Thinking about the The Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7

Contemporary computer-aided lens design has done wonders for zoom lenses since I first tried some out in my Leica rangefinder days on the lovely but lonely Nikon F3 I kept for the times I needed to rent focal lengths outside my core set of Leica M-System prime lenses.

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Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 zoom lens on Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 Micro Four Thirds camera. Photograph by Joshua Waller of ePHOTOzine.
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The 3-zoom lens kit has long been a staple of photojournalists and especially newspaper photographers for some years. Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM, Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS and Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lenses.

By the time a backpack containing the standard newspaper photographer’s zoom lens trio was handed to me when I signed up to shoot freelance for one of the large publishers, zoom lenses were considerably improved although I am ashamed to admit that I continued to mostly rely on my own 35mm and 120 roll film rangefinder cameras and 4”x5” view cameras with which I had shaped my way of seeing and photographing over so many years before.

Now that I am no longer answerable to employers and do not have to take on up to three to five editorial portrait assignments per day, delivering stylistically and technically predictable results day in, day out, I can try out other ways and means and develop in new directions.

That includes zoom lenses after relying solely on sets of matched primes for so long.

The first two Micro Four Thirds lenses that I tried out…

The very first lens I tried when considering buying into the Micro Four Thirds camera system was a Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 Aspheric Power OIS and the second was an Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro.

I chose the Olympus for several reasons including its brilliant manual clutch focus mechanism, weather-resistant all-metal construction, handy L-Fn button on the camera-left side of the barrel, great feel and balance on a GH4 or a GX8 as I would discover later, and the clincher was its beautiful optical performance all across its longer focal length range wide open and stopped down.

The lens’ only downside is a small amount of moustache-shaped optical distortion that can easily be corrected via firmware for in-camera JPEgs and raw processing software for raw files, with distortion barely noticeable when shooting video.

I did not know that Panasonic’s then soon-to-come DFD autofocus system would apply only to Panasonic lenses and that firmware updates would not add support for the L-Fn button to all Panasonic cameras, and on balance I remain glad I chose the 12-40mm because my bacon has been saved many times due to its swift and sure manual clutch focusing.

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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4.0 IS Pro, an excellent choice for travel and daily walkabout requiring a longer focal length range than kit and other zoom lenses.

The one thing that might have tipped me towards the 12-35mm is its optical image stabilization, but then Olympus later came out with the OIS-equipped M. Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4.0 IS Pro, and although it does not activate Dual IS 2 when attached to a GH5, its image stabilization works well enough for my needs.

The difference between an f/2.8 and an f/4.0 maximum aperture is not huge when shooting outdoors in good light and I would always pack a wide maximum aperture prime lens to accompany either zoom.

And then with Panasonic’s pre-photokina 2018 in-development announcement of the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7, the game changed.

The Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7

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Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 wide angle zoom lens for Micro Four Thirds cameras.

With the lens currently undergoing development and possibly far from release sometime in 2019, the 10-25mm apparently includes some features I have long been hoping for in a Panasonic zoom lens for photography and video.

Here is what we know so far and what I also want to see in this lens:

  • f/1.7 right across the focal length range.
  • An aperture ring that is clickless for accurate exposure under constantly changing light but I would also like it clicked for stills photography without having to look at the lens.
  • 77mm filter diameter for 77mm neutral density filters or a lightweight brass 77mm-to-82mm step-up ring by Breakthrough Photography for 82mm filters.
  • Prime quality performance at all focal lengths.
  • Leica optical and mechanical quality.
  • Some of my favourite and most-needed focal lengths for documentary stills and video – 10.5mm, 14mm, 17.5mm, 20mm and, less often, 25mm. In 35mm sensor terms that equates to 21mm, 28mm, 35mm, 40mm and, less often, 50mm.
  • Alas, no optical image stabilization so when stabilization is a necessity it will need to be used with IBIS camera bodies.
  • Hopefully, improved depth-from-defocus aka DFD in all G, GX and GH cameras’ firmware, DFD being Panasonic’s alternative to the more common PDAF aka phase detection autofocus.

I very much hope that the Panasonic Leica 10-25mm f/1.7 will feature manual clutch focus to support easy focus pulling for video and fast, accurate snapping into sharp focus for photography.

I wonder if a longer companion zoom lens might be in the offing after the release of the 10-25mm?

If so, I would love to see an equally great zoom lens include at least 25mm, 37.5mm, 42.5mm, 45mm and 52.5mm, which in 35mm sensor terms equates to 50mm, 75mm, 85mm, 90mm and 105mm.

A zoom lens pair that goes all the way from 10mm through to 52.5mm, in 35mm equivalent terms 20mm through to 105mm, would fill almost my documentary moviemaking and photography needs.

