Over the past couple of weeks I have been given the opportunity to try out one of the widest Micro 4/3 lenses out there, the Venus LAOWA 7.5mm f/2.0. After testing it for some time, I'd like to share some of my thoughts on how it performed and what I liked and didn't like about it.
The timing for this was absolutely perfect because I had just gotten my Inspire 2/X5S Micro 4/3 camera, along with my Panasonic Lumix G85 Micro 4/3 camera. Between those two cameras, I owned a 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 (standard lens on the G85 that allows for a great range) and I also had a few primes like the 12mm Olympus, 45mm Olympus, and 15mm DJI. If you are unfamiliar with a Micro 4/3 system, the lenses are actually doubled in focal length when put on the camera, so a 12mm becomes 24mm, a 45mm becomes a 90mm, and this 7.5mm becomes a beautiful, ultra-wide 15mm lens.
My Reason for Owning a Micro 4/3
The main reason I decided to purchase a Micro 4/3 camera was to have a compact system that could shoot good 4K video. Since I was only looking to shoot real estate with it, I didn't need the camera for anything crazy. All I really wanted was good stabilization in a smaller and easier to carry camera and higher resolution than what my D750 was putting out. Luckily, the Micro 4/3 cameras can do just that and after buying my Inspire 2 and all the lenses, I felt like it would be dumb not to get a Micro 4/3 camera where I can just share the lenses between the two systems. So between my drone and camera, I have the option to use the same lenses and shoot some pretty nice 4K video in a very compact, light, and portable camera. Right now, this is perfect for what I am doing, I look to upgrade to the GH5 just for a few extra video options, but like I said in my last article, I will upgrade as I feel the need to.
The wide lens is great for several things. For me, this lens has become the solution to all my real estate videos. I can use this lens to shoot an entire room no matter how tight it is because this was such a wide lens. If I felt the need to crop in, I could always scale in using the 4K my camera has which made composition a breeze. The low aperture was great to allow the most light possible if necessary. Usually I shot around f/4–5.6 but if it was really dark and I needed to, I had the option to stop all the way down to f/2. The size and weight of this lens was also great, very small, light, and easy to carry around. However, Venus LAOWA is also releasing a lighter version of this lens which could potentially help out a lot for travel or droning. You can see the difference from a 12mm to the 7.5mm below.
[beforeafter label1="12mm" label2="7.5mm]
[beforeafter label1="12mm" label2="7.5mm"]
Most of us know that drones usually come standard with a 24mm lens or so. I know the Phantom 3 Pro is a 20mm, the Phantom 4 Pro is a 24mm, and the Mavic Pro is a 28mm, but each of these drones are a bit different from one another. The Inspire 2 with the X5S has the option for DJI's 15mm lens which would actually be a 30mm on the Micro 4/3 system. My solution to having a wider lens was to buy a 12mm lens that would convert to a 24mm, but the fact that you now have the option to go wider with this 7.5mm (15mm equivalent) opens up a lot of opportunity for many photographers.
Of course no product is perfect and this lens did have a few drawbacks, but nothing that really actually bothered me. One being the manual focus only and the lens not being compatible (unidentified as a lens) with certain cameras. On my G85 this lens was not recognized as a lens, so I had to go into my menu and select he option to "shoot without lens" to solve the problem. After I did that, this lens became absolutely perfect for wide shots. Considering how wide this lens is, you would almost assume it is a fisheye and that it would have a lot of distortion. While I am listing this as a negative, this lens ended up having a very light distortion on the edges and was something that could be easily fixed if needed. When I talk about a manual a focus lens, there is nothing wrong with that aside from the fact that because the camera did not recognize the lens, I was not able to check focus. In a situation like this, focus peaking was a huge help and the manual focusing was never an issue. Also, once the lens was set to infinity, there was not much to worry about because everything seemed to be in focus whenever I shot.
If you are planning on shooting video with the 7.5mm, be warned that it is a very tough lens to handhold. I'm not sure if it was my camera's built-in stabilization or the fact that that my camera did not know there was a lens on it. Again, this was a negative with a simple solution and luckily I don't tend to handhold my camera for real estate or any sort of professional video work unless I absolutely have to, or I am doing my detail shots (which is an exception to this lens). Using the lens on a slider, tripod, or gimbal will reduce pretty much all risk of having shaky video and you will be able to see that in almost all of the videos I am sharing here.
Lastly, the biggest negative was the major distortion that I received from taking photos with this lens on my drone. I know many other people have tested this lens and it has been fine, but when I took photos with this lens on my Inspire, it would create a crazy border that I was forced to crop in post. Apparently there is a way to fix this by tricking the drone, but I could not figure this part out. Since that ended up being the case, I shot a lot more video than I did photos when I was flying with it on my drone. My main concern here is the loss in quality when cropping, though the photos are still very sharp and usable, this was not something I could use for more professional work with this lens. Video on the other hand seemed to be completely OK, but it was a pain I couldn't really switch between the two knowing that the photos would be distorted in that way for me.
I may have mentioned a lot of "negatives," but this lens really became a go-to for all of my real estate video work. As long as this lens was set somewhere around infinity, all of the files came out clear and sharp with minor distortion. Honestly, this lens may have had several problems being recognized by the camera or distorting the photos on the drone, but they were all minor problems that had simple solutions. For me, a 24mm to a 15mm is a huge difference when it comes to showing certain spaces and because of that, I will be sure to own one of these lenses myself. I had no trouble using this lens aside from adjusting to it at first and I have to say that overall, I was very pleased with its performance. I would have loved to test it in some other environments, but this whole review really proved this should be a part of any real estate or architectural photographers bag if they are using a Micro 4/3 camera.
For more information on the lens, please check out the Venus Optics website to preorder.