatively inexpensive compared to regular well-known lens brands, there’s nothing cheap about their optical or mechanical construction.
The Laowa 9mm f/2.8 Zero-D uses two aspherical lens elements and three extra-low dispersion lenses to provide what the maker claims is a high degree of optical correction. In fact, the ‘Zero-D’ in the name refers to the very low distortion levels aimed for in the design. Venus Optics also claims effective correction of chromatic aberration and corner-to-corner sharpness.
Like other Laowa lenses, this one is manual focus only, but that’s no great disadvantage in super-wideangle photography, where there’s usually more than enough depth of field to mask small focus errors and where photographers are more likely to use zone focusing, hyperfocal focusing and careful depth of field control.
This is where manual focus prime lenses like this come in to their own, and the Laowa 9mm has a long focus travel to offer more precise distance setting, together with depth of field index markers either side of the focus index for estimating depth of field.
For such a wide lens, the Laowa 9mm is surprisingly small. It feels substantial and well made, and the focus action is well weighted and smooth.
It is an APS-C lens rather than full frame, but the 9mm focal length still gives an effective focal length on this format of 13.5mm, which is a fraction wider than any of the existing lenses for these cameras, and should deliver better optical quality than a regular super-wide zoom. It’s especially good news for owners of Canon EOS M cameras, who currently don’t have a great choice of lenses in that format.
The Laowa 9mm f/2.8 Zero-D is available for pre-order now, with shipping expected to start in early April. The price will be $499 plus tax in the US, with pricing yet to be announced in other territories.
Laowa 9mm f/2.8 Zero-D specifications
Focal length: 9mm
Maximum aperture: f/2.8
Angle of view: 113 degrees
Sensor size: APS-C
Minimum focus distance: 12cm
Maximum magnification: 1:7.5
Filter thread: 49mm
Dimensions: 60 x 53mm
Mounts: Sony E, Fujifilm X, EOS-M