A Special Kind of Wide – A Review of the Laowa 12mm by Emil von Maltitz

Emil von Maltitz was one of the first people to take the dive on Laowa’s 12mm Wide Angle lens when they first launched on Kickstarter. We only started distributing Laowa in South Africa recently – his review is thus entirely objective. For the past year and a half he has used the lens all over Africa for a variety of genres including industrial, agricultural and landscape work and has put it through it’s paces. What makes this lens unique is that it is the widest rectilinear f/2.8 lens and also the only full-frame lens wider than 16mm that accepts a 100mm filter system. Not only that, but it’s priced at a fraction of the Nikon and Canon counterparts, yet beats them in almost every image quality criteria. Keep reading to find an in-depth review with Emil’s findings and a conclusion summarising the 12mm’s pros and cons.

An example where the extreme depth markers work. Shot in Namibia near Swakopmund, the filter system allowed for the use of a 10-stop neutral density filter. I cropped the image down closer to a 2:1 aspect ratio for compositional reasons.

It’s been just over a year since I received my copy of the Laowa Zero-D 12mm f2.8 lens – I took the plunge early in 2016 when I came across the lens on Kickstarter. A few photographers had been given the prototypes and their reviews pretty much sold me on the concept of this unique lens (or at least its uniqueness at that point in time). Even now, with a few competitor lenses emerging on the market, the Laowa is still pretty distinctive in what it has to offer. With retailers only now starting to offer the lens in South Africa, it makes sense to look at how it has faired in the last 15 months of shooting with it. As a bonus, there is a opening special on this lens.

After the announcement of the Laowa 12mm, several other lenses appeared that, in theory, could pose as competition. First, there’s the Irix 11mm f4 lens which comes in two guises; a cheaper, lighter ‘Firefly’ version and the heavier, more expensive ‘Blackstone’ version. Second, Tamron started to ship their very capable 15-30mm f2.8 lens, which coincidentally sort of matches the venerable and still sought after Nikon 14-24mm f2.8. From Canon there is also the supremely wide 11-24mm f4. In the interim Sigma also updated their 12-24mm lens so that it matches their ‘Art’ designation. So there are now several high quality lenses available on the market around the 12mm wide angle mark.

The Laowa still stands out amongst the competition in my mind. It is smaller and lighter than any of the zooms mentioned above. Compared to the lighter Irix 11mm, it gains a stop of light and adds near distortionless reproduction to the mix. Additionally the lens was designed from the very start to accept 100mm square filters. All the other wide angles require the significantly more expensive and fragile 150mm square filters. For many landscape photographers this really could be the deciding factor in plumping for this lens.

So, heart in throat, I put down the cash for the Kickstarter campaign and prayed that it would actually happen. Less than 5 months later (for anyone who has backed a Kickstarter project, 5 months is practically overnight compared to the usual delayed production and shipping), the lens arrived and has rapidly become one of the most important lenses in my bag.

The distributer of Laowa lenses in South Africa, www.landscapegear.co.za have a phenomenal special combo package of the Laowa 12mm f2.8 ‘Dreamer’ lens and a NiSi 100mm Filter Holder and adapter for the Laowa lens. As I mention in the review, the NiSi holder is better in every way to the original Venus Optics filter holder. If you intend to shoot filters with this lens (and you should, it’s one of the defining features of the lens), then get the NiSi holder. As an added bonus the holder comes with a dedicated circular polariser that does not vignette on the 12mm lens.

Laowa as an International Brand

Laowa lenses are made by the Chinese company, Anhui Changgeng Optics Technology Co. Ltd (also known as Venus Optics). The head office is based in Hong Kong, while all manufacturing is done in mainland China (near Shanghai). The initial gut reaction most people have to Chinese manufactured goods is that they are no doubt compromised in some way, whether it is the quality of components, manufacturing process or design. By now, with brands like SIRUI, NiSi and Sunwayfoto on the market these concerns are, to a certain extent, unjustified. Certainly my impression when I backed the original Kickstarter project was that this was a professionally marketed and savvily thought out lens.

Still, there are always concerns when buying something that has little to no brand reputation coupled to a historically negative public perception (i.e., Chinese goods are rubbish). A starting point for many people, particularly professionals, is the kind of service support they likely to receive if they opt to buy from a particular brand. Nikon, Canon and Sony, in theory, offer support to their buyers in the form of repairs, warrantees and loan equipment (I say in theory as my experience with customer support from one of these has seldom been enjoyable).

