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: Features
Before we go any further, let’s recap on what this lens can do.
First, it’s a 15mm f/4 wideangle lens for full-frame cameras, with fully manual focusing and aperture settings. It can focus extremely close, on a subject just 4.7mm from the front of the lens, which enables 1:1 macro. This means that the lens can project a life-sized image onto the camera’s sensor, so a subject measuring 36x24mm will fill the view when using a camera with a full-frame sensor.
In addition, a sliding mechanism built into the lens barrel allows the optical unit to be shifted relative to the camera’s sensor, either upwards or downwards by up to 6mm, and with a click-stop at the centred position. This works just fine on cameras with APS-C sensors, but if you try it on a full-frame camera you’ll quickly see extreme vignetting as the lens’s image circle is exceeded.
Focus is set manually, using a ridged metal ring towards the centre of the lens barrel. It has distances marked in metric increments from infinity to 12cm, alongside a macro reproduction scale that ranges from 0.1:1 to 1:1. The aperture is also set manually, using a clickless ring towards the front of the lens that’s marked at 1-stop intervals from f/4 to f/32, and stops the diaphragm down directly as it’s turned.
The optical formula uses 12 elements in nine groups, including three of high-refractive-index glass and one of low-dispersion glass to minimise chromatic aberrations. The filter thread is 77mm in diameter and doesn’t rotate on focusing, meaning the lens can be used easily with filters such as polarisers and neutral density gradients. Surrounding it is a bayonet mount for the supplied HB-23 petal-type hood, which seems to be based on the Nikon one with the same designation, and can be reversed for storage. Our sample didn’t click into position very positively, though, which means it can easily be knocked out of alignment, and with a full-frame camera this will often result in unwanted vignetting.