Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D (Canon EOS) - Lab Test / Review - Sample Images & Verdict
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (Full Format)

Sample Images (by us)

Click on a thumbnail to view the original file (opens in a separate window). Please note that the originals are FULL SIZE samples (=several megabytes) thus requiring a significant amount of bandwidth so please take care of the limited resources here.

Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure 1/1600s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure 1/800s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure 1/400s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure 1/320s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 800
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure 30.0s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure 1/60s

Sample Images by Laowa

Laowa thinks that the tested sample was somewhat substandard regarding its field curvature behavior. They have provided us with some sample images shown below (copyright by Laowa). Yes, we know - these images are nicer. ;-) We don't have much time per lens unfortunately ....

Please note that the used cameras have a substantially lower resolution than the EOS 5Ds R (our test body). Our 2nd session was done in overcast conditions so the shots aren't great and amplify corner CAs.

Click on a thumbnail to view the original file (opens in a separate window). Please note that the originals are FULL SIZE samples (=several megabytes) thus requiring a significant amount of bandwidth so please take care of the limited resources here.

Make
Model
ISO Speed
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure
Make
Model
ISO Speed
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS-1D X
ISO Speed 100
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure 15.0s
Make NIKON CORPORATION
Model NIKON D810
ISO Speed 64
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure 1/50s
Make SONY
Model ILCE-7R
ISO Speed 100
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure 5.0s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure 1/1250s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure 1/400s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure 1/400s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure 1/160s
Make Canon
Model Canon EOS 5DS R
ISO Speed 200
Focal Length
Aperture: f/
Exposure 1/200s

Verdict

First of all let us make clear that we reviewed a prototype lens. The design is still being finalized so take the results with a grain of salt.

The Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D is certainly an interesting beast. Given the extreme nature of the lens we can't expect a uniform performance across the image field. The center performance is nothing short of outstanding straight from f/2.8 whereas the outer image region is soft at this setting. The corners/borders improve the more you stop down and they reach good to very good levels at medium apertures with a peak at f/8. Our sample showed some field curvature making it necessary to stop down to f/11 and "pull" the focus to 3m for max depth-of-field scenes. According to Laowa this behavior didn't show up in their test samples. Lateral CAs are low at the borders but amplify in the corners. Laowa claims zero image distortions (thus the "Zero-D" in the name). Well, it comes close at least. We measured a barrel distortion of just 1.1% (at a close focus distance to be fair here) which is substantially less than what we've seen from the competition. However, flare is a weakness and the bokeh is also on the rough side (like on most wide-angle lenses).

Most extreme ultra-wide lenses are fairly big but Laowa managed to keep the lens very compact. The all-metal construction feels reassuring although this "substance" adds a bit to the weight (609g). The Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D is a fully manual lens without electronic coupling. Given its ultra-wide angle scope this is usual not a problem in the real life. Laowa provides a depth-of-field scale on the lens barrel and this should be sufficient for accurate focusing in most situations but close-ups. Fact remains that this as well as the manual aperture will slow you down a bit though. Most extreme ultra-wide lenses don't have the option for mounting front filters. This also applies to the "naked" Laowa lens. However, they are going to provide an optional filter holder (for 100mm filters) if you can't live without.

Given a retail price of 949US$, the Laowa lens is certainly not a budget item. At the very extremes things are simply getting more expensive ... and a fully corrected 12mm lens is darn extreme indeed. Even so, it is still half the price of the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 USM L II and that's despite the fact that it is even a bit wider. The Samyang 14mm f/2.8 is cheaper but suffers from heavy image distortions. The Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM DG II comes also into mind. However, while being comparable in price, it is slower and somewhat worse optically. Let's hope that Laowa can provide a quality control to match the price tag - ultra-wide lenses are difficult to manufacture.

Optical Quality: To be determined once we have a broader base of tests at 50mp    
Mechanical Quality:
Price/Performance:To be determined with a final production lens
      
   What does this mean ?