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Venus(Laowa) 15mm F4 1:1 Macro+Shift, Review and Samples
Posted By: MightyMike, 09-11-2015, 04:43 PM

Well this lens arrived today and i got out to shoot with it as much as i could, with my usual inspection i did find it has a piece of what looks like dust inside, I know this doesn't affect image quality but it would be nice if it wasn't there.

I've tried to write up all the important information i could think of that people might want to know about this lens. Ask any questions you have and I'll do my best to answer them.
  • Trap focus doesn't work as its mount surface doesn't short out the pins, you can work around this with foil
  • As its not an A-series lens the on board flash will fire only at full power and doesn't give you access to the master setting to control an off camera flash
  • Flash metering is almost trial and error until you get it right, however getting the flash's light on the subject is another problem altogether
  • You likely could use the sunny 16 or overcast 11 rules however at close focusing you'll want to adjust by 1 stop for half life size and 2 stops for life size macro
  • Yes there is distortion, and mustache distortion on FF
  • CA though not ideal can be completely or mostly completely removed in raw editing
  • It will flare but the flare spots are generally very small and though visible they're insignificant to the image
  • It can resolve quite well up to F16 and F22 isn't bad either, F32 is the furthest you can go and use that in emergencies
  • The corners are soft at F4 on APS-C on a brick wall test, the MTF doesn't show this and my guess is its more a fault of field curvature then aberration
  • Its Vignetting on APS-C isn't bothersome, I'm not sure I've really noticed it
  • Aperture has no click stops (14 blade)
  • They list 1:1, 0.8:1, 0.4:1 and 0.1:1 on the magnification scale, any other magnification is just a guess
  • The hood can be fiddly at times to put on
  • Its a mere 6.5cm (2.6") deep at its shortest and 8.4cm (3.3") wide at the front
  • Its at its shortest length when focused to 20cm, it gets a little longer towards infinity and extends about 11mm at 1:1
  • The mount is a dumb mount, no electronics, no aperture lever
  • Its made of solid metal, i suspect brass and at 410g it feels heavy and well built for its size
  • Both the focus and aperture rings are very smooth
  • The focus ring is only a 90 degree rotation from 1:1 to infinity, this leaves something to be desired
  • The shipping box is much larger than the lens however the lens is well packed
  • The 77mm filter thread does allow for the use of a CPL however if its not a thin CPL it may cause vignetting on FF when shifted
  • The only plastic on it are the caps and hood
  • The hood will get in the way of most close-ups
  • Focus peaking can help with macros when you're stopped down a lot however its not perfect and i found on the toughest subjects and tightest apertures that bursting and moving might yield a shot or 2 in focus where you want it
  • Aside from some extreme cases you'll likely be using the lens in the ballpark of half life size and lessor magnifications
  • Lighting for macro is very tough and you might find yourself preferring to shoot into the sun or using it on a bright overcast day
  • The aperture ring though free floating isn't preset so you can't focus wide open then rotate it to your desired stop and take the shot, unless you guess where that stop is you could under or overshoot it
  • It appears to have reverse focus breathing in that the closer you focus the narrower your FOV becomes unlike other lenses where the closer you focus the wider the FOV becomes
  • Don't use hood when shifting it will cause vignetting
  • Shift metering requires LV or manual mode otherwise you'll get as much as a 2 stop darker exposure when shifted up and possibly as much as 4.7 stops brighter exposure when shifted down
  • 1/3rd stop difference between shifted and not shifted photos, this may be different on full frame
  • Hood is semi-glossy black in finish so when shooting towards the sun and shifting it will cause bright glare to enter the frame (the sun doesn't need to be in the frame)
  • Shift is best done when stopped down as the image circle gets larger as you stop down
  • Shift is designed to be limited to -6mm, 0 and +6mm however if you're careful you can hit spot in between, its just tedious
  • Focus trap/confirmation doesn't work when shifted
  • It can be shifted on FF when stopped down and without the hood. At full shift this will cause 2 dark corners but not completely black
  • The shift mechanism is finicky, you have to press the lever upward at the side up to unlock it then you can manually move the lens up or down while initially holding the lever in the unlocked position, remember 6mm is a short distance, the lever will lock at -6, +6 and neutral
  • I found that when shifted to +6mm the lock isn't strong and it can be pushed out of that position to both neutral and -6mm, however pushing it back up requires unlocking.
  • It doesn't rotate so you can only shift up and down, however the mount is only held on by 4 screws so if you absolutely needed to shift to the side you could take the mount off and rotate it 90 degrees (untested)
  • Unless you get really good at it you'll have to take you eye from the OVF or screen in order to fiddle with the shifting of the lens and locking device

