The Micro Four Thirds system isn’t my go-to system for night sky or astrophotography, but if it’s yours, you can do far worse than photographing that sky with the Venus Optics Laowa 7.5mm f/2 lens for Micro Four Thirds.
Laowa makes two versions of this lens, one with automatic aperture control and one without, at about a $50 price difference. The extra CPU chip and motor in the automatic aperture version also pass EXIF data to the camera and trigger focusing aids such as automatic magnification on my Panasonic Lumix G85 when I twisted the focus ring. There’s also the added benefit of size reduction without the need for an extra ring to control aperture. It’s the version you want and the version Laowa sent me to test. Focus is manual no matter what version you choose.
I very recently had my first experience with Laowa in testing out the company’s 50mm f/2.8 Ultra Macro APO lens. In my review of that lens, I had this to say about the build quality of the lens: “The Laowa’s build quality is excellent. It’s a premium-feeling metal all around with a well-dampened focusing ring and markings for distance scale and magnification. I was surprised; build quality is right up there with high-end Olympus lenses and better than most of the Panasonic lenses I’ve owned or tried.”
I’ll say all of the same about the 7.5mm lens. It’s solid and continues the trend of excellent build quality. One demerit, however, for this lens is the lens hood. Though it’s ostensibly designed for this lens, when left on the lens it seems to increase vignetting a bit. I ended up leaving it off most of the time. It’s not a huge issue, and not entirely unexpected in a lens so wide, but still disappointing all the same. With the lens hood off, I had to be extra careful not to get my fingers in the frame as I held the lens, though that’s pilot error and no fault of the lens.
The lens certainly feels good in the hand.
Like the other Laowa offering I tried, the 7.5mm is excellent when it comes to image quality. For such a wide-angle lens, you’ll see the typical sharpness falloff in the corners, but nothing that’s any different from a decent Canon or Nikon wide-angle lens. I’m used to shooting with Canon’s Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens and Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM lens and I didn’t feel like I was giving up anything when it came to image quality, though obviously, I’m giving up sensor size and autofocus. For the type of photographer this lens is aimed at, autofocus isn’t a huge loss here. Distortion is fairly well controlled across the frame for such a wide lens.
I alluded at the start of this article about not generally using Micro Four Thirds for night sky photography, and given the noise issues with smaller sensors vs. larger sensors, that largely holds true, but that said, in a pinch, I’d use something like Olympus’ M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2 lens. There is a wider lens from Olympus, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens, but that comes in at almost three times the price of this lens, and has a slower maximum aperture. This lens straddles the middle ground on price and performance in the ultra-wide Micro Four Thirds space.
Every system needs a good ultra-wide lens. If you’re a Micro Four Thirds shooter in need of such a lens, perhaps to shoot landscapes or stars, then this lens packs in a lot of build and image quality for the price. With the smaller overall sensor size of the system, the unusually large f/2 aperture helps a lot here. Wide-angle lenses are one of the few types of lenses where you can get away with manual focus, and so the cost savings over equivalent Olympus or Panasonic lenses are worth it in this case.
Laowa’s a name that continues to surprise me when it comes to lenses, and that’s in a good way. As far as rectilinear wide angles go, this lens represents a good value with high image quality for Micro Four Thirds users.
What I Liked:
- Good image quality
- CPU chip in auto aperture version adds a lot of functionality on MFT bodies
- Smooth manual focus
What I Didn’t Like
- The design of the lens hood adds a little extra vignetting
Click the following link to purchase the Venus Optics Laowa 7.5mm f/2 lens.