E-Mount lenses are expanding exponentially from various manufacturers as of late. These lenses are allowing consumers to get into the Sony system cheaper than they could have the last couple years, and also offer a differing lens selection than just Sony provides. This in turn is getting more and more users into the Sony system. With various cameras like the A7RIII, A7III, A9, and upcoming A7III, the E-Mount system is pretty much now for any shooter.
The latest lens that I have been using from a third-party manufacturer is the Laowa 15mm F2 FE Zero-D. This ultra wide-angle lens promises near zero distortion images from an all-metal, manual focus lens for the price of $849. Being that a ton of distortion is my biggest issues with ultra wide lenses, I wanted to give the Laowa 15mm F2 a try. I’ve been shooting more of my gyms interior lately, and want it to seem expansive, not distorted.
Laowa 15mm F2: Build Quality
Out of the box, the build of the Laowa 15mm F2 is what you’re going to notice first. Built out of an all-metal exterior this ultra wide-angle lens feels nice in the hand. Overall, it’s solid, much like the 105mm F2 lens I previously reviewed from Laowa. However, it isn’t weather sealed. Aside from that, it’s built very well. At 1.1 lbs. this lens is heavy for its size, but overall it still feels extremely well balance on my A7RIII and A6500 since it was designed for Sony cameras.
Laowa 15mm F2: Features & Specs
The Laowa 15mm F2 features a clicked or declicked aperture ring, and a well-dampened manual focus ring. This declicked aperture ring is perfect for video users who want smooth exposure transitions in certain situations. Personally, I find myself shooting more at an auto ISO instead, but this declicked feature is a nice option to have. This aperture ring can be changed in full stop increments of F2-F22.
The aperture ring on theLaowa 15mm F/2 Zero-D.
The Laowa 15mm F/2 Zero-D features a switch for declicking the aperture ring.
While I love autofocus, ultra wide lenses are much easier to use as manual focus lenses because of their nature. These lenses get a ton in focus, even at wide apertures, as long as your subject is relatively far away from you. The manual focus ring is a pleasure to use, and the focus assist features of Sony mirrorless cameras makes punching in to check focus a breeze. Yes it is the slower workflow than the Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8, but it’s still pretty easy to use.
A few things lacking on this lands our image stabilization and lens metadata transferring to the camera. While I don’t need image stabilization since my cameras have it in body image stabilization, the ability to see what aperture I shot an image at in post would be nice. However, this isn’t the end of the world, and with the ability to see my exposure and depth of field before I shoot, I am able to do without it. The only major feature that I find lacking on the Laowa 15mm F2 is the lens hood, which cannot be clicked into place. However, it is fully metal, which will definitely protect the front element in case of a fall.
Laowa 15mm F/2 Zero-D on the Sony A7RIII.
Laowa 15mm F2: Performance
I have found the sharpness on the Laowa 15mm F2 to be fantastic throughout the aperture range. Yes it maybe because I am using a fantastic 42-megapixel sensor, but this $849 lens really shines when it comes to sharpness. That allows you to use the aperture range to its fullest, even wide open at F2. While F2 may be fun to shoot at, this lens really shines around F2.8 to F8. The corners of the images do have a little bit of fall off in sharpness from the center at F2 it seems, but is fairly well cleared up by F5.6.
Speaking of F2, this lens is able to achieve some degree of bokeh with the Laowa 15mm F2. However, in order to do that you will need to be relatively close to your subject which I wouldn’t recommend doing. At 15mm objects don’t look good at close distances very often. This lens really shines when a little distances given between lens and subject.
Achievable bokeh on the Laowa 15mm F/2 Zero-D at F/2.
In addition to its sharpness, the Laowa 15mm F2 provides excellent contrast in a neutral color rendition. Stopped down to around F5.6, you’ll notice fantastic contrast, at least to my liking. One con of the Laowa 15mm F2 is the vignetting at F2, but I rarely shot at that aperture, and I’m guessing the same will be for you. Sony cameras make shooting at 800 ISO extremely clean, allowing you to stop down to optimal sharpness, contrast, and lack of a vignette.
The Laowa 15mm F/2 Zero-D provides nice contrast, even wide open.
Distortion with the wall about 15 feet away.
Same distance, with slight distortion on me at the edge of frame.
As far as the zero distortion claims from Laowa, there is in fact a little distortion coming from this lens. However, it seems to be fairly well handled, much more so than other ultra wide-angle lenses I have shot with.
Laowa 15mm F2: Shooting Experience
I am definitely not a shooter who typically likes to take manual focus lenses around with me, but the Laowa 15mm F2 is my one exception. It’s the only manual focus lens I use regularly. It’s just that easy to use. Not only is it fantastic for photo application, but I also enjoy it while shooting on the gimbal. Stopped down to a relatively deep depth of field, the Laowa 15mm F2 gives an exceptionally wide angle of view on full frame cameras. It also plays nicely with my Sony A6500, becoming an equivalent 22.5mm lens, which is still plenty wide to capture a scene. I am also pleasantly surprised by its resolving power on high megapixel cameras, which is something that should be very important to any landscape photographers looking into the Laowa 15mm F2 lens.
Size compared to the Zeiss Batis 25mm F/2.
The Laowa 15mm F2 is simply a fun lens to use, whether you enjoy its manual focus or not. Its all-metal design and build quality, as well as its handling makes it enjoyable from an experiential standpoint, and its performance speaks for itself. Laowa have really knocked it out of the park with this lens. It’s my go-to ultra wide lens in my bag, and it plays nicely with the smaller form factor of mirrorless cameras, making it easy to travel with. If you need something weather sealed for ultra dusty or wet environments, you may have issues with it. However, in a light drizzle you’ll be ok. If you’re shooting interiors, you’ll love it.
Laowa 15mm F2: Conclusion
At $849, the Laowa 15mm F2 Zero-D lens provides nice value for money. Several other ultra wide-angle lenses come in at much higher dollar amounts, without an increase in performance (other than autofocus) or image quality. You won’t go wrong with this lens. I highly recommend it.