Some of the most interesting gear launched in the last year or so seems to have come manufacturers based in the East. Laowa (also known as Venus Optics) is one such company doing interesting things in the world of optics, especially for photographers/videographers who may be looking for complementary kit at a more, shall we say, palatable price.
One such product is the Laowa 7.5mm f/2 C-Dreamer lens, currently marketed as 'the widest rectilinear f/2 lens in the market for MFT cameras'. In full frame terms, this lens has the equivalent focal length of 15mm and 12cm close-focusing distance which means you can get really up close and personal.
Build quality of this little lens is spectacular. Fully metal built, with enough of a weight to make it feel good in the hand with you're using it, especially when paired with something like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 or the Pen-F bodies*. Both the aperture ring and the focusing ring are really nice to use although having said that, the focusing ring has a higher resistance compared to other lenses - this allows for a more purposeful manual focus.
*Laowa also offers a 'lite' version of this lens because there is also the option to attach the lighter version on a drone (DJI Inspire).
Image quality is also pretty impressive. Along with being Ultra Wide, this lens is also Ultra Sharp - particularly when shooting at f/5.6 & f/8 and in terms of flare resistance, the 7.5mm was very well-corrected with hardly any flare at all. There is a little bit of vignetting, especially when shooting wide open at f/2. It's very subjective, but we think a bit of vignetting does add character to the images to make it a bit more interesting.
Overall though, the Laowa 7.5mm is a very impressive lens, and actually pretty well suited when it comes to vlogging or taking selfies because of the 110 degree angle of view.
If you're not used to manual focusing, it can take a little while to get used to the mechanics of it all. Most modern photographers are used to the auto-focusing features of the modern camera, however, there is something to be said about using manual lenses. Aperture and focus dialling is all manual, which makes you think before you shoot. Once you get the hang of it, however, it becomes second nature.
A manual focusing lens like the Laowa 7.5mm also means that there is no electronic contact between the lens mount and camera body, which means that if you're using a camera like the Olympus OM-D series and you want to take advantage of the image stabilisation feature, you have to manually adjust the focal length on the IBIS setting in the menu. This doesn't really affect much in terms of stills but if you're shooting video, just be aware of that extra step to prevent the weird jelly-wobble on the edges of your footage.
One thing that we want to point out is that, obviously with a manual focus lens, there is a bit of a downside when it comes to focusing on a moving subject, especially if you're a vlogger who likes walking back and forth in front of the camera. Stating the obvious, this lens is not capable of tracking your subject, so if that's what you're looking for, our advice is to pick another lens. This particular lens is geared towards landscape photography and astrophotography, where there is very little movement in front of the camera and which heavily relies on manual focus to make sure the image is pin-sharp.