The Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH Power O.I.S. surprised me for its optical quality and versatility, but it’s not without its flaws.
I don’t know about you but I have a guilty pleasure when it comes to photographing with a zoom lens. The sensible side of me appreciates zoom lenses for their versatility. Shooting with a quality zoom makes framing your shot easy and you get multiple focal lengths in one lens. The artist in me though finds zooms boring because their versatility makes using them easy. If you shoot primes you know what I’m talking about — a zoom is like driving a minivan: When you need it you need it … just don’t tell your friends.
Now that we have established my feelings on zooms, the Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH Power O.I.S. is an excellent choice for the micro four-thirds photographer with a complicated name which we’re going to simplify from this point on.
I was not expecting to enjoy the Leica 12-60 mainly because of the variable aperture which is f/2.8-f/4.0 but in practice, this is a surprisingly good lens.
What I like-a about the Leica
At first glance, you’ll notice that there is no aperture ring on this Leica / Panasonic lens which helps the lens stay compact but sacrifices some usability. On the side of the lens, you’ll see the O.I.S. and autofocus switches which are handy to have and on some bodies like the Lumix G9, you get Panasonic’s wonderful Dual I.S which works for both stills and video. Furthermore, because both the Leica 12-60 and Lumix G9 are both sealed from dust and extreme weather, used together you’ll have quite a robust hybrid photo making machine.
The Leica 12-60 is not heavy at all so if you’re using a rangefinder-style camera like the wonderful Lumix GX8 and want a zoom, I recommend this lens without hesitation. Also, for those of us lucky enough to have the most micro of micro four-thirds cameras — the Lumix GM1 — you could use the Leica 12-60 on it if you want to mimic that odd front-heavy type camera popular with other brands.
Usual for all Leicas for micro four-thirds, the Leica 12-60 comes with a lens hood and storage bag, both of which are welcome for a premium lens.
Something that confused me at first when working on raw files from the G9 with the Leica 12-60 at first they don’t have that super sharp digital-look to them. I thought maybe the lens was soft but I was mistaken. It’s been some time since I used a Leica on a micro four-thirds body but I quickly remembered that of all the micro four-thirds lenses, the Leica’s have the most unique character. On Panasonic bodies, in particular, skin tones are warm and overall the files have a rich, somewhat Kodachrome-like look to them. I found that when I did apply more sharpening to the files than what I usually do the files came alive with detail which inspired me to explore this lens even further.
Not all standards are equal
With companies like Panasonic and Olympus taking charge of development, micro four-thirds is, without a doubt, the most developed mirrorless camera system. Cameras and lenses using the micro four-thirds lens mount can be interchanged among brands but even with the micro four-thirds standard guiding the way, there remain to be incompatibilities between brands.
Autofocus on Panasonic bodies is quite fast in stills thanks to their DFD technology but as you might have guessed, when shooting video the Panasonic suffers from issues such as holding focus or sometimes getting focus at all. Put the Leica 12-60 on an Olympus body and you’ll get fast autofocus in stills and video but you’re out of luck when it comes to Panasonic’s Dual I.S working with Olympus’s Sync I.S which is nearly the same thing. I’m not sure what company is at fault here but with the onslaught of full-frame mania being pushed hard on socials through advertising or clever influencer campaigns, I’m thinking that Olympus and Panasonic need to work these strange incompatibilities out for the benefit of the Micro 4/3rds standards.
Sometimes you want that fancy sports car when heading to the hardware store to pick up some tape. You’ll look good and feel like a boss but we both know that when it comes to taking the dogs or kids out you’ll do the right thing and drive that minivan because it does the job. The Leica is like a minivan but one that’s got some character and quirks. It’s good for stills on any micro four-thirds body, solid Dual I.IS on Panasonic bodies only and good video autofocus on Olympus bodies.