Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 Wide Angle Zoom Lens, Heir to Leica’s Tri-Elmar-M MATE and WATE Prime-Quality Stepped Zooms

During the run up to photokina 2018 after the first rumors about Panasonic working on a 35mm sensor hybrid camera system, dismay at the possibility that Panasonic may be planning to abandon the Micro Four Thirds sensor format flowed thick and fast. 

M43 aficionados who love the format for its affordability, its small and light cameras and lenses and their ability to make photographs or videos in public without drawing undue attention are well used to copping criticism from 35mm fanboys for not using real cameras and lenses, for their lack of devotion to “full frame” or “full format”, both highly inaccurate terms for 35mm that have, alas, become deeply embedded in the popular imagination. 

Was Panasonic about to jump the fence and side with M43’s detractors, demanding that its current customer base fork over the high prices customarily demanded for 35mm hardware and start carrying bulky, heavy 35mm cameras and lenses wherever they go? 

“Oh my aching back and aching wallet,” was the cry. 

And then at Panasonic’s photokina 2018 press conference, we discovered the fear of Panasonic abandoning M43 was unfounded. 

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Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 with Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 Aspheric zoom lens. Swap this lens for Panasonic’s in-development Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 zoom lens and you have the perfect 5-focal-length lens set in one for documentary photography and photojournalism. Add a fast telephoto lens to taste, such as the Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Aspheric Power OIS prime lens.

The Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 zoom lens  appears…

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… followed by Pulitzer Prize winning Australian photojournalist Daniel Berehulak…

Daniel Berehulak uses his Panasonic Lumix cameras and lenses photographing in some of the most challenging conditions on the planet, telling stories about some of the most heartbreaking events such as the Ebola crisis.

… and Panasonic shares its Lumix brand growth strategy…

The Lumix 35mm (I refuse to use the silly term “full frame”) and Micro Four Thirds camera and lens systems “will co-exist and grow simultaneously”.
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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 amongst the most essential for documentary photography and photojournalism.

The announcement of a brand new lens for Panasonic’s Lumix G M43 cameras was wholly unexpected, and was the best sort of confirmation that Panasonic will be continuing with its Micro Four Thirds lines for the foreseeable future.

Personally I cannot see myself buying and carrying a full two-camera, multiple-lens 35mm sensor format camera kit to create the sorts of agile, immersive documentary photographs I want to and so will be using Panasonic’s G System cameras for some time to come, provided at least one of them will be a professional rangefinder-style camera with tilting electronic viewfinder like my Lumix DMC-GX8.

Details about the Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 are scant and are limited to the press release lower down this page due to it being in-development and not ready to release just yet.

While watching Panasonic’s press conference livestream I was struck by how the lens was spoken of as being, in essence, five lenses in one – 20mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm and 50mm in 35mm sensor equivalent – or  10mm, 12mm, 17.5mm and 25mm in M43.

I would add 21mm and 40mm to that list because for me, Leica got it so right years ago with their classic rangefinder camera M-System lens line-up illustrated above.

Thus if this lens works well at 21mm, 28mm, 35mm and 40mm and, to some degree, 50mm, then I will be well pleased as they are the focal lengths I most use for the work I do.

I would add a 75mm equivalent prime lens for documentary work and an 85mm or 90mm prime lens for portraiture and that would be a complete two-prime, one-zoom documentary photography or photojournalism lens kit for those of us who relish getting up close and personal.

Some commentators are wondering whether Panasonic came out with this lens in response to the common practice amongst indie moviemakers of defaulting to Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art zooms and other such lenses adapted to M43 with Metabones EF-to-M43 Speed Boosters on their Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4, DC-GH5 or DC-GH5S cameras.

Quite possibly.

Sigma’s Art wide aperture zoom lenses, popular for adapting to Panasonic Lumix M43 cameras with Metabones Speed Boosters

I like to think that the even closer ties between Leica, Panasonic and Sigma established via the L-Mount Alliance have led to cross-fertilization between old and new, zooms and primes, and that Leica’s amazing Tri-Elmar lenses past and preset have influenced Panasonic’s decision to collaborate on a zoom lens that may well share some Tri-Elmar traits.

Leica’s legendary MATE and WATE Tri-Elmar-M prime-quality stepped zoom lenses

Leica’s MATE and WATE lenses appear to have been merged into what I might start referring to as Panasonic’s WAMAVS lens, standing for Wide and Medium Angle Vario-Summilux.

I hope we will hear more about the Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 as time goes by.

Will it have optical image stabilization aka OIS and Dual IS in conjunction with cameras like the GH5, the GX8 and the G9?

Will its focusing ring have a manual clutch focus mechanism like the excellent Olympus M.Zuiko Pro prime and zoom lens collection?

Will Panasonic add the choice of linear or non-linear focussing to its focus-by-wire control ring via firmware?

Is this lens the first of a series that may come closer to the sorts of lenses I have been wanting for my M43 cameras all this while?

Press release

Panasonic develops fast wide-angle LEICA zoom lens

  • Professional LEICA DG 10-25mm zoom lens (35mm camera equivalent: 20-50mm)
  • The world’s first full-range F1.7 wide zoom lens (as of 25 September 2018)
  • The ultimate photo/video-hybrid digital interchangeable lens
  • Constant aperture ensures harmonic depth of field while zooming

25th September 2018 – Panasonic is pleased to announce the development of the LEICA DG VARIO-SUMMILUX 10-25mm / F1.7 wide zoom digital interchangeable lens (35mm camera equivalent: 20-50mm). It is the world’s first* F1.7 wide-angle zoom lens for the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system.

Taking full advantage of the MFT system standard, the new LEICA DG VARIO-SUMMILUX 10-25mm / F1.7 lens is both bright and compact. It is the first interchangeable lens to be introduced to the market featuring a full-range F1.7 high-speed aperture.

Integrating a click-less aperture ring that provides seamless aperture control, the new LEICA DG VARIO-SUMMILUX 10-25mm / F1.7 lens aims to be the ultimate photo/video-hybrid digital interchangeable lens.

The zoom range of the VARIO-SUMMILUX covers 10-25mm: starting from a wide angle and reaching to the natural perspective of human vision. It is  designed and developed to fully support photography as well as video recording on a professional level.

LEICA DG lenses are designed to exceed the stringent LEICA quality standards and boast excellent optical performance. The new LEICA DG VARIO-SUMMILUX 10-25mm / F1.7 is no exception, achieving exceptional imaging performance over the entire zoom range, empowering users to capture precise details and expressions.

Panasonic is committed to further expand the camera and lens line-up for the MFT system to meet customer demands and needs.

* As of September 25, 2018
• Details of the product specifications, the date of release and the price are yet to be advised.
• Leica is a registered trademark of Leica Microsystems IR GmbH.
• SUMMILUX is a registered trademarks of Leica Camera.

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