HINT: The word Leica is involved.
I am a very lucky guy. I get to shoot with the best cameras and lenses in the world. And recently, I went back to micro four thirds for most of my non bird photography work.
One of the reasons I came back was the brilliant Panasonic GX8, but that’s only part of the story. The new holy trinity (well MY holy trinity) of Leica glass (Panasonic lenses) is the rest of the story.
There’s something magical about Leica lenses. It’s more than the cool names (Summilux and Nocticron – The company names all of its lenses based on the amount of light a lens can let in through the aperture.)
It’s a combination of top-quality glass and craftsmanship. There’s also the impossible to put your finger on, but noticeable “look” that accompanies Leica glass.
Unfortunately, most people simply cannot afford Leica gear. In their partnership with Panasonic, Leica offers lenses that mere mortals can indeed attain (although they are still expensive) with many of the fantastic qualities we all know and love about Leica glass still intact.
This is manifested in the three lenses I am discussing today. Two of the three are hall of fame special and all three are amazing. If camera lenses can have souls, these sure do.
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 ASPH lens
Let’s start with the new, amazing, delightful, Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 ASPH lens. It’s Panasonic’s widest and brightest lens for micro four thirds, with an equivalent focal length of 24mm. It is weather-sealed, offers blazingly fast auto-focus speed and a super wide angle of view. It also happens to have an APERTURE RING! (Praise the lens gods!)
It delivers a creamy bokeh that will make you drool and it’s sharp (even wide open) and stopped down to f/2 it’s corner to corner sharp with no real noticeable distortion or chromatic aberration. It offers amazing shadow detail in low light and is built like a tank.
One of my favorite things about this lens is its ability to close focus to around eight inches. When you work wide open at that distance the lens is delicious. Lastly, the lens comes with the H-X012 hood, MADE FROM METAL, the way God intended all lens hoods to be made! (Don’t worry, it has matte black paint in the interior to cut down on flare.)
Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 ASPH LEICA DG SUMMILUX lens
Next up is the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 ASPH LEICA DG SUMMILUX lens. This is the most affordable of the three lenses I’m discussing here. It is a very sharp lens with very nice bokeh effects. It is not weather sealed, but that is why it’s the least expensive of the three lenses I list here.
The 25mm is lightweight but well-built. On a MFT camera, it’s essentially the “nifty fifty” that most photographers consider a “normal” lens. If you work close to your subject with this lens, it will offer a very pleasing bokeh even though it’s got the EDOF (Effective Depth-of-field) of an f/2.8 lens. It’s very reliable, easy-to-use and a real gem.
It’s not quite as sharp as the 12mm lens described above (especially wide-open) but most people wouldn’t notice the difference. Stopped down to f/2.8 its razor sharp edge-to-edge, corner-to-corner. In my experience, it has no equal in the MFT landscape.
There’s a tiny bit of CA when shooting wide open as well as some minor vignetting, but both are gone when you stop down a half stop. Both are also easily controlled in post.
Panasonic G Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH Power OIS lens
Last but not least is the superb Panasonic G Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH Power OIS lens which offers an equivalent 35mm focal length of 85mm and a fast aperture of f/1.2 making it well-suited for portraits (and lots of other stuff.) It also features Power O.I.S. for optical image stabilization, ensuring sharp images by decreasing the effect of movement and camera shake. On the Panasonic GX8 camera body, this lens works with the new Panasonic dual optimization features. It too is very sharp wide-open and has lovely bokeh. This is easily my favorite micro four thirds lens. It is the top-of-the-line micro four thirds lens when it comes to sharpness, low-light performance, and bokeh.
This lens also has a manual aperture ring and metal lens hood! (Thank you Panasonic – thank you!) It comes with an advanced nano coating that in my experience, very effectively reduces flare.
The Nocticron just feels luxurious and offers great image quality to micro four thirds shooters with no noticeable distortion. The image-quality is second-to-none, and the lens focuses very quickly.
The good news for MFT shooters is that almost all of the lenses made by Panasonic and Olympus are anywhere from good, to very good, to great. Only a very small number of lenses I’ve tested for these cameras don’t meet my standards.
However, my old saying still rings true. 98% of all lenses are better than 99% of all photographers. If you want to hedge your bets and you use micro four thirds cameras, any or all of the lenses on this list will give you the best tools money can buy. All you have to do is add talent 🙂