“Panasonic Leica 10-25mm 1.7 is the fastest zoom lens from Panasonic/Leica. How is it’s build quality, image quality (sharpness,vignetting,CA,flare,distortion..etc)? Could this be a great lens for videographers or vloggers? How does it compare to the Leica prime lenses and what are the pros and cons of this lens? We’ll talk about all of these in this review.”
Photo by Richard – Panasonic Leica 10-25mm f/1.7 Review – article – “When Panasonic told me about this lens, they told me this is a lens that can replace multiple prime lenses. I was skeptical because zoom lens rarely can match the quality of prime lens. But after testing this lens, I agree with them. If you are a pro photographer or videographer who is currently rely on multiple prime lenses within this focal length range, I think you should consider switching to this amazing lens. It would make your life a lot easier without sacrificing the image quality.”
“Panasonic are showing a working version of the new Leica 10-25mm f/1.7 Micro Four Thirds lens, at The Photography Show 2019, at the Birmingham NEC. We had a hands-on look at the new lens, which was first shown, in prototype form, at Photokina 2018. The lens gives the equivalent of 20mm to 50mm, and is lighter than it looks, considering the (large) size of the lens….”
When I went looking for the best lens for documentary photography and video after I decided to invest in Panasonic’s Lumix Micro Four Thirds camera range, I read about and tried out a number of options including adapted and native prime and zoom lenses.
The M.Zuiko Pro lens collection’s manual clutch focus mechanism that is activated by retracting the focus-by-wire control ring towards the camera body.
“Pulling focus with focus-by-wire sucks,” as they say in the video industry.
I rapidly obtained critically sharp focus for stills with the M.Zuiko Pro 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom more times than I did with the Panasonic lens’ focusing control ring or the camera’s autofocus functionality, and that capability outweighed the Lumix 12-35mm lens’ rather attractive optical image stabilization.
I still rely on my M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom lens for mission-critical work after having tried out and invested in a number of Lumix prime and zoom lenses, and may well be adding more M.Zuiko Pro primes and zooms in future.
Then news leaked out of Panasonic’s Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 zoom lens being in development, full feature set then unknown as it still is, and things shifted somewhat.
This lens is the closest so far to the ideal zoom lens I had visualized when buying into the Micro Four Thirds system.
I had imagined a lens with a range encompassing every single focal length I rely upon when shooting documentary photographs and video, with the exception of the portrait and big close-up range of 75mm through 85mm and 90mm to 105mm.
Imagine that focal length range in a similarly fast and wide maximum aperture standard-to-telephoto companion zoom lens.
Questions persisted for some time as to whether the Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 would have optical image stabilization and whether it would come with manual clutch focus.
Many professional photographers and videographers have reportedly been asking Panasonic for the latter in new lenses for quite some time now, to no avail.
It is great to finally see a little more of the Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 in Joseph Waller’s photographs for ePHOTOzine of a pre-production version, but there is no mention nor evidence of a manual clutch focus mechanism in the article and its photographs.
I have asked a contact who is attending The Photography Show 2019 in Birmingham to see if she can get hold of the lens and confirm whether or not it actually has the crucial focusing functionality.
Watch this space!
Meanwhile I am wondering what Olympus has in store with its most recently updated lens roadmap, especially in regard to the “Wide Zoom” and “Standard Zoom” items, not to forget “Bright Prime Lens” and “Telephoto Zoom Lens” which appears twice.
Imagine all those lenses with the brilliant M.Zuiko Pro manual clutch focus mechanism.
Kiss goodbye to the frustrations of pulling focus via fly-by-wire.
My Birmingham contact is pretty sure that the Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7’s aperture ring is declicked.
Now waiting for her to have hands on with the lens and confirm whether there is a manual clutch focus mechanism.
Well I think that is evidence enough that Panasonic’s Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 will have manual clutch focusing mechanism and thus accurate and repeatable focus pulling for video.
It will also have the ability to quickly and accurately set hyperfocal distance, a necessity when zone focusing for high-speed forms of documentary or photographing in the street, as well as landscape photography.
Hyperfocal distance can be calculated using online forms or mobile apps, and a number of options can be found online here.
Fully manual focus lenses such as the Leica M-Series rangefinder camera lenses illustrated up this page provide beautifully-etched scales allowing quick calculation of hyperfocal distance, a functionality I often yearn for when photographing in public with digital cameras and lenses.
Whet now remains is for a late pre-production Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 Aspheric zoom lens to find its way into the hands of professional cinematographers and photographers for extensive testing and reporting on its mechanical and optical quality.
