Laowa 4mm f/2.8 Circular Fisheye - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - (Micro-)Four-Thirds

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published August 2019

Introduction

It's awesome ... and it's hell! There you go - the verdict is straight in the first sentence! :-)

Most of you who have used fisheye lenses will probably agree that fisheye lenses are a love-hate relationship more so than with any other lens type. You love them because they deliver the unexpected and extreme and you hate them pretty much for the same reasons. And if you sell one because it fell into disuse, you will regret the decision a year later again - because, well, "that shot would be awesome with a fisheye".

Fisheye lenses come in two flavors - full-frame and circular. Full frame lenses are pretty mainstream and available both from Olympus/Panasonic as well as from numerous more or less dubious third-party manufacturers. Circular fisheye lenses are far more exotic with less than a handful of "native" micro-four-thirds options. One of them is the Laowa 4mm f/2.8 Circular Fisheye and I was thrilled to hear about it when the first rumors about it started to emerge. And the best news is ... that it won't cost you can an arm and a leg at just 199USD!

In terms of build quality, it is aligned with what we have seen from Laowa lately. Thus it's an all-metal construction and fully manual - thus it has a manual aperture as well as a manual focus ring. Some may not like this but in real-life, you set the aperture to f/5.6 and the focus to 1m and that'll be good enough for the vast majority of shots. The lack of EXIF data may be more annoying. An aspect that is important in our book is the size and weight of the lens. Once the initial romance is over, you'll probably rarely use the lens and you just won't pack a brick thus losing opportunities when they emerge. The Laowa thought of that and at just 120g, you'll barely notice it in your bag. In the product images, you will notice that it is impossible to use conventional lens caps on it due to the protruding front element. Instead, Laowa is providing a full body cover (made of metal) that aligns with the slightly protruding focus ring lever - an efficient solution.

Specifications
Optical construction7 elements in 6 groups
Number of aperture blades7
min. focus distance0.08m (max. magnification ratio 1:9)
Dimensions45×25mm
Weight120g
Filter size-
HoodTube-style
Other featuresWhat more do you expect?
MountMicro-Four-Thirds (non-coupled)

So what does it mean visually? The lens offers a field-of-view of 210 degrees (180 degrees horizontally). Just to illustrate this - below is yours truly visible on all image sides with the camera sitting on his belly.