Laowa 14mm f/4 FF RL Zero-D - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published September 2020

Introduction

Laowa has explored many extreme lens designs ever since they started in 2013. So far they focused most of their efforts on either ultra-wide or macro lenses. With the inevitable demise of the DSLR segment, many of their latest lenses are now targeting the current sweet spot of the market, thus full-format mirrorless cameras. Just prior to the review, they released a set of 3 quite insane prime lenses - an all manual 9mm f/5.6 FF RL, an 11mm f/4.5 FF RL, and the Laowa 14mm f/4 FF RL Zero-D. The latter is the most affordable in this row at just USD549 (up to USD649 in Leica M mount) and covered in this review. Just like its wider cousins, the 14mm f/4 has been designed to a target size. Or in other words - it is small, to be precise 58mmx59mm small and at just 228g, it's light-weight, too. Compact designs have been another Laowa trademark over the recent years.

In a typical Laowa tradition, the build quality is very good indeed. The lens body is made of metal down to the mount and up to the tiny built-in hood. The focus ring is dampened and operates smoothly. The aperture ring offers full stops clicks only. Weather-sealing has not been implemented. However, it uses an internal focusing mechanism and without any moving outer parts, it's at least reasonably protected. As you can see the lens comes in black but there's also a silver version for Leica M only.

As hinted above, the Laowa 14mm f/4 FF RL Zero-D is an all-manual lens with no electronic coupling (Note: on Leica M cameras you do have rangefinder coupling). While this can be annoying it shouldn't be a showstopper for an ultra-wide lens though. However, even so, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't care about accurate focusing. On our test sample, "infinity" focus had little to do with infinity - the infinity mark was way past it. To some degree this is Ok in order to compensate thermal effects but it was "a little over the top" in our case though. However, you can tune the infinity setting by loosing the middle screw of the focus tap and moving it to a more accurate position. If you decide to purchase this lens, it's best to check the focus calibration prior to the first photo shooting in order to avoid nasty surprises during image post-processing.

Specifications
Optical construction13 elements in 9 groups inc. 3xELD, 2xHR, 1xUHR elements
Number of aperture blades5
min. focus distance0.27m (max. magnification 1:?)
Dimensions58x59mm
Weight228g
Filter size52mm
Hoodpetal-shaped, built-in
Other features-
MountsSony E, Nikon Z, Leica M, L-mount, Canon RF