Typically, when the idea of using an ultra-wide lens first comes to mind, most people tend to think of the fisheye distortion aesthetic popularized by GoPro cameras or some of the cheap ultra wide lenses available on the market. However, there are a few lenses out there that do provide an ultra-wide focal distance without the crazy amounts of distortion associated with lower-end wide lenses.
One of these is the Laowa 9mm f/2.8 Zero-D Lens, and if you already wonder what type of visual aesthetics you can get with such a lens, wonder no more. Seasoned filmmaker Tom Antos provides his insights on the topic alongside a decent amount of samples captured with this fantastic piece of glass in conjunction with the Sony A6500.
In a nutshell, the Laowa 9mm f/2.8 Zero-D is a manual ultra-wide lens with a focal distance so low that the images produced are almost certainly guaranteed to intrigue audiences with the increased field of view and near zero distortion. The unit has an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/22 and is designed for APS-C Format cameras. The lens used in Antos’ video is the Sony E-Mount version, however, it’s also available for Canon EF-M and Fujifilm X mounts.
As Tom Antos states, the build of the lens is extremely lightweight, sturdy and reliable. The unit has an all-metal construction, which includes the focus and iris rings, as well as the included lens cap. The optical construction also incorporates a pair of aspherical elements and three extra-low dispersion elements to control both spherical and chromatic aberrations for improved sharpness and reduced color fringing. For those planning to attach filters, the lens comes equipped with a 49mm filter thread.
At 9mm (approximately 14.4mm as the 35mm equivalent), you will get an extremely wide-angle field of view that really captures the space you’re shooting in, all with minimal distortion towards the ends of the frame.
With the lens f/2.8 aperture, expect to get really shallow depth of field images when shooting wide open. In addition, due to the fact that the lens has a very close focus distance, you’ll be able to focus on subjects close to the camera, expressing the true depth of the scene coupled with the blurry background.
While the lens can produce some striking images, there are a few operability issues that you may need to take into consideration. First and foremost, it’s a manual lens, so you won’t be able to use it along with your camera’s autofocus capabilities. Secondly, the aperture ring isn’t de-clicked. Nevertheless, you can still make some relatively smooth changes on the fly when shooting video.
Also, the Laowa 9mm f/2.8 Zero-D does not provide optical stabilization, so be aware of some potential jitter issues that you might come across while shooting. Even though the A6500 does come with in-body stabilization, enabling the feature won’t help the shakiness, and sometimes could even worsen the presence of jitter, according to Antos. That being said, you’ll be better off utilizing a gimbal or any other stabilization system for optimal results.
While the Laowa 9mm f/2.8 D-Zero is not meant to be your go-to lens, the images produced may peak your interest to an extent. With its ultra-wide focal distance and great sharpness, this is a piece of glass that will work wonders for you if you’re constantly having to capture very wide images. Plus, its sleek and lightweight design is well-matched to mirrorless bodies and is ideal for everyday shooting as well as use on gimbals.