Venus Optics Laowa 7.5mm F/2 Lens Review: Super Wide and Super Fast Lens for Micro Four Thirds

Tired of standing across the street to get your entire family into the shot? This may be the lens for you. But it comes with a couple of caveats.

Beyond a doubt, the Venus Optics Laowa 7.5mm f/2 lens is the widest angle f/2 lens available in the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) mount. For the record, both Panasonic and Olympus offer 7-14mm zooms, but in both cases the lens has an f/4 aperture, two full stops slower than the Laowa. And both are priced higher—much higher—which we’ll get to in a moment.

The Venus Optics Laowa 7.5mm F/2 lens is small and light, measuring about 2.2 inches and weighing less than six ounces (170 grams, a bit heavier than a Large Fries from McD’s). There is a lightweight version, which is a couple ounces lighter, targeted toward the drone market.

It focuses close (12cm, or about 4.7 inches) and comes with a lens hood that’s understandably scant. And it accepts 46mm filters—unless you believe what you read (see Construction comments below).

Specifications
On a Micro Four Thirds sensor-based camera, this 7.5mm f/2 lens becomes a vista-popping 15mm wide-angle lens that delivers a 110-degree angle of view. The optical formula is said to be 13 elements in 9 groups (I did not disassemble to confirm) and the diaphragm is constructed of seven blades.

Even when shooting a strongly backlit subject, chromatic aberration virtually invisible. © Jon Sienkiewicz

The Venus Laowa is manual everything—manual focus and manual aperture. As with any very wide lens, manual focus can be quite difficult unless your camera offers adequate Focus Assist. On the other hand, Zone Focus is easy, especially outdoors at a small aperture.

Maximum aperture is f/2, which is remarkably fast for such a wide lens. Although I lack the equipment to measure this specification in a scientific way, empirical testing makes me suspect that the real f/stop is closer to f/2.8.

Barrel distortion is moderate, as you can see by comparing the overlaid red rectangle to the very straight lines formed by the blue bricks. For many applications, this amount is excessive, but for creative banging around, it’s not a deal breaker. © Jon Sienkiewicz

Construction
The Laowa 7.5mm f/2 MFT lens feels solid and well made. The aperture ring is snappy and the diaphragm blades are clean and well formed. The lens mounted fairly snug on both of the MFT cameras I used, and the focus ring is smooth and hitch-free. Overall, the quality is acceptable.

But it nags at me that the markings on the front of the lens indicate that it accepts 49mm filters, while reality says otherwise—it’s a 46mm diameter. Look for yourself on the photo of the red Lumix G1 at the top of this story. It’s a small nit, I know, but such mismarkings are rare, except with prototypes and refurbished goods.

This lens is amazingly sharp—but you must use a camera equipped with Focus Assist to make the most of it. The bottom image is a large but random raindrop that can be seen in center of the top image. Amazing. And to be sure, this is straight from the camera with no sharpening and no post processing. © Jon Sienkiewicz

Performance
The Laowa 7.5mm f/2 lens is billed as being rectilinear and except for moderate barrel distortion which is documented in one of the accompanying photos, I found it to handle straight lines and non-convergent parallels fairly well. In fact, it was fun shooting up toward treetops and along long sidewalks without bending the lines.

Sharpness is undeniable, and although it’s sharper in the center than it is at the edges, overall it was more than acceptable across the frame.

This image and the one below are the result of me exploring some of the creative capabilities of my Olympus PEN F camera. A 7.5mm lens just begs to be used to chase down parallel lines and architectural vanishing points. © Jon Sienkiewicz

Conclusion
Priced at $499, the Venus Laowa 7.5mm f/2 lens is not a trivial purchase. But putting cost aside, it's a fun lens and I found myself liking it more and more as I used it. I was truly amazed by how well it performed under a wide variety of situations. If you are an Micro Four Thirds shooter and you’re looking for another adventure, you could do worse than stepping into the super wide-angle world of the Laowa 7.5mm.

—Jon Sienkiewicz