Episode 77: My review of the RF 50mm, Laowa 17mm GFX and RF 14mm from Rokinon

In this episode I give my reviews on three of the newest lenses I have bought in the last year and how they have been working for me.

In this week’s episode I wanted to talked about lenses, specifically some of the new lenses I have acquired over the last year. I have mentioned some of these lenses in previous episodes and said that I would talk more about them later and the time has come to do so this week, since I have had some time to work with them and form an opinion.

Now just to let you know this episode is NOT sponsored by any of these lens makers and I am giving my own personal views based on my usage. I am also going to include images taken with each lens that you can view in the show notes for this episode.

The first lens I want to talk about this week is Canon’s new RF 50mm F/1.2 L USM. This is the replacement via RF mount for Canon’s popular EF 50mm F/1.2 L USM, which I owned for several years. Now first of all, one of the things that surprised me was the fact that Canon released the EF lens in August of 2006 and with it now being 2020, that lens is 14 years old and has NEVER has an updated version released. No Mark 2 of these lens ever came out which is odd considering the general release a new version of most lenses and especially the L or “Luxury” line every few years with new glass elements and new technology to improve the image quality.

So in late 2018 Canon announces their first mirrorless full frame camera in the EOS R and one of the first lenses Canon releases alongside the body is the RF 50mm F/1.2 L USM. Now Canon came out with their first new mount for full frame since 1987 so of course they have research and development costs to re-coup, but I was still surprised to see that the RF 50mm is $2,299 US when the original EF model sells for around $1,299 US, especially when the RF 24-105mm F/4 L USM and their RF 35mm F/1.8 IS STM sell for the same price as their EF cousins.

Now the EF 50mm had it’s issues. It’s a good lens with a very wide aperture but it has issues with softness and Chromatic aberration issues as well, but these could be fixed using the remove Chromatic aberration tool and lens profile tools in Lightroom.

The thing that really surprised and delighted me when I bought the RF 50mm F/1.2 L USM is the fact that Canon made MAJOR improvements for this new L lens. The glass elements are 14 years more advanced with new coatings that weren’t around in 2006. Additionally, the RF model is much more contrasty and sharp at the wide open aperture of F/1.2 in comparison with little to no color fringing.

When comparing the two lenses side by side you see a HUGE difference. The EF 50mm is 86mm in diameter compared to the RF 50mm at 89.8mm and the EF model is 66mm long versus the RF’s massive 108mm in length. The RF model weighs in at 950 grams versus just 580 grams for the EF model. Both lenses have the Canon L quality build and weather sealing and although the RF is bigger and heavier, it also looks sexier with it’s more modern design.

The other nice improvement with the RF model is the fact that it doesn’t have “nervous” or messy bokeh at the edges and almost no color fringing compared to it’s EF cousin. Now don’t get me wrong, BOTH lenses make fantastic images and I have shot with and owned both models, but the improvements in the RF make it hands down the winner, especially if you need to shoot wide open. The following images in the show notes were captured with each 50mm lens.

The first image is a wide shot at ImagingUSA 2019 in Atlanta with the EF 50mm F/1.2 L USM and you can see the darkness and some color fringing even after the adjustments in Lightroom Classic. The second image is of my daughter and her boyfriend when they came down to visit Memorial Day weekend this year and you can see that the shot is much cleaner and brighter even though it was shot at F/8 and the one at ImagingUSA was shot at F/2.8.

Is the RF 50mm F/1.2 L USM for you? Well that will probably depend on your budget with it being around $1,000 US more expensive than the EF version, but if you are a working pro shooting with the EOS R and planning to get the R5 when it comes out, and you make your money shooting portraits with 50mm and a LOT of pros do, then you will most likely buy the RF model.

Moving on, the next lens I want to talk about is the Venus Optics Laowa 17mm F/4 Zero-D lens for the Fujifilm GFX mount. Venus Optics was the first third party lens maker to offer lenses for the Fuji Medium Format Mirrorless system’s GFX mount. This lens works with the GFX50S, the GFX50R, which I have and the 100MP GFX100.

As you already know I shoot a LOT of landscapes, especially with my Forgotten Pieces of Georgia project. For this project being that the images are being published as a series of books, I wanted the highest quality images I could make within my budget, so I went with the Fuji GFX50R. I get AMAZING images with this 50MP medium format mirrorless camera system and when I traded in my older DSLRs to get this system I had to settle for the 50mm Fujinon lens as part of the kit as the 23mm landscape lens was more than double the price of the 50mm. Now I was not happy about that because even though the Fujinon WR 50mm is 40mm full frame equivalent, it’s not wide enough to shoot really wide shots unless you are WAY back from what you are shooting.

