Laowa 10mm f4 Cookie – The Modestly Priced Compact Ultra-wide lens

Usually, for the same focal length, there are basically 2 paths for making it. The first one is to make with better optic, faster, brighter and premium price tagged lens. The second one is to make a smaller, compact and wisely priced lens. And this Laowa 10mm f4 is the later one. Laowa Lenses (also known as Venus Optics) has been in this optic industry for almost 10 years. They have created many unique innovative lenses such as 24mm T14 2x PeriProbe, 4mm f2.8 fisheye and fast f0.95 Argus series of lenses. And this 10mm f4 is their newest creation.

Laowa 10mm f4 Cookie

I am glad that I have a few days of opportunity to try this lens before it was sent back to its headquarters in China.

On a side note: this lens comes with various mounts too (i.e. RF, Z, E and L mounts).

Laowa 10mm f4 Cookie

Design and Build Quality

The lens is compact, hence, the name “Cookie”. Probably Laowa is trying to come up with a new term rather than using “pancake”. Nonetheless, I can’t help to compare it with the XF27mm f2.8 WR and the overall size is somewhere close to each other. Laowa 10mm is about Ø59.8mm X 25mm while XF27mm is Ø62mm x 23mm. However, the weight of the Laowa 10mm is heavier (130 grams against 84 grams).

This 15mm (in full-frame equivalent) lens comes with solid and good-built quality. Everything in this lens body makes of metal, including the rear bayonet. This Ø37mm filter threaded lens comes with a clickable aperture ring and a smooth focus ring. Anyway, it does not come with a lens hood.

The lens cap is of the traditional “squeeze to release” type. Nothing special to shout about. Not forgetting that this lens comes in 2 colours, black and silver.

Image Quality

This cookie lens offers an impressive 109.3° angle of view. But I have to say that it is not the best image quality I have ever seen. I mean when I first know of this product and its price tag, I set my expectation lower

Fuji X-E4 . Laowa 10mm f4 @ 10mm . f4 . 1/80″ . ISO 1600 . Classic Negative

At wide open, you will be greeted by a very heavy vignetting result. You can correct it in post-edit or set it to a lower aperture like f5.6 or f8. Also, I felt that the image is better and sharper if you step down the aperture to f5.6 or f8. At f4, the image seems to be softer and with less contrast.

Distortion is also noticeable at the corners and this is an expected result for such an ultra-wide angle. Hence, I can only suggest you take note of the distortion unless it is intended that way.

Fuji X-E4 . Laowa 10mm f4 @ 10mm . f4 . 1/52″ . ISO 3200 . Classic Negative
Fuji X-E3 . Laowa 10mm f4 @ 10mm . f8 . 1/200″ . ISO 400 . Classic Chrome

The flare is totally noticeable if you shoot directly toward the sun’s direction. That said, the sunny star is sharp at f22.

Fuji X-T3 . Laowa 10mm f4 @ 10mm . f22 . 1/1800″ . ISO 320 . Classic Chrome

Minimum Focus Distance

Another remarkable thing about this lens is its minimum focus distance, 10cm. Basically, I am shooting very close to the subject and the shadow of the lens is probably in the photo as well (if you shoot facing downward).

Fuji X-T3 . Laowa 10mm f4 @ 10mm . f4 . 1/680″ . ISO 320 . Classic Chrome

Something to take note of

This lens is a manual lens. That said, it does not come with any electronic contact and hence no aperture data is recorded in the EXIF.

If you shoot at infinity, the result is actually not sharp at the infinity marking. You have to rotate the focus zoom slightly backwards to get the right infinity shot. I can’t tell you how exactly backwards it is as I am afraid that the lens I am tested with may have a different “right” infinity spot than the copy you have. But you can also explore it yourself and you will get it.

Another thing to note is the thin focus ring and aperture ring. I have a pair of huge hands and fingers which is a little challenging for me to rotate the rings. My personal uneducated guess is that to achieve a compact size, making the width of both rings thinner might be a decision made by the company.

Who is this for?

A new photographer who does not wish to spend a fortune and does not mind having a manual lens to have an ultra-wide angle shooting experience.

Conclusion

During my test, I do miss quite a fair bit of shots and it is likely due to my incapability to nail the focus well. Nevertheless, I have mixed feelings about this lens. The photos sometimes turn out to be better than I have expected but sometimes it turns out to be soft.

At f4, it is not the brightest ultra-wide lens I have ever used and it is obviously meant for outdoor day use, such as architecture, landscape, creativity, abstract, and maybe a little bit of street. You can do some indoor/night shots if there is sufficient strong light to accompany you.

This cookie lens has a few competitors (Rokinon 10mm f2.8 and Samyang 12mm f2.0) in this price bucket. If you like something compact and do not mind the slower aperture, then this should be your choice. Because none of them beat the compactness of this cookie lens. Alternatively, Laowa also offers a more premium ultra-wide lens, Laowa 9mm f2.8, with USD 200 more.

Thank you for reading.

Disclaimer:
1. The lens is from Laowa Optic and I have returned it by the time this article is available online.
2. Most of the shots are straight out of the camera with some shots edited via In-Camera Raw Processing
.
3. The opinions are based on my experience. If there is any mistake, please kindly drop me a message and I will gladly make the amendment.
4. All the shots taken here are shot by me. I reserve ownership of these images, if you wish to use my images, please notify me.

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