Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D (Sony FE) - Review / Test Report - Sample Images & Verdict
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha (Full Format)

Sample Images

Click on an image for downloading the full-size variant.

MakeSONY
ModelILCE-7RM2
ISO Speed200
Focal Length
Aperture:f/0.0
Exposure1/80s

MakeSONY
ModelILCE-7RM2
ISO Speed250
Focal Length
Aperture:f/0.0
Exposure1/60s

MakeSONY
ModelILCE-7RM2
ISO Speed200
Focal Length
Aperture:f/0.0
Exposure1/250s

MakeSONY
ModelILCE-7RM2
ISO Speed200
Focal Length
Aperture:f/0.0
Exposure1/320s

MakeSONY
ModelILCE-7RM2
ISO Speed200
Focal Length
Aperture:f/0.0
Exposure1/4000s

MakeSONY
ModelILCE-7RM2
ISO Speed200
Focal Length
Aperture:f/0.0
Exposure1/800s

MakeSONY
ModelILCE-7RM2
ISO Speed200
Focal Length
Aperture:f/0.0
Exposure1/3200s

MakeSONY
ModelILCE-7RM2
ISO Speed200
Focal Length
Aperture:f/0.0
Exposure1/1000s

MakeSONY
ModelILCE-7RM2
ISO Speed200
Focal Length
Aperture:f/0.0
Exposure1/200s

MakeSONY
ModelILCE-7RM2
ISO Speed200
Focal Length
Aperture:f/0.0
Exposure1/320s

MakeSONY
ModelILCE-7RM2
ISO Speed200
Focal Length
Aperture:f/0.0
Exposure1/640s

Competition

There are several alternative lenses available in this segment albeit none that does exactly match the specs of the Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D (shown to the left below). There's the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 (2nd to the left) which is, obviously, not quite as ambitious in terms of field of view as well as speed. However, it is clearly superior (and more expensive, of course). Somewhat more similar is the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 ART HSM DG - that's the huge brick in the center below. Performance-wise it is somewhat better. Whether you really want to mount much such a lens on a tiny Sony camera is a different question though. The Tokina Firin 20mm f/2 FE (MF/AF) - to the right below - isn't quite as wide but just as fast. Further options include the Samyang FE 14mm f/2.8 as well as the Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 III FE.

Visual comparison courtesy of camerasize.com.

Verdict

The Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D is a capable lens ... within certain limits. As mentioned in the introduction, Laowa tries to find a "better balance" between quality and the size of the lens than other manufacturers. That already provides a hint that there's no free lunch here and the necessary compromises hit the lens at large aperture settings. While the broader center zone is perfectly fine even at f/2 the outer image field is soft and it doesn't really improve much at f/2.8. However, the quality is fine from f/4 onwards albeit without reaching greatness. The best quality is available around f/8. The amount of lateral CAs is good. Unsurprisingly, the vignetting is very high at f/2 and it remains visible even at smaller apertures. Laowa does promise very low distortions - hence the "Zero-D" in the lens name. While not actually "zero", the low amount of barrel distortion is certainly a highlight.
If you really want to you can push all ultra-wide lenses into producing heavy flare effects. However, the Laowa does a quite decent job here - probably because the front element isn't bulb-like and as such not quite as vulnerable to stray light.

The build quality of the lens is very high when just looking at the mechanical aspects. It's a tightly, assembled, all metal construction with a smooth focus ring. If you like old school, you will also enjoy the manual aperture selection on the lens. However, others may not like the idea of a fully manual lens without electronic aperture coupling and without AF.

The Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D is not a cheap lens at around 800USD/1000EUR. To be honest - relative to the performance of the lens, this is stretching things a little. For a few bucks more you can get the Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS and the Samyang AF 14mm f/2.8 FE is more affordable - and both support AF. Still, the Laowa is faster and the corner weakness will not show up in shallow depth-of-field scenarios. If you are aware of its limitations and manoeuvre around them, it's actually an Okay lens - more so on an A7(S) x rather than an A7R x. That being said - there are better alternatives out there.

Optical Quality:    
★★★★★
Mechanical Quality:
★★★★★
Price/Performance:
★★★★★

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