So I started researching wide angle lenses for the GFX mount and I found a LOT of photographers were shooting with film medium format lenses adapted to their GFX cameras, but I didn’t want to go that route and low and behold I found out about the Venus Optics Laowa 17mm F/4 Zero-D in GFX mount. I read some articles on it, watched some reviews on Youtube and decided this might be my option to get ultra wide shots with my 50R.

The Laowa lens is NOT perfect, after all it’s not made by Fuji and it doesn’t have weather sealing, but is ALL metal construction so it’s extremely durable. It has issues with MAJOR lens flare if you are not careful when shooting on a bright day but most of it can be fixed in Photoshop fairly easily.

The lens itself is a beast of a lens at 88mm wide by 124.5mm long and with a weight of 829 grams, it’s not exactly a light lens either, but man the 17mm which is 13.5mm full frame equivalent, is so much wider than the Fujinon 23mm, which is 17mm full frame equivalent! With an angle of view of 113 degrees, this lens is awesome for my landscape work, especially for large abandoned buildings like the Villa Rica Hosiery company in Villa Rica, GA, which is a massively long building.

Because Laowa is a third party maker, they only make this lens in a Manual only model so no aperture data is passed to the camera body so you have to update the EXIF data yourself using a third party app, but man this lens when making sure you prevent lens flaring as much as possible makes superb images! I am extremely happy with this lens and I know it would be nice to have Fuji’s 23mm wide angle lens and I may buy it someday because the Fuji lens also has weather sealing, which would be handy since I am not afraid to shoot in rain.

But all in all the Laowa is a great lens and considerably more affordable than the Fujinon 23mm which costs $2,299 compared to the Laowa at $1,100 so the Laowa is more friendly to your wallet. The following are a couple of images I captured with the Laowa.

The third and final lens I want to talk about in today’s episode is the Rokinon MF 14mm F/2.8 for the RF mount. Now Rokinon or Samyang as they are sold under in other countries has been around for quite a while now and they make lenses for most of the cameras on the market today. Rokinon was the FIRST third party builder to make lenses with a native RF mount for the Canon EOS R and RP and the upcoming R5 and R6.

Rokinon came out with their 14mm lens first for the Canon RF mount and I snatched one up as at $399 it was a bargain and I was one of the first people to own this lens when it was released. Rokinon even reached out to me and asked me to do a review of the lens and share some of my photos, which they in turn shared to their Instagram account here.

The MF as you might suspect means that it is a Manual Focus only lens with no electronics, so like the Laowa it doesn’t pass any data to the camera body. This lens is Amazing and fully weather sealed and I can confirm that I have shot with this lens in HEAVY rain many times and the weather sealing is top notch. It is also 120.1mm long and weighs in at 800 grams so it’s not a light lens but it’s tough as nails with all metal construction and even has a built in petal shaped lens hood. Rokinon says it has the ability to attach gels to the rear of the lens before you mount it on the camera but I have not tried that.

Rokinon now offers the lens in both an RF and a Nikon Z mount and they have since released an AutoFocus model with full communications with the camera for $699. Since I use mine primarily for shooting my full time real estate photography I am probably going to pick up the AF model and sell my MF model soon. As I have said before I am not afraid to shoot with a Manual only lens, I have several, but every once in a blue moon I bump the focus ring slightly and have to re-correct and on days when I am shooting 12-20 homes in a single day, having the AF model will be handy for speed’s sake.

Below is an image I shot when I didn’t have my GFX50R for the project yet and this one is an abandoned New Beginning Baptist Church in Waynesboro, GA. Just look at how good the colors are, the detail and no color fringing or barrel distortion on this lens, it just makes awesome images!!!

Ok, so this will wrap up this week’s Episode 77 of the Liam Photography Podcast, I want to thank all of my listeners once again for Subscribing, Rating and Reviewing in Apple Podcast or wherever else you might listen to the show. Also remember to check out the Facebook Group and you can call or text the show at (470)294-8191 with any comments, questions or if you would like an episode on a particular subject or you can email the show @ liam@liamphotographypodcast.com and I will see you again in another 7 days!

Canon RF 50mm F/1.2 L USM at B&H
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1433715-REG/canon_rf_50mm_f_1_2l_usm.html

Venus Optics Laowa 17mm F/4 Zero-D at Adorama
https://www.adorama.com/ve174gfx.html?origterm=laowa+17mm+f%2f4+zero-d&searchredirect=true

Rokinon MF 14mm F/2.8 RF mount

Show notes and images at www.liamphotographypodcast.com