Review The Laowa 7.5 as an Astro lens

travelbug

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I posted something similar in the Astro forum and I thought it would be a good idea to share the information here also. As a short background, Im almost exclusively a landscape shooter with a few travel and minimalist photos in between. I shoot with an Olympus EM5ii.

I have used the Oly 12-40 and the Samyang 12/2 for astro, I was happy with my results with the Samyang but not really with the Oly. But last year, I was able to get Laowa from our local distributor and sold the Samyang.

The added shutter length and rectilinear wide angle view really makes a difference with the Laowa. I really wasnt able to compare them side by side, but from memory I think the Laowa is just a better lens IQ wise than the Samyang - and the Samyang was already very good! The Laowa produced colors more to my liking, seemed sharper even on minor magnification, it performed better at smaller apertures, and seemed to appear brighter overall at equivalent f stops. When I needed to shoot at iso 1600 with the Samyang (wide open, ss 22 secs w/minimal to no trails), I could go down to even iso800 with the Laowa(wide open, 30 secs). But I would normally shoot at iso1250 for that added light. To me, shooting below iso1600 in the Oly em5ii is key to getting a good astro image that will hold up to some post processing, and the Laowa allows me to do just that. If one considers how small the lens is also, then it actually becomes an ideal solution for mft astro, imo of course.

I've never shot with any fullframe photographer who has brought a prime specific for astro; but I have shot with crop sensor shooter who do (usually the Samyang again). It's just too bulky to bring an astro prime, a landscape uwa zoom, a normal zoom, and a tele zoom. But our system gives us that versatility. Mobility is usually the first thing that comes to mind when people talk about mft. But to me its lens versatility. I pack a full frame equivalent of 15-600mm plus my filters, extension tubes, accessories and personal items in my small Lowepro 250aw slingshot. In my book, that's a versatility that no ff sensor can compensate for. And thus, the Laowa never, ever leaves my bag.

Below are single shot, unstacked, non composited images using the Laowa. If you ever think of taking up night photography, try one. I think youll end up buying it :)
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travelbug

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I forgot to mention one caveat of the lens, it can flare pretty 'badly' but it has never bothered me as I can recompose or incorporate the flare into the image like this:
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travelbug

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Th second shot has really good Milky Way detail and fairly well managed noise - impressive!
Thanks, that image is the standard Milky Way shot with this lens, taken during the dark, clear skies of 4am. The others were taken in more challenging conditions - in conditions where most people or apps would say it would be impossible to shoot. The first one was taken under a 77% illuminated moon at 515am - in my area, considered a virtual impossibility to shoot at this time, let alone with the moon out. The fourth is taken at 520am just as dawn's early light is breaking - again an impossible/improbable shot even according to photopills. And the one with the flare is taken in a highly light polluted area - a popular beach resort, with a strong spotlight aimed directly at the lens.
I chose these images to since in the other thread, I was encouraging people to shoot in challenging/'impossible' conditions. But yeah, the normal image you will get with this lens will be similar to the 2nd image, for a milky shot.
 
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I got the iOptron "Star Tracker Pro", as well as a clear night sky filter. But I haven't had a clear night yet to really try it out. At $300 it was cheaper then a new single lens, and I figure it will boost the star shots of all my current lenses. I skipped some of the other options due to physical size, or the fact that they required a wifi phone app to operate.

The Star Tracker Pro is compact, but still a bit larger than I expected. And quite heavy, it says the inside is all metal, the plastic is only a cover. I did set it up and do some very preliminary tests on the moon and a few bright star, and I was able to get 60 second exposures that were about the same amount of blur as a 15 second exposure. And that was without super-careful calibration.

However, I am still more interested in single-shot night images.
 

ToxicTabasco

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Nice review. I'm considering that one for the night sky time lapse. That wide angle will cover a lot of area. The huge lens flare looks like a jellyfish UFO more than a lens flare aberration and adds to the composition. Nevertheless, those are some nice Galaxy shots form down under I suspect. From the looks of the stars it must have been very dark night sky.

Do you know of any difference in the optic quality between the standard 7.5 and the light version for the drones? I'm looking at getting the light version and wondering if there is any significant differences other than the material and weight. And if the manual focus ring is smooth and accurate without any slop.
 

travelbug

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Nice review. I'm considering that one for the night sky time lapse. That wide angle will cover a lot of area. The huge lens flare looks like a jellyfish UFO more than a lens flare aberration and adds to the composition. Nevertheless, those are some nice Galaxy shots form down under I suspect. From the looks of the stars it must have been very dark night sky.

