Laowa now has a total of six lenses with an aperture of f/0.95, so how useful is it to have this aperture, and what are the results? As a landscape photographer mainly, this maximum aperture is something I had never really considered, although I do understand the usefulness of such an aperture for different types of photography, especially in low light and video. So, how does the lens perform throughout the apertures, and does it have the ability to provide results that are in line with or better than similar lenses in this price range? I tested it to find out.
Build and Handling
The Laowa CF 25mm f/0.95 APO has a full metal construction, and the lens does look and feel beautifully made. The rectangular lens hood is also metal, with a plastic slide-on lens cap, which slides and locks into place with an audible click when seated on the lens. It has a filter thread of 62mm. There is no image stabilization on the lens, so you are relying on your camera's IBIS if using it handheld.
Weighing in at 575 g, the lens is hefty, but considering the maximum aperture, it is still remarkably compact, with a length and diameter of 81 mm and 71 mm, respectively. With an aperture range of f/0.95 to f/11, the lens presents itself with a whole host of photographic subject opportunities, from dreamy shallow depth-of-field shots to wider vistas, which surprisingly, it performed really well at.
This APS-C lens is available for Fuji X, Canon RF, Nikon Z, and Sony E. For the purposes of this review, I tested the lens on the Fujifilm X-T5, which provides an equivalent focal range of around 35mm on a full frame sensor. The f-stops are clearly etched into the lens, and there is a switch that allows you to turn the aperture ring smoothly or enables a click at the aperture stops. This is not an audible click, merely haptic. Both the aperture and focusing rings turn smoothly, with the focusing ring noticeably having strong damping but smooth friction when turning. I found this really useful, as you have more control when doing fine adjustments.
This apochromatic lens (APO) helps correct chromatic and spherical aberrations, which is the fringing you often get. This fringing is due to lenses only focusing some colors at the same point, which is corrected here.
This lens is extremely sharp, but for extreme sharpness, I'd stop it down to between f/4 and f/11, where it really shines. At f/0.95, it is sharp but with a slight dreamy-like softness, which I think would be great for portraits and close-up nature photography. Video at this aperture would also be very interesting and provide some unique results. Once you begin to stop down, the quality of the glass and the sharpness it produces really start to show. I found myself quite surprised at the overall sharpness of the image, even at the edges.
The images above and below and were photographed at a distance of 35 cm from the subject, which is the minimum focusing distance. With a combination of the dampened focus ring and the focus peaking activated, it was a joy to use this lens. At every turn, you could see the peaking slowly move through the subject due to the heavy glide of the focus ring. Yes, you may say that is what it is supposed to do, but with this lens, you really notice the control given by the friction, which is a great thing for precision.
The sharpness and detail this lens achieves at f/11 are incredibly good, as you can see in the image below.
The lens does suffer from quite a lot of vignetting until you reach f/4, then it is barely noticeable. However, this didn't bother me for the images I had taken at f/0.95, as it helps draw you into the image. In some of the images below photographed at f/0.95, you will be able to see the extent of the vignetting.
I carried the lens around attached to the camera for a couple of weeks, and it is heavy, but I got used to it very quickly. When outside with the lens, I intentionally decided not to take a tripod with me so that I could see how quickly I could react with the manual focus should the need arise. I did miss a couple of shots because of this. That, of course, is merely down to practice. When taking my time, the focus was spot on and the resulting images sharp.
The images below were all captured at various apertures ranging from f/0.95 to f/11, with a minimum shutter speed on some of them at 1/30 second, and thanks to the IBIS of the camera, they still remained sharp.
What I Liked
- Extremely sharp
- Nice size considering the maximum aperture
- Ability to enable or disable the click of the aperture ring
- The build quality
- The damped focusing ring
What I Didn't Like
- No EXIF data
- The weight: not too heavy a lens, but you are aware it's on the camera
- No autofocus: admittedly, I'm not a fan of manual lenses for everyday shooting as I like the ability to focus quickly if needed
- No weather-sealing
I did really enjoy using the Laowa CF 25mm f/0.95 APO. The sharpness of the images and the build quality of the lens are great, but after my time with it, I was left with a couple of thoughts. If it was able to autofocus, I think it would excel in terms of everyday usability. Without the autofocus, is it something that I personally would use for my photography? I'm not sure. Conversely, when shooting landscapes, I more often than not shoot fully manually, so with the sharp images achieved with the lens, it could be worth it.
There are other lenses out there with a similar focal length, perhaps not this maximum aperture, and around a similar price range that have autofocus, and I'd tend to lean toward them. That is simply because of my own preference for autofocus in a lens. If this is not a factor for you when it comes to lenses, then it's definitely worth considering, not only because of the maximum f/0.95 aperture but because of the sharpness when stopped down.