I’ve used the Venus Optics LAOWA 7.5mm F2 with my Panasonic GH5 for nearly two years. There are some choices of ultra wide lenses for Micro Four Thirds users. If you prefer a zoom lens, Olympus and Panasonic offer very good ones. I’ve used a Nikon 14-24mm for many years. From my experience, I knew most of my shots were taken at the widest focal length (14mm). So I chose the LAOWA 7.5mm. Since I knew I’d mostly use the widest focal length, I wouldn’t need more expensive but slower zoom lenses.
When I saw the LAOWA 7.5mm F2 for the first time, I was quite surprised by its small size. Because my camera body was a Panasonic Lumix GH5 and I usually drove when going out to shoot landscapes, I thought it was a bit too small. I lost it a couple of times in my car. But for train commuters, this small size is a big advantage. I’m curious how big it would be if they made a F1.4 version.
The LAOWA 7.5mm F2 is quite sharp when the aperture is narrowed down to F4. The image is a little soft at F2 especially at the edges. I mostly shoot at F5.6 during the daytime. When the aperture is set to F4 or F5.6, the LAOWA 7.5mm F2.0 is capable to fully resolve 20MP MFT sensors. The F2.0 widest aperture is usable but I usually avoided unless I had to crank up the ISO to 3200 or more.
The above is the comparison of the sharpness between F2.0 and F5.6 at the center. Note that I took these shots handheld so they’re not perfectly aligned. But the difference is quite obvious.
The above compares the sharpness at the edge. The difference is even bigger. If possible, be sure to narrow down the aperture to F4 or F5.6 for better image quality.
The images starts to become softer at F8 but still very usable. I’d use it when necessary, for example, when an important subject in the foreground is quite near and I’d want deep focus.
I’ve never used F11 or narrower with this lens. The images will be noticeably softer at the narrowest aperture F22. If you need to extend the exposure time, use an ND filter or lower the ISO. Some people narrow down the aperture to the extreme to get prominent starburst effects. But I don’t recommend doing that unless you’re 100% sure that your final output destination is instagram and you won’t need to print your photos.
The backlight performance of the LAOWA 7.5mm F2 is good. If, however, you put the sun directly in the frame, it produces rather prominent lens flares. But if you could hide it with something such as a tree or mountain, the resulting photos will be perfectly usable when shooting backlit.
When shooting cityscapes at night, just be careful about the position of the strong lighting sources such as street lights, then you can easily avoid lens flares.
For example, when I took the above example shot, there was a bright street light just outside the frame on the right but the lens could capture the scene without a lens flare.
Because of its fast aperture and ultra wide angle, the LAOWA 7.5mm F2 is capable of starscape photography.
Light points at the edges of an image shot at night often changes into a bird-like shape — this phenomenon is called sagittal coma flare. The LAOWA 7.5mm F2 performs pretty well at minimizing this problem.
The upper left edge of the above photo is enlarged. The aperture was set to F2.8 and exposed for 30 seconds. When enlarged, stars appear as short lines but the ISO can also be set lower and aperture could be narrowed down by one stop thanks to the longer exposure time.
The above is extracted from another photo shot at the widest aperture F2. The shutter speed was 4 seconds so they appear as points but sagittal coma flare is visible.
Sagittal coma flare is not a big problem with stars but can be quite noticeable with strong, artificial light sources even when the aperture is narrowed down by 1 stop.
Honestly speaking, I don’t know what sort of bokeh this lens produces as I’ve never taken such shots. I reckon a deeper depth of fields is an advantage of the Micro Four Thirds system. When I need bokeh, I’d use a full frame camera.
The fact that the LAOWA 7.5mm F2 is not capable of autofocus may be a dealbreaker for some people. As far as I am concerned, it didn’t matter at all, because I mostly shot landscapes and set the focus to infinity anyway.
It’s very easy to focus at infinity with this lens. Fully turning the focus ring sets the focus to infinity. Which is quite useful for landscape photography.
The lens also has the 46mm filter thread so that you can attach an ND filter easily. Which is a big advantage over other ultra wide lenses. For instance, you’d need to buy a third-party filter holder and a square ND filter for the Olympus 7-14mm F2.8. The Panasonic 7-14mm F4 does’t have a filter thread either.
ND filters are necessary when you shoot long exposure shots or videos in the daytime.
Many Micro Four Thirds bodies excel in IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization) and camera shakes are less noticeable at an ultra wide angle. In addition, this lens is pretty fast (F2). Thanks to these factors, this lens is ideal when shooting cityscapes hand-held at night.
There are other candidates when you buying a super-wide lens for your Micro Four Thirds camera: Olympus 7-14mm F2.8, Panasonic Leica 8-18mm F2.8-F4.0, Panasonic 7-14mm F4. They are all good lenses. Choose the right one according to your needs.
The advantages of the LAOWA 7.5mm F2 is the fast aperture, sharpness, compactness and the filter thread. If any of these factors is important for you, this lens is well worth consideration.
If you need autofocus and zooming features, choose something else.