The New Laowa 20mm f4 Zero-D Shift is Bound to Be Fun

Hopefully, photographers won’t need to do it in post-production anymore! We’re always looking for something new and fun here at the Phoblographer. And we’ve wondered for a while why more brands don’t do the tilt-shift style of lenses. There are, of course, Lensbaby’s options. But then there’s the new Laowa 20mm f4 Zero-D Shift. This continues with Venus Optics’ Laowa series of zero distortion and shift lenses. 

Tech Specs for the Laowa 20mm f4 Zero-D Shift

These specs are taken from the official press release.

Laowa 20mm f/4 Zero-D Shift
Focal length20mm
Aperture Rangef/4 – 22
Coverage of image circleØ 65mm
Angle of view94.4°
Lens structure16 elements in 11 groups
(2 aspherical elements and 3 ED elements)
Filter size82mm
Aperture blades14 blades
Maximum magnification0.17x
Min. Focusing Distance25cm
In-focus driving modeManual (MF)
DimensionsAbout Ø 95mm * 91mm
WeightAbout 747g
MountCanon EF & RF / Nikon F & Z / Sony E /
Pentax K / L mount / Fujifilm G

These are the things that we’ve come to expect from Venus Optics Laowa. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like the Laowa 20mm f4 Zero-D Shift will have AF focus communication to help with manual focus. Further, it also doesn’t seem to have weather resistance built-in. And yet, it’s going to cost $1,299. We understand the unique tilt-shift feature, but come on! 

We’re also not sure how we feel about it for the Pentax K mount, which is nearly dead as much as Canon EF and Nikon F.

How This is Guaranteed to be a Fun Lens

The Laowa 20mm f4 Zero-D Shift seems like it will be a very fascinating lens to have in your camera bag. Sure, a lot of modern lenses have little to no distortion. But perceptual distortion is undoubtedly still an issue. And that’s why tilt-shift lenses are usually so great. But from what the Laowa 20mm f4 Zero-D Shift press package shows us, you’ll be able to fix this problem pretty well. 

For those of you who don’t understand what I’m talking about, think about Adobe Upright. The upright tool more or less corrects these sorts of imperfections for you automatically. But with the Laowa 20mm f4 Zero-D Shift, you can do it in-camera. This is our favorite way of doing things. It’s not bad to slow down and get a better photo. Manual focus lenses themselves do that for photographers anyway. With this lens, you’re getting back to basics. You will be using a tripod, adjusting it slowly, figuring out your composition, framing the shot, adjusting the tilt, and then shooting. Depending on the surface you’re on, I hope your camera has image stabilization. We’ve tested lenses on surfaces we thought were solid until an 18-wheeler came by.

While zone focusing can indeed work with a lens like this, focus confirmation is still something that we’re sticking to here. Focus peaking and magnification aren’t all that accurate without lens communication. Further, there’s still the issue of weather resistance. We looked at many of the conditions that photographers shot in for the sample images. Many of these scenes are ones where we’d want sealing to protect the camera sensor. Still, though, Laowa continues to not give this to us.

Despite what we think might be initial flaws, we have to applaud the Laowa 20mm f4 Zero-D Shift for the innovation so far. And we’re looking forward to reviewing it when it comes in.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.