LAOWA 6MM F2 - The Widest Rectilinear Lens For Micro Four Thirds

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Laowa recently sent me their latest lens the Laowa 6mm F2 manual focus lens for Micro Four Thirds mount. This is currently (at the time of writing) the widest lens for the entire Micro Four Thirds system. I spent about two weeks with the lens, shooting various locations in Kuala Lumpur and I am sharing my thoughts about using this lens in my latest video (click here) and also here in this blog article. In short, I really like this lens, it is really good optically, produces sharp images with good contrast and has some cool tricks up the sleeves. 

Laowa 6mm F2
Such a compact and light lens

Full disclaimer - the Laowa 6mm F2 lens was sent to me for review purposes, and I have already returned the lens to them. Other than that, I had no connection or affiliation with Laowa, they do not control what I have to say here, and I receive nothing in return from them for making my reviews. I am free to say whatever I want to say in my article and my video review. My review is subjective and based on my user experience shooting with the lens with the limited time that I have. 

The Laowa 6mm F2 is indeed an interesting lens. I generally say no to lens review requests from manual lens manufacturers, because I don't use manual focus and I won't entertain any lens without AF. Autofocus has become an integral part of my shooting workflow, I just cannot live without it. Nevertheless, I did make this one time exemption for Laowa because the 6mm lens is indeed the widest lens ever for Micro Four Thirds, non-fisheye of course. If you want anything wider, you have to get the fisheye lenses but those also come with severe barrel distortion, and once you have them corrected to rectilinear, they may not be as wide as 6mm anymore! So the Laowa 6mm is indeed quite an optical marvel. 

The lens is very well built, it was fully metal in construction and felt very solid as I used it. There is only one control on the lens, the manual focusing ring, which was smooth and easy to operate. The lens does come with electronic contacts, unlike most manual lenses out there, and the lens communicates with the camera for aperture control. You control the F-number directly from the camera and as an advantage you gain full auto-exposure modes like shutter speed priority or program modes, thanks to the lens allowing the camera to control the aperture. This also means, there is no aperture control ring on the lens itself, which I find to be beneficial. For other manual lenses with both aperture and manual focusing ring, I find myself accidentally turning the wrong control from time to time when I need to do quick adjustments. 

For a lens with such wide coverage of 120 degrees field of view and having bright aperture F2, the Laowa 6mm F2 is quite compact in build. I'd expect it to be bigger and heavier. I treasure the lens' small and compact form, balancing well with any Micro Four Thirds camera bodies, big and small, and the weight of the lens is only at 188g. Handling with the lens is very good, and I have no issue nailing focus quickly using focus peaking and focus preview magnify on my E-M1 Mark III. 

Optical quality is impressive. The lens is very sharp at wide open F2, and the sharpness only improves a little when stopped down to F2.8 and F4. Corner is a little soft at the extremes shooting wide open, but this can be mitigated quickly when stopped down to F4 and F5.6, consistent sharpness from edge to edge can be achieved. I like the rendering of the lens, it gives a very pleasing, natural look with sufficient contrast. Overall, the lens also handles the flaw control very well. 

While Laowa claims the lens to have Zero Distortion (Zero-D), I find the straight lines to be a little curved. There are traces of barrel distortion, and honestly to me that is perfectly fine, I don't think it is possible to make such a small, wide lens with no distortion. However, I wish Laowa did not claim their "zero distortion". Flare can be quite bad shooting against strong sources of light, so care needs to be taken. There is some purple fringing when shooting at high contrast areas with wide aperture but stopping down to F4 and F5.6 eliminates most of the chromatic aberration issues. Overall I think Laowa did a great job in controlling most of the lens flaws. 

The lens allows you to go as close as 9cm to the subject from the front of the lens. This allows some cool wide angle macro shooting, though bear in mind that at such close up shooting range, if you shoot at wide open F2, you do get soft images. I recommend stopping down to F2.8 or narrower for better sharpness and having more depth of field too. Bokeh quality is very good, you do get smooth background blur. The bokeh balls appear perfectly round when shooting at F2, but as you stop down to F2.2 or narrower, the bokeh becomes pentagon in shape, in response to the 5 aperture blades design of the lens. This also results in 10 point starburst effect. 

Overall, there is nothing negative to write about for the Laowa 6mm F2. I was very impressed with what the lens can do, giving unparalleled wide shooting coverage for Micro Four Thirds, yet maintaining very respectable image quality overall. If wide angle is your game, and you don't mind manual focus, the Laowa 6mm is a no brainer!

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Crop from previous image showing  purple fringing

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10- point startburst effect

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Flare is easy to happen when shooting against strong source of light

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Crop from previous image showing corner softness
Left F2, Middle F2.8 Right F4

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F2 bokeh ball on left
F2.2 bokeh pentagon on right

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Some distortion

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Some distortion

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Flare can be very bad, even with hood attached

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Minimum focusing distance of 9cm

Left F2, Middle F2.8, Right F4
Sharpness improves for close up shooting by stopping down aperture

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1 comment:

  1. With 6mm lens in m4/3 format the focus zone is from 10 cm to infinity so AF is unnecessary.

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