Venus Optics announced the new Laowa 11mm f4.5 lens for Leica M, Leica L, Sony FE, and Nikon Z. This stands in competition with their 12mm f/2.8, as well as some strong entries from other manufacturers. Let’s dig in and see what makes this lens unique.
Different lens manufacturers have different lanes. SIGMA targets sharpness and speed that competes with brand-name manufacturers. Tamron aims for workhorse lenses that are almost as good as name-brand at a significantly lower price point. Laowa looks for gaps in the market and brings unusual lenses to fill needs nobody else will. To this end, Venus Optics’ new Laowa 11mm full-frame lens has two killer features: weight and close focus.
A Super Compact Ultra-Wide
First, let’s talk weight. This lens weighs a mere 8.9 oz. (254g), less than half that of their 12mm f/2.8. Very few wide-angle lenses can compete with this, especially in the full-frame market. If you are a street, event, documentary, or other shooters looking for an ultra-wide that can travel, Venus Optics presents a compelling package.
The major trade-off here is the maximum aperture of f/4.5. Your mileage and your needs may vary, but I believe the loss of light is entirely forgivable, given major advancements in low-light sensitivity in modern cameras. Achieving a shallow Depth of Field on a lens this wide is largely out of the question, so maximum aperture is really more about sensitivity to light. Everybody’s shooting style will be different, but this is a combination of specs you won’t find anywhere else.
The Laowa 11mm f/4.5 is able to focus at a remarkable 19cm (7.4”), allowing for macro shooting from an ultra-wide perspective. Few other lenses are capable of achieving this type of shot, and almost all of them are also manufactured by Venus Optics. As a creative tool, there are very few options on the market that can achieve these same results.
Other Notable Specs
This lens is not distortion-free, but it is designed to suppress distortion and chromatic aberration to a remarkable degree. It features a 62mm filter thread, which, while not unique, is still notable. Many lenses this wide have rounded front elements that do not easily accept filters.
Pricing and Availability
The Laowa 11mm f/4.5 will be available starting in mid-September. The lens will cost $799 (Leica M) and $699 (Sony FE, Nikon Z and L).
Do you have a place for an 11mm lens in your kit? What’s the widest lens you regularly shoot with? Let us know in the comments!