Venus Optics Laowa 20mm F4 Zero-D Shift E-mount lens review by waldo_posth

reviewer#46955 date: Sep-10-2023
sharpness: 4.5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 4
overall: 4.7
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:The lens outresolves my Voigtlander Ultra-Wide Heliar 12mm F/5.6 when used as an alternative (applying perspective correction in Photoshop). My 16-35 Sony CZ FE F/4 at 16mm will lack a wide enought angle to compete with a 20mm shift pano. Sharpness is similar. My Zeiss Distagons (e.g. ZF 21mm F/2.8, Contax 28mm F/2.8, ZM 35mm F/1.4) are sharper and have more micro-contrast.
I no longer have the Samyang 24mm F/3.5 T/S lens which is clearly inferior in handling, IQ and build.
price paid:Euro 1200
positive:Built like a tank, very good rendering, very good colors - the IQ is absolutely up to date and on par with the current generation of UWAs by Sony, Sigma and Tamron. Sharpness is very good, stopped down even excellent. This also holds for the extended image circle which almost covers the fourfold space of the full frame sensor. There are two dedicated lens brackets/collars (Arca-Swiss compatible) which allow shifting the camera instead of the lens - to create shift panoramas without parallax error. I have the smaller one which lets one produce panoramas from three exposures extending either left/right or top/bottom. The larger one allows for stitching four exposures by shifting 45/135/225/315 degrees. Rotating the lens by 15 degree steps makes this possible - something not possible with Canon or Nikon tilt-shift lenses.
The mechanical solutions that the lens provides (for shifting, rotating, using lens brackets) currently make it the most advanced shift lens available for full frame. The lens offers an easy way of handling, quick to familiarize with, and lending to a painless flow of using it.
negative:It's a heavy (fully metal) and - for a 20mm F/4 lens - a very big lens. It lacks an electronic connection to the camera and does not provide EXIF data. It's a manual focusing lens - so no quick shots (except for using it within hyperfocal distances). Bring a tripod, even if you don't use the lens bracket/collar for shift panoramas.
The lens can be vulnerable to flare if you do not control it by blocking light sources. The lens shade is effective, but both, tricky and crafty. Using you hand sometimes will be even more effective.
comment:As a 20mm shift lens this is a standard lens for architecture photography, very versatile - due to the possibility of creating shift panos. For an architecture photographer the possibility of using the combo of Laowa 15mm and Laowa 20mm shift lenses is superior to the Canon combo of 17mm and 24mm EF TS-E lenses, IMHO (and you won't need an adapter).
The lens excels in easy handling and produces great output.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 2
  • sharpness: 4.25
  • color: 5.00
  • build: 5.00
  • distortion: 5.00
  • flare control: 4.00
  • overall: 4.65 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania