Laowa 10mm f/2 Firmware Fault

Variable

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This thread is to document firmware trouble and manufacturer response for the Laowa 10mm f/2 C&D Dreamer Zero-D lens. Hopefully firmware issues with this lens are uncommon. However, it is a new release, so this may be an emergent issue, and Laowa's response may change.

Fault:

Mounted on my GX85 with latest firmware, it creates jpeg and raw images with strong pincushion distortion.

Sample:

In my case I received a brand-new sample, shipped from B&H, serial number 003737.

Other Known Instances of Firmware Problems:

The subject of this issue, and other firmware issues have come up in at least 3 youtube reviews.
  • Michael Widell had the same pincushion issue on his sample in fall of 2020, mounted on G9, GM3, and GM1. This is shown at 1:12 of his review. That unit SN was 000008.
  • Peter Forsgard mentions overexposure trouble with the EM1 MKII and EM1 MKIII, at 7:10 of his review, published December 2020.
  • アルハス乗りのM noticed the pincushion issue in his review at 11:36, published Feb 2021.
Another product review by Jan on B&H indicates full nonfunction of the lens of 3 samples mounted a BGH1 and BMP4K, published late April 2021.

Manufacturer Response:

Team Laowa customer support requested purchase receipt, order number, and serial number, after I sent demo images.

Laowa Support's first response was to tell me to ship the lens to a 3rd party repair facility in another country for determination of defect, and firmware update. There was no indication of this being a known issue, or of any regret on Team Laowa's part. The repair facility mentioned by Laowa in the U.S. is C.R.I.S. Camera Service in Chandler, AZ.

Several days later, I received a reply from Laowa Support that acknowledged the fault as impacting some GX85 and G9 bodies, and agreed to my adamant request for a direct-ship replacement. See my May 12 post below for details.

Apparently there is no user-side firmware update for this lens, as is common in OEM manufacturer lenses.

My Response:

I chose not to exchange the lens with B&H because it seemed likely that a replacement lens from B&H stock would have the same issue. Also, the above-mentioned other instances suggested that there were firmware issues with the lens in early production units, that had not been corrected in the lot sent to B&H.

I declined to ship the lens to the U.S. for repair because there was no indication from Laowa that any international transit costs would be covered. Also, the repair had no timeline given, so I could not expect to have a working lens in a reasonable amount of time.

Laowa's agreement to my request for a direct replacement, shipped to me at no additional cost, arrived after I shipped the lens back to B&H for return.

I hope this thread helps others who find themselves in a similar position, and encourages Laowa to perform firmware development before general release of product.

Your Fault / Good Reports:

This thread will be effective for people who need it when it is filled with useful data from users who have the lens in hand, or are dealing directly with Laowa Support.

To include your information here, please post:
  • The Make and Model of camera body used with the lens
  • Camera Body Firmware revision if you can find it
  • A sample image demonstrating the fault or good operation
  • Lens serial number
  • Lens firmware version, as shown from camera display, or from image EXIF data.
  • Which lens did you have mounted before your sample image?
  • Test - does the fault change if you swap to a different system lens than the one you had mounted before the Laowa 10mm?
 

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RichardC

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If you bought the lens from B&H, surely your contract is with B&H?

You are 'assuming' that every single B&H lens has the same defect.

Would it not make more sense to give B&H the opportunity to test their own stock and resolve the matter for you? They are the organisation who has a longstanding relationship with Laowa.

EDIT: As this is a non Olympus/Panasonic lens, is there any in camera correction at all?
 
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Variable

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B&H seller policy is valid 30 days from receipt of the item; Laowa warranty against defects starts on purchase date. In the first 30 days, either party has standing to resolve the issue.

B&H only offered exchange or return to resolve the matter. Laowa only offered an address where to ship the item.

My choice to return was informed. Based on my experience that device firmware issues usually plague batches of a production run, and can be difficult to correct, I elected to return the lens. As you can see from the Other Known Instances section, there is published, public evidence that firmware issues started early in production, and have impacted at least one other B&H customer recently. With that information, and a defective lens in hand, I have enough information to know that the risk of firmware issues from current B&H stock is above zero. That said, from other, positive reviews and sample photos, it's clear that the firmware issues don't impact every purchaser for some reason.

Again, I made this thread to document a fault with a new-release product, and how the fault gets managed by the manufacturer. It is my sincere hope that this thread gets very few contributions, except by those with a direct stake in the matter. May they be far and few between.
 

ibd

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It would be great to know if this is an issue of specific lens-camera communications, or an issue of the lens alone!
In other words, do you have other cameras where you tested this lens -- if yes, did the distortion not appear on these other cameras?

