Review: Laowa 9mm 2.8 APS-C

Introduction

laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast distortion
Laowa 9mm 2.8 APS-C C-Dreamer on Sony A7rII

We rarely review APS-C lenses here, but this tiny ultra wide angle looked so cute that I couldn’t resist to have a closer look at it.

Sample Images

Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11
laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast distortion
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11
laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/8.0

Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/4.0
laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast distortion
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11

You can find most of the shots in this review in full resolution here.

Specifications / Version History

I am reviewing a final production model here which has the following specifications:

  • Diameter: 58mm
  • Field of view: 113° (diagonally)
  • Length: 58mm
  • Weight: 200g
  • Filter Diameter: 49mm
  • Number of Aperture Blades: 7 (straight)
  • Elements/Groups: 15/10
  • Close Focusing Distance: 0.12m
  • Maximum Magnification: ~1:9.7
  • Mount: E-mount

The lens is also available for several other mounts like Fuji-X, m43, Canon M and DJI DL.

The lens is available directly from the manfucaturer’s homepage, amazon.com/amazon.de, ebay.com/ebay.de and B&H (affiliate links) and the price is $499/599€.

Disclosure

The Laowa 9mm 2.8 APS-C C-Dreamer was kindly provided free of charge by Venus Optics / Laowa for reviewing purpose for a few weeks.

Handling / Build Quality

laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast distortion
Laowa 9mm 2.8 APS-C C-Dreamer

So far all the Laowa lenses I reviewed had very nice build quality and this holds true for this small APS-C lens as well. The outer casing seems to be made from a mixture of metal and high quality polycarbonate. It feels very dense and solid.
Markings are engraved and filled with paint.

The Laowa 15mm 2.0 offers a similar field of view when used on a full frame camera and despite also being rather compact this 9mm looks tiny next to it.

laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast distortion
Laowa FE 15mm 2.0 Zero-D and E 9mm 2.8 APS-C C-Dreamer

The focus ring has (for my taste) very nice resistance; a little more than the Zeiss Loxia lenses, maybe a tad less than the Zeiss ZM or Voigtlander lenses. The throw of the focusing ring is about ~160° from the minimum focus distance (0.12m) to infinity.
The aperture ring has one-stop click-stops and it takes about 45° from f/2.8 to f/22.

Unlike some of the other Laowa lenses this does not feature a de click feature for the aperture ring.

laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast distortion
Laowa 9mm 2.8 APS-C C-Dreamer with small metal hood attached

The lens does not feature electronic contacts to communicate with your camera, but a small metal bayonet type lens hood is part of the package.

Vignetting and colorcast

laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast distortion

With small ultra wide angle lenses in the past we have already seen that vignetting figures are pretty high and won’t improve that much on stopping down, this is also the case here.
Wide open there is very strong vignetting of 3.5 EV, at f/4.0 it is 2.9 EV and stopped down f/8.0 still 2.3 EV.

Also similar to the Voigtlander UWA primes and the other wide Laowa primes (12mm 2.8 and 15mm 2.0) this lens showed some slight green color cast in the corners.

laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast distortion
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/2.8

This is what this color cast looks like in a real world picture:

laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast distortion
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11

And if you think about using this lens on a full frame camera without crop mode, not a great idea:

laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast distortion
Sony A7rII | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11

Sharpness

infinity

laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast distortion

The lens is usable at f/2.8, but the corners are not great and a midzone dip is also noticeable. Stopping down to f/4.0 improves the corner resolution and greatly improves the midzone as well.
Due to the strong vignetting that is a bit lower at f/5.6 to f/8.0 I would stick to these aperture for landscape and architecture photography.

Exposure on corner crops has been lifted in post to reveal more details

close focus

100% crops from center, A7rII

With the minimum focus distance of just 0.12 m you can get really close to your subject. In the center the performance really good starting at f/2.8, stopping down barely improves the performance. Best across frame sharpness is reached at f/8.0 to f/11.

Distortion

laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/8.0

Like the 15mm 2.0 and the 12mm 2.8 this 9mm 2.8 is also part of Laowa’s “Zero-D(istortion)” line, but surprisingly it is only written on the box, not on the lens itself.

Sunstars

100% crops from center, A7rII

Being one of the older Laowa lenses the 9mm 2.8 also features 7 aperture blades and not so well defined, rather fuzzy sunstars with rays of uneven length (see also my reviews of the 2/15 or 2.8/12).
This is a highly subjective topic so you might want to have a look at this article and decide for yourself, what you prefer.