Here are some of my first photos with the lens (Apertures from F8-F22, F16 and F22 for the macros)

The first few should be close to 1:1 if not 1:1









The rest aren't quite 1:1


A 3000x2000 (6mp) crop from its original photo




A 3000x2000 (6mp) crop from the previous photo


A 1200x800 (1:1, 100%) crop of the original photo








A shift example
Unshifted


Mostly corrected, shifted less than 6mm as 6mm would have been over corrected, the framing is different as I've done it hand held


Last edited by MightyMike; 09-11-2015 at 09:33 PM.
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10-12-2015, 06:26 AM   #16
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrA Quote
Ok, thanks. Have just started following Venus Optics on Facebook, they have been posting a small number of 15mm landscape shots - but of course no doubt highly selective ones...
Here are my recent galleries with the lens, most are macro but one is landscape-ish

Macro
Venus 15mm F4.0 1:1 Macro + Shift Second Outing Photos

Macro revisited
Venus 15mm F4.0 1:1 Macro + Shift Third Outing Photos

The ground shots will interest you, i had a polarizer on too
Guelph Fly-In 2015 ~ Venus 15mm F4.0 1:1 Macro + Shift And Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 APO EX

Quick Architecture
Downtown Brampton ~ Venus 15mm F4.0 1:1 Macro + Shift

Mike

10-12-2015, 11:47 AM   #17
MrA
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Those galleries are really useful, thanks MightyMike.

I did find these on an oriental forum (afraid I can't translate the text, but the pictures are interesting). Again, not a methodical test.

http://www.dchome.net/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=1303367&extra=page%3D1&page=1

Interesting to see how it behaves shooting into the sun. Am somewhat tempted...

Interesting to note the shift is +/- 6mm, whereas e.g. a Samyang or Canon 24mm tilt-shift would give +/-12mm. Probably still enough to be useful though.

How does it perform wide open?

In reality, do you even have to focus it for landscape use? - I know e.g my Sigma 24mm can be used hyperfocally from f4 - sharp from 2m to infinity...

Last edited by MrA; 10-12-2015 at 01:02 PM.
10-12-2015, 01:22 PM   #18
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrA Quote
Those galleries are really useful, thanks MightyMike.

I did find these on an oriental forum (afraid I can't translate the text, but the pictures are interesting). Again, not a methodical test.

http://www.dchome.net/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=1303367&extra=page%3D1&page=1

Interesting to see how it behaves shooting into the sun. Am somewhat tempted...

Interesting to note the shift is +/- 6mm, whereas e.g. a Samyang or Canon 24mm tilt-shift would give +/-12mm. Probably still enough to be useful though.

How does it perform wide open?

In reality, do you even have to focus it for landscape use? - I know e.g my Sigma 24mm can be used hyperfocally from f4 - sharp from 2m to infinity...
For focus if the main subject is close I'll deliberately bring the focus ring off infinity just a little, I'm not sure the hyper focal distance is what you think it is based on the distance scale on the lens, then again that might not be very accurate. just beware how you use hyperfocal with online calculators that you have the format and output sizes correct. I guess i haven't taken many shots wide open, its decent, i suppose good enough, I don't find anything critically wrong with it. The lens could have been designed for more shift on APS-C there is room in the image circle for it. I find it useful on buildings that are 3 stories or higher on APS-C, I can't say for FF.
10-12-2015, 02:16 PM   #19
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QuoteOriginally posted by MightyMike Quote
For focus if the main subject is close I'll deliberately bring the focus ring off infinity just a little, I'm not sure the hyper focal distance is what you think it is based on the distance scale on the lens, then again that might not be very accurate. just beware how you use hyperfocal with online calculators that you have the format and output sizes correct.
I've yet to find a photo of this lens showing the distance scale whilst focused at the infinity end - the stock photos all the reviews are using show it focused at the macro end. I was just presuming (based on the short lens length) that it would be viable - which means being MF is hardly a handicap.

QuoteOriginally posted by MightyMike Quote
I guess i haven't taken many shots wide open, its decent, i suppose good enough, I don't find anything critically wrong with it.
Good to know. If you do take any lower light images at any point in the near future with it, would be interested to see them.

Looks like I have some thinking to do... thanks for the help.


