Laowa Argus 45mm f/0.95 FF Review: Unique Focal Length and Unreal Bokeh

Venus Optic, a Chinese lens manufacturer, has produced a variety of affordable fast aperture lenses that are versatile and unique for all camera systems. Today, the company officially launches the Laowa Argus45mm f/0.95 FF lens. This is one of the first full-frame 45mm lenses to have a maximum aperture at f/0.95.

The Laowa 45mm f/0.95 FF is a solid, heavy-duty lens that feels just like the other cinema-lens alternatives. The 51.3deg angle-of-view lens weighs in at 835g (1.84 lbs). It is fully manual, so those who rely on autofocus will need to learn a lot.

These lenses were designed for video, but they are not intended to be used in video. However, my work and PETaPixel both focus primarily on still photography so the review will be from this perspective.

The Laowa Argus 45mm f/0.95 FF camera lens sitting on a table

Quality Construction and Design

The 45mm Argus is a high-quality, durable lens that looks and feels exactly like its sibling lenses, the 35mm f/0.95 or 33mm f/0.95. The lenses are made for mirrorless cameras, including Sony F, Canon R and Nikon Z. However, they feel and look larger than their cinema counterparts. The 45mm f/0.95 features a smooth, “clickless” aperture that allows for seamless transitions and focus pulling (for videos).

The Laowa Argus 45mm f/0.95 FF mounted on a camera and sitting on a table

The 45mm f/0.5 lens features a “click lock” that, when enabled, allows you to click in the aperture ring. This is different from the 33mm lens. The tension in the focus and aperture rings is sufficient to not notice any drifting, but the click mode will provide some relief for videographers or photographers worried about shifting the aperture during a shoot.

The Laowa Argus 45mm f/0.95 FF mounted on a camera and sitting on a table
The Laowa Argus 45mm f/0.95 FF mounted on a camera and sitting on a table

The internal focus design of the lens is one fixed and two moving. This company claims that it will provide top image quality at all distances. However, I noticed a noticeable and longer focus throw than with previous lenses. Since the depth of field is so small (f/0.95) precise focusing will be required.

Focus Sharpness and 3 distances
The Laowa Argus 45mm f/0.95 FF mounted on a camera and sitting on a table

This is a great feature but it can be awkward when you are shooting handheld. It will require several twists (approximately 30deg) of the focus ring to move from minimum to maximum distances.

Although the focus distances were consistent, there was noticeable vignetting at the corners when the lens was lowered to shallower depths of fields (as shown in these gifs). It is a minor trade-off, but it is something that most lenses with similar focal lengths, speed, and size experience. The 45mm does seem to squeeze in more on the corners as you increase the aperture to f/0.95.

The Laowa Argus 45mm f/0.95 FF mounted on a camera and sitting on a table

However, as the apertures are increased, the edges become noticeably sharper when you go to f/4.0 or greater. This makes it a great lens for travel and landscape photography.

Venus Optic Laowa 45mm f/0.95 Vignetting Gif At various f stops
Venus Optic Laowa 45mm f/0.95 aperture Gif At various f stops

Portraits were a breeze. The lens was soft in the middle of the frame, which is what you’d expect from a wide-open camera. After extensive testing with portraits, the “sweet spot” was around the f/2 mark. This allowed for shallow depth of field and my focus zone to remain consistent from the center to the edge.

A portrait of a bearded man

People who purchase f/0.95 lenses aren’t concerned about how sharp the edges of the lens are. They want the best bokeh machine possible to bring their subjects into focus. It is crucial to keep your subject in the center of the frame to enjoy the bokeh explosion offered by the f/0.95 Argus lens. There were no sharp edges or rings when shooting wide open, except for the corners. Instead, there was a lot of smooth bokeh.

Examples of Images

A portrait of a bearded man
Shallow Depth of Field images of beagle with Laowa 45mm f/0.95 Lens
A shallow depth of field photo of a plant
A shallow depth of field photo of a plant
A shallow depth of field photo of a plant
A shallow depth of field photo of a plant
Shallow Depth of Field images of beagle with Laowa 45mm f/0.95 Lens
A shallow depth of field photo of a plant
A shallow depth of field photo of a plant
A shallow depth of field photo of a plant
A portrait of a bearded man
A shallow depth of field photo of a plant
A shallow depth of field photo of a plant
A shallow depth of field photo of a plant
A shallow depth of field photo of a plant
A photo of meters outside a building
A shallow depth of field photo of a plant
A shallow depth of field photo of a plant
Shallow Depth of Field images of beagle with Laowa 45mm f/0.95 Lens
A photo of a metal fence
A photo of a backyard with a pool and chairs

What are the Alternatives?

The Laowa Argus 45mm f/0.95 FF camera lens sitting on a table

The 45mm f/0.95 FF Argus Lens from Venus Optics is in a unique position. 45mm optics, especially ones with an f/0.95 aperture, are a rare focal length. There are many options. You can choose between a 35mm lens, 50mm or 58mm lens with an aperture that is close but not quite as wide open.

Brands such as Mitakon offer a 42.5mm F/1.2 lens, while Samyang offers Sony shooters an f/1.8 AF 45mm lens. The Laowa 45mm f/0.95 FF Argus lens is a great choice, even if you compare it to other more specialized manufacturers.

Closer alternatives include the $649 Mitakon50mm f/0.95M or the $755 TTLartisan50mm 0.95.

Should You Buy It

The images were beautiful and I loved the feel. However, the lens’ wide focus throw made it difficult to capture subjects in motion such as people or animals. It will take quite a bit of time to turn the focus ring in order to lock the subject in wide open shots.

Laowa 45mm f/0.95 Lens with Box

There are many lenses that can be used to shoot still images. They range from 35mm to 50mm (including 45mm), and have fast autofocus. These lenses may be more appropriate for you if your budget is similar. Most of these lenses have a maximum aperture of f/1.8 to f/1.4 which leaves a lot more bokeh.

This lens is a great choice for hybrid shooters who do both still and video, or if you simply need the most shallow depth of field possible to support your work. For $799, the Venus Optic Laowa 45mm f/0.95 FF Argus Lens is a great and affordable addition to your creative kit bag.