World’s widest rectilinear f/2.8 lens: Kickstarter for Laowa 12mm f/2.8 smashes funding goal


posted Friday, August 5, 2016 at 4:59 AM EST


We reported in early July that Venus Optics was preparing a 12mm f/2.8 full frame lens, what it calls "the best ultra wide angle lens with zero distortion." That's a big claim, but some early prototype versions of the lens have now been sent out to photographers by Laowa, and the initial results are impressive.

The Kickstarter campaign for the lens smashed its funding goal of $10,000 and went stratospheric. As of this morning, the campaign now has over US$400,000 of backing. The self-described "world's widest f/2.8 rectilinear lens for full frame cameras" will be available for Canon EF, Nikon AI, Sony A, Pentax K and Sony E mounts. As a rectilinear lens, straight lines will remain straight even though you're shooting at 12mm. This is a fully manual lens, meaning it doesn't include autofocus or an automatic aperture.

With a field of view of 122 degrees, you might expect the lens to be quite large, but it's actually just over 21 ounces in weight, and quite a bit smaller than Canon's excellent 11-24mm f/4 L lens. The Laowa includes 16 elements in 10 groups, seven aperture blades and has a minimum focus distance just over seven inches.

Multiple photographers have gotten their hands on pre-production models of the Laowa 12mm f/2.8 and the results have been mostly positive. Keith Cooper of Northlight Images, for example, found that the lens has "virtually no pincushion or barrel distortion" and good sharpness results considering its focal length. Be sure to check out Cooper's full review and many sample photos here.

The Laowa 12mm f/2.8 is a pretty compact lens considering its ultra wide focal length. I'm sure that some of that compactness is due to being a fully manual lens.

Another interesting product coming out with the lens is Laowa's new Magic Shift Converter. This product enlarges the image circle of the lens using four internal elements in the converter and makes the 12mm f/2.8 a 17mm f/4 equivalent lens with +/- 10 millimeters of shift, which should be more suitable for architectural photography

Laowa 12mm f/2.8 optical construction and MTF chart.

While early backers have already scooped up the best deals for the lens on Kickstarter, including a lucky person who gets the lens for a mere $1, there are still good prices to be had. As of now, you can obtain the Laowa 12mm f/2.8 lens for $849, a $100 savings over the final retail price. If you want a filter holder, you need to add $50 more. For just under $2,200, you can receive the new lens along with Laowa's 15mm f/4 macro, 60mm f/2.8 2x Ultra-Macro and 105mm f/2 Smooth Trans Focus lenses. For the full list of backing options, see here.

While the Kickstarter page has a lot of sample images, you can also see a sample video shot with the lens in Hong Kong below.

(Seen via PetaPixel, Resource Magazine and Northlight Images)