This lens has the potential to replace a range of prime lenses in one’s daily gear kit, in my case the 35mm sensor equivalents of 21mm, 28mm, 35mm, 40mm and 50mm.
Neither Olympus nor Panasonic supply all those focal lengths as prime lenses, though I hope that situation will change in the near future.
The Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 Aspheric will not be a cheap lens given Panasonic’s ambitions in producing it, but whatever its price on release, it would be wise to compare it to what those five focal lengths might cost as f/1.7 prime lenses.
There are other potential benefits.
The Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 Aspheric’s filter diameter is 77mm, and I would recommend attaching a Breakthrough Photography 77mm to 82mm knurled brass step-up ring to it for attaching 82mm diameter fixed and variable neutral density filters when shooting video.
Whether the Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 Aspheric zoom lens is heavy or not, its size would benefit from attaching a vertical battery grip to your camera if it is a Panasonic.
I like most cameras to be equipped with vertical battery grips for added power when shooting video and ease of handholding in portrait photography.
The countdown to NAB 2019 is well advanced and it will be interesting to see if Panasonic shows off mockups of the coming Lumix DC-GH6 hybrid M43 camera.
I am hoping that Panasonic will combine the best of the Lumix DC-GH5 and GH5S in the GH6 while taking into account the challenges presented by the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, Fujifilm’s X-T3 and X-H1 while bearing in mind the coming X-H2, as well as the 35mm sensor-equipped mirrorless cameras now released by Canon, Nikon, Leica and, indeed, Panasonic itself.
While the Super 35 format has its many attractions, the smaller and lighter cameras and lenses of Super 16 moviemaking still allow you to go places where the larger 35mm cameras and lenses can draw undue attention.
The photographs of the 10-25mm f/1.7 lens published by ePHOTOzine and Photography Blog appear to have been shot on mobile phones and optical exaggerations make it hard to accurately judge the lens’ size in relation to the camera or the hands holding them.
Nonetheless, I have no problem with the idea of carrying this one lens about almost permanently attached to any Panasonic M43 camera whether with battery grip or not, or a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Camera 4K for that matter, though I would be tempted to consider the Zhiyun-Tech Weebill Lab or Crane 3 Lab as appropriate if stabilization is a necessity when shooting with the BMPCC 4K.
I have been waiting for someone to announce a complete set of affordable, matched cinema prime lenses for Fujifilm X-Mount Super 35/APS-C hybrid mirrorless cameras for a long time, at least since Fujifilm announced its then coming affordable MK-series of matched parfocal cinema zoom lenses, and finally, here they are, an initial set of six X-mount cinema prime lenses by Hong Kong-based cinema optics specialists SLR Magic ranging from 12mm through to 75mm with a (hopefully) possible 15mm also coming.
I had thought that US company Veydra might be the first one to achieve this breakthrough but when they dropped plans for a very necessary wide-angle lens to complete its offerings, the writing was on the wall.
Now Veydra has been dropped altogether from B&H Photo Video, and the Veydra website appears to be semi-functional at best so it looks like the feisty little US left coast newcomer may be no more.
Before its apparent demise, Veydra had only released, from memory, five focal lengths suitable for adapting to Fujifilm’s APS-C/Super 35 X-mount cameras and that was courtesy of an optional X-Mount Kit for self-installation by purchasers.
The Veydras’ other built-in limitation was their Mini Primes’ adherence to a common 77mm filter diameter on all lenses rather than 82mm, the latter all the better to avoid vignetting in wider focal lengths.
Luckily the new SLR Magic MicroPrimes come with no such limitation, all coming with 82mm filter diameters suitable for use with the company’s own SLR Magic 82mm Self-Locking Variable Neutral Density 0.4 to 1.8 Filter (1.3 to 6 Stops) or other 82mm diameter variable NDs like those made by Aurora-Aperture, Simmod Lens and a host of other filter manufacturers, as well as fixed value neutral density filters by SLR Magic and a great many others.
Not just for video production?
There is no reason why cinema lenses cannot do sterling service for stills photography so long as their gearing does not get in the way.
Several of the SLR Magic Cinema MicroPrimes may well do a great job filling the gaps in Fujifilm’s current Fujinon XF prime lens offerings, and the 18mm MicroPrime may provide a great pro-quality alternative to the quirky Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R lens so long as you use it with an electronic viewfinder given the former’s 82mm filter diameter which would intrude too much into the X-Pro2’s Advanced Hybrid Multi Viewfinder.