I reached out to the new distributer of Laowa lenses in South Africa, landscapegear.co.za, for their comment on this. From my experience with Hougaard Malan at Landscapegear, I have found that he and his team are always prepared and happy to answer questions from photographers and will try their best to help out when there is an issue (he accidentally thought that my lens was broken, it isn’t; when I asked him for comment on support, and he was ready to help me have it looked at or repaired despite the fact that it was bought directly from Venus Optics and not through him). Landscapegear, acting as SA distributor, will replace defective lenses without question (obviously it needs to have been bought in South Africa). They will assist with repairs of damaged lenses, but Laowa being such a small brand, does require the lens to be shipped back to Hong Kong for repairs to be made. This obviously can take some time (think months, rather than days), to which Landscapegear have indicated that they have demo units available for loan. It would seem then that as a South African photographer, concern for service support is largely taken care of.

As a final thought regarding service support, if you are shooting with glass of this price-point (despite the fact that it is half the price of the Canikon equivalents), it should really be insured. If damaged, an insured lens is often covered in full, less the excess. In the case of Laowa lenses, the replacement value is often less than having to insure the lens and ship it all the way back to China. So the simplest form of repair for non-marque lenses could quite simply be to make sure you are insured. 

The Klipriver Mill photographed at dusk before applying any straightening in post-production.
An image of Klipriver Mill corrected in post for converging verticals.
A sugar mill in Mozambique. The star pattern on the specular highlights is either something you like or simply have to get used to. Personally, I quite like the pattern. A small amount of ghosting is also likely to occur in images with this many point light sources.

Build Quality and Features

The Laowa lens is built like a tank. Externally everything is solid metal and glass –there is no visible plastic or rubber. Judging by the weight I would say the same goes for the interior. Considering the previous comments regarding repairs and service support, there is little to go wrong with one of these lenses. There are no electronic components to go awry and no plastic to break. No delicate cabling or wires for the non-existent autofocus. Its manual simplicity ensures reliability and robustness where the more expensive marque lenses are often significantly more delicate.

The generously sized focusing ring has a tight ribbed grip, all made of one piece of metal – aluminium I presume. Even the tight fitting lens hood is made from metal and feels indestructible. I really wish more lens hoods were made like this, though I wouldn’t want to drop-test the lens. I suspect it would handle a drop as long as nothing strikes the protruding bulb of glass. In fact, I’d advise not breaking a fall with your foot as it would probably break a toe.

Which brings me to weight: This is not a light-weight lens. Compared to the likes of the Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 and Tamron 15-30mm f2.8, it is lighter. But as a prime lens (the other two lenses are zooms and require a lot more glass), this is a hefty chunk of metal, despite its small size. It balances quite nicely on the pro bodies like my D3x and is not particularly front heavy on the D800/810/850 bodies. However, any lighter body than these and the lens feels a little front heavy and awkward.

Behind the generously sized focus ring is a traditional metal aperture ring with a different ribbed pattern (sections of ribbing interspersed with smooth metal) so that the two rings can be differentiated by feel. The aperture turns with a gently damped movement along with audible and tactile ‘clicks’ for each of the marked apertures (marked at full stops between f2.8 and f22). The clicks can also be ‘de-clicked’ for smooth aperture transitions for video. There are no electronic contacts, so any lens data needs to be added to the metadata separately or input into the camera manual lens database (unfortunately you will have to settle for 13mm as the input focal length – Nikon allows a string of lenses to be added to it’s cameras, but you have to manually select that lens from a menu you are shooting with it if you want the lens exif data to be tagged in the files).

The focusing ring focuses anti clock-wise to infinity if you are holding the camera and looking through the lens, (the same as other Nikon’s, which means that Nikon’s digital rangefinder works with the lens) and has a focus throw of about 180 degrees. That is a fairly long throw for such a wide angle lens (especially considering that many newer and longer focal length auto-focus lenses have a throw that is significantly shallower). Manual focus aficionados, as well as serious videographers, will love this as it makes fine focus changes really simple, albeit through the use of the live view rather than the viewfinder. At the rear end of the lens is the manual aperture ring, also styled like the old Nikons. It progresses from f2.8 through to f22 with 6 click stops.

