Last Updated on 04/20/2023 by Chris Gampat
There aren’t many modern Fujifilm lenses that really bring me a lot of joy to use. And that’s not to say that they’re bad, but they’re big deviations away from what we’ve known Fujifilm for for years. Many of the new optics just don’t feel retro enough. However, the Laowa 25mm f0.95 CF APO not only feels retro, but nails it on image quality. And if anything, I think it could be the best lens for Street Photography available to the Fujifilm X mount.
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The Big Picture
There are a lot of wonderful things going for the Laowa 25mm f0.95 CF APO. First off, there’s the super shallow depth of field ability. And when you want to use it for street photography, you just stop it down to f5.6, focus it to five or six feet away, and then zone focus all you want. Couple all this with metal build quality, small size, and affordable pricing. Then also consider the fact that this lens has an apochromatic lens element inside to make your subjects pop even more.
Of course, while that’s also positively phenomenal, it’s not all perfect. The lens doesn’t have AF/AE contacts, and so the exposure won’t be communicated to the camera. That makes using it with a flash much harder if you’re shooting TTL. And more importantly, it’s not weather resistant, and so the build quality that your otherwise weather-resistant Fujifilm camera has is more or less voided.
We’re giving the Laowa 25mm f0.95 CF APO four out of five stars. It’s about time that Laowa really starts adding weather resistance to their lenses. Want one? They’re $549 on Laowa’s website. Phoblographer subscribers get a special discount as a membership benefit.
- Nice focus throw
- Beautiful optics
- Lens character that’s gorgeous
- Zone focusing scale that’s incredible for street photography
- Apochromatic elements make subjects pop from the background
- Not weather resistant
- Depth of field scale goes from zero to 60 pretty fast
- No AE/AF focusing contacts
We tested the Laowa 25mm f0.95 CF APO with the Fujifilm X Pro 3, the Tiffen Color Intensifier filter, and Profoto B10. The lens was on loan from Laowa, and the rest of the gear is ours.
Where the Laowa 25mm f0.95 CF APO is really innovative comes with it having a few things: first off, there is a quick and easy option to set the lens to have a clicked or de-clicked aperture. Additionally, there is an apochromatic lens element, that really makes subjects that are in focus pop. This is something that only Leica ever uses in their modern lenses, though Sigma has used it in at least one of their lenses. And, of course, this is an f0.95 lens for Fujifilm. While it’s not super rare, it’s very uncommon.
The Laowa 25mm f0.95 CF APO looks a lot like the company’s other Argus lenses; which seem to be the highest end options for them. If you look at it directly from above, it will appear like most other manual focus lenses with zone focusing markers, a depth of field scale, apertures, distances, etc.
The lens hood attaches to the front of the lens and doesn’t allow you to use a lens filter at the same time. That’s an odd part of the design.
On the bottom is a switch that transforms the aperture from clicked to de-clicked easily.
While this lens isn’t weather resistant, it’s made of metal. And when mated to Fujifilm cameras, it feels right at home. The lack of weather resistance is consistently my biggest problem with Venus Optic lenses. I really wish that it had it to ensure that I can shoot with these lenses all day and every day. In fact, I’d use these over Fujifilm’s own lenses.
Ease of Use
This is a manual focus lens. So you can either use focus peaking combined with the power of fervent prayer, zone focusing, or you can use magnification with Fujifilm cameras. Either way, it’s a bit difficult to use when shooting wide open. But if you’re stopping down and doing zone focusing, this is by far one of the best lenses you can and will ever use for street photography with Fujifilm.
Honestly, in the hands of a skilled photographer, this lens will be faster to capture moments than Fujifilm’s own lenses.
Like all other Laowa lenses, this is a manual focusing lens. And if you don’t like that, then consider Fujifilm’s own lenses. Otherwise, you’ll realize pretty quickly that the zone focusing abilities of this lens make it really useful for street photography and candid shooting.
Because of the design being a wide-angle lens, the focus goes from zero to infinity really fast. At around 5 feet away, the lens will really become its most useful. But if you want to zone focus anything a bit further than that, you’ll have a heck of a time.
What’s more, if you’re photographing people and shooting wide open, you really need to be super careful. The focus peaking might tell you that you’re in focus, but many times you really won’t be. It’s one of the most annoying things about this lens and you’re buying it partially for the f0.95 aperture, but it ends up not being very useful at that f-stop.
There is a lot to love about the image quality of the Laowa 25mm f0.95 CF APO. Of course, photographers will want to shoot wide open with it a lot. But when you’re stopping it down, it will probably perform best, not only in terms of ease of use but also image quality. Combined with Fujifilm’s film simulations, it’s really difficult to take a bad photo with the Laowa 25mm f0.95 CF APO.
I mean, look at that! Wow! The bokeh is creamy, flarey, there’s character galore, the apochromatic lens element really makes the subject stand out. You can’t say anything bad about the bokeh.
The Laowa’s color rendition also comes from Fujifilm’s sensor. I used the Classic Chrome and Classic Negative film simulations a lot. And they performed exactly how I’d expect when underexposed, overexposed, etc. They’re beautiful.
The Laowa 25mm f0.95 CF APO doesn’t exhibit problems with fringing, but you’ll get a bit of swirly bokeh when you’re shooting wide open. For what it’s worth, I’m not opposed to that.
Stopping the lens down to f4 and f5.6 makes it feel a lot more serious. Combine that with off-camera flash and you’ll be very happy with the results you get.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Who Should Buy the Laowa 25mm f0.95 CF APO?
Truly, the only people I think will benefit most from using the Laowa 25mm f0.95 CF APO are street photographers. But keep in mind that the build quality isn’t weather-resistant.
Taken from Laowa’s website.
|Angle of View||58.8°|
|Lens Structure||14 elements in 9 groups|
|Min. Shooting Distance||34cm|
|Dimensions||About Ø 71.5mm * 81mm|
|Mounts||Sony E/ Nikon Z/ Canon RF/ Fuji X/ Canon EF-M|