While I do use longer focal lengths than 105mm in 35mm from time to time, the vast majority of my work is done between 21mm and 85mm with the occasional jump to 100mm or thereabouts.

Leica showed the way with a full set of well-spaced focal lengths…

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Leica worked out the best prime lens focal length line-up for documentary photography and photojournalism in 35mm years ago and it remains the benchmark and role model for other lens makers to this very day. The only focal length missing from this lens collection is 40mm, which Leica made for the Leica CL rangefinder camera which was later taken over by Minolta as the Minolta CLE with 40mm standard lens as well as a 28mm and 90mm lens. Too many contemporary lens makers leave out 28mm and 75mm lenses and their equivalents for other sensor formats. Why? Both these focal lengths are the most essential for documentary photography and photojournalism.

Although I remain dedicated to the idea of having a well-spaced set of pro-quality fast matched prime lenses with manual clutch focus, the reality is that the makers of both M43 systems that I rely on these days, Fujifilm and Panasonic for cameras and Olympus for lenses, may take years to assemble such a lens collection, if ever.

Far better to offer us top-quality zoom lenses that can do almost everything, such as the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7, so we can get to work without having to pine for prime lenses that may be far off on the horizon or zoom lenses that cover far more focal lengths than we actually need at the cost of undue expense and weight.

I look forward to learning more about Panasonic’s Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 as its development progresses and hope it really will be the zoom lens I was hoping for when I first got into the Micro Four Thirds system for moviemaking and photography.

The Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 would, of course, be a terrific lens for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K provided you have a gimbal handy for those times when stabilization is a must.

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4/3 Rumors: Newly published Olympus patent confirms a 12mm f/1.2 PRO lens is coming

https://www.43rumors.com/newly-published-olympus-patent-confirms-a-12mm-f-1-2-pro/

“Back in 2017 we told you that Olympus is developing and will launch a new 12mm f/1.2 PRO lens. We now found a brand newly published patent describing the lens specs in three slightly different version…”

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The Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lens line-up as of late October 2017. Soon, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/1.2 Pro?

Right now Olympus’ professional-quality M.Zuiko lineup includes three fast rectilinear prime lenses – 17mm f/1.2, 25mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 – and it is reassuring to know that the 12mm f/1.2 is on its way possibly to be released in 2018.

All good camera systems, especially if aimed at and used by professionals, need a full and well-spaced set of matched prime and zoom lenses, a fact that Canon, Leica and Nikon worked out decades ago and upon which they built their credibility and success.

Mirrorless cameras other than the Leica M-System such as Olympus and Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds, Fujifilm’s APS-C and Sony’s APS-C and 35mm systems, need the same optical advantage in order to approach Canon, Leica and Nikon, and would do well to follow their lead.

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Leica Summilux and Summicron lenses from 21mm through to 90mm for Leica M-System rangefinder cameras.

Olympus is doing well in that regard but gaps remain in their M.Zuiko Pro prime lens line-up with the most obvious being the 10.5mm, 12mm, 14mm and 37.5mm focal lengths.

I recall that 4/3 Rumors shared news of Olympus 12mm and 14mm fast aperture lens designs back in 2017 and I look forward to the announcement and launch of the 12mm f/1.2 M.Zuiko Pro lens sometime this year.

The 12mm focal length is one of my least preferred focal lengths though, whether for stills or video, and I would much prefer 10.5mm as a super wide-angle lens for deeply immersive documentary photography and moviemaking.

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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro, Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro professional prime lenses.

While I am grateful that Olympus released its 17mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 M.Zuiko primes recently, 14mm and 37.5mm (28mm and 75mm in the 35mm sensor format) is a more effective lens pair for two-camera, two-lens documentary work in stills and moving image production.

Not all Olympus M.Zuiko Pro prime lenses need to have a maximum aperture of f/1.2.

Although some super-fast prime lenses are of real benefit in any professional lens kit, many prime lens focal lengths are perfectly useful even if a little slower, such as f/2.0, so long as they share all the other positive traits of the M.Zuiko lens collection such as manual clutch focus.

Professional stills and video cameras in the M43 format are now roaring ahead with the Olympus Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5, DC-GH5S, DC-G9 and DMC-GX8 (soon to be upgraded to the GX9, one hopes), and they deserve a range of equally professional and well-spaced, colour-matched lenses to suit.

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leica_apo-summicron-m_75mm_f2_aspheric_01_1024px_60%
Leica Apo-Summicron-M 75mm f/2.0 Aspheric, one of my favourite lenses for two-camera, two-lens documentary photography. Fujifilm makes an APS-C F-Mount equivalent in its Fujinon XF 50mm f/2.0 WR but to date there is no equivalent in Micro Four Thirds.

