The Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR is a compact, lightweight and very affordable super wide angle for SLR cameras. The special feature of this lens is that it should be virtually distortion-free and the focus ring can be calibrated.
TESTRESULTS Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR:
The Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR is an affordable, distortion-free super wide angle for SLR cameras. But of course, with adapters, this lens fits virtually any camera.
Introduction Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR
After a whole series of new lenses for mirrorless cameras, Loawa shows that they don’t forget about SLR users after all. The Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR is a compact super-wide angle for cameras with a Nikon F or Canon EF mount. In the EF version, the lens has a chip so that Exif information is transmitted to the cameras. In the Nikon version, there is an aperture converter. This allows cameras to focus with an open aperture. Only when taking the shot does the aperture close to the set value.
Of course, with adapters, this lens can also be used on mirrorless cameras. Filters fit on it too and you don’t need expensive, large area filters for this super-wide angle. The filter size is 67mm. The Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR has a completely different optical design to the previously released Laowa 14mm F4 FF RL Zero-D. That lens is smaller and lighter, but has no coupling to the camera. If you can live with the slightly larger size and higher weight, the Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR is a slightly more pleasant lens to use, even on mirrorless cameras.
The Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR has three more special features. First of all, it is a Zero-D lens. So it should be virtually distortion-free. And at Laowa, they mean that it is distortion-free before applying lens corrections, not after. So it is optically corrected. Furthermore, you can also focus very close with this lens, up to 14 centimetres. So you can almost take macro shots with it. A third special feature is that the infinity setting can be set on focus ring.
Many lenses focus just a little further than their infinity setting. Often this is to accommodate any variations in the lens that may result from heat or cold. On mirrorless cameras, you can zoom into the viewfinder and this is not such a problem. On SLRs, this is only possible if you use the screen and not in the viewfinder and then an exact infinity setting (with a hard stop) is quite nice. Below is a video showing how to set the infinity setting.
Construction Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR
The Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR is a solidly built lens made almost exclusively of glass and metal. It is electronically coupled in the Canon EF version. In that case, it transmits the aperture setting to the camera. The wide focus ring actually consists of two rings, making it adjustable and allowing you to adjust the infinity position. The optical design consists of 13 elements in 8 groups. The design has 2 ELD elements and 2 aspherical elements. The aperture has 5 blades. That won’t provide nice bokeh, but you won’t get that with a 14mm F4 anyway, unless you focus very close. It does make for 10-pointed sun stars, and you don’t even have to aperture far for that. The tulip-shaped lens hood can be removed, making it easy to attach common 67mm screw filters to the lens.
The Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR has no autofocus, only manual focus. For a 14mm super-wide angle with a maximum aperture of F4, this shouldn’t be such a problem. After all, the depth of field at full aperture is already quite large. Still, paying close attention to your focus is important, to avoid the background being just out of focus. Here, the ability to adjust the focus ring helps. The Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR has an adjustable infinity setting. You can see exactly how it works in the film above. It allows you to instantly and confidently set the lens to infinity. This is especially handy when working in the dark, for example for astrophotography or shots of the northern lights. Of course, it also helps when setting, say, hyperfocal distance, or any other distance you estimate. If you know that infinity on the focusing ring is really infinity, then 5 meters on the lens will probably also be about 5 meters in real life. The distance over which you can rotate the focus ring during calibration is limited, but still considerable when you consider how much the ring can therefore be wrong with a wrong setting.
Another special feature of this lens is its short focusing distance of 14 centimeters. This gives you a magnification ratio of almost 0.3x, which is quite decent for a super-wide angle. At this short focusing distance, you can still get some background blur even with this lens.
Image quality Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR
The Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR performs quite well. The sharpness in the center is acceptable and with two stops of aperture to F8 it even becomes very good. Towards the corners, a gradient does show and the corners never get as good as the center. They do get markedly better at F8 and F11. In part, this is also due to a curvature of the focusing field, so subjects in the corners at long distances are out of focus, but subjects in the corners that are closer can still be sharp. Chromatic aberrations are few, only in the extreme corners, and then you do have to look at 100%.
One point to consider is vignetting. It is considerable and does not go away with aperture reduction either. Many modern wide-angle lenses suffer from this, and often you don’t even see it because the lens profiles already deal with it. The Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR is not automatically corrected and so you will have to get rid of vignetting yourself in post-processing. This is something to take into account though, as it makes the jpegs from the camera a lot less attractive. Unless such a vignette around the subject is just right.
The lens does show some sensitivity to incident light and therefore shows some internal reflections. However, contrast generally remains pretty good, making the shots fine even with those reflections, which can sometimes add some extra atmosphere. Aperturing to F8 already gives you beautiful ten-pointed sun stars that can quickly give landscape shots something dramatic.
With the Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR, you can also focus quite close. You will then no longer get an even focus across the entire image field, so you have to choose well where your focus should be. At those short shooting distances, however, you can get some background blur.
|Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR|
|field of view (diag)|
|sensor format||full frame|
|min. setting distance||14.5 cm|
|dimensions (dxl)||72×75 mm (Canon EF)|
|weight||320 gr/ EF 360gr Nikon F|
|bayonet connection||Nikon F, Canon EF|
|details||infinite position adjustable|
|retail price||€ 599|
Conclusion test Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR
In EF version, the Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR features a chip for passing Exif information, which makes this lens especially interesting.
If you have a Canon or Nikon full frame SLR, and are looking for an affordable super wide angle with decent performance, then the Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR is a lens that should be high on your list. The Canon version is just a bit more interesting than the Nikon version, because of its built-in chip. This not only allows you to use the automatic aperture, but also provides you with Exif information. This makes it easier to use, for example, a custom profile for lens corrections. But even if you have a mirrorless camera, this can be an interesting option. Laowa’s 14mm for mirrorless cameras is quite a bit smaller and a bit lighter though, and the difference gets even bigger if we include an adapter for the Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR, but that lens, the 14mm F4 FF RL Zero-D, does not have a chip in any mount. The Laowa 14mm F4 Zero-D DSLR in EF version does have one and you can use this lens on different camera systems with adapters. That can also have its advantages.