An unique wide angle zoom lens for Sony FE

Super wide zoom

The focal length of 10 – 18 mm gives us a field of view of an amazing 102 – 130 degrees.

Super compact

Being the widest full frame zoom lens for Sony FE, it’s still remarkable small.

It’s only 91mm tall and 70mm wide.

Explore unique angles

Use it for unique angles in Architecture, Landscape and travel photography.

Sunstars!

Even at 10mm the lens produces very nice and prominent sunstars. So you can get creative with your landscape and cityscape shots.

The power of 10mm full frame.

The Laowa 10-18mm gives a lot of creative flexibility. The field of view is so wide you can search for uncommon and unique angles and perspectives to make images that you couldn't capture before.

What Laowa says about the Lens.

This lens is currently the widest zoom lens available for Sony full frame E-mount mirrorless cameras. Designed primarily for travel photography, we have managed to compress the size to the smallest in its class, less than 9.1 cm (3.6 in.) long and only 496 g (1.1 lb.). The 130° (10mm) to 102° (18mm) angle of view provides flexibility for photographers to compose landscape or architecture photos with ease. The aperture blade system is carefully designed to produce the best sun-star renderings among all UWA lenses on the market.

Design and Handling

The Laowa 10-18 mm F4.5-5.6 FE Zoom lens is primarily designed for travel photography.
The team of Laowa have managed to compress the size to the smalles and lightest in the UWA class while still maintaining great usability and ergonomics.

It’s only 9,1 cm long and 7 cm wide with only 496 grams.
I also had the Laowa 12mm Zero-d lens and the build quality of this 10-18mm is pretty much the same. The lens feels really solid, made from mostly metal with the markings engraved in the barrel.

The aperture can be de-clicked (like with most modern lenses) so you can have a smooth transition of the aperture while shooting video.

Focussing with this lens is a breeze.
With ultra wide angle lenses like the Laowa 10-18mm when you stop down to around F5.6 pretty much everything will be in focus when focussing on infinity so focus errors are really small. When you open the aperture up a bit and go to the close focus distance of only 15cm the focus throw is nice. Meaning you can focus precisely with ease. The travel range is pretty decent when focussing between 0.15 and 1m and if you go from 1m to infinity the focus ring has to move only a few degrees.
Infinity is( just like with Nikon lenses) just before the infinity symbol.

Unlike the Zeiss lenses that I own, there is no electrical contact between the lens and camera body. So you won’t be able to register F stops and such in the EXIF data. As a result Lightroom can’t use a lens profile automatically.

Sunstars

Laowa have made an effort for this lens to produce nicely rendered and prominent sunstars.
The 5 straight aperture blades do a great job in producing well defined and sharp sunstars.

Personally this can be a dealbreaker for me. I want a lens that is able to produce great looking sunstars when I need them and this Laowa 10-18mm wide angle zoom delivers on that area. When you are at 10mm the lens gives you fantastic looking sunstars when shooting almost wide open!
At the 18mm end you have to stop the lens down to around f/11 to get any sunstars.

Centre Pompidu_Malaga_ Laowa 10-18

Filters

The Laowa 10-18 F4.5-5.6 features a rear mounted 37mm screw in filter.
At first I made the mistake removing the filter, which is delivering focus problems near 1m. Actually the rear mounted filter is part of the optical formula and should be kept in place. You could however exchange it for a ND filter.

An other great design feature of this lens is that it’s possible to use your 100mm square ND filters with it!
This is a great deal. Because most UWA lenses require the use of 150mm filters and let’s face it, those are just too bulky to carry around. So Laowa did a great job in designing the lens in such a way that we can use the 100mm filters.
Because what would we do without filter in a beautiful landscape right?

You can either use LAOWA their own filter holder or use one from NiSi who also made a filter holder specific for this lens.

Sharpness and lensflare

Lens flare is something that is pretty prominent especially when you are at 10mm. If you zoom in a bit the flare is outside of the frame most of the time so there the performance is better. At 10mm you sometimes get a really nasty looking red/orange flare. Sometimes it helps if you recompose the frame and otherwise be sure to place it somewhere where you can easily remove it in post.

Sharpness of this lens is a bit a 2 sided story.
The center sharpness is really good! After the first shots that I’ve taken with this lens I was impressed with the center sharpness and contrast. I didn’t expect that it was so good. But then comes the second part of the story and that are the corners.
The corners are especially at 10mm not really good for my taste, at 18mm they are as you expect and are very useful. But I want to use this lens at 10mm.
I wouldn’t use the lens for any commercial architecture footage because of the corner sharpness at 10 mm (unsharp). Although it is really hard to get super sharp corners on ultra wide angle lenses, the corners of my Samyang 12mm fisheye are better. The Laowa 12mm Zero-D had a bit of the same issue. The center was great and the corners had a serious drop in sharpness.

But there is one big thing to take into account here.
What are you planning to shoot with this lens? Because for landscape photography, if you are mindful about the corners you won’t have any problem. The same for travel photography. I think it’s a trade off for the flexibility and unique 10 mm field of view that is worth it.

Comparison between the Laowa 10-18 @18mm and the Zeiss Batis 18mm

Laowa 10-18 mm review Zeiss Batis 18
As you can see here at 18mm, the sharpness is pretty good throughout the frame.
Comparing it to the Zeiss Batis 18mm it reveals some difference in sharpness and contrast, but overall the Laowa 10-18 @ 18mm gives a really good image.
Laowa 10-18 mm F4.5-5.6 FE

Conclusion

Pro
  • center sharpness
  • sunstars
  • size
  • build quality
  • ability to use 100 mm filters
  • uniqe zoom lens
  • minimum focus distance
Con
  • no exif data
  • corner sharpness
  • flare resistance

So after using this lens for a while would I take it in my bag?
The short answer is YES, but I have to be mindful about when to use the lens.

All in all it is difficult for me to rate the lens. It surely is a unique and fun lens to work with and the dimensions and weight are fantastic. This lens will help you to get some unique shots and shots in difficult spaces. Sharpness in the center is fantastic but the corners lag behind. It all comes down to your shooting style and where you are going to use the lens. It’s all down to a personal taste. The lens is unique and that comes with a few drawbacks. If you can work with those you will find this an absolute fun lens to use!

If you are taking it with you on your travels, you will be able to get some new angles. With your landscape shots, especially combined with some long exposures, you will be able to capture very wide vistas that will wow the viewers. If you are shooting architecture you will be able to get super wide views with ease, but here you will notice the corner sharpness.

For me the lens will be primarily for landscape and travel photography.
Architecture can be fun to photograph with this lens, as it’s so wide, but just for fun or social media. It won’t make into my bag on commercial assignments.
And I think that is exactly what Laowa designed the lens for. They made this lens to give you the ability to use a 10mm ultra wide angle zoom in a small package, which delivers great sunstars and is still relatively light.

The lens is available from $849

Sample Images

Martijn.Kort

Martijn.Kort

Fine art photographer focusing on architecture and cityscapes as well as capturing unique moments from the cockpit. Writing about photography techniques and sharing reviews. Ambassador for both ZEISS Netherlands and Nisi Filters.If you like my work, consider following me on Instagram!

Leave a Reply