Andy Westlake tests an intriguing lens that mixes extreme wideangle macro with shift capability
Laowa LX FX 15mm f/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro review: Using Shift
If you use the Laowa 15mm on an APS-C camera, it can be shifted upwards or downwards relative to the sensor when shooting in landscape format. With a wideangle lens, this is normally used to correct converging verticals, and avoid having a building look like it’s falling over backwards.
Unfortunately, while you can still do that with this lens, its strong barrel distortion means that it’s not necessarily the ideal choice for architectural work. The problem is that when the lens’s optical axis is moved off-centre relative to the sensor, you end up with complex asymmetric distortion that tends to look rather odd and is near-impossible to correct in software. In contrast, lenses that have been specifically designed for perspective control are usually near-perfectly corrected for rectilinear distortion. The rather primitive sliding shift mechanism doesn’t help, either, as it’s difficult to make precise adjustments to the lens’s position.
This doesn’t mean that shift isn’t a useful creative tool with this lens, just that it’s best used with less geometric subjects that don’t have straight lines running across a large fraction of the frame. The shift mechanism does let you adopt interesting angles for close-ups, such as shooting from low down without having to angle the camera upwards, or alternatively looking down onto a subject.