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Venus Laowa 14mm F/4 Zero-D DSLR Lens Review

John Riley has been capturing photos with the Laowa 14mm f/4 Zero-D lens for full-frame DSLRs which promises Zero-Distortion.


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Laowa 14mm f/4 Zero-D DSLR
 

Laowa produces some very interesting lenses and the latest is this 14mm f/4 full-frame optic for Canon EF and Nikon F DSLR cameras. For the purposes of this review we couple the Nikon F version of the lens to the 45MP Nikon Z7 II mirrorless camera, using the Nikon FTZ adapter. Let's have a close look at what dramatic images can be produced with this ultra-wide manual focus lens and also at its technical performance.

 

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Venus Laowa 14mm f/4 Zero-D Handling and Features

Laowa 14mm f/4 Zero-D DSLR
 

The lens is all metal and accordingly very solid in its construction. Despite this, it weighs in at a reasonable 320g (Canon) or 360g (Nikon). The fairly slim bayonet fit petal lens hood does afford some slight protection but has to be slim with the 115-degree field of view. The hood needs a fairly firm click to seat it fully into position. Within the bayonet, the fit is a standard 67mm filter thread.

The manual focus ring has two parts, the slim forward part being an adjustment to the focusing scale position. This offers a fine adjustment of the focusing scale to adjust for different flange distances on different cameras. The main focusing ring is broader and operates with silky smoothness, up there with the best. The distance scale is marked in feet and metres. Behind this is a depth of field scale, something that proves most useful with such a wide lens.

The aperture ring is also super-smooth in operation, with light click stops that could usefully be just a little firmer. The bayonet fit is equally smooth, in this Nikon version without any electrical contacts. The Canon version does have electronic contacts, enabling recording of appropriate EXIF data and the electronic control of the aperture by the camera.

Laowa 14mm f/4 Zero-D DSLR
 

There is a slight contradiction in the control rings, in that the focusing ring turns in the Canon direction and the aperture ring turns in the Nikon direction. This would probably only be an issue if the photographer used other manual focus lenses that had contrary movements to these. It potentially causes a slight lack of consistency when working quickly and intuitively.

Focusing is down to 14.5cm, or 5.71 inches, for a maximum magnification of 0.3x. Given the ultra-wide field of view, this is close enough to allow for large foregrounds and sweeping perspective. With an ultra-wide, so much is taken into the view that we need to move in close, then closer, to give proper prominence to something in the frame. Shot from normal distances without going in boldly can lead to disappointingly distant images.

Optical construction is 13 elements in 8 groups, including 2 ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) and 2 Aspherical. The configuration is designed to suppress CA and distortion and maintain sharpness into the corners of the frame. The diaphragm consists of 5 blades.

Laowa 14mm f/4 Zero-D DSLR
 

A potential problem with the lens is that it can be difficult to discern the exact point of focus. With a tripod and magnification it is still not that easy, basically because there is a massive amount of depth of field, but focusing at f/4 gives the best chance of precision. An alternative technique is to use the depth of field scale along with zone focusing and not to attempt to focus quickly in the field. In terms of landscape, for example, the hyperfocal distance can be set to have everything in focus from near to infinity. In the case of street photography, setting the aperture at f/8 would mean that everything between about 1.5 feet and 15 feet would be within the depth of field, so no further focusing would be necessary.

Overall, the lens is great in use and demands we get involved in a scene and move in as much as we can. Then the true impact of that ultra-wide-angle view can be realised.

 


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