Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7

Since Panasonic has announced the availability of this lens on Monday, the silly comments have started.  (It's due in early June by itself, or in late June with the black-bodied GM1.)

We have the ever-present "f/3.4" comment from the people who probably don't have 135 Format (commonly, mistakenly known as 35mm) equipment, but can't really find another way to bash micro Four-Thirds.  My thought is always that they've never worked with Medium Format, either, and getting enough depth of field is a wonderful thing.  I've always had to work at getting enough DoF with Four-Thirds and micro Four-Thirds, though I'm almost always working wide open.

Then, there is the US$599.99 is too much for such a tiny lens for a tiny sensor.  I wonder how those who are Nikon users resolve the conflict with the Nikon 1 system--that they probably have in their bag, along with their APS-C-sized dSLR.  There are lenses in that system for around US$900.

I saw one complaining that Leica just sold the name to put on it.  However, they have to approve the design before allowing their name.  It makes me wonder how the 45mm f/2.8 macro and 25mm f/1.4 micro Four-Thirds lenses were allowed, if Leica approved them, which I'm sure they did.  The filter size of the Four-Thirds version of the Leica-branded 25mm f/1.4 is 62mm and the micro Four-Thirds version is 46mm.  That's a huge difference, even when the barrel size of an equivalent micro Four-Thirds lens will be smaller than its Four-Thirds relative.  It's interesting that the 15mm f/1.7 has a filter size of 46mm, also.

Is there a way to build tiny lenses and not compromise?  I'm sure there is, as long as the barrel geometry is not that of a pancake-style lens.  Panasonic's 20mm f/1.7 does a good job, but the compromises are many and software helps quite a lot to fix things, except the focusing speed, of course.  Too bad they didn't create a bigger 20mm lens with a more powerful focusing motor, but then, many people wouldn't love that compromise.

Does the aperture ring lock in Auto?

I expect that the 15mm f/1.7 will be sharp and quick to focus and it will make the Panasonic GM1 a good alternative to the FujiFilm X100s, with some extra flexibility allowed by the ability to use many lenses.  I still want to see the GM1 mounted to my Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0, on the tripod, of course, with the 35-100mm f/2.0 using the tripod collar.  I think I'd take it out with me just to get people's reactions.

I'm guessing that the GM1 will sell better now that there is a second lens made specifically for it, especially if the black body is available in the U.S.A. for "professional" use.  :-D  I just had a thought about the black-anodized bodies from the 1970s and 1980s where the black would rub off after so much use.  US$999.99 seems expensive for the combination but is the FujiFilm X100s at US$1299.99 expensive?  It's all about perspective, right?

I'd love a pocket-able pocket camera with high quality images.  (I've used an iPhone for various wide photography since it's always with me.)  I believe the GM1 with the 15mm f/1.7 will deliver.  Even the 12-32mm kit lens is quite good.

Update 2014.03.27: Please don't expect that Olympus will support the aperture ring.  They've had about 9 or 10 years to support aperture rings from Leica/Panasonic lenses made for Four-Thirds at the time of the Leica Digilux 3, Panasonic DMC-L1, and Olympus E-330 and they still haven't done anything about them.  It's not likely that it's even a thought in their minds.  If everything back then had them, and they didn't support them, it isn't likely now when very few have them.

Update 2014.04.10: It seems odd that the front element of the lens is so small.  I could imagine a smaller barrel, if they were willing to compromise/eliminate physical controls.   Would it have hurt to make it an f/1.4 lens and use more of that space?

Update 2014.06.08: I was looking for this today at Unique Photo, along with the GM1.  Unfortunately, it will probably be available at the end of the month, when I'm long gone from Central New Jersey.  The GM1 is so tiny, it needs a great lens with it, and this could be it.   It really needs the little grip also.

Update 2014.10.01: I'm still considering this, but now with the GM5.  I was reading a review on What Digital Camera--they gave it 89% which is quite good.  The trouble is that the showed pronounced purple fringing at maximum aperture and noted that the lens works best between f/4.0 and f/5.6.  It seems a bit expensive for such performance.  I'm not sure why Panasonic can't create lenses with better optical quality or why Leica would put their name on problematic lenses at all.  I'm not saying that it's a horrible lens.  I think I'm just too critical.  I've seen plenty of photos taken with kit lenses that were surprisingly good to me.

Update 2015.02.05: Yesterday, I went to the most local camera store and asked to buy this lens, which wasn't in stock at that store.  Had a gone 45 miles in a different direction, I would have had it in my hands.  They're delivering it to the store and I'll pick it up, which should also give me a moment or three to talk about video with the staffer who does that sort of thing and is available on the weekend.  They didn't automatically offer the $50 instant rebate but when I asked, it wasn't a problem, as it was in the book and clearly available on Adorama, B&H Photo, etc.

I look forward to having a wider, lower light alternative, considering my only other lens is the rather huge Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 for Four-Thirds with the 62mm filter size, which requires an adapter to be used on the GH4 or E-M1.

Update 2017.01.19: DJI, the drone maker, has a version for the same price as the Panasonic/Leica lens, which includes the aperture ring and lens hood.

I've had the Panasonic/Leica lens for quite a while and it isn't perfect.  This past summer, I got the Panasonic GM5 and the combination is quite impressive.  Obviously, Panasonic does something extra to fix problems with the lens and it's almost impossible to tell that there are any problems, until you put it on an Olympus body.  Thankfully, Olympus lenses on Panasonic bodies don't seem to give optical problems.

Regardless, the lens allows quite good photos and video.

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