Focus is smooth and feels well damped, if a little on the stiff side. Personally I don’t mind this as it makes precision focusing fairly easy, but rapid focusing feels very different to someone who is used to using an old Olympus or Nikon manual focus lens. It is very different to the manual focus on a modern autofocus lens which has almost no tactile feel or feedback to the focusing ring. For infrared shooters there is no infinity mark on the focusing barrel, which might be a problem if you plan to shoot infrared, but again the vast depth of field might mean that is a non-issue.

The lens also lends itself to panoramic shooting, and Laowa have catered for this by indicating where the optical centre of the lens is.  VR shooters will appreciate this as they can line up the camera and lens on their gimbal and just get straight into shooting without having to calibrate where the optical centre of the lens actually is (almost in line with the front edge of the focusing ring). It’s a nice touch by Laowa and unique amongst lenses as far as I know. Following on from this, the lens is actually a decent panoramic stitching lens. 12mm is wide, but there are often situations where I have to go even wider for an industrial shoot (think small spaces, large machinery).

The lens hood is removable. The reason for this is that Laowa designed the lens with 100mm square filters in mind. This is what makes the Laowa a unique lens. Remove the filter hood and attach the dedicated 100mm slot filter holder, and you are able to get the full 12mm field of view and still use 100mm filters. Any of the other lenses mentioned above require the considerably more expensive 150mm filters with their finicky and bulky holder systems. This doesn’t mean that filter use is easy or even perfect, but I’ll come to that in a moment.

The other ‘feature’ which is really the reason de’etre for this lens, is the ‘claimed’ zero distortion. I bought the lens specifically for shooting interiors. At the time of buying the lens I was photographing a lot of bathrooms and showers for a client, as well as plenty of industrial interiors. True to their word, the Laowa 12mm is as close to zero distortion as I have ever seen a lens to be. This is truly incredible for architectural photography. It comes with a price though; forget about photographing people close up! The optical compensation required to make vertical and horizontal lines flat, means that faces and people distort to the extreme.

Lens without the hood attached – a small scallop hood is always present, so that the filter attachment is via a bayonet mount rather than a filter thread.

The lens is remarkably compact for such a complex optical design. With the lens hood on, it only extends some 10cm from the camera body.

The difference between the patterning on the aperture and focusing rings so that they can be differentiated by touch.
The mark indicating the entrance pupil for aligning the lens for panoramic setups. It is particularly important to 360 degree VR room shots.

The Optics

Okay, so I haven’t actually gone and tested the lens on an optical test bench. Yes, sharpness is important to me, but I also think it would be pointless to proclaim this or any other lens an optically supreme, or dud performer, based on one sample of the lens. Not having limitless funds – I only have the one lens – I can only write about this particular sample. In Tim Coleman’s review of the lens in August 2017, he shows some examples of the lens’ sharpness at various apertures. I would agree with his assessment based on the images that I have shot.

The optimum aperture for the lens is around f8 which delivers the best sharpness across the lens. Don’t be afraid to use it at smaller apertures, but diffraction limitation definitely rears its head beyond f11. If you are seriously concerned about diffraction, you actually need to stay at f5.6, but I personally feel that f8 is a better compromise between edge to edge sharpness and absolute centre sharpness. Another thing with the extraordinary depth of field is that any dust on the lens (let alone the sensor) shows up in the image if you shoot at f22, and even at the larger f16. What this means is that if you are a lazy photographer you could even glue the aperture at f8 and just shoot from there, (I do say this with tongue firmly in cheek, but there is a touch of truth to the comment).

Chromatic aberration seems to be nicely under control. This isn’t to say that it isn’t there at all, but that it is very minimal, and when it does exhibit, it’s dealt with very easily in post production. So far, whenever it has exhibited in images, Capture One Pro has cleared it up at the click of the button (the auto CA feature). I suspect that Lightroom would perform similarly. The edges do exhibit some ‘bat wing’ aberration (not exactly the same as coma, but often described as such) on specular highlights like stars. It certainly isn’t the worst I have seen.

One thing to be aware of though is that the lens does flare fairly easily. Surprisingly, veiling flare is quite well controlled, but ghosting occurs very easily, particularly with point light sources. With such a wide field of view this is to be expected. Without a filter the flare isn’t particularly unsightly and some photographers may even use it creatively.  With a filter that isn’t spotless though, it can make images practically unusable. If your filter is scratched, forget about putting it in front of the lens: the scratch will show, and if the light is oblique it will exacerbate the flare. That said, without a filter I am not afraid of shooting into the light, although occasionally I have to resort to the healing and clone brush to remove the worst ghosting effects.

