Venus Optics - a Chinese lens manufacturer that's no stranger to producing weird and wonderful optics - has released the world's widest shift lens for full-frame cameras (opens in new tab) and medium format cameras (opens in new tab).
Shift lenses (opens in new tab) are great for shooting architecture and interiors, as converging verticals can be corrected optically so buildings appear vertically straight, rather than angled toward the vertical centreline of frame. The Laowa 15mm f/4.5 Zero-D Shift enables a +/-11mm shift amount on a full-frame camera, and +/-8mm with a medium format body Like a Hasselblad X1D II 50C (opens in new tab) or Fujifilm GFX 50R (opens in new tab). While this is an incredible feat given the wide 15mm focal length, it's worth remembering that a lens like the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L boasts a +/-12mm shift, albeit with a 2mm longer focal length than the Laowa.
Even with a huge 110-degree viewing angle, the lens still manages to cover a 65mm-diameter image circle - enough to cover a medium format sensor, with no vignetting, although inevitably shift amount is reduced to +/-8mm. Loawa claims this is all without noticeable distortion - hence the Zero-D moniker - and the lens itself is surprisingly compact given its huge image circle, at 79 x 103mm. This compactness is likely in part due to the relatively modest f/4.5 max aperture, though this is less of an issue for a shift lens, where shallow depth of field isn't important. Likewise, this is also a manual focus lens, further helping to reduce lens size and weight, but the carefully considered nature of using a shift lens makes manual focusing ideal.
The Laowa 15mm f/4.5 Zero-D Shift has an optical path comprised of 17 elements arranged in 11 groups, including 2 aspherical elements, and a new lens coating for reducing chromatic aberration, flare and ghosting. A close focusing distance of 20cm also makes it suitable for perspective-controlled wide-angle macro photography (opens in new tab), and the 5-blade diaphragm generates 10-point sunstars in nighttime shots.
Ordinarily, changing the angle or direction of shift requires time-consuming fiddling with tripod head (opens in new tab) adjustment, but the Laowa 15mm f/4.5 Zero-D Shift makes the process much easier as the lens barrel can rotate around the lens mount by a full 360 degrees, with click stops every 15 degrees. Venus Optics is also releasing a compatible lens support tripod mount so the lens can be rotated while maintaining a constant optical axis - ideal for panorama stitching.
The Laowa 15mm f/4.5 Zero-D Shift is available in Canon EF (opens in new tab), Nikon F (opens in new tab), Canon RF (opens in new tab), Nikon Z (opens in new tab), and Sony FE (opens in new tab) mounts. The DSLR mounts will available in late November, but you'll have to wait until Feb 2021 for the mirrorless versions - all will be priced at $1,199. No information has been released about medium format mount availability.
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