Even though m4/3 is a standard open to many companies, problems might arise from the interplay of each company's implementation of the standard.
 

Dogbert62

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Just did a brick wall test with my M5.3.. no pincushioning at 10ft seen in the raw file.. Tested it against my other UWA lenses a while back and didn’t have any exposure issues..

Lens FW is 0.5 as reported by the camera

Dogbert62
 

Variable

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@Dogbert thanks for testing and reporting firmware version.

Firmware version from my lens was 0.0.4.0, which I added to my original post.
 

speedy

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Mine does the over exposure in aperture mode on my G9. At f/2 it's spot on, as you stop down it gradually over exposes more & more, up to about a stop. In manual mode, it's spot on. I shoot it in manual mode, so doesn't concern me. It's a manual lens after all :) Ripper little lens, I'd be happy if all the electronic contacts did was record EXIF to the raw file.
 

speedy

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I don't see how this could be a "firmware issue."

As far as I know, the Laowa 10/2 has no firmware that can impact the image. It simply identifies itself in EXIF data, and allows the camera to control the aperture setting.
I'm thinking the same. It's a Zero D lens too. Perhaps it's the raw converter throwing a wobbly?
 

PakkyT

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Mine does the over exposure in aperture mode on my G9. At f/2 it's spot on, as you stop down it gradually over exposes more & more, up to about a stop. In manual mode, it's spot on.
That is very odd. Almost like in auto mode the aperture doesn't close down to the proper physical diameter or the auto aperture is slow to close and doesn't quite get all the way there before the camera fires the shot?
 

Variable

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@ Speedy, thank you for posting your experience with the overexposure fault on the G9.

Here are some more actual facts, that confirm manufacturer knowledge of the distortion fault as a firmware issue.

On May 11, Laowa Support replied to my earlier email, and acknowledged the fault on some G9 and GX85 bodies. Based on their earlier reply to ship the lens to the U.S. for updating, I have already returned the lens to B&H, so I can't take them up on the offer of a direct-shipped replacement lens with updated firmware. It appears that this would be an exceptional offer from Laowa, instead of being a default response to a known issue. I urged Laowa to change that policy for everyone's benefit.

"Dear X,

I totally understand the frustration and apologise for the inconvenience caused you. The distortion is caused by the machine saved the distortion correction from the previous lens. The distortion amount depends on the lens profile last used. This only happens in some of the G9 or GX85 machines. We discussed the case with M43 Union and create a new update firmware specific for these cases by forcing the camera clean out distortion record on these machines. Please do understand that the lens is not in defective condition but I talked to my supervisor and we do want you to be happy with the product so we could cover the cost shipping the lens back to Hong Kong and we can replace the lens for you.

May I have your address and telephone number for the return shipment?

Once again, please accept our sincere apology for any inconvenience.

Warm Regards,

Laowa Team"

For the record, I have never had a similar fault on my GX85, when changing between a variety of lenses. So in my experience this issue is isolated to the Laowa 10mm f/2 for MFT.
 

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PakkyT

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Please do understand that the lens is not in defective condition

Hilarious. They first admit to a manufacturing error were the distortion correct measured off a previous lens was incorrectly loaded into the next lens. Basically by definition this is a defective condition caused by an error in the manufacturing process.
 

WhidbeyLVR

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Hilarious. They first admit to a manufacturing error were the distortion correct measured off a previous lens was incorrectly loaded into the next lens. Basically by definition this is a defective condition caused by an error in the manufacturing process.
Interesting. I interpreted it slightly differently. I thought they were saying that the firmware (lens or camera? not sure) didn't enable initialization of the lens distortion data (probably zero, since it is a zero-D lens) in the camera, so the camera continued to use whatever distortion value remained in memory from the previous electronically enabled lens. I.e, it's a software initialization (design) bug rather than a true manufacturing error.
 
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… acknowledged the fault on some G9 and GX85 bodies

"Dear X,

… The distortion is caused by the machine saved the distortion correction from the previous lens. The distortion amount depends on the lens profile last used. This only happens in some of the G9 or GX85 machines.
Now this really sounds like a bug in the G9/85 firmware, not the lens firmware!

The camera knows when a lens is changed. Every time a lens is changed, the camera should flush its caches of lens information. It is not the responsibility of the lens to make sure the camera does so!

Moreover, the lens absolutely does not know it is being changed until it is too late to do anything about it, even if it could. As the lens is being removed, the contacts are scrambled, and the lens has no reliable way of communicating anything to the camera. The last thing the lens knows is probably, "Oh no, my power is… @#$%^&*" and then it is dead to the world.