EDIT:
Image of focusing scale found here https://www.cinema5d.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Venus-Laowa-15mm-3.jpg


Last edited by MrA; 11-19-2015 at 03:43 PM.
11-30-2015, 01:48 PM   #20
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Enjoyed viewing your galleries for this lens. Many of those macro shots show a nice sense of 3D. Seems like a talented photographer found a good lens.
11-30-2015, 01:51 PM   #21
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QuoteOriginally posted by delegopa Quote
Enjoyed viewing your galleries for this lens. Many of those macro shots show a nice sense of 3D. Seems like a talented photographer found a good lens.
Thanks, PM me if you want to see more galleries
11-30-2015, 04:45 PM   #22
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Well I took the plunge with this, have to say I'm very pleased with it. Will try to get some architectural sample photos up soon.

The only quirk I have found, that i've not seen noted elsewhere in reviews, is that the shift functionality does not have any rotational capability. That is, whilst a landscape orientation image can be shifted up/down to correct distortion, a portrait image can only be shifted left/right (i.e. far less helpful).
11-30-2015, 05:12 PM - 2 Likes   #23
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrA Quote
Well I took the plunge with this, have to say I'm very pleased with it. Will try to get some architectural sample photos up soon.

The only quirk I have found, that i've not seen noted elsewhere in reviews, is that the shift functionality does not have any rotational capability. That is, whilst a landscape orientation image can be shifted up/down to correct distortion, a portrait image can only be shifted left/right (i.e. far less helpful).
I'm sorry i forgot to mention that... in fact i'm sure i did... second last point

QuoteQuote:
It doesn't rotate so you can only shift up and down, however the mount is only held on by 4 screws so if you absolutely needed to shift to the side you could take the mount off and rotate it 90 degrees (untested)


---------- Post added 11-30-15 at 07:25 PM ----------

My galleries to date in chronological order, not including the photos posted in this thread.

First macro attempt with flash and diffuser
Venus 15mm F4.0 1:1 Macro + Shift Second Outing Photos

Re-attempted with thought giving to more ambient light
Venus 15mm F4.0 1:1 Macro + Shift Third Outing Photos

All the ground photos in this gallery (Polarizer Used)
Guelph Fly-In 2015 ~ Venus 15mm F4.0 1:1 Macro + Shift And Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 APO EX

All but the last 9 in this gallery (Polarizer Used)
Halton Car Graveyard ~ Venus 15mm F4.0 1:1 Macro + Shift And Polarizer ~ Spiratone 135mm F1.8

The first 35 photos in this gallery (Polarizer Used)
Fall Colours 2015 ~ Venus 15mm F4.0 1:1 Macro + Shift ~ Pentax FA 77mm F1.8 Limited

Back to macro and flash
Allan Gardens ~ Venus 15mm F4.0 1:1 Macro+Shift

Architecture, the last 15 photos in this gallery (not sure if i used a polarizer on these)
Walking Toronto ~ Spitarone 135mm F1.8 and Venus 15mm F4.0 1:1 Macro+Shift

I adapted my home made Death Ray Version 2 Lighting device to the lens for these macros
Venus Death Ray ~ Magical Lighting ~ The Venus 15mm F4.0 1:1 Macro+Shift and My Death Ray 2.0 Continuous Lighting Device

More information about the Death Ray can be found through this thread and its links
The Venus Death Ray Part 1 (10 photos): Pentax SLR Talk Forum: Digital Photography Review

Hopefully this Friday I'll be using that same combination (Death Ray and Venus 15 lens) on butterflies.

12-01-2015, 06:21 AM - 1 Like   #24
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Sorry Mike, guess I missed that line! Either way, not a problem for me, was just noting for others.

I can confirm that rotating the mount works, it's as simple as removing 4 screws. However, the reverse side of the metal mount has a shallow groove cut in it for the spring which operates the shift-lock lever. If you rotate the mount, you slightly squash the spring. This didn't immediately affect its operation but perhaps might in the longer term.
12-01-2015, 08:35 AM   #25
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrA Quote
Sorry Mike, guess I missed that line! Either way, not a problem for me, was just noting for others.

I can confirm that rotating the mount works, it's as simple as removing 4 screws. However, the reverse side of the metal mount has a shallow groove cut in it for the spring which operates the shift-lock lever. If you rotate the mount, you slightly squash the spring. This didn't immediately affect its operation but perhaps might in the longer term.
Good to know, i've just informed someone else of this possible issue.
12-06-2015, 03:17 AM   #26
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Thanks for the write-up Mike!
This lens just got a very good review in the latest edition of the German "NaturFoto" Magazine.
Not just as an unusual Macro lens but also for general landscape work.
12-06-2015, 07:37 AM   #27
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QuoteOriginally posted by volley Quote
Thanks for the write-up Mike!
This lens just got a very good review in the latest edition of the German "NaturFoto" Magazine.
Not just as an unusual Macro lens but also for general landscape work.
Good to see the lens is getting some recognition
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