The large f2.8 aperture makes this an obvious lens for potential astrophotography. This was created on the Madagascan coast during a workshop I was leading.

A final note on the optical performance is that the lens creates quite attractive point light source stars, also known as sun stars. Shooting lights at night results in fairly uniformly shaped and distinct 14-point stars. If you don’t like these star patterns then the lens is going to disappoint you as the stars appear as soon as you stop down the lens. 

Real life use…the real test.

The real test is how the lens has faired over the last year and a bit. In that time the lens has travelled to Namibia twice, Madagascar once, up the Berg a couple of times, shot in cloyingly humid mills in Mozambique three times, shot several buildings in Johannesburg and I have used it countless times in factories and mills around Durban. I abuse my equipment. I rarely ever get the chance to sell it on as it simply never survives long enough. In all these trips the Laowa 12mm has been treated pretty much the same as all my other gear, and has come through without a scratch. I am extremely relieved at this as when I first cast my eyes on the bulging front element I thought that would be the first thing to be damaged. This lens is built like a Sherman tank! I suspect that so long as the front element doesn’t hit anything, the lens would survive a drop from the camera bag onto the ground. In fact, the build reminds me of the circa 1980s pro-grade Nikon and Canon lenses which could virtually be used as hammers they were so tough.

For many photographers who have only ever used autofocus cameras and lenses, the Laowa 12mm might be a little tricky to get used to. Obviously it is completely manual focus, but current DSLRs are not ideally suited for manual focusing. Unlike film cameras of yore there is no split screen to aid focusing and the ground glass viewing screen is too fine to really judge focus. Yes, there is a digital rangefinder that can potentially help, but I find them more than finicky and not as accurate as simply using the live view on the rear LCD. So this is an area where the use of a mirrorless camera like the Sony A7 series would make manual focusing significantly easier, (through the use of focus-peaking and zooming into a section of the view).

When I initially started shooting with the lens I thought I would find focusing a doddle. I learned photography in the days of film and manual focus and only graduated to a full set of autofocus lenses long after I had even gone digital. I thought, incorrectly it turns out, that since my manual focus 24mm f2.8 Ais was so easy to focus thanks to its extended depth of field, that the Laowa 12mm would be similar, if not easier still, to focus. I was so wrong. The extreme depth of field exhibited by this lens means that you ‘think’ the lens is in focus pretty much as soon as you lift the camera to your eye. It’s only when you look at the files afterwards that you realise that you just missed the actual focus. The result is that when I am working with the lens I tend to check the focus on the live-view zoomed in. If I am going to hand-hold the lens, I usually end up resorting to the zone method of focusing, relying rather on aperture choice, the distance marking on the lens and depth of field ‘zones’ to nail focus. Thankfully, the extreme depth of field achievable on this lens means that if you use the hyper-focal focusing scale, you get useable focus from infinity all the way down to 70 cm at f8. Even the sharper f5.6 still gets you from infinity to a metre in focus. Interestingly, it seems that Laowa have calculated hyper-focal distance using the Circle of Confusion of (CoC) of 0,025mm (at least based on my rudimentary mathematics, if you would like to check you are more than welcome to by using the equation), rather than rounding it to 0.03 as many of the Japanese autofocus manufacturers are wont to do. This means that the depth of field scale is accurate on high resolution cameras like the Nikon D8xx series.

As mentioned above, the real draw to this lens is the proclaimed ‘zero distortion’. Any photographer who has used extreme wide angles knows about the strong barrel and geometric distortion that occurs towards the edge of the frame. Barrel distortion is when the verticals and horizontal lines in the image take on a curved appearance in the frame, like an old wooden barrel. Geometric distortion is the optical effect of parallel lines shot at an angle (railway sleepers, the slats in a wooden bridge etc) curving into the centre of the frame, rather than staying parallel to one another. Miraculously, almost unbelievably, the Laowa lens genuinely does seem to avoid these common distortions. No, it’s not 100% perfect – I would definitely not consider the lens orthographic for instance, but it is as close as I have ever seen a wide angle to be to zero distortion.

As a result of the near distortionless view of the lens it has become one of THE must-have lenses in my bag for architectural and industrial photography. It isn’t romantic or illustrious in any way, but I have spent a lot of time photographing smaller interiors for clients and in this situation, the lens positively shines. Rooms appear airy, lines stay straight, and the wide angle creates a significant sense of depth as soon as you introduce a diagonal perspective composition. In a way it is also a poor man’s 24mm shift lens: compose so that there are no converging verticals and crop out the extraneous foreground in post.