12mm in APS-C = 18mm in 35mm sensor format
18mm in APS-C = 27mm in 35mm sensor format
25mm in APS-C = 37.5mm in 35mm sensor format
35mm in APS-C = 52.5mm in 35mm sensor format
50mm in APS-C = 75mm in 35mm sensor format
75mm in APS-C = 112.5mm in 35mm sensor format
Fujifilm does not currently offer a 12mm nor a 75mm prime lens, and I badly feel the lack of a professional quality 18mm when shooting immersive documentary photographs in crowds where there is simply no room to step backwards with less wide lenses and ultra-wide lenses are altogether too wide.
There is another advantage to a manual-focusing 18mm 28mm equivalent lens with a well-marked focusing scale – easily setting hyperfocal distance when shooting so-called “street photography”.
The SLR Magic 12mm may be suitable for architectural and scenic photography, provided its optical qualities test well, and the 75mm is close to my preferred full-face frontal focal length of 105mm in the 35mm sensor format.
It is currently unclear as to whether SLR Magic intends to release a 15mm X-mount MicroPrime, but that focal length would also have its uses for video and stills photography.
15mm in APS-C = 22.5mm in 35mm sensor format
One of my favourite focal lengths for truly immersive, highly emotive documentary photography is 21mm in the 35mm sensor format, and the 15mm MicroPrime comes close.
The Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R is one of the far too few Fujifilm lenses that has manual clutch focus and hard stops at both ends of the distance scale, along with the XF 23mm f/1.4 R and XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR prime lenses.
When these manual clutch focusing primes first started appearing, I had hoped it was the start of Fujifilm adding this crucial ability to all future prime and zoom lenses but I was to be very disappointed.
As many cinematographers have variously stated about lenses without manual clutch focus or manual focusing rings, pulling focus on lenses without either sucks.
Especially when using follow-focus devices.
SLR Magic makes fixed and variable NDs as well as IR-cutting enhancer filters
SLR Magic self-locking 82mm Variable Neutral Density VND Filter.
SLR Magic 86mm Solid Neutral Density 1.2 Enhancer Filter, 4-stop, to go with SLR Magic 82mm Variable Neutral Density Filter. The VND gives you 1.3 to 6 stops of density and adding the Enhancer to the front of it adds an extra 4 stops of density, totalling 10 stops. The Enhancer also adds extra ultraviolet and infra-red filtration.
SLR Magic 82mm Fixed Neutral Density Filter, 0.3, 1-stop.
The news of SLR Magic’s announcement of its MicroPrimes is recent and so far I have not come across any pre-release reviews of pre-production versions so have no idea of their optical quality and lack of optical distortion or otherwise.
I remain hopeful, though, and look forward to the full set of X-mount MicroPrimes finding its way to well-qualified professional videographers for assessment.
The Super 35 sensor format is a great one for narrative, commercial and feature-style documentary moviemaking though I also appreciate the grittier Super 16 documentary style afforded by Panasonic’s GH5 and GH5S, as well as the possibilities of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K especially now that it has received its Blackmagic Raw firmware update.
Meanwhile I am thinking seriously about whether some of SLR Magic’s X-mount MicroPrimes may answer some of my long-standing need for professional-quality manual focus-capable primes for documentary and portrait stills photography in certain undercatered-for focal lengths.
Such lenses would do well on my Fujifilm X-Pro2 and even better on the amazing X-T3 and the even better-gripped X-H1 for stills and video, given the latter two cameras’ superior electronic viewfinders, though I certainly hope that the X-Pro3’s EVF improves radically over its predecessor’s EVF.
Where to see, try and buy SLR Magic MicroPrime Cinema X-mount lenses in Sydney?
In the absence of an all-things-to-all-people megastore in Australia, and the difficulty of finding smaller brands like SLR Magic here in Sydney, I went looking for other possibilities and discovered the following:
Media + Entertainment Tech Expo, Sydney – exhibition 18-20 July 2019, venue location TBA at time of writing but likely to be either Darling Harbour or Moore Park.
C.R.Kennedy Photo Imaging – importer, distributor and retailer of a wide range of photo and video products including SLR Magic filters, lenses and other optical accessories. Many brands unavailable in retail stores here are imported and retailed by this company, such as G-Technology HDDs and SSDs, in my experience the most reliable mainstream brand of them all and yet oddly enough the hardest to find, even in Apple Stores which used to be the most reliable stockists. C.R.Kennedy most likely will be exhibiting at the above expo in July.
Fujifilm Australia’s Warrewyk Williams arrived at the Touch and Try event at Ted’s World of Imaging in Sydney last night with one of the few, if not the only, Fujifilm GFX 50R medium format rangefinder-style digital cameras along with a selection of G Mount lenses, Fujifilm GFX 50S DSLR-style medium format camera, Fujifilm X-H1, Instax printers and more.
