Laowa 11mm f/4.5 FF RL review

The Laowa 11mm f/4.5 FF RL is a super small, crazily compact ultra-wide – does its function match its form?

Laowa 11mm f/4.5 FF RL review
(Image: © James Artaius / Digital Camera World)

Digital Camera World Verdict

The Laowa 11mm f/4.5 FF RL is insanely small and light for an ultra-wide lens, though there are compromises to achieve this compactness. Heavy vignetting, along with distortion and fringing, can be fixed in post-production, but the slow aperture and drop-off in corner sharpness aren't so easily addressed. It should be remembered, though, that most ultra-wides are so big and bulky that you'll rarely take them with you – Laowa's is so tiny that you can pop it in your pocket and take it everywhere. For some, that will be a worthy trade-off.


  • +

    Ludicrously small + light

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    Great center sharpness

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    Smooth focusing with tab


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    Slow maximum aperture

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    Soft corner sharpness

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    Heavy vignetting

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The Laowa 11mm f/4.5 FF RL is the latest in Venus Optics' long line of exotic lenses. This ultra wide-angle offers an impressive 126° angle of view for full-frame mirrorless cameras, in an optic that's just 63.5mm long and weighs just 254g.

This affords full-frame shooters the kind of extreme focal length that's typically reserved for crop sensor systems, even among the very best wide-angle lenses – though, it doesn't boast the manufacturer's Zero-D designation, meaning that distortion isn't as well controlled as something like the Laowa 15mm f/2 Zero-D

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a 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 like 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, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.