The problem though, is that one is tempted to use the lens for all things, and this is where it fails. 12mm on a full frame camera is just over 112 degrees field of view on the horizontal axis (and 90 degrees on the vertical). If you use it too often your images are likely to all start looking the same. On top of this, such a wide focal length lends itself to certain types of subjects and not others. As impressive as the field of view is, mountains turn into small hills when used in landscape photography. So you have to be very careful and cognisant of using effective foregrounds in the images you create with the lens. It is very different when you are working with tall buildings and industrial machinery where you are trying to get up close and still keep everything in frame.

One use that I didn’t expect it to be as useful as it turned out to be was in time-lapse photography. The extreme wide field of view means that I can quite effectively create artificial movement in a scene through the use of the Ken Burns technique. Shooting with a D800 on the 12mm gives a surprising amount of shift, even with 4K output (remember the D800s/D810/Pentax K1s 36mp sensor has a long edge of 7360 pixels, giving roughly 3000 pixels of horizontal ‘movement’). 

Station Drive in Durban, with minimal editing and no distortion control applied.
An example off the extreme perspective view that can be created with the lens. This was shot during an event at Hopewell in Kwazulu-Natal.
Getting in close to a subject will create an extreme sense of depth. It’s not useful for all subjects, but as long as you think about your foreground it’s possible to create quite compelling images.The edge distortion of organic and round shapes is fairly obvious in this image of a helicopter pilot. However, I don’t know of another lens that allows me to sit next to a pilot in a Robinson 44 (a tiny helicopter) and get this kind of image where the background is not distorted and so much of the pilot is in view.The Laowa lens is actually a really good lens for stitching. This scene was so wide that I even needed to stitch the 12mm! I did this by shooting a series of vertical shots to stitch together a wide panoramic of Maidstone Mill in Tongaat, Kwazulu-Natal.The extreme angle of the Laowa 12mm can actually be useful at times to create different images of people, as with this image of an HIV/AIDS march near Ndwedwe in Kwazulu-Natal.12mm covers a lot of space! The skylight at Sun City near Rustenburg was shot during a client shoot there. The severe converging verticals shows how tilted the camera was. Usually I would have had to create a vertical stitch with a 16-35mm lens, but in this case the 12mm swallowed the whole scene.

Criticisms and an improved filter holder

The front lens cap is in need of a redesign. As mentioned above, I am extremely nervous of the front element getting damaged. Unlike a damaged Nikon lens that can just be sent back to Nikon for repairs, when the Laowa gets damaged, it’s probably tickets for the lens. So, I would really want the front lens cap to be completely failsafe, which it unfortunately is not. I ended up adding some black electrical tape to the edge of the slip on cap so that it sits slightly more firmly on the lens, (another early adopter of the lens, Bipin Prag has used camera felt tape to do the same thing). So far this has worked, but for a lens of this price-point the cap should be better.

The original filter holder is far from perfect unfortunately. The field of view of the lens is so wide that using filters has to be done with the utmost care. For a start, any flaw in the filter is going to show up in the image, where with other lenses you might not even notice. This is due to the incredible depth of field that the lens has. Drop the aperture even down to f5.6 and any hairline scratch in the filter becomes visible in the image. Working with the filter holder itself also has some issues as the slots are a little tight. Lee filters will get scratched on their edges. This isn’t a problem optically as the edge isn’t in frame, but it does mean that the tight fit makes adjustment a little difficult. The wide view also means that any neutral density filters with light baffles cannot be used as the baffle causes severe vignetting of the image, (Laowa were pushing the extremes of what is possible in the use of 100mm filters — they managed, but only just). Then there is the weight of the filter holder. Considering the holder is designed only for the 12mm, you do actually think twice about adding it to the bag. It is the heaviest of all the filter holders I have used, so you do consider the lens use before tossing the holder in with the rest of the filter kit. Ideally it should be a little lighter.

