The Panasonic/Leica partnership is one of the most interesting pairings in photography. And it continues to bear fruit. There are several stellar lenses in the Panasonic lineup to prove it. And let’s face it – Panasonic was smart to team up with the Germans. Let’s also just get this out of the way. When Leica is involved, you can immediately assume that this is going to be something fantastic. I have owned a few Leica cameras and lenses during my lifetime and every single time I touch Leica glass I feel lucky. It’s just special. When I found out about the Panasonic/Leica lenses I got very excited because I knew these lenses would be very good but, also affordable (comparatively speaking.)
This new lens from Panasonic/Leica is luxurious – that is the only word I can think of to describe the new ultra-wide Panasonic 12mm f/1.4 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX lens for the Lumix line of micro four thirds cameras.
As for special, well the new 12mm Summilux is indeed. With an equivalent focal length of 24mm on a M43 camera, the Lumix 12mm is the widest angle lens in the Panasonic lineup (short of fisheye lenses.)
Like all lenses that contain the word Leica, it’s expensive. Great stuff usually is. At just under $1300 it’s one of the most expensive M43 lenses you can buy. Why so expensive? You can surmise all the usual reasons but let’s start with the basics. It’s a 12-ounce, small, well-built, piece of glass offering supreme optical performance with a fast f/1.4 aperture and that will get you a higher price tag every time. But compare that with native Leica glass and you can see it’s not THAT expensive.
In the end, the most important point to be made about price is this. If it’s worth it, and you can afford it, who cares? This lens is worth it. In my initial tests, (not using scientific machines but just my highly-trained eye) I can see almost no chromatic aberration, very minor vignetting and no noticeable distortion. Even wide open! That is remarkable in a lens of this focal length.
The lens is stupid sharp, even at f/1.4. You might (MIGHT) notice some minor softness in the corners if you zoom in to 200% and look for it but it is essentially a non-issue and even the most ardent pixel peeper won’t find the slightest bit of softness by somewhere between f/2 and f/2.8. Refraction starts around f/8. (Note the stitching on the Camaro shifter at f/1.4 – very sharp and detailed.)
On my test camera (a Panasonic GX8,) autofocus is blindingly fast and also very quiet. The quiet bit will be important to those who use their M43 camera for video.
While I am constantly told in the camera forums that M43 lenses can’t deliver a beautiful bokeh, I can tell you that is simply not the case here. The Summilux 12 offers a lovely bokeh and I can’t think of a way it could be better.
Build quality, is as you would expect, very rugged and the lens has the added benefit of being splash/dustproof. The lens mount, the barrel and yes – the hood – are thankfully – all made of metal.
There is a traditional manual aperture ring on the lens barrel, which allows you to set the aperture in 1/3 steps. There are full aperture markings from f/1.4 to f/16 and the manual focus ring is easy to operate.
I have really enjoyed playing with this lens. I look forward to giving it a more detailed test later. Every time I mount it to my camera, a huge smile starts to creep across my face. It’s a true joy to use.
If you buy a fast, very wide-angle lens, you probably want to shoot it wide open as much as possible. I can’t think of any other lens in this class that allows you to do that any better than the Panasonic 12mm f/1.4 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX. The new 12 (and the Panasonic LUMIX G Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH Power OIS Lens) are big parts of why I came back to M43 gear. This glass is THAT good.
I’ve run out of superlatives to describe this lens. It’s hands-down one of the best lenses in this focal range I’ve used. If you can afford it – buy it. Because it works on any M43 camera, it is a safe, long-term investment that will probably outlast you. Highly recommended.
- Micro Four Thirds System
- 24mm (35mm Equivalent)
- Aperture Range: f/1.4 to f/16
- Two Aspherical Elements
- One ED Element, Two UED Elements
- Weather-Resistant Construction
- Rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm