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Chinese optics company’s 12mm f/2.8 wide-angle lens has almost no distortion

Photographers who love shooting wide-angle lenses may soon have a new must-have piece of glass to add to their bag. China-based Venus Optics has announced a new 12mm f/2.8 lens under its Laowa brand, which the company claims is the widest f/2.8 rectilinear lens ever made for full-frame cameras.

Being rectilinear means the lens is corrected to render straight lines as straight lines, which is just a fancy way of saying it’s not a fisheye. This is an impressive feat for any lens at such a short focal length, but the relatively large, f/2.8 aperture likely increased an already significant engineering challenge. Despite this, the manufacturer claims nearly perfect correction with almost no distortion. In honor of this achievement, the full name of the lens is the Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D.

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The lens will be launching via Kickstarter on Saturday, July 30, but Venus Optics posted a Facebook event ahead of the launch that reveals some details, including the lens’ specifications, optical design, and MTF performance chart. It will be available natively in mounts for Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Pentax cameras, but should be easily adaptable to others as it is a manual-focus lens.

Beyond that, the company also provided photographer/blogger Nicky Bay with a sample of the lens to test (see the above video). Bay revealed more details about the lens, including its price: $950, though it will be only $650 for limited early-bird Kickstarter pledges. In a side-by-side comparison posted on his Flickr profile, the Laowa lens clearly demonstrates superior sharpness to the Sigma 12-24mm zoom (one of the few other full-frame lenses that gets as wide as 12mm).

The 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D will join Venus Optics’ existing line of equally intriguing lenses, including a 60mm super-macro with 2:1 magnification, a 15mm wide angle macro, and a 105mm f/2.8 portrait lens with an apodization filter for super-smooth bokeh. Tune in to the company’s Kickstarter profile on July 30 for more information.