Thankfully there is already a better holder on the market. Just in time for this review I was sent a demo unit of the NiSi V5 filter holder with an adapter ring specifically for the Laowa 12mm. This filter holder is better in every way compared to the original Venus optics holder. For a start it consists of a two slot V5 holder and a separate adapter ring. This means that you only need a different adapter ring for the holder to fit other lenses (the Venus Optics holder is only useable on the Laowa 12mm). The adapter ring (with built in rotating ring) accepts a dedicated thin circular polariser. The polariser does not vignette and although the Venus Optics holder also accepts a 95mm polariser, finding one with a thin enough filter frame to not vignette is difficult. The holder is lighter, grips the filters in a way that makes adjustment easier and rotates more smoothly. Basically, if you want to use filters on this lens (and it is one of reasons for owning this lens), just get the Nisi filter holder with CPL, rather than the original Venus Optics filter holder. 

Final Conclusions on the Laowa 12mm Zero D

To try and build a conclusion on the lens I’m going to put together this small chart:



Extreme Wide Angle with almost no distortion for vertical and horizontal lines

Poor reproduction of organic and round shapes at the edges

Very well controlled optical aberrations from CA through to coma (albeit not perfect, but pretty close)

Badly designed lens cap that will fall off unless you add a layer of electrical tape or felt

Wide aperture of f2.8 allowing plenty of light in for astrophotography

Manual focus and difficult to nail that focus without Live View.

Ability to use 100mm square filters either through the Laowa or Nisi filter holders – both of which offer the use of a circular polariser

Slightly warm colour caste that doesn’t match Nikkor ‘colour’

Light weight for an ultra-wide lens of this construction and wide aperture

Heavy for a prime lens (see the opposing point in the Pro column though)

Excellent build quality (I can’t emphasise enough how well built this lens is) with indestructible lens hood (yay!)

Excellent value for money – a lens that is half the price of the competition and yet just as good, if not better in some applications.

The Laowa is not a lens that can be used for everything. Certainly not all photographers will find it all that useful. However, for my professional use I have found it invaluable. On industrial and architectural shoots it’s often the first lens that I grab out of the bag. I would also consider the Laowa 12mm a fairly decent to good lens for astrophotography, although by no means is it perfect if you are expecting or want absolutely no optical aberration at all throughout the frame. Still, the results have been some of the best I have seen from my existing equipment. Quite possibly the venerable Nikon 14-24mm would make a better astrophotography lens. On the occasions that I have borrowed an example, I have not seen any coma (trailing or bat-wing), but you choose this lens over the Laowa at the expense of weight, lack of filter options and focal width (not to mention, actual expense as well). To put it another way, I really enjoy using the Laowa for astrophotography and I feel that the extra 2mm over the 14-24mm Nikkor is an advantage for this type of photography.

Which brings me, finally, to whether I use the lens for landscape photography? The answer, after a year of shooting with it; not as much as I thought I would. This explains the paucity of landscape images in this review. If you are considering the lens purely for landscape work, you are possibly better served by other lenses that are available. However, the landscape images that I have shot with it, have a certain appeal, or look, that is simply not possible to create with my existing Nikon equipment. I tend towards a slightly more 16:9 to 2:1 aspect ratio and the Laowa allows for this type of crop while maintaining the width without resorting to stitching. It allows for extreme perspectival compositions that create an incredible sense of three dimensionality. So yes, it isn’t used as often as my other lenses when I am shooting landscapes but I really like the resultant work that I do create with it.

After a year of owning the lens I still feel that it is a unique offering, and one that is well worth the price that it sells for. As it is the lens is very good value for money, coming in at half the price of some of its competitors such s the Canon 11-24mm f4 and Nikkor 12-24mm f2.8. I would heartily recommend the lens to architectural and industrial photographers, and strongly suggest it for landscape and timelapse photographers. Despite saying that it isn’t really a lens for photographing people with, the fact that I have it, has meant that I have used it for documentary and industrial photography of people at work. If used carefully and with cognisance of it’s odd corner rendering, it can be quite an effective ‘environmental’ lens of people and events.   

I think the lens is so special, that I am actually disappointed that Landscapegear are bringing Laowa lenses, and this 12mm f2.8 in particular into the country. It means I no longer have a unique lens and an ‘edge’ over other photographers in South Africa. Damn.

The Fish River Canyon shot with the Laowa filter holder in place and a Nisi hard 2 stop neutral density graduated filter. If you use filters they have to be absolutely spotless as any flaws become quickly apparent due to the lens’ extraordinary depth of field. This image was shot at base ISO on a D800e with the lens set to f8


Emil von Maltitz is a professional landscape and commercial photographer who spends most of his time photographing industry and agriculture for clients like Tongaat Huletts. You can find his incredible body of work here.