Venus Optics has launched a new wide-angle lens under its Laowa brand. We've become used to new lenses from Laowa being incredible macro probe lenses, or ultra-fast prime optics, but this new 12-24mm f/5.6 Zoom is different again. This time Laowa's aim was to produce a compact and affordable ultra-wide zoom for full-frame mirrorless cameras.
With a diameter of 69.4mm and an 84mm length, the new lens certainly ticks the compact box, and it's also lightweight for a full-frame ultrawide zoom, at just 497g. Part of the reason for this compactness is the relatively slow f/5.6 maximum aperture, though this does stay constant throughout the zoom range. As with many other Laowa lenses, this is also a fully manual lens with no electronic contacts.
Inside, the 15-element, 11-group optical stack incorporates 2 aspherical elements and 3 ED elements, while a water and dust repelling "Frog-Eye" Coating (FEC) gives the front element some weather protection. A 5-blade diaphragm is unlikely to produce the smoothest bokeh, but it should produce distinctive 10-point sunstars, and it helps keep the overall cost down. Furthermore, a lens this wide with a relatively narrow max aperture is unlikely to produce a shallow depth of field, so bokeh quality isn't of great concern. An unusually short 15cm minimum focus distance gives potential for close-up shots, adding to the lens's typical interiors and landscape applications.
The Laowa 12-24mm f/5.6 Zoom is available for Canon RF, Nikon Z, Sony E and Leica M mounts. The Canon, Nikon and Sony versions will cost USD $649, while the Leica edition is $699. We’re currently testing a review sample of this lens and will bring you our full verdict soon.