On my OM-D E-M1 Mark II, I use mostly legacy glass, including some with the Pelang chip. I have never had a problem with the camera "remembering" the last installed lens profile!

I don't see their letter as admission that their lens is bad. Rather, I see a combination of politeness and English as a second language leading you to believe that their lens is causing the problem.

I think you need to start complaining to Panasonic.
 

WhidbeyLVR

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Now this really sounds like a bug in the G9/85 firmware, not the lens firmware!

The camera knows when a lens is changed. Every time a lens is changed, the camera should flush its caches of lens information. It is not the responsibility of the lens to make sure the camera does so!

Moreover, the lens absolutely does not know it is being changed until it is too late to do anything about it, even if it could. As the lens is being removed, the contacts are scrambled, and the lens has no reliable way of communicating anything to the camera. The last thing the lens knows is probably, "Oh no, my power is… @#$%^&*" and then it is dead to the world.

On my OM-D E-M1 Mark II, I use mostly legacy glass, including some with the Pelang chip. I have never had a problem with the camera "remembering" the last installed lens profile!

I don't see their letter as admission that their lens is bad. Rather, I see a combination of politeness and English as a second language leading you to believe that their lens is causing the problem.

I think you need to start complaining to Panasonic.
Maybe. I assume that when an electronic lens is mounted and comes on line, there is handshake between the body and lens to exchange lens ID and info. Who is responsible for what during that process must be covered by the M43 spec, and maybe the lens is required to provide the distortion value, even if it is zero. I imagine that is what their fix involves. Still, what you suggested (zeroing it out) would seem to be good engineering practice for the camera body.

What I don't understand is how any of this would affect a raw file (as mentioned in the original post), except as an errant data value in the lens info field. The actual photosites obviously aren't getting pincushion-warped photons, so if you disable distortion correction in your raw processor, you should get the proper undistorted picture out.
 

Variable

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Report from youtuber Michael Widell is that his sample had the fault on GM1 and GM3 bodies also.

This information that the extent of the fault depends on the cached lens profile value would explain how some users may not see this fault immediately. If the cached profile value calls for little or no correction, then its impact would be minimal. In my case, the previously mounted lens was the Lumix 14-140mm II, so the cached lens correction was probably strong.

The fact is, a new lens arrived, and gave distorted output on a system-compliant camera that has been on the market for years. Call that what you want, the manufacturer bears responsibility for function of its product. A system lens should work on all bodies without fault.

I applaud Laowa for acknowledging the distortion issue, but not for how it defers responsibility it. There is no shortage of M43 bodies on which to perform qualification testing. And we know from Michael Widell that the issue was discovered several months ago, not after my report. Now there are lenses out in the wild with outdated firmware, that will fault on certain bodies. Now is time for Laowa to get in front of this issue, and make public how it will address that particular fault going forward.

In case it's not obvious, my personal stake in this is to accelerate the painful development and deployment of good firmware, so I can enjoy this lens for myself in the future, on any M43 camera I choose. Images from this lens - when operating correctly - can be stunning. Its price, focal length, close focus capability, light-gathering, and its tiny size are unmatched.
 

SyZyGy

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Following this thread, since this lens is exactly what I've been considering on a GX85.

1.) Could this be outside of firmware - an actual physical issue, electronic connection or otherwise - that cannot be corrected?
2.) If this is "the extent of the fault depends on the cached lens profile value" can one at least temporarily jury-rig a solution by attaching/using a known "low correction" lens/FL, and then switch over to the Laowa?
2.)b) Can you attach/shoot with a completely non-electrical connected lens, like an old adapted lens (or perhaps menu option "shoot without lens,") and then try the 10mm?

Just spitballing, since I can't test this myself. Might help pinpoint the problem, and/or give a wonky temporary workaround
 

Variable

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@SyZyGy Those are good suggestions for a workaround. My shoot without lens setting was 60mm at the time. That value should not come into play, since the lens does announce itself to the camera. Manual lenses don't get a lens profile applied, so I kinda doubt that mounting one would clear the cached value.

YMMV, right? Laowa Support did say the problem only affects "some" GX85s. Right now, in this thread, it only affected one GX85.

If there were a workaround, it would be a good thing for Laowa to describe, at least as a temporary fix. I think the only real workaround for now is to buy the 7.5mm or 9mm lens instead, or wait.
 

ibd

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No matter if the fault is in the lens or in the camera, Laowa demonstrated good customer service here, IMHO. There's not much more they can do than offer a lens update that works around the idiosyncrasies of the cameras, with all costs covered.
 
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