The Laowa Magic Shift Converter is a special adapter for the Laowa 12 mm f/2.8 Zero-D. It changes the 12mm f/2.8 ultra-wide angle for Canon or Nikon into a 17mm f/4 shift lens for Sony E-mount cameras like the A7 or A9. You thus have two lenses in one.
Incredibly adjustable: Magic Shift Converter
We have tested the Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D before. This test can be found here. It is an excellent extreme wide-angle. Solidly built, bright, good image quality and, as icing on the cake, it is also almost completely free of distortion. Those who regularly photograph buildings or interiors will certainly appreciate that. A form of distortion that you cannot avoid with the 12mm f/2.8 Zero D is the perspective distortion you get if you do not keep the lens perfectly level. Vertical lines then get a vanishing point somewhere outside the image. If you point the camera slightly upwards, buildings will seem to fall backwards. When you are in nature, the same thing happens with trees and mountains. As a result, the tops appear much smaller and seem much less impressive in frame. You can resolve this by keeping the camera level and adjusting the lens upwards. Of course, that is not possible with just any lens. But it is possible with the Magic Shift Converter. This converter is a combination of a teleconverter and a shift adapter. The teleconverter extends the focal length from 12 mm to 17 mm and enlarges the image circle. Because the image circle gets bigger, you get the ability to adjust the lens without moving outside the image circle. The built-in shift adapter allows you to adjust up to 10mm in any direction you want. The adapter produces one stop of vignetting, from f/2.8 to f/4, and it needs some space. The 12mm Zero-D can therefore no longer be used on your Nikon or Canon SLR. For the Magic Shift Converter, you need a mirrorless camera from Sony, preferably a full-frame model like the A7 or A9 to make optimal use of the adjustment possibilities.
The Magic Shift Converter is a solid piece of equipment. The converter weighs 360 grams and, in combination with the 12 mm f/2.8 Zero-D, you have almost a kilo hanging on the camera. What you are holding then is all glass and metal. The optical part consists of five lens elements in four groups and does not move further. You make the adjustment by turning the ring. This works nice and smooth, and the adjustment is therefore also easy to dose. The adapter can also rotate so that you can adjust up, down, left and right, if desired. Obliquely up or down is of course also possible. The Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D is a fully mechanical lens without a single connection to the camera, and the same applies to this converter. You set the aperture on the lens, and it closes immediately. For the 12mm Zero-D from Laowa, a filter adapter is available with which you can use 100mm filters. That is an advantage not to be underestimated compared to many other wide-angle lenses that can only be used with expensive and large 150 mm filters in special adapters.
If buildings are this crooked, you cannot set them straight with the Magic Shift Converter.
We have tested the Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D before. The lens is already sharp in the center at full aperture, and stopping down a bit ensures that the corners become very good. It suffers from some vignetting and a bit of chromatic aberration, and the distortion is not quite ‘Zero-D(istortion)’, but it is quite limited. What is striking is that the Magic Shift Converter does not actually cause quality loss at all. Despite the fact that the image circle is considerably stretched, the sharpness holds up. In fact, without adjustment, the corners at full aperture, in this case f/4, are immediately good. And the vignetting is also a lot less. The latter is of course not very surprising, because you actually only use the center of the image without adjustment. What is nice is that, even with adjustment, the image quality towards the corners is only slightly reduced. Even the excellent Canon 17 mm f/4 TSE, the only other 17 mm tilt shift on the market, loses some sharpness in the extreme corners. De Laowa gives little up to the Canon in terms of sharpness. However, the micro-contrast is a fraction lower, and the color reproduction is different. One of our testers also managed to create huge reflections in the lens. So pay attention to how sunlight or other bright light sources hit the lens, and, if necessary, use a black piece of cardboard as an alternative lens hood. That is actually the only downside. In practice, with the combination of Magic Shift Converter and 12 mm f/2.8 Zero-D, you can make perfect architectural and interior photographs. Because the lens is uncoupled, you always work with a closed aperture. If you want to be able to determine the focus optimally, it is best to open the diaphragm first and close it again after focusing. Or you can use the hyperfocal setting and the large depth of field that a 17mm gives you at f/8 or f/11.
THE ADVANTAGES OF ADJUSTMENT
The Magic Shift Converter is a shift lens. You cannot tilt it. Tilting is shifting the focal plane, so you can make those nice miniature photos that you see so much on the internet. That is not what this shift converter is for. What you can do with the Magic Shift Converter is to prevent perspective distortion. As long as you hold the camera level, vertical lines appear neatly vertical in frame, and buildings, trees or mountains in the photo do not appear to lean back. But keeping your camera level does limit you in the compositions you can make. The Magic Shift Converter allows you to adjust the composition without having to tilt the camera. You can keep the camera completely straight and level and still photograph more up or down and get more of the sky or ground in the picture. This is indispensable for architectural and interior photography, but in nature and landscape photography, it is also a great way to take photographs that look slightly different, more balanced than ordinary wide-angle shots.
With the 12mm, without Magic Shift Converter, you get the Shipping and Transport College of Neutellings Riedijk in frame like this:
If you want the buildings neatly straight in frame, then you have to hold the camera level. But then not everything fits:
With the Magic Shift Converter, you get a perfect picture from the same standpoint:
- Generous adjustment options
- Good image quality
- Almost no distortion
- Nicely built
- Smooth focus
- No autofocus
- No link with camera
- Look out with the sun in frame
With the Magic Shift Converter and the Laowa 12 mm f/2.8 Zero-D, you actually have all the wide angle you need.
The Magic Shift Converter with Laowa 12 mm f/2.8 Zero-D is an extraordinarily interesting combination. It’s a lot cheaper than the only other 17mm f/4 shift lens, the Canon EF 17mm f/4 TSE. And if you replace the Magic Shift Converter with an ordinary, cheap adapter without glass, you still have a distortion-free 12 mm f/2.8 on a Sony. With this combination, you thus really have two unique lenses: a 17mm shift lens and an extreme 12mm wide angle. You do not really need much more wide-angle. The good image quality and solid finish ensure beautiful shots and the required ease of use. The lack of autofocus on a 12mm is not even that much of a drawback. After all, the depth of field is enormous. Magic Shift Converter with Laowa 12 mm f/2.8 Zero-D is a must for the real wide-angle enthusiast.