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4/3 Rumors: (FT5) Leaked! First image of the new Olympus 17mm f/1.2 PRO lens! – with COMMENTARY

http://www.43rumors.com/ft5-leaked-first-image-new-olympus-17mm-f1-2-pro-lens/

“I told you months ago that Olympus would release this lens. And now I have the pleasure to share the very first image of this lens! The new 17mm f/1.2 pro lens will be the second super fast lens after the Olympus 25mm f/1.2 PRO….

… A third 45mm f/1.2 PRO lens is expected to be announced some times later. Stay tuned on 43rumors for more info and leaks!…”

Commentary:

Micro Four Thirds rumour website 4/3 Rumors has confirmed its long persistent rumour that Olympus is working on a fast, professional-quality 17mm prime lens with a product shot.

Whatever sensor size and aspect ratio in which I am working, I consider a moderate wide-angle lens an essential and the very first prime lens to be purchased.

I bought into the Micro Four Thirds system knowing it lacked a pro-quality 17mm lens, equivalent to 34mm in the 35mm so-called “full frame” sensor size, but had high hopes one would appear some day and so it soon will.

MFT’s 17mm focal length is eminently suited to documentary photography and video production when using one lens only or as first amongst a set of lenses and focal lengths.

In the absence of such a lens at the time, my first professional M43 lens was a zoom, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro, and it has impressed me more than I had expected.

Standardizing on Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lenses for video and stills

So much so, in fact, that I have resolved to standardize on Olympus M.Zuiko Pro native M4/3 lenses rather than those made by Panasonic, despite standardizing on Panasonic Lumix cameras due to their excellent qualities as MFT/Super 16 stills and moviemaking cameras.

Olympus has aptly named its professional prime lens and zoom lens range, given its many pro-quality features:

  • Manual clutch focus for fast, repeatable focussing when focus-by-wire is too slow and inaccurate.
  • Weather resistance via hermetic sealing against dust and rain.
  • Excellent mechanical and optical design and construction for impact-resistance and ability to handle extreme temperature variations.
  • Much smaller size and weight compared to equivalents in the 35mm so-called “full frame” sensor size.
  • Consistent maximum aperture of f/2.8 on the zoom lenses, f/1.2 on the fast prime lenses, f/4.0 on the travel zoom lens and long telephoto lens.
  • Filter diameter of 62mm on most lenses.
  • Best optical correction I have seen so far on any wide zoom lens with the M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro.

The one downside is the 7-14mm zoom’s convex front element that disallows screw-on filters. The solution is a push-on adapter and filter frame for square or rectangular tempered glass or plastic filters such as those made by Breakthrough Photography, Nisi and many other filter specialists.

Whether the extra cost of these solutions is outweighed by this lens’ impressive optical correction action is a matter of taste and need.

Personally I find the optical distortion of many wide-angle zoom lenses objectionable especially when videoing a protagonist walking through a cityscape of interior containing parallel horizontals and verticals.

Distortions like that can be corrected in image editing and raw processing software but not in moviemaking’s non-linear editing software.

More M.Zuiko Pro primes to come

Based on rumours, Olympus’s M.Zuiko Pro prime and zoom lens range is shaping up well with a 42mm f/1.2 probability and fast 12mm and 14mm lenses possibilities.

The range’s f/2.8 maximum aperture zooms are fast enough for most available light situations unsupplemented by strong LED lighting.

Its f/1.2 maximum aperture primes are excellent solutions for available darkness situations for which f/2.8 is too slow, and suit the needs of bokeh mavens for razor sharpness against milky blur.

Professional lens sets need to include All Common Focal Length Options

When I first began looking into Micro Four Thirds/Super 35 and APS-C/Super 16 format cameras for documentary photography and video production, prime lens choices were limited and much narrower than I had been accustomed to in the analog film formats I used professionally.

In contrast to those days, zoom lenses have radically evolved and there are a number available now that are approaching prime lens quality at all of most focal lengths, at the expense of maximum aperture or a single maximum aperture.

I am not a fan of variable maximum aperture zooms that offer, say, one stop extra at the wide end compared to to the one-stop reduced maximum aperture throughout the rest of the lens’ focal range.

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A complete professional prime lens set from Leica. The Leica  Summicron-M f/2.0 lens line-up comprising 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm and 90mm focal lengths, with the Summilux-M 21mm lens with red asterisk at far right, equivalent to 14mm in APS-C/Super 35 and 10.5mm in Micro Four Thirds. The latter focal length is wonderful for scene-setting figure-in-landscape or figure-in-interior shots. Architectural photography, too, demands wider focal lengths.