Coma correction


100% crops from extreme corner, A7rII (crop mode)

Coma correction is quite okay actually. Wide open there are slight deteoriations of point light sources visible but stopped down to f/4.0 those also mostly go away.

Flare resistance

With the sun inside the frame the lens is not exactly a strong performer. Especially wide open you can catch frame filling ghosts. Stopping down improves the situation only slightly.

You can often improve the situation a bit by slightly adjusting the framing though.

Chromatic aberrations

lateral


Sony A7rII | Laowa 9mm 2.8 APS-C | 9mm | f/8 | CA 100% crop before/after APS-C corner

For a lens this wide the lateral CA are on a very low level. Good performance!

longitudinal

As this is a very wide and rather slow lens longitudinal CA (loCA) are nothing to worry about.

Alternatives

Samyang 12mm 2.0:
This lens is a stop faster but the difference in focal length is also more significant than you might think. In my opinion this is one of Samyang’s better lenses. If you mostly want an ultra wide angle lens for landscape astrophotography it might be the better choice. While still reasonably sized it looks quite big compared to this 9mm lens though and I cannot tell you how they compare in detail.
buy from ebay.com / amazon.com / amazon.de / B&H (affiliate links)

Sony E 10-18mm 4.0 OSS:
This lens does not only offer auto focus but even an in lens image stabilizer (OSS). It is about 50% more expensive, 1 stop slower and not as wide but allows you to zoom to 18mm and seems to offer better flare resistance. If you are not sure yet about the focal length you want or need this is a good choice if you don’t plan on doing landscape astrophotography often.
buy from ebay.com / amazon.com / amazon.de / B&H (affiliate links)

Conclusion

good

  • resolution
  • correction of CA
  • minimum focus distance
  • distortion
  • build quality
  • size/weight
average

  • contrast
  • flare resistance (compared UWA zooms)
  • coma correction
  • sunstars
not good

  • no exif data
  • vignetting
  • color cast in the corners
  • flare resistance (compared other modern UWA primes)

The first party manufacturers only rarely release prime lenses specifially designed for their APS-C cameras these days. Luckily some of the third party manufacturers are filling those gaps.
For Sony E-mount the Laowa 9mm 2.8 does not even have a real competitor: the only Sony ultra wide angle lens for APS-C is the slower, bigger and more expensive 10-18mm 4.0 zoom. Samyang has the 12mm 2.0, but that is a vastly different focal length already (we also have that 16mm 2.8 in combination with the x0.75 wide angle converter, but I have never heard anything good about it).

I really liked being able to capture such a wide field of view with such a tiny lens. The resolution is already quite good in most parts of the frame at f/2.8 and stopped down to f/8.0 it is offers a very even across frame performance. I did find myself pushing contrast a little more in post compared to other modern lenses though.

The vignetting is really high even stopped down, we already saw that behaviour with the small full frame ultra wide angle lenses from Voigtlander. But the biggest downside of this lens is probably the flare resistance: the contrast does not take a noticeable hit but you can easily catch frame filling ghosts and a slight reframing will sometimes not or not fully solve that problem.

Nevertheless this lens can be a nice addition to many APS-C kits: if you are using the three f/1.4 Sigmas 16/30/56mm this lens fits right in there in terms of focal length. Same goes if you are using the 4/16-70mm zoom.
This lens is so small and light, it will easily fit a way into your bag.

The lens is available directly from the manfucaturer’s homepage, amazon.com/amazon.de, ebay.com/ebay.de and B&H (affiliate links) and the price is $499/599€.

Sample images

Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11
laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast distortion
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/2.8
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/8.0
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/11
laowa 9mm 2.8 aps-c review ultra wide angle crop fuji x a6000 a6300 a6500 sharpness resolution contrast distortion
Sony A7rII (crop mode) | Laowa 9mm 2.8 | f/8.0

You can find most of the shots in this review in full resolution here.

Further Reading

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My name is Bastian and for many years I have been mostly shooting Nikon DSLRs. As of today I have made my transition from Nikon to Sony and I am mainly using small but capable manual lenses. My passion is landscape photography but I also like to delve into other subjects from time to time.

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11 thoughts on “Review: Laowa 9mm 2.8 APS-C”

  1. I believe other reviewers mentioned there was significant field curvature, which explains the poor corner performance at wider apertures. This was probably the side effect of the excellent distortion correction.

    1. …or should i get the Laowa 15mm f2? Its twice the price and the A6000+Laowa 9mm f2.8 seems like such an tiny package…

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