Possibly one of the most eagerly waited lenses announced at NAB last year – the Laowa 12mm Zero-D T2.9 Cine is finally ready to begin shipping nearly a year after its introduction. This lens is easily one of the widest, most well corrected lenses for Large Format cinematography.
This new cine lens borrows its optics and major components from its brother, the Laowa 12mm f/2.8 still lens. It covers FF/VV therefore, it’s ideal for any large format cinema cameras including RED Monstro, Alexa LF, and Sony Venice. It’s also super useful on crop sensors looking to achieve something a bit wider than their 18mm or 14mm. In terms of image quality, expect to be impressed. There really isn’t much to compare this lens with. I put it head to head with the Arri 12mm Master Prime, Zeiss T2.1 12mm, and the Tokina 11-20mm. It bested the vintage Zeiss 12mm easily and eeked out over the Tokina. The Master Prime does outperform in terms of image quality, but ultimately, none of these comparisons are relevant because the Laowa produces a MUCH larger image circle than the Zeiss, Arri, and Tokina. The only lens that kept pace with the Laowa 12mm was the Sigma 14mm T2 which is a whopping 2mm longer than the Laowa (remember that at wide focal lengths, every millimeter counts). The only other lens that competes in terms of focal length and coverage would be the Irix 11mm T4.3 but its significantly slower than the Laowa. I only have a few gripes about the lens. The front diameter is an obscure number. However, Laowa does include a thin adapter ring that allows you to use any 114mm matte box and it works quite well. My other issue is with the focus marks. The marks are fairly accurate which is an achievement for such a wide angle lens. But the distances themselves are obscure. Almost like they took whatever marks they had in meters and simply converted THAT mark to feet. So instead of distance marks like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 feet… You get obscure distances like 0.06, 0.65, 0.71, 0.79 feet, etc. While it is odd, it’s not a deal breaker. Really – who’s pulling focus at 12mm anyway?! Overall, this lens is spectacular for its price and will certainly afford a new level of creativity to large format cinematography. I’ll have a follow-up post coming soon with a direct comparison between this and the Irix 11mm T4.3.
The PL mount versions begin shipping this week. Canon EF and Sony E mounts will be shipping mid/late January. As always, you can order the Laowa 12mm T2.9 Zero-D and more direct from our website.