If you’re looking for a wide angle cinema lens to capture everything (except all the cash in your wallet), the new Zero-D 12mm PL lens by Laowa is here! It might just be one of the best wide-angle cinema lenses we’ve tested. Film Jams is bringing you an exclusive Laowa 12mm Cine Lens Review – cuz you know we got one of the first lenses off the presses! We’ll also do a side-by-side comparison with some other popular wide angle lenses to show you how this Laowa 12mm wide angle PL lens stacks up against the competition!
Introducing the Laowa 12mm T/2.9 Zero-D PL Mount Cinema Lens. Previously, we reviewed the Laowa 25-100mm OOOM. But Laowa have taken their designs a step further, bringing filmmakers an ultra-wide angle cinema lens for PL mount with surprisingly little distortion in our tests. Let’s check it out!
- If you’re looking to buy the Laowa 12mm T/2.9 Zero-D Cine Lens (PL Mount):
Laowa 12mm Cine Lens Review
The first, and one of the most impressive advantages, of the Laowa 12mm Cinema Lens is its lack of distortion. Its name, “Zero-D” literally means zero distortion. This makes it ideal for landscape, architecture, or any other wide-scale shots that you might be trying to capture. In our tests, it actually seemed to have a little bit less distortion than a Canon 14mm CN-E lens, and was slightly sharper. This was really eye-opening, considering the Laowa is almost 1/3 the cost at just $1499.
The 12mm focal length also pairs really well with a Steadicam, and we put it on our Steadicam Aero 30 in the video (above). The lens is so wide that sometimes our Steadicam Operator would accidentally get part of the Steadicam in the video. So just be aware of that, but it did make for some really fun shots.
Full Frame Coverage
The Laowa 12mm Cine Lens has no problem covering traditional 35mm sensors, and goes all the way up to Vistavision. This means you’ll be able to use it with many of the newer large-format cameras, like the ARRI Alexa Mini LF, that have become increasingly popular these days. Laowa states that the Image Circle Size = 43.14mm. It’s able to fill the Vista Vision sensors on RED Monstro and the sensor on Arri Alexa LF (Size @ open-gate = 44.7mm) fully.
On a Super35-sized camera the 12mm has an ultra-wide 17mm equivalent field of view. Having both options also makes it a bit of a future-proof purchase if you’re looking to upgrade to large format camera in the future.
The Laowa 12mm Cine Lens currently comes with three different lens mount options, Canon EF, Sony E, and ARRI PL. Keep in mind, lens mounts are not user swappable. So for our test shoot, we used the ARRI PL mount version.
114 mm Step up Ring
Attaching or mounting a matte box onto wide angle lenses can sometimes be a challenge. I like that the Laowa 12mm Cine Lens includes a 114mm Step-up Ring which converts the front of the lens to a standard 114mm size for attaching matte boxes.
The Laowa 12mm Cine Lens is one of the smallest wide angle lenses in its class. It’s at about half the size of its counterparts at just 1.49 lbs. And with a T2.9 aperture, it’s also faster than many of the other wide angles we’ve used. It’s small size makes it a perfect match for gimbals or Steadicams. It also helps to get those hand held shots, and you’ll be able to fit it into small spaces, unlike some other ultra-wide angle lenses that are much bigger.
Laowa 12mm Cine Lens vs. Tokina 11-20mm Lens
One of the other wide angle lenses we considered was the Tokina 11-20mm lens. Though it offers a PL mount and a T/2.9 aperture, it is quite a bit larger – an extra pound (2.4lbs VS 1.49lbs). It’s also about $1000 more expensive. In the tests we did, it also didn’t seem as sharp on the wider end as the Laowa, and the Tokina doesn’t cover large format either (only S35 sensors).
If you need a wide zoom range, that’s really the only reason I’d pick the Tokina, but if you’re looking for one of the sharpest and lightest ultra wide angles, the Laowa 12mm won in pretty much every other test for us.
Laowa 12mm Cine Lens vs. Canon CN-E 14mm
Another wide angle lens we compared in our video is the Canon 14mm CN-E. We’ve already mentioned that the Laowa 12mm Cine lens is significantly cheaper ($1500 vs $4000 for CN-E) and almost half the size. But another major difference is in the distortion. With the side-by-side comparisons we did in the video, we saw that the Laowa doesn’t exhibit distortion in the way that the Canon wide angle lens did. That means glorious wide angle shots without the D!
Another really nice feature about the Laowa is its 7″ Close Focus distance. This means you can get really close to your subject, and can make for some very interesting shots. It also features 0.8 MOD Cine Gears (aperture & focus rings) for attaching your Follow Focus or FIZ of choice.
Final Thoughts: Laowa 12mm PL Mount Cinema Lens
In our Laowa 12mm Cine Lens review, it seems that this lens provides some of the best value for any lens in its class. It’s not just a great deal, though, it really is one of the best wide angle camera lenses available. If the relatively affordable price isn’t enough of a selling point, its size, close focus distance, and versatility may just hook you! The Laowa is priced significantly cheaper than its counterparts, saving you at least a $1000 or $2500 compared to the Canon. It is also significantly smaller than any other lens in its class, making it far more maneuverable on set, plus more room in the camera bag for trips! The Laowa also works with both S35 and Large Format cameras, and has 3 different mount versions to choose from.
The Laowa 12mm Cine Lens was first available in January 2020, but has been hard to find as it’s a popular lens. It’s definitely a game changer as a high quality wide-angle cinema lens. Is it the best affordable wide angle lens out there? Let us know what you think down in the comments. And don’t forget to catch Film Jams on YouTube, with new videos every Tuesday and Friday.
If you’re looking for some more Cinema Lens Reviews, check out our Atlas Anamorphic Lens Review.
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— GEAR USED IN THIS VIDEO —
- Laowa 12mm T/2.9 Zero-D Cine Lens (PL Mount):
- Sigma 18-35mm 1.8 – https://amzn.to/2RXMuh9
- Canon C200 – https://amzn.to/2Xm83Ny
- RODE Wireless GO – https://amzn.to/2FaqmuF
Other equipment we use to film:
- Canon C100 – https://amzn.to/2u04CMm
- Canon C300 – https://amzn.to/2TbymjT
- Sony A7III – https://amzn.to/2TAoYqK
- Canon EOS R – https://amzn.to/2QaPZlK
- Canon 24-105mm – https://amzn.to/2ILo9tp (main interview)
- Canon 100mm macro – https://amzn.to/2KsZuaF (product shots & CUs)
- Sachtler – https://amzn.to/2KTXbfH
- Profoto Beauty Dish – https://amzn.to/2zgfjPV
- Profoto D2 500 Strobe Kit – https://amzn.to/2J28AZx
- Canon 5D mkIII – https://amzn.to/2KRE3zl
- Profoto Air Remote – https://amzn.to/2MU7MZa
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Filmed on location at: https://www.LitewaveMedia.com in St. Petersburg, FL