Laowa 12-24mm F5.6 Review: Heavenly Colors You’ll Love


The Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 lens is kind of a curious one. First off, it’s one of Laowa’s only zoom lenses. Additionally, considering everything that makes them who they are, it’s difficult to use. You have to be careful, slow, and often methodical. That’s not a bad thing at all. Slowing down can be really great because it makes you pay more attention to factors like composition. And we think that’s exactly what the Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 will do.

Beyond that, if you’re a landscape photographer looking for character in your lenses, the Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 is an obvious choice.

The Big Picture

The Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 is a very fun lens to use. If you’re looking for a more affordable zoom lens to do wide-angle photos with, then this is a great option. Combined with Canon’s already fantastic colors, we think folks will love this lens. It’s a good choice for landscape and architecture photographers, and that’s really about it. Because of the manual focus capabilities, I’m not sure I could recommend it to anyone needing to be fast-paced with their work.

The Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 receives four out of five stars. Want one? Check out Adorama’s listing as it’s very affordable.

Pro

  • Small
  • Lightweight
  • Beautiful colors
  • Metal build quality

Cons

  • Three control rings: zoom, aperture, and focusing. This will make things more difficult to use.
  • No weather resistance

Gear Used

The Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 we used is on loan to us. We tested it with the following:

  • Canon EOS R (ours)
  • Canon EOS R5 (a long-time loaner unit from Canon)

Innovations

There’s nothing specifically innovative about the Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 lens. It’s small, lightweight, and has a constant aperture. It’s surely a first of its kind, but nothing makes it stand out vs a competitors out there.

Ergonomics

Here’s a fascinating things about the Laowa 12-24mm f5.6: the small lens hood is also a filter holder. I used a 77mm filter with this lens attached to the lens hood. That’s truly awesome!

The lens has three controls: zoom, focusing, and aperture. With the way it’s laid out, I often reached for the focusing ring to zoom in and out because of the way my hands are wired to deal with lenses. Indeed, this will take getting used to.

The little lens hood comes off too. Like its body, they’re both made of metal but lack weather-resistance.

Build Quality

The exterior of the Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 is metal. Combined with the smooth tension the rings give it, this lens is built considerably well. In the hand, it will fit perfectly as you cradle the lens to give your camera extra stability. I used it mostly on a tripod, where I felt this lens really belonged.

Beyond that, the Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 doesn’t have weather-resistance. This is a problem. I’d want to use this lens in the rain for landscapes and even during a rainfall at night. But, it’s not built to resist that.

Ease of Use

What makes the Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 a more tedious to use are the controls rings. With manual focus primes, you often only have to worry about the focusing ring and maybe an aperture ring. But with a manual zoom, you have all that and a zoom ring. Cinema shooters are obviously used to it, but still photographers won’t be. With that said, this lens feels a bit more cinema-like.

Focusing

This lens is focused manually with a manual focus ring. There’s also a zone focusing scale built in, but I’m not sure how effective it is considering how much the focal length changes. What’s worse is that it lacks autofocus communication contacts. However, Canon’s autofocus peaking is the best in the industry, so that might work out well for you. It sure did for me.

Image Quality

My favorite thing about the Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 is the image quality. It’s saturated, contrasty, vibrant, and punchy all at the same time. Lots of lenses can only do that wide-open and partially because of something like an Apochromatic element or vignetting. But that’s not the case with this lens.

Bokeh

We don’t have to talk much about the bokeh here. It’s an f5.6 lens and also a super-wide angle. You’re not buying this lens for the bokeh. It’s possible to get some, but it’s nothing you’ll fall head over heels for.

Color Rendition

Something I really like about the Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 lens is the colors it produces! As said before, images are always going to be bright, punchy, saturated, and vibrant. It means you’ll also get things like gorgeous sunsets with this lens.

Lens Character

Venus Optics (Laowa’s mother company) surely knows how to make fun lenses. The Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 has a star-like shape with light-source points. But further than that, it gives off a gorgeous lens flare. It’s left me smitten with the photos many times.

Sharpness

Out of the camera, the Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 is super capable of producing sharp images. We’ve seen sharper, but I wouldn’t be buying this lens for the sharpness.

Extra Image Samples

From day one, The Phobographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.

Unedited

Edited

Who Should Buy It?

The only types of photographers we think would really like the Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 lens are the landscape and architecture photographers reading our site. If you buy it, it’s because you’re looking for character in your landscapes and cityscapes. Plus, you’re probably on a budget. A gorgeous look is indeed possible here. If you don’t want a clinical look and don’t like doing a ton of post-production, then reach for this lens. It’s available at Adorama.

Tech Specs

The Laowa 12-24mm f5.6 specs presented here are from their website:

Product Name Laowa 12-24mm f/5.6 Zoom
Format Compatibility Full Frame
Focal length 12-24mm
Max. Aperture f/5.6
Angle of view 84° – 121.9°
Lens structure 15 elements in 11 groups(2 aspherical elements, 3 ED elements)
Aperture blades 5
Min. focusing distance 5.91″/15cm
Max. Magnification 0.4
Focus Mode Manual (MF)
Filter thread ø77mm
Dimensions About ø2.73 x 3.30″ (69.4*84mm) (M) ø2.73×3.60″ (69.4*91.6mm) (R) ø2.73 x 3.68″ (69.4*93.6mm) (E) ø2.73 x 3.76″ (69.4 *95.6mm (Z)
Weight About 1.09lbs/497g (with no hood or front/rear caps)
Mount Leica M / Sony E / Nikon Z / Canon RF

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