Do you know of any difference in the optic quality between the standard 7.5 and the light version for the drones? I'm looking at getting the light version and wondering if there is any significant differences other than the material and weight. And if the manual focus ring is smooth and accurate without any slop.
Thanks these were taken in the Philippines and all pictures were taken with some degree of light pollution. One of the reasons I shared those images was also to show that light pollution isn't a hindrance to Milky way photography as much as some believe it is. The first image for example was taken at 77% moon illumination,, the fourth at civil twilight and the last in a beach resort with a spotlight causing that flare. By normal conventions impossible shots but there you have them
During my research into the lenses I remember it being mentioned in the laowa website and in other online sources that the laowa 7.5s are the same optically except that the lighter version is not an all metal construction.
 

travelbug

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I got the iOptron "Star Tracker Pro", as well as a clear night sky filter. But I haven't had a clear night yet to really try it out. At $300 it was cheaper then a new single lens, and I figure it will boost the star shots of all my current lenses. I skipped some of the other options due to physical size, or the fact that they required a wifi phone app to operate.

The Star Tracker Pro is compact, but still a bit larger than I expected. And quite heavy, it says the inside is all metal, the plastic is only a cover. I did set it up and do some very preliminary tests on the moon and a few bright star, and I was able to get 60 second exposures that were about the same amount of blur as a 15 second exposure. And that was without super-careful calibration.

However, I am still more interested in single-shot night images.
congrats, I'm planning on getting a sky tracker myself but mostly for deep sky. Maybe a little Milky but I'm quite satisfied with my single shot Milky atm.
 

travelbug

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Aw man, you made that poor guy stand there with his arm outstretched for 25 whole seconds? :)
Great stuff! You make me want this lens. Other reviews said edges and corners weren't sharp, but yours look sharp.
That poor guy was me actually 😅. The camera was on timer so probably more than 25 secs 😁
 

Julia

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That poor guy was me actually 😅. The camera was on timer so probably more than 25 secs 😁
I was super impressed when I saw that shot! I tried something similar last year in the Dolomites and boy, I never knew how hard it was to stand still for any length of time! After about 10 minutes I gave up ... I am just not the type of person for that kind of photography 😂
 

ADemuth

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Where was that last photo taken? I'd swear it's Malakal Bay, except I don't know where you'd take that shot from. Nice work, BTW. I tried to get into astro, could never get decent enough compositions to justify the cost of glass that was wide and fast enough.
 

travelbug

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Where was that last photo taken? I'd swear it's Malakal Bay, except I don't know where you'd take that shot from. Nice work, BTW. I tried to get into astro, could never get decent enough compositions to justify the cost of glass that was wide and fast enough.
The last photo with the "bat signal" was taken in La Union, Philippines.
 

ADemuth

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That explains the landforms, and why it looks more developed - if one weren't intimately familiar with one or the other, quite a bit of the Philippine islands could pass as Palau, or vice versa. The night shots and the crop makes it hard to identify the minute differences.
 

Goseki

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I have a unique opportunity coming up during February. I get to spend the month on a Pacific Beach and am determined to get at least one decent Astro image. So I'll be starting around 30 seconds, iso 1000, but what aperture? Wide open? F/5.6?
I used this page the first time I tried
https://www.microfournerds.com/blog/2019/1/11/how-to-shoot-astrophotography-for-beginners

I would also recommend the Photopills app, to control where the moon or the stars that you are interested in photographing will be, in addition to several calculators for the exhibition, to leave traces of the stars, to keep the stars as points, RA,....
 

travelbug

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I actually only had a budget-priced tracking mount from Italy, plus a 500/5.6 mirror lens for a guide 'scope.
That explains the landforms, and why it looks more developed - if one weren't intimately familiar with one or the other, quite a bit of the Philippine islands could pass as Palau, or vice versa. The night shots and the crop makes it hard to identify the minute differences.
I was in Guam last year, and yeah I can see how that area can be easily mistaken for the Philippines, plus there are a number of Filipinos there too :)
 

travelbug

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I have a unique opportunity coming up during February. I get to spend the month on a Pacific Beach and am determined to get at least one decent Astro image. So I'll be starting around 30 seconds, iso 1000, but what aperture? Wide open? F/5.6?
For the Laowa, I start shooting at 25 secs, iso1000, widest aperture (f/2.0) and adjust depending on darkness and other factors.
You can shoot at higher iso's, but I find images at 1600 and beyond a little too noisy for my tastes with my em5ii. Also make sure your night reduction is set to 'auto' also.
But you can also go high iso (3200 and up) and stack images using a program like sequator. Takes much more effort shooting and in post processing but the results can be worth it.
 

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