I picked up my new 15mm Venus Optics Laowa macro lens last week. Very excited. I had big visions of this lens being my “cool style” macro lens in addition to being my compact super wide for landscapes and travel. So why am I speaking about this lens in a “past tense”? Well, I ended up shipping it back after a couple days of testing. Is the lens no good? No, it’s actually quite good; however, just not suitable for how I intended to use it. Let me explain.
I won’t go into details about the lens stats since you can find that anywhere. I will post them at the end of the article for those who have not already looked into this lens elsewhere.
- On the up side this lens does exactly what it claims it will do,, and does it well. So if you want that photo with a wildly close foreground and yet an environment background… this does it in spades. This means that your “macro”/”closeup” subject can fill a large portion of the frame while still showing you the environment in which it resides.
- It is built very solid. It’s going to last.
- It has a relatively affordable price.
- Has built in “tilt shift” feature. (I found it worked pretty well).
- Works well as a general purpose super side (like landscapes and large interior shots).
Cons: Things you must keep in mind.
- Manual Focus:
- For macro: I don’t mind this at all really. You always want to focus macro manually for best results so I would not be using autofocus even if the lens provided it.
- For normal distances: When shooting at a distance super wide focus is very easy to obtain. Anything past 2 meters is focused at infinity.
- Manual Aperture: The aperture is manual. Most people are not used to the idea of an aperture that is manual. The issue is not just having to manually turn a dial (that’s no big deal). It’s the fact that manual apertures close down in real time thus reducing the light entering the eyepiece (manual aperture does not wait until you press the shutter release to close down like automated aperture in most modern lenses). Thus if you want to shoot anything at f/16 or greater (very often the case with macro) you can barely see your subject much less focus on it. Now of course there are ways to deal with the situation… people did it for generations. But just make sure you understand this before you buy or you’ll be in for a nasty surprise (those of you from the film days won’t be surprised but anyone who has always used modern auto equipment will be. An additional note is the aperture ring does not have “clicks” in it. It’s a constant smooth turn making it about impossible to choose an aperture without looking at the ring numbers (remember since the lens cannot ‘talk’ to the camera the f/stop setting does not display in your camera viewfinder.
- Working distance: The lens’ 1:1 ratio distance is mere millimeters.. In other words if you want 1:1 you had better be ready to touch your glass to the subject (almost) and block all your light. The reality is that in the “real world” you will almost never be able to get 1:1 out of this lens. Only in a controlled studio environment will you be able to get a full 1:1 magnification and be able to easily light your subject as you wish. For me this was the deal breaker. I simply cannot work in the field with such a tiny working distance.
You may recall I said I was interested in this lens for general wide angle use, not just macro. So how does it pan out there? Quite well actually and if you don’t already have a super wide lens, then I’d say ignore the cons and buy the Venus. I happen to already own a 16mm lens so I did not really need the lens for that purpose. If it was more useful as a true macro lens I would still have kept it.
I’m not dissing this lens. Some people are going to love it. Hell, I’ll probably end up re-purchasing it someday used at half the price, but for now it just wasn’t going to suite my needs.
Comparable 35mm Equivalent on DX Format Focal Length: 22.5 mm
|Camera Mount Type||Nikon F|
|Format Compatibility||35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor
|Angle of View||110°
APS-C Picture Angle: 85°
|Tilt/Shift||Shifts ± 6mm|
|Minimum Focus Distance||4.72″ (12 cm)|
|Maximum Reproduction Ratio||1:1|
|Filter Thread||Front:77 mm|
|Dimensions (DxL)||Approx. 3.30 x 2.55″ (83.8 x 64.7 mm)|
|Weight||.90 lb (410 g)|
|Package Weight||1.45 lb|
|Box Dimensions (LxWxH)||7.008 x 5.197 x 5.118″|