I’ll admit it — I don’t use micro four-thirds cameras as much as I used to. Mainly because other manufacturers are offering larger sensor cameras and more video capabilities at similar prices. This is not to say the styem isn’t capable, but I hadn’t really sat down and used the system in quite awhile.
That is until a friend of mine asked me if I would take a look at his Panasonic Summilux 12mm f/1.4, I agreed and I’m glad I did. The combination reminded me why I fell in love with photography in the first place and with the micro four-thirds system in general.
The first thing you’ll notice about the 12mm is how well it’s built. Compact and sturdy, made out of metal and built like a little fire hydrant.
Coming in at just under 12 ounces (335 grams), the 12mm offers great low light performance without weighing you down. The focus ring is smooth and buttery and latching on to the latest trend, the 12mm has an aperture ring that clicks audibly with each setting of the aperture. I prefer using the auto function and controlling the aperture in camera.
Even the lens hood and lens caps are of very high quality. There isn’t much to complain about here. If I were to nitpick, the AF/MF switch is a bit plasticy, but that’d be a reach.
Autofocus is lightning fast and sniper accurate. Face detect and eye detect work flawlessly on the G9 and GH5.
The lens inspires confidence and demands you take photos with it. On long days, I’d use the 12mm on the G9, attach it to my Peak Design camera strap and go for a bike ride in search of photos. Because of the small form factor they make for a great travel companion.
In a word? Sublime! With one important flaw that you need to be aware of.
Where the 12mm excels is when you take advantage of its f/1.4 aperture. Because of the small sensor and the wide-angle nature of the 12mm, you’ll need to get close to your subject to separate them or it from the background. When you do, the resulting images give a lovely 3D effect and are tack, tack sharp in the center of the frame with beautiful bokeh.
Where the 12mm falls down is flare performance. There’s no disguising it — flare performance is poor. Not unusual for a wide-angle lens, but this is a bit excessive at this price. Use caution with backlit subjects as the flare can ruin an image.
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 ASPH specs
- Focal Length: 12mm
- Aperture Range: f/1.4 — f/16
- Aperture Blades: 9 rounded
- Elements/Groups: 15/12
- Size: 2.76 x 2.76″ / 70 x 70 mm
- Weight: 11.82 oz. (335 Grams)
- Field of View: 84 degrees
The entire experience of the 12mm f/1.4 in conjunction with the G9 re-lit my creative fire and reminded me how much fun and love I have for the micro four-thirds system.
Flare issues aside, the 12mm is very, very strong optically and physically, with fast and accurate autofocus. Unfortunately all of this goodness comes at a premium — the 12mm isn’t cheap.
In spite of the price, I still recommend the 12mm. If the price is to steep for you, another option to consider is the Olympus 12mm f/2, which is about half the price and is even smaller. It doesn’t have f/1.4, but f/2 is still a bright aperture.
- Outstanding optics
- Build quality — it’s also weather resistant
- Af Speed and accuracy
- Lightweight for a lens with this focal length/aperture combination
- Price (list price is $1,297!)
- Weak performance against bright light (flare performance is poor)
The Panasonic Summilux DG 12mm f/1.4 ASPH lens retails for $1297.99, but is currently on sale for $997.99 at the time of publication.