Few if any contemporary zoom lenses are entirely without optical distortion. The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro’s optical correction impressed during a quick and dirty tryout a while back, but the downside is the lens’ convex front element that mitigates against the same screw-on filters I use on other lenses.

Given a choice, I would prefer to rely on a good set of professional-quality prime lenses for my photography and video work, but given reality oftentimes must compromise with lens sets comprising fast zooms and faster primes.

One can get away with that for photography due to many raw processing and image editing software products having optical correction features, but correction in software is not possible for video footage and common optical distortions in zoom lenses can be distracting at the expense of the story and the audience’s immersion in it.

The current Veydra Mini Prime cinema lens lineup originally for Micro Four Thirds cameras, comprising 12mm, 16mm, 19mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm. Veydra abandoned its planned sub-10.5mm lens due to size and cost problems but it would have added a much-needed 21mm or wider superwide option, a necessity in my book. In 35mm sensor terms, 24mm, 32mm, 38mm, 50mm, 70mm, 100mm and 170mm. I often find 24mm way too narrow for scene-setting shots and architectural images.

I applaud the efforts of camera and lens makers in adding extra focal lengths but a few gaps remain in the brands I use and I look forward to the day when we have choices in APS-C/Super 35 and M43/Super 16 more closely approaching those of the established 35mm DSLR camera and lens makers.

Suggested Olympus M.Zuiko Pro reduced lens sets:

  • 17mm – not too wide and not too long, for when only one lens is desired.
  • 7-14mm, 17mm, 25mm and 42mm – for video and stills across a range of situations and subjects with the emphasis on fast primes.
  • 7-14mm, 12-40mm, 40-150mm, 1.4x teleconverter, with one or more f/1.2 primes – for a wide range of documentary video situations with the emphasis on zooms.

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Which Prime Lenses Should Olympus Make Next for Its M.Zuiko Pro Professional Zoom & Prime Lens Series?

Micro Four Thirds rumours website 4/3 Rumors, sister site of Fujifilm rumours website Fuji Rumors, has uncovered an interview by Japanese digital camera site D.C Watch with the designers of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro prime lens about further such professional quality M.Zuiko Pro lenses to come. The interview is a good read even in its machine-translated English version

First f/1.2 maximum aperture prime lens in the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro professional-quality lens series, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro. Olympus has already designed the next two f/1.2 primes, with more possibly to come.

The interview’s most promising revelation is that Olympus has been actively listening to customers and so the prime lens side of the M-Zuiko Pro series will soon be gaining a second f/1.2 maximum aperture lens, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro.

The 4/3 Rumors folks previously reported that Olympus had already designed two more fast f/1.2 primes, one of them being the 17mm. I wonder what the other is?

A very quick snapshot made with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro lens wide open during an Olympus camera event in Sydney. Even a very brief hands-on with this lens and several others in the M.Zuiko Pro range confirmed their high quality, solid construction and appeal as sturdy professional-standard lenses for stills and video.

I am an unrepentant former Leica M-System rangefinder lens user from my magazine, newspaper and corporate photography days and became accustomed to the idea of mechanically superb, optically extraordinary, near-indestructible, colour-matched prime lens sets.

Although I did not manage to build a Leica lens lineup as well-populated as the one illustrated below, I came close and happily relied on them for many years. Each focal length was just right for the tasks for which I bought it and each earned its place in my lens kit again and again.

Three Well-Spaced Lens Lineups

Contemporary videography and stills photography make more demands of lenses than stills photography as I practiced it during the analog era ever did. Now that we are in the midst of the 4K era and Panasonic’s Lumix GH5 is introducing us to 6K video through its video-based 6K Photo functionality, optics must be sharper, better corrected and more highly resolved.

I am now a zoom lens convert thanks to the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro and its f/2.8 sister zooms in the 7-14mm and 40-150mm focal lengths but they have their limitations when shooting in available darkness.

That essential three-zoom lens kit needs to be supplemented with matching high speed prime lenses when light is in limited supply and when bokeh and subject against background separation is an essential storytelling element.

The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro fills the gap in the middle of the focal length range and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro, with that focal length being my most relied-on of all time, will be a welcome second.

I would love to see several other M.Zuiko Pro primes make their appearance soon and the obvious focal lengths would be 10.5mm, 14mm and 42.5mm. The latter would clearly benefit from an f/1.2 maximum aperture though it would not be absolutely crucial for the wider two.

I know that Olympus makes some excellent prime lenses in its Premium lens range, but the M.Zuiko Pro lenses are a leap above as professional instruments able to endure some of the most challenging conditions in which documentary photographs and movies are made.

I have non-M.Zuiko Pro lenses for less challenging work, but my Leica days raised the bar high and the M.Zuiko Pro zooms and prime lenses approach that high standard.

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