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Laowa 17mm Ultra-Wide Lens Arriving For Fuji GFX Medium Format | Why This is A Big Deal

By Matthew Saville on August 9th 2019

Laowa has announced their 17mm f/4 Zero-D Ultra-wide lens, and before you see the numbers “17mm f/4” and think, “so what?” …here’s the kicker: It’s for Fuji’s GFX medium format system. So that seemingly common, modest focal length and aperture is actually equivalent to a full-frame 13.5mm f/3.5 lens.

This is, in fact, the widest lens available for the format, and one of the widest-angle lenses of any medium format system, if not the widest.

How many of you have thought of checking out a Fuji GFX, but decided against it for one reason or another, such as budget?

Oh, by the way, the Laowa is only $1199.

Laowa 17mm f/4 Zero-D Specifications

Focal Length & Angle of View: 17mm (13.5mm) 113 deg.
Aperture: f/4-32
Size: 88x124mm
Weight: 829g
Filter Threads: 86mm
Focusing: Manual Focus, long throw, hyperfocal markings
Close Focusing: 20cm, 0.27x magnification
Optical Construction: 21 elements in 14 groups, 3 ED, 2 Asph.)
Mechanical Construction: Metal
Stabilization: No
Price & Availability: Pre-order, $1,199

Official Laowa 17mm f/4 Zero-D (GFX) Press Release

Aug 1, 2019 – LAOWA, the camera lens manufacturer that specializes in making unique and innovative camera lenses, has introduced the world’s widest full- frame rectilinear lens for the Fujifilm GFX medium format camera system – the LAOWA 17mm f/4 Ultra-wide GFX Zero-D lens.

The LAOWA 17mm f/4 Ultra-wide GFX Zero-D lens is a 13.5mm equivalent (in 35mm format) ultra-wide angle prime lens specially designed for the Fujifilm GFX camera system. The 113°ultra-wide perspective makes it an ideal lens for landscape and architectural photography.

Comprised of 21 elements (including 3 extra low dispersion and 2 aspheric lens elements) in 14 groups, the new 17mm lens is the 4th member of the LAOWA “Zero-D” product line-up, which exhibits close-to-zero optical distortion. This particular feature is extremely useful for architectural and interior photographers since all the straight lines (especially important at the edges of the frame) can now be retained.

Similar to other LAOWA wide angle lenses, the new 17mm f/4 has impressive close-focusing capabilities and can focus only 7.9”/20cm from the sensor! This allows photographers to get extremely close to the subject while still being able to include the background information in the scene.

Despite the extreme specifications, LAOWA has managed to compress the size of the LAOWA 17mm f/4 Zero-D to the smallest in its class, measuring approximately 4.9 inches (12.5cm) long and weighing only 1.8 lbs (829g) with a diameter of 3.5 inches (8.8cm). The lens also features a 5-blade aperture system to create a pleasing 10-point sunstar rendering.

Filters are essential for landscape photography, but, most ultra-wide angle lenses in the market have a bulging front lens element, making it impossible to install screw-on filters. The LAOWA 17mm f/4 lens is designed with an 86mm filter thread for quick attachment of filters for maximum control and creativity under a wide range of lighting conditions. Photographers can also choose to purchase the optional magnetic filter holder for use with 100mm x 150mm glass filters (No vignetting is seen even when stacking 2 filters!).

[Related Reading: Unorthodox Review Of The Fuji GFX 50R | The Medium Format Camera I Might Actually Buy]

Matthew’s Initial Thoughts About This Unique Lens

Okay, first of all, that last part… Filter threads on an (equivalent) 13.5mm lens! Sure, they’re 86mm filters, but at least you won’t have to buy anything more than one simple adapter if you already own a 100mm filter system.

This is just a minor demonstration of why the Fuji GFX medium format digital system should be considered a powerful landscape photography camera. Above all else, the photographers who might be stacking two filters (say, a GND and a dark ND) are definitely shooting landscapes and architecture.

Oh, and speaking of “minor” reasons why this lens could be awesome for landscapes (and cityscapes), note those gorgeous sunstars! Most lenses that are optimized for portraits and bokeh have terribly dull sunstars; the sample images from the Laowa 17mm look pin-sharp, and personally, I prefer fewer sunstar points, in which case this lens is a real winner with just eight. (Did I count them right?)

It Goes To Eleven Thirteen-point-five

Still, the most incredible thing about the lens is its focal length, plain and simple. Most photographers who see medium format digital as an ultimate solution don’t realize that the lens selection is not only limited in overall options, it’s also quite limited in actual focal lengths, too. While full-frame cameras have innumerable ultra-wide primes and zooms that go to 14mm, and many that go even wider, there are extremely few options on medium format that go any wider than about 20mm. For that reason, this is definitely unprecedented and exciting for anyone who is considering medium format.

That Price Is So Right…

Having said that, what’s almost more incredible is the attainable price of this unique lens- it’s going to be just $1200. This defeats a second obstacle that prohibits many photographers from even considering medium format- that is, budget.

The Fuji GFX 50S was already a decently affordable camera at “just” $5,500, (compared to yesteryear’s $30,000 price tags of medium format digital, that is!) …and now we have the shockingly affordable Fuji GFX 50R that comes in at just $3,999 if you get the $500 savings that is going on right now.

Bottom line: landscape/architecture photographers, if you’re not drooling yet, you should get your salivary glands checked. Are you seriously considering GFX? Leave a comment below! Then go pre-order it here:

B&H ($1,199)

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Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

Follow his personal wilderness adventures: Astro-Landscapes.com

See some of his latest wedding photography featured on: LinandJirsa.com

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