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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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09-11-2015, 07:38 PM   #2
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Can you combine shift with the in body composition adjustment feature?

Great write up btw.
09-11-2015, 07:53 PM   #3
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Thanks for all the details and the samples. It is definitely a lens to consider.
09-11-2015, 07:59 PM   #4
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Original Poster
QuoteOriginally posted by UncleVanya Quote
Can you combine shift with the in body composition adjustment feature?

Great write up btw.
Yes you can, I haven't done it but i recommend to people to buy it for a full size mount rather than a mirrorless mount and then they can get a mount adapter that allows for +/-11mm or something like that shift and get more out of it on an APS-C or M43rds mirrorless camera. I also stress that the image circle does increase as you stop down meaning less vignetting when shifting.

Mike

---------- Post added 09-11-15 at 11:01 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by sergysergy Quote
Thanks for all the details and the samples. It is definitely a lens to consider.
You're welcome, I wrote this up so people knew what it was they might be getting into, its certainly not your average lens for average photography.

09-26-2015, 10:27 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by First Poster Quote
The mount is a dumb mount, no electronics, no aperture lever
This kills the sale. I have two Samyang Manual Focus lenses and they are both PKA mount. This Venus lens offers as much automation as a Super Takumar without the pre-set aperture, i.e. none.

I nearly bought one of these turkeys.
09-26-2015, 11:14 AM   #6
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Great post! You should link back to it from the corresponding lens database entry if you haven't already.

Adam
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09-26-2015, 12:34 PM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Adam Quote
Great post! You should link back to it from the corresponding lens database entry if you haven't already.
Thanks, I just did... I could spend days adding my opinions on hundreds of lenses, maybe someday i will.
09-28-2015, 03:49 AM   #8
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Flexibility doesn't seem to be this thing's long suit. On the other hand, the images look very, very nice.

Great writeup.

09-28-2015, 06:58 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by pathdoc Quote
Flexibility doesn't seem to be this thing's long suit. On the other hand, the images look very, very nice.

Great writeup.
I'd say its a Jack of all trades, I won't say master of none but how about adequate of all trades. You get wide with filter thread, close focus, macro and shift all in one package... thats my definition of flexibility, you might have had something else on your mind when you were mentioning flexibility.
09-28-2015, 08:23 AM   #10
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I have no disagreement with your definition of flexibility. I was mainly getting at the lack of electronics and aperture lever interface, but I guess I can hardly talk given how many Takumar lenses I currently own (and another on the way). My bad.
09-28-2015, 08:57 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by pathdoc Quote
I have no disagreement with your definition of flexibility. I was mainly getting at the lack of electronics and aperture lever interface, but I guess I can hardly talk given how many Takumar lenses I currently own (and another on the way). My bad.
In a way that makes the lens quite interesting to use, you actually have to think about your shot rather than just pointing and shooting... you take better photos that way
10-11-2015, 11:34 AM   #12
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Out of interest, have you tried using this lens as a landscape lens?

I'm wondering how it compares to Pentax's own 15mm f4, for instance, which I was just about to buy until I saw this pop up in a google search!

I take a lot of photos of buildings and landscapes, so the shift functionality on something this wide, on Pentax K, has me very interested...

Edit: The only review I can find which looks at the non-macro usage is this one at dpreview, which isn't too encouraging - I wonder if this tallies with your experiences... ?

Edit II - then I see images like this and think - well it can't be all that terrible ;-)

Last edited by MrA; 10-11-2015 at 12:13 PM.
10-11-2015, 05:23 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrA Quote
Out of interest, have you tried using this lens as a landscape lens?

I'm wondering how it compares to Pentax's own 15mm f4, for instance, which I was just about to buy until I saw this pop up in a google search!

I take a lot of photos of buildings and landscapes, so the shift functionality on something this wide, on Pentax K, has me very interested...

Edit: The only review I can find which looks at the non-macro usage is this one at dpreview, which isn't too encouraging - I wonder if this tallies with your experiences... ?

Edit II - then I see images like this and think - well it can't be all that terrible ;-)
Though its not a bad landscape lens i think I'd give the DA15 a win in that category... I saw the first link, talked with the user after i made my review, i think he was a bit harsh but with examples honest. There is no doubt that its not the best lens but there is no doubt that its a useful tool. You have a tough choice, do features like shift outweigh overall quality.
10-12-2015, 12:25 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by MightyMike Quote
Though its not a bad landscape lens i think I'd give the DA15 a win in that category... I saw the first link, talked with the user after i made my review, i think he was a bit harsh but with examples honest. There is no doubt that its not the best lens but there is no doubt that its a useful tool. You have a tough choice, do features like shift outweigh overall quality.
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...
10-12-2015, 05:18 AM   #15
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Of course and no surprise - although it might be amusing to put up an album labelled "The crummiest shots we took with this lens", I'm not all that sure it's good business practice.
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