Laowa, a Chinese lens manufacturer known less for their marketing and more for their unique, thoughtful optical creations, has decided to break into the parallel world of motion picture lenses with their first ever purpose-built cinema zoom lens.
You may be familiar with one or more of Laowa’s specialty lenses such as their 12mm f/2.8 “Zero-D” – an ultra wide angle prime lens that Laowa claims to exhibit nearly no distortion. Recently, Laowa also created a particularly interesting lens; a 24mm f/14 2x Macro Probe that produces some creative results. The popularity of the 12mm prime and it’s unique design made it an ideal choice for modification by a variety of outfits. Laowa took notice of the success of it’s still lens in the cinema world which inspired it’s new path.
The 12mm has now been re-bodied with focus and iris gears as well as a PL mount. With it’s full frame coverage and new housing, it really does make for an ideal ultra-wide lens. However, the newest addition is, as Loawa states, a brand new design, specifically for cinema application.
The new lens is a 25-100mm T2.9 zoom lens that Laowa calls the OOOM. That’s not a typo… OOOM. It’s said to be truly parfocal which means that it’ll hold focus through the zoom range. Laowa also states that the lens is designed with “true cinema level mechanics” which can be rather subjective coming from lens manufacturers. A weight of 2.16kg (updated) will make this a somewhat lightweight, nimble lens. The lens will also feature a 270° focus rotation and a, as Laowa claims, no ramping.
The closest comparison to this lens would be the Zeiss 21-100mm LWZ.3 which bears similar specs; focal length, speed, etc. …but at nearly double the weight and an inconsistent aperture at the long end of the zoom. It’s a fairly obvious, yet relevant comparison in our age of “good enough” solutions on set.
Moving on, as mentioned, the other additions to Laowa’s new cine line are simply repurposed still photo lenses which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It keeps costs as low as expectations. The 12mm gains focus and iris gears as well as a PL mount. The 7.5mm T2.1 is another transplanted still lens and features similar advantages but retains it’s original Micro 4/3 mount. Lastly, a 9mm T2.9 “Zero-D” which you’ll find is identical to their Micro 4/3 lens. Only, now that’s it’s been enhanced with focus and iris gears it also features DJI’s DL Mount for their Inspire drone. I do see the appeal of such a wide angle lens with little to no distortion. But I don’t see the need for focus and iris gears on a lens destined for such a weight-conscious payload. There’s no mention of delivery or pricing. but if Laowa’s other optics are any indication, they’ll be quite affordable and it we won’t need to wait long.
It seems such a simple decision to make the shift from still photo lenses to cinema lenses from the perspective of a manufacturer. In my experience, it’s not often executed properly. Time will tell. Can Laowa provide tools to cinematographers that demand the highest quality? Or will they simply produce gadgets that are “good enough”.