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Laowa founder on the 35mm Argus f/0.95: "It was fun to make a challenging lens"

Dayong Li Laowa founder
(Image credit: Venus Optics)

The founder and designer of Laowa lenses, including the new Laowa Argus 35mm f/0.95 FF II, recently answered some questions about the exotic new optic.

"It was fun to make a challenging lens," said Dayong Li, describing the process of designing the Laowa Argus 35mm f/0.95 FF II, adding that, "it actually gave us a big sense of accomplishment," to produce the first full-frame 35mm f/0.95 lens.

• Read more: Laowa Argus 35mm f/0.95 FF II review

Mr Li is also discusses the challenges of making such a lens, particularly given the often problematic history of f/0.95 lenses that have often been extremely big or optically subpar. 

(Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

What made you develop the 35mm f/0.95?

“New Idea, New Fun” is always the spirit of our team. We work our best to be the pioneer in the industry to develop new lenses with special and interesting specifications. We have kept our eyes on the f/0.95 lenses for a long time, as the extremely creamy bokeh created by such ultra-fast aperture lenses is always the dream of many photographers.

Autofocus is not something that possible for a f/0.95 lens now due to its extremely shallow depth of field and the heavy optical system. As a specialist in manual focus lenses, we took the challenge and try to add something different into the f/0.95 market: a 35mm f/0.95 lens. It would be the most used focal length in street photography and portraiture, especially under dim lit conditions. However, there was no 35mm f/0.95 in the market, which pushed us to fill this gap for photographers.

Have you had any obstacles when designing the lens? Which performance of the lens did you put more emphasize on? (sharpness/ flare/ CA/ lens size?)

Producing the 35mm f/0.95 is not an easy task at all, as both the size of the lens and its performance have to be taken into consideration and make a balance and concession between them, which is also the most challenging part. Since the lens is made for portrait and street photography, users will be holding the camera most of the time, instead of just leaving it on tripods. 

Therefore, weight and size would be one of the paramount points to be considered. A fast aperture lens always takes up more glass and a wide angle with fast aperture even requires more complicated optical design. All of these make design and production more arduous. We have spent years to develop the lens. Some special glass materials like ED, ultra-high reflection glasses and an aspherical glass are used to control the performance up to par while in an acceptable size and weight.

Traditionally, f/0.95 lenses have been big and have had poor optical performance. How do you approach the optical design?

As the mentioned, we picked some special-made glass and an aspherical glass. Other than that, floating focus system also took its role. Two groups of glass mutually compensate to achieve better image qualities from most-used 1m to infinity. Moreover, there are three groups of glasses in the internal focusing system, which also makes the lens portable but with high performance.

These complex optical structures make mechanism trickier, which in the meantime raises the production costs. But we’d love to take the challenge and it was fun to make a challenging lens which it actually gave us a big sense of accomplishment.

Any plans for further f/0.95 Argus lenses?

Yes, we added a new Argus line-up among our collections, which will be covering different focal lengths and sensors. Please stay tuned for more Laowa amazing lenses.

Read more: 

8 fastest camera lenses you can buy right now
Zhongyi Mitakon Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 review
Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 Noct review

James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-PhotoDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show. An Olympus (Micro Four Thirds) and Canon (full frame) shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a particular fondness for vintage lenses and film cameras.