Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Got the Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 for US$99.00

Recently, Adorama and others had offered the Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 lens at a huge US$150.00 discount.  This is a lens that is priced at US$249.00 normally, which is already US$100 cheaper than the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 lens and quite a bit cheaper than the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens and less than 25% of the Four-Thirds Leica-designed 25mm f/1.4 lens.  The box is about the same size as that Four-Thirds 25mm f/1.4 lens.
25mm f/1.7 box with Four-Thirds 25mm f/1.4

25mm f/1.7 is much smaller than Four-Thirds 25mm f/1.4

Curiously, there is a decoration ring included, somewhat like the Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7 lens.  Unlike that lens, there is only one front lens cap, but you must remove the decoration ring to use the lens hood.  The lens hood is reversible, so you can store it on the lens.  The build is typically plastic but it doesn't feel so cheap.  The metal mount is a good thing.

I first mounted the lens to my Olympus E-M1 with firmware version 4.0 and it didn't seem happy with the lens.  It was slow to focus and take a shot, not so different from the way the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 lens works on the E-M1.  The 10 frames per second burst mode seems more like 3 fps with each lens.

Mounting it to the Panasonic GX8, it seems quick and fully functional.

I need to get it outside to determine color and sharpness but I hope it's better than a US$99.00 lens should be, even though I don't expect a lot.  At this price, it's fine.  I wonder if I would have been happy with it at US$249.00.

If I need a sharper 25mm lens, I can use my Four-Thirds Leica/Panasonic lens, which is amazing any day.  Using the adapter, it is possibly faster on the E-M1 than it is on the Olympus E-5, which is not always the case with many of my Four-Thirds lenses on the E-M1.

The Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 and Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4
Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7 and Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4

Update 2015.12.04: My first outdoor experience using the lens was at a skate park after dark.  While the skate park has lights and seems to be well lit, the camera doesn't see it that way.

Looking closely, barely any of this is in focus

I used the Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7 for quite a while and it seemed fine.  We went to eat and on return, I took the 25mm f/1.7 and mounted it to the GX8.  It was responsive but practically nothing was in focus.  Without using it side-by-side with the 15mm f/1.7, I'll guess that the extra darkness played with the ability to focus, even though the GX8's AF works down to EV -4.  I took a couple of very still (no movement whatsoever) shots at the end and was disappointed.  Time will tell.  (Using it on the GX8 might not be fair since it's so new also but the GX8 is much better with other lenses.)

Update 2015.12.05: Using the lens on the Olympus E-M1 gave quite different results but this is, naturally, inconclusive.  More experience is necessary to see how the lens behaves.

100% magnification of the lamp

It looks good enough, very different from the previous evening at about the same time.  As I try it more, I hope it will justify its purchase.

Available light only, it did quite well

Update 2015.12.10: I got more photos out in the dark on the 6th and it seemed okay.  Everything was handheld with the Olympus E-M1.  I need to try it again with the Panasonic GX8 and for the first time with the GH4--without any image stabilization to see the results.

I've noticed something odd.  This is the only lens I've used with Phase One Capture One Pro that doesn't always report its characteristics such as focal length.

Update 2016.01.02: I used the lens with a wide angle/macro converter and it worked well enough.  Capture One Pro reported the combination as 15mm, which is an easy, inexpensive way to get a bit of a wide angle, if you're willing to put up with somewhat significant distortion.

25mm and wide angle converter

25mm f/1.7 by itself

GX8 panorama with 25mm and wide angle converter

For people who like tiny photographic equipment, it should be good with Olympus' 5-axis image stabilization.  The GX8's inbuilt image stabilization doesn't seem quite ready but I have steady hands.  I'm not sure why, but the IS indicator showed that there was no IS with the 25mm f/1.7.  (Yes, I know that the 25mm f/1.7 lens has no OIS.)  As with the lack of information in Capture One Pro, it seems as though the 25mm lens may need a firmware update or two.

25mm f/1.7 on GX8

Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye on E-M1

Update 2016.02.17: I was surprised at how well the lens did yesterday during sunset.  I mounted the 25mm on the GX8 and also used the Olympus E-M1 with the 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens.  If there was any lens flare, the GX8 must have extinguished it in firmware.

Update 2016.07.04: I was waiting for someone, and walking around a little town taking a few photos with the 25mm f/1.7 and Panasonic GM5.  It seemed okay but not quite as resistant to some ugly results.

Update 2016.07.30: I keep finding odd situations where the 25mm just will not focus properly with Panasonic bodies--I have three of them.  It still seems fine with the E-M1.  I'm not sure why the GX8, GM5, or GH4 would have problems with it.  It seems less of a problem with the GH4.  Could this be shutter shock, not a focusing problem when everything looks steady?

Update 2016.09.29: The new Olympus 25mm f/1.2 has been announced.  There are arguments all over the place, from the usual "it's an f/2.4 lens" to "it's too big and expensive for micro Four-Thirds.

Having the Leica-designed Four-Thirds f/1.4 lens, I don't feel much of a need.  It would be great to have a weather-resistant lens but it's not imperative to have, unless California's drought goes away soon.

There is a Panasonic/Leica 12mm f/1.4 that is weather-resistant and seems to fill a need for a wider lens.  At US$1299.99 (US$100 more than the 25mm f/1.2), it's somewhat expensive but fills a need for someone who can't use a zoom lens at night because of the f/2.8 maximum aperture.

For most micro Four-Thirds users, it seems as though economical lenses make sense.  In my case, I've spent my money on fixed maximum aperture zoom lenses with an exception here or there.  They do a good job, until sunset passes.  The few fixed focal length lenses I have sometimes help but in sports, I find them too inflexible, as I just can't get closer to the scene.

Anyway, there are so many native 25mm lenses available for micro Four-Thirds that anyone should be happy.  Add to those a few with a passive mount and you're set for normal view shooting.

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