For years, one of the staple zoom lenses of serious enthusiasts and professional photographers has been something in the 12-24mm (ish) range. Typically, they have a maximum aperture of f/2.8 and are usually autofocus. They’re also usually pretty expensive. Laowa has presented photographers with a new option, though, as they launch their new 12-24mm f/5.6 full-frame lens.
Sure, it’s not got the fast f/2.8 constant maximum aperture and it’s not an autofocus lens, so it’s not going to be for everybody, but Laowa’s new lens comes in at under half the price of much of the faster autofocus options and will be ideally suited to a number of genres, even if not fast action events like weddings.
Designed to be “affordable”, this $649 lens does have a much slower aperture at f/5.6 than the usual high-end zooms. It’s a manual focus lens, so, it’s not going to replace the faster options for some photographers that need to react fast at weddings and events. But for things like landscapes and travel photography, you’re often stopped down for maximum sharpness and don’t really need autofocus anyway. Even for travel photography, on a lens this wide, once you focus a few feet beyond the end of the lens, the world’s in focus anyway. And that’s where Laowa’s primarily targeting this one.
It’s a pretty tiny lens, too, compared to the faster and more expensive options, measuring only 69.4mm in diameter with a length of 84-95.6mm depending on the mount used. It weighs only ~497g without the hood and offers a field of view from 84° at the long end to 121.9° on the short end on a full-frame sensor.
|Angle of view||84° – 121.9°|
|Mount||Sony E, Nikon Z, Canon RF, Leica M|
|Focus type||Manual Focus|
|Optics||15 elements in 11 groups
(Aspherical Lens*2, ED glass*3)
|Min focus distance||15cm|
|Dimensions||About 69.4mm x 84-95.6mm|
|Weight||About 497g (Without lens hood & both front cap and back cap)|
Even though it’s not a fast lens, its maximum aperture is constant throughout the focal range at f/5.6. It offers a very close focus distance of only 15cm, which is one of the closest-focusing 12-14mm lenses on the market. This presents a lot of potential creative options for things like product and close-up photography. It also features Laowa’s “Frog-Eye” dust and water-repellant coatings.
One benefit of this lens over some of the faster aperture autofocus options is that it actually supports screw-on filters on the front. Many ultra-wide 12-24mm f/2.8 AF zooms do not, meaning custom and specific filter adapters (if there any available at all) in order to be able to add any kind of filtration to the front of your lens. Laowa’s 12-24mm f/5.6 features a built-in 77mm filter thread on the front which may not be all that useful for polarisers on a lens this wide, but it will be handy for things like neutral density for long exposures as well as ND grads for balancing up the sky with the ground.
Really, it’s more proof that Laowa’s clearly targeting landscape and architectural photographers with this one and the sample photos Laowa’s sent out to announce the new lens seem to back that up!
The new Laowa 12-24mm f/5.6 full-frame lens is available to buy now for $649 in Canon RF, Nikon Z and Sony E mounts. The Leica M version is $699.