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Laowa 17mm f4 Zero-D in GFX mount


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  • 9 months later...

Review of Laowa 17mm & Fuji 23mm GF lenses

First, the Fuji 23mm f/4 GF lens for the GFX cameras is excellent in all respects.  There is very slight vignetting at maximum aperture, but that is to be expected with such a wide-angle lens.


The 17mm Laowa lens is not in the same league.  No EXIF data on aperture transmitted to the camera, and there is significant vignetting at f/4 and f/5.6, with some vignetting even at f/11 – visible in test pictures of a brick wall, but not obvious in normal photography.  The resolution is good throughout and there is no linear distortion (e.g., barrel or pin-cushion), which is extremely important.

Contrast and saturation are lower with the Laowa 17mm lens than with the Fuji 23mm lens, but these can easily be corrected in Photoshop.

With my test pictures of the brick wall, I found that the following Photoshop settings produced an image from the 17mm Laowa lens with characteristics that were very similar to those of the Fuji 23mm GF lens.
Brightness & Contrast: Brightness: (unchanged) Contrast + 13
Colour balance: Midtones: +10 (more red, less cyan), 0 (Magenta/Green unchanged), -12 (more yellow, less blue)
Hue/Saturation: Master: Hue 0 (unchanged), Saturation +38
Vignetting (at f/11): Filter > Lens Correction > Custom > Vignette: +30 (lighten) Midpoint + 19

This may sound like a lot of correction, but it could be set up as an action in Photoshop, and it was only really necessary with my test pictures of the brick wall.  With normal pictures, a minor colour correction would produce an image that was a good colour match to images from the 23mm Fuji lens.

There is a total absence of chromatic aberrations with both lenses, and both of them produce images that have a similar degree of sharpness, with further sharpening not normally necessary.

The key fact is that the 17mm Laowa lens has an angle of view that is much, much wider than the 23mm Fujinon lens, and it corresponds more closely to the way I see scenes in landscapes and cityscapes.

Comparisons with so-called 35mm “full format” (36mm × 24mm) is complicated by the fact that the ratios of “35mm” and Fuji GFX images are different (3:2 vs 4:3).  In fact, if we reduce the height of the GFX image to achieve a 3:2 ratio, (approximately 44mm × 29mm), a large amount of the vignetting with the Laowa 17mm image disappears.

However, the angle of view for the 17mm Laowa is given as 113º, while the angle of view for the 23mm Fujinon is given as 99.9º.  This places the Laowa just slightly wider than the Voigtländer 15mm Super Wide Heliar (110º) on 36×24 format, and slightly narrower than the Voigtländer 12mm Ultra Wide Heliar (121º) on the same format.

The 99.9º of the 23mm Fujinon is significantly narrower than the 15mm Super Wide Heliar.

Both Laowa and Fuji give “full frame equivalent” focal lengths, though these are slightly complicated by the difference in format ratios.

Laowa states that its 17mm GF lens is equivalent to 13.5mm in full frame format, while Fuji states that its 23mm GF lens is equivalent to 18mm in full frame format.  This is of course extremely wide, compared with the wide angle lenses that were available in the film era, when 20mm was generally the widest, and it was not available in all mounts.

Which lens is “better”?  Technically, the Fujinon, but only the Laowa can give those ultra-wide vistas for landscapes/seascapes/cityscapes, and its technical deficiencies are easily corrected in post-production.  No amount of post-production can give a wider image than that which is given by the 23mm Fujinon (and stitching images taken with wide-angle lenses is extremely difficult without specialist software), so for me, for certain shots, the 17mm Laowa will be the lens of choice.

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  • 6 months later...

Since the above posting, I have taken a series of pictures of rooms in my home (we have been in lockdown!), using both the 23mm Fuji lens and the 17mm Laowa lens.  Both delivered excellent results, but I really got the best shots with the Laowa lens, as the angle of view is so much wider.  I will now definitely use the Laowa lens without any reservations or concerns, both for interiors and for outdoor shots (when they become possible, again!)

Trevor (back in lockdown after a short relaxation by the government)

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