Laowa 10-18mm C-Dreamer Review
My impressions on this ultra wide angle from Venus Optics. A complete review and a test on the field of the ultra wide angle lens Laowa 10-18mm in FE mount. Pros and cons of an extreme lens from Venus Optics
Yes, you heard it right: a 10mm lens on a Full Frame camera! Sounds really impressive, doesn't it?
Laowa did it again, and created this incredible ultra wide angle baby. Small and compact, with a nice focal range, this lens seems to be a must-to-have for all the guys out there in love with extreme perspectives.
The few, the proud
At the time of writing, there are only few lenses on the market that can reach 10mm on a full frame camera: the choice is limited to the Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 and the and newly-announced Samyang XP 10mm f/3.5. For this reason, the Laowa 10-18mm f:4.5-5.6 zoom (so-called C-Dreamer) is definitely a great opportunity for the enthusiast photographer: in fact, there are not so many situations to shoot at 10mm (and it also requires a bit of expeerience), so it is a huge advantage to be able to have a single lens covering also more "common" focal lengths".
First contact & specs
The lens comes in the usual nice box, with tags and warranty. No leather bag included, but for typical landscape lenses this is quite common (it is more practical to pack the lenses in photography bags or backpacks).
As all the other products from the Laowa brand, it feels sturdy and very well crafted: no plastic, no rubber... everything is metallic, with a nice frosted finishing. The Laowa 10-18mm is small (9.1 cm long) and quite light, only 496g. Definitely a perfect lens on a small mirrorless like my Sony A7R II (as it is the Laowa 15mm that I use since exactly 2 years!)
The lens hood is fixed, so if you want to use filters you have 2 options: you can buy a specific-designed filter holder (Haida makes one, but also Laowa itself has its own magnetic holder), or you can use a 37mm circular filterinside the lens. See pictures below.
Here some numbers for specs lovers
Focal Length 10 – 18mm
Max. Aperture f/4.5 – 5.6
Angle of View 102° – 130°
Format Compatibility Full Frame
Lens Structure 14 elements in 10 groups
Aperture Blades 5
Min. Focusing Distance 150mm
Max. Magnification 1 : 4
Focus Mode Manual Focus
Filter Thread 37mm (Rear filter thread)
Dimensions 70 x 90.9 mm
Mounts Sony FE, Nikon Z
On the field
Let me say that, in my opinion, an Ultra Wide Angle lens (from now on, UWA) should always be present in every landscape photographer setup: it always enables different (and sometimes incredible) perspectives, so different from what we are used to see through our eyes.
Said that, this lens is so freaking "ultra wide", that it takes a while to get used to it! You really will be amazed to see how many times your tripod legs will be included in your frame, if you will not pay attention... This opens up a world of brand new point of view, if you start thinking differently!
As per all the Laowa lenses, this 10-18mm is manual focus only... but honestly (due to the focal length) it is not a problem at all.
I tested the lens in very different situations, and without limiting myself to landscapes or seascapes. I decided to use it also during the visit to an ancient castle, during a hike on italian Apennines, and to shoot architecturals in Bologna. In all the cases, my impressions are really good. I also took shots to compare the lens with Sony SEL 16-35Z (of course, trying to compare the same focal lenght).
The long story short:
* the overall quality is quite high
* the sharpness is good, probably a bit less sharp then the Laowa 15mm D-Dreamer in the center, but sharper at the corner
* colors and contrast are outstanding, way better than all the other lenses I own
* Chromatic aberration is acceptable, and easy to fix in Lightroom (but at the time of writing, there is no lens profile available)
* The resistance to lens flare is very low (probably the only weak point of this lens)
* If you plan to use filters, you probably will have to buy a 150mm kit. Otherwise, you can opt for the native Laowa solution (a great magnetic holder for the front, and a 37mm filter thread in the back. see the pictures above)
Here you can see some shots, taken with Laowa 10.18mm C-Dreamer. In this first paragraph, the images are nearly "straight out of the camera"... no heavy corrections, just a fine tuning in Lightroom.
As you can see, the frame is sharp from center to corners (of course, at the corner is softer). From a pixel peeper perspective, probably the frame on the center is a bit sharper at the wide end.. Closing the diaphragm improves a lot.
Contrast is very good, colors are outstanding. You will notice it even better, comparing the same shot with Sony SEL 1635Z (on the right)
I heard that someone complained about a slight green color cast on the corners. Honestly I didn't notice such a behavior, but just for you to know...
Flare resistance is probably the only attention point with this lens.
From my tests, speaking about flare resistance the lens performs a bit better if shooting directly towards the light, compared to the situations where the light is on the edges.
Dealing with flares can be a bit challenging with this lens: the field of view is so wide that it is very easy to find a light source on your sides.
Following a sample shot of the Shoah Memorial in Bologna; it is possible to see the 2 flares in the middle of the frame (due to the little LED lights in the ground).
Vignetting is present, but in my opinion does not disturb too much, and it is in line with what you can expect from UWA. Stepping down does not improve so much.
In my opinion, if you are a landscape fanatic you definitely have to put this lens on your equipment list.
Perhaps not the every day lens, but the Laowa 10-18mm is definitely a piece of gear capable of great things: the short focus distance, combined with the freakin' wide field of view, produces some very unique perspectives, and a lot of fun for the photographer!
Just to recall pros and cons:
- Compact and light
- Quite sharp, with little difference between center and corners
- Nice colors and marvellous contrast
- Needs a dedicated filter holder (unless you want to use the rear filter)
- Low flare resistance
If you compare the Laowa 10-18mm with the other 10mm lenses on the market today (at least in October 2019), you will see that it is a great choice, both for the cost, the performances, and because of its variable focal length, that makes the lens even more usable).
If you will buy this little ultra wide lens, I'm sure will never be disappointed. Anyway I have some suggestions for you, to exploit it the best possible way:
* look for different perspectives: stay low to the ground, or high.. you will be amazed by the thing the human eye can't se
* stay closer! Remember to stay as close as you can to your foreground. Flowers, stones, even little textures become so huge end interesting, when shot very close!
* avoid lateral sun: this lens (like many UWA) suffers a bit from flares, when the light is tangential. Better to shot facing lights directly
* You can break the rule of thirds, including a lot more of cloudy sky: with such focal lengths the final result is like being inside the hyperdrive in Star Wars