First Impressions of the Laowa 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 FE Zoom Lens

As landscape photographers (assuming you are), we have a tendency to gravitate towards wide angle zoom lenses. 16-35mm, 17-40mm, 14-24mm and even Sony's relatively new 12-24mm lens. The obvious reason being because it's always fun to fit as much of a scene in the frame as possible, but also because wide angle lenses can often give distortion to a scene making appear more dramatic than it may be in person. Now, thanks to the team at Venus Optics we have a new Laowa lens that could 'out widen' these lenses in it's sleep. Yes, I'm talking about a 10-18mm zoom lens... for a FULL FRAME camera. Could the Laowa 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 FE* (Sony full frame E-Mount) be the next lens in my kit? Let's find out as I give you my first initial impressions of this lens...

*Disclaimer: It's worth noting that this was a PRE-production copy of the lens. Also, the images featured in this post were shot with the Laowa 10-18mm lens - excluding the image OF the 10-18mm lens, which was shot with the Laowa 60mm 2:1 Macro lens.

Huge thanks to Adam at Radbitz, the Australian distributor of Laowa products, for loaning me the Laowa 10-18mm lens for the last few days (amongst other lenses but I'll get to those another day).

Lens specs:

  • FE Mount (Sony full frame)

  • Maximum aperture f/4.5-5.6

  • Minimum aperture f/22

  • Minimum focus - 15cm (5.9 in)

  • Aperture blades - 5

  • Filter size - 37mm rear filter slot

  • Weight 496g (17.5 oz)

  • Length 91mm (3.58 in)

Build Quality

When I first received delivery of the 3 lenses from Laowa (again, more on those another day), I was skeptical there was actually 3 lenses in the box when the courier handed me the package. These lenses are very light, and the 10-18mm was certainly no exception. At only 496g, with 14 glass elements, it paired perfectly with the small and lightweight Sony A7R III.

Often times when things are lightweight you expect them to be poorly made or of poor quality material - the opposite is true for the Laowa 10-18mm. It feels solid, is of metal construction and is silky smooth to adjust the lens rings. One thing I will say, that will just take some getting used to, is the amount of dials. Being a manual focus, manual aperture AND zoom lens means there are three rings around the barrel. This is by no means a big deal, I just noticed that I was constantly checking to make sure I was adjusting the correct ring.

Image quality

As this isn't a proper review and not enough testing (in the field, of course) has been done to really understand the quality of imagery this lens produces. Having said that, the images look fairly sharp based on the below settings*. My only initial observations are that there was definitely some chromatic aberration that needed to be removed (easily done) and also the corners of the frame appear slightly stretched/smeared - but I think this is to be expected on such an extremely wide zoom lens.

The image to the right can be viewed in full resolution at the link below (please do not download, print, sell or market this image as your own - it's here as an example only). *The image was shot at f11, 10mm and focused just over 1m. Edited in Lightroom and Photoshop.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/wtc1tjxylrc50w1/MattDonovan_Laowa-10-18mm_fullres.jpg?dl=0

Summary

As I was only in possession of the lens for a very short time this was just a bare bones first impressions post, hopefully I will be able to loan the lens a little longer next time to build a more thorough 'review.'

Things I loved about the Laowa 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6:

  • Fully manual lenses are always fun (this is subjective).

  • Build quality feels solid and long lasting.

  • It's so wide, and so much fun to shoot with (albeit challenging).

  • Size and weight is perfect for travel/landscape photography.

  • De-clickable (not sure if that's a word) aperture ring.

Things I didn't love about the Laowa 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6:

  • Smeary corners.

  • Only accepts rear filters (but that's better than none at all).

Final Thoughts

This was a definitely a fun lens to use, and I definitely want to add one to my kit. Whilst it probably isn't the kind of lens you would keep glued to your camera, like say a 16-35mm, but it sure is one to have some fun with and achieve really unique images. I'm pretty sure I'm the first person to shoot at Bombo Quarry with a full frame 10mm focal length - prove me wrong? ;)

If you have any questions at all on my short experience with the lens please leave it below and I'll get back to you as promptly as I can! Thanks so much for reading!

Gear, ReviewsMatt DonovanComment