(Editor’s Note: We’d like to welcome this guest post from Giulio Sciorio. Giulio is one of the first professional photographers to move from DSLR’s to mirrorless in 2010 choosing micro four-thirds as his preferred camera system and has worked with both Olympus and Panasonic to inspire thousands of photographers worldwide. Additionally, while Giulio’s vision for the future of photography has earned him praise as “Ahead of the Curve” by Shutterbug Magazine and featured in the Motion Arts Pro Master Series, his work was recognized by SPD as a top 10 cover shot and has been awarded an addy and press award for photography. Learn more about Giulio at smallcamerabigpicture.com.)
The Panasonic Leica Summilux 15mm f/1.7 is a lens that every micro four-thirds Lumix photographer needs in their kit. Not only is the 15mm Summilux the smallest Leica for micro four-thirds cameras, it’s also quite performer all around. That said the Summilux is not perfect, so let’s pull the curtain back and get to know this fine little performer of a lens.
In the box you’ll find a lens pouch, lens hood, lens cap and rubber lens cap made specifically for the lens hood. The body of the Leica is metal as is the hood but there are some plastic parts which should not come as a surprise to anyone.
History of the Summilux 15mm
I recall my first encounter of the Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 when the Lumix GM1 was near its final stages of development. I was commissioned by Panasonic to shoot the ad campaign for the GM1 which is a premium compact but I felt it needed a premium compact prime and the Lecia Summilux 15mm was it. Together it’s such a sweet combo, I had to have it and if you’re shooting any Lumix micro four-thirds body, you should too.
The GM1 with the Leica 15mm is such a nice pairing because you get the functionality of an aperture ring, AF/MF switch and relative brightness of f/1.7. Of course the Summilux 15mm works just as well on a larger body like the Panasonic Lumix G9, giving the photographer a high quality prime lens which overall makes the total package quite portable. Also, if you have a body like the, the Summilux 15mm is a wonderful choice for street shooting and one which I’ve used extensively. Naturally, I’m a fan of the GM1 with a larger camera like the G9 with the Leica 15 f/1.7.
Leica lenses on Lumix cameras deliver a unique character that is sharp, while organic in color. The Summilux in particular renders a rich, warm color palette and smooth tonality. Overall the look is more film-like than a sterile digital look most manufactures lenses have today. Personally, I like a lens with some character vs a lens that while technically perfect, which to me is rather boring.
If you’re shooting video, you’ll appreciate the smooth and quiet AF which is one less thing to worry about as capturing video can be complicated. The issue here is that while the DFD autofocus system on Lumix bodies is great for stills when it comes to video it’s hit or miss so you’ll be grateful for that AF/MF switch on the body.
Another thing to consider if you’re a video shooter is the aperture is not click-less, so set your aperture and stick to it while you’re capturing a take.
What about Olympus?
Sadly, things get a little sad for Olympus photographers wanting to enjoy the Leica experience on their cameras. For starters the warm richness of the color is not present on Olympus bodies and from what I understand, that’s an incompatibility in the firmware between lens and body.
Bummer number two here is that the aperture ring does not work on Olympus bodies either. Keep in mind that with modern camera systems, a good amount of the camera/lens performance is delivered through firmware. Even some “pro” optics especially wide-angle lenses have a large amount of optical corrections to them.
If you do have an Olympus body, the Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 is a natural comparison. Optically, they’re on par but I’ve not shot enough with the Olympus lens to comment on the overall character of the lens. If you want to get the know the Olympus lens more, I have been taking the Zuiko 17mm with me on my travels and will be posting the results to my Instagram account as I go. One thing I like on the Olympus lens is the focusing clutch which will work on Lumix bodies and in practice, I find that more useful than the aperture ring.
The choice of what lens you should get is easy. If you are shooting with a Lumix camera, get the Summilux. If you’re using an Olympus, the Zuiko 17mm is the lens for you.