The Laowa CF 12-24mm f/5.6 is the World’s First Zoom Shift Lens

Side-by-side view of camera lenses: the left image shows the Laowa CF 25-100mm f/5.6 zoom cine lens with a blue background, and the right image shows the Laowa 9mm f/2.8 Zero-D lens, angled against a white background.

After a series of teasers on Chinese social media, Venus Optics has officially revealed its new Laowa CF 12-24mm f/5.6 Zoom Shift lens designed primarily for APS-C mirrorless cameras.

Update 7/10: The original version of this article referred to the lens as a tilt-shift lens. It only has shift capabilities.

Unlike all the major tilting lenses for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, the new Laowa CF 12-24mm f/5.6 Zoom Shift can change its focal length. With the APS-C crop factor, the new ultra-wide zoom is equivalent to an 18-36mm lens on a full-frame camera, although it is more like 19-38mm on a Canon APS-C camera. The lens can shift +/- seven millimeters when used on an APS-C camera. It is a fully manual lens.

The lens includes 15 elements arranged across 11 groups, including a pair of aspherical and three ED lenses. It has a nine-bladed aperture diaphragm with an aperture range of f/5.6 to f/22. The manual focus lens can focus as closely as 0.15 meters (5.9 inches), resulting in a maximum magnification ratio of 0.4x.

Side view of a camera lens showing its internal structure. The lens components are highlighted and labeled, indicating the position of extra-low dispersion glass, aspherical glass, and elements with Frog Eye Coating (FEC). Some text is in a non-English language.

The lens weighs 575 grams (1.27 pounds) and is just under 99 millimeters (3.9 inches) long. It accepts 77mm screw-on filters.

So far, the lens has been discussed within the context of APS-C cameras, but it appears to have a full-frame image circle. The catch is that, when used on a full-frame camera, the lens doesn’t support shift functionality, which significantly undercuts the appeal of the new lens. This lens offers the same functionality as the existing Laowa 12-24mm f/5.6 C-Dreamer Zoom lens when used on a full-frame camera. That’s not a coincidence, either, as it appears to be the same optical formula, albeit in a slightly different chassis with a five-bladed aperture.

A person holds a large black camera lens with a blue ring near the top. The hand is gripping the lens horizontally, showing details of the focus and zoom rings along with the aperture settings. The background is plain and gradient gray.

It seems that because the Laowa 12-24mm f/5.6 C-Dreamer for full-frame cameras can cover an APS-C sensor and then some, Venus Optics has found a way to shift relevant optics around inside while still covering a sub-full-frame image sensor. It’s an interesting way to repurpose an existing lens formula. And, of course, clever engineering was also involved in designing the lens barrel for shift functionality. While there’s no way yet to evaluate the new Zoom Shift design, PetaPixel did review the standard Laowa 12-24mm f/5.6 C-Dreamer back in 2022, finding the lens to be pleasantly affordable but disappointingly soft at wider apertures.

As for what the Zoom Shift lens promises, the primary reason to use a shifting lens is to keep vertical lines straight, even when shooting at an angle. For example, consider photographing buildings. When the photographer must tilt their camera up, it means that the focal plane is no longer parallel to the building, and it will appear distorted. The photographer can eliminate this perspective distortion by shifting a lens up (or down).

A collage of four architectural marvels: a futuristic building on water, a dome with a skylight from inside, an endless spiral bookshelf, and a modern white chapel with a tall spire amid greenery. Each structure is striking and creatively designed.

Pricing and Availability

Pricing is not yet available for North America. This article will be updated when the lens is officially unveiled outside of China, which should happen soon. The lens will be available for E, L, RF, X, and Z mount cameras. Again, while the lens can work on a full-frame camera, the shift functionality is restricted to APS-C cameras due to image circle coverage.

Image credits: Venus Optics / Laowa