The event provided an opportunity for a brief but informative hands-on with the GFX 50R with the proviso that the camera is a pre-production model with pre-release firmware and so comes with possible quirks and operating speed reductions.
This event was particularly welcome as I have not had the opportunity to touch or try the X-H1, GFX 50S or any of Fujifilm’s Instax products, given the closure of our local top-end camera stores, and I have long been hoping and waiting for a digital version of Fujifilm’s justly loved and celebrated “Texas Leica” 120 roll film analog cameras of the past.
Some “Texas Leica” medium format rangefinder cameras from the analog era, made by Fujifilm, Bronica and Mamiya
Some of the last Fujifilm analog 120 roll film cameras.
The last 120 roll film analog camera to be made by Fujifilm, the Fujifilm GF670 folding rangefinder camera with fixed Fujinon 80mm f/3.5 standard lens. I saw one once at a photography trade show in Sydney alongside its non-folding wide-angle rangefinder sibling.
Fuji GS645 II Professional Wide 60 120 roll-film rangefinder camera with wide-angle lens, great for photojournalism. Photograph courtesy KEH Camera.
Fujica GW690 120 roll film rangefinder camera, image kindly released into the public domain by Jfriedl.
Mamiya 7 II interchangeable lens 120 rollfilm rangefinder camera. Photograph courtesy of Japan Camera Hunter.
Bronica RF645 6×4.5cm 120 roll film rangefinder camera, photograph courtesy of Japan Camera Hunter.
Fujifilm, as well as Bronica and Mamiya, made some remarkable 120 roll film rangefinder cameras with Fujifilm producing a huge variety of “Texas Leicas” in the 6×4.5cm, 6x6cm, 6x7cm, 6x8cm and 6x9cm formats and for all I know may well have produced 6x9cm and 6x12cm cameras too.
I continue to search for top quality photographs of these and other cameras in the hopes of preserving some of the camera-building achievements of the past, some of which may trickle down to the present day.
The Fujifilm GFX 50R has clearly benefited from Fujifilm’s analog innovations, its look and feel reminding me of the company’s larger 120 roll film cameras while also sharing a great deal of the X-Pro2’s own DNA.
Fujifilm GFX 50R Touch and Try
Reeling off a few snapshots with an unfamiliar and pre-production camera is hardly a thorough real-world test but the experience reminded me that documentary photography and portraiture with a medium format camera is a very different thing to making the same sorts of photographs with a small, fast, agile, gestural camera like the X-Pro2 or X-T3.
Making reportage and portraits photographs with the GFX 50R and GFX 50S is more akin to how I used to work handheld with my Hasselblad, Mamiya 7 and even my Crown Graphic 4″x5″ sheet film 4field camera – slower, more deliberate and with fewer shots than I would make on APS-C or Micro Four Thirds cameras.
I tried two lenses, the Fujinon GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR and the Fujinon GF 120mm f/4.0 Macro R LM OIS WR in emulation of the two-lens moderate wide and medium telephoto kits I had for my medium and large format analog cameras.
I learned that, aside from the coming-soon Fujinon GF 50mm f3.5 R LM WR pancake lens, equivalent to about 40mm in the 35mm sensor format, more wide prime lenses are planned for GF mount cameras along with the Fujinon GF 45-100mm f/4.0 R LM OIS WR and Fujinon GF 100-200mm f/5.6 R LM OIS WR zoom lenses currently slated for 2019 and 2020 releases on Fujifilm’s G Mount Lens Roadmap.
The Fujifilm GFX 50R is, for me, a combination rangefinder-style and small field view camera, for use primarily handheld but also on a portable but sturdy tripod such as 3 Legged Thing’s Winston or those made by Really Right Stuff, for making environmental and full-face portrait photographs.
My quick and dirty test shots indicate that it has the image quality of an analog sheet film camera rather than a 120 roll film camera, and I would prefer to use prime lenses with it rather than zooms.
Warrewyk Williams estimates the focal length equivalence factor at 0.79 for Fujifilm’s G Mount lenses, making the 45mm equivalent to 35.55 in 35mm terms and the 120mm equivalent to 94.8 in 35mm terms.
Other lenses worth considering for my sort of portrait photography include the Fujinon GF 110mm f/2.0 R LM WR equivalent to 86.9mm and hopefully a soon-to-come 35mm GF lens equivalent to 28mm.
Not to be discounted is the Fujinon GF 32-64mm f/4.0 R LM WR zoom lens which provides at least three useful focal lengths for different forms of portraiture, in 35mm equivalent terms 28mm, 35mm and 50mm, and is available right now rather than waiting for fast prime lenses to come.
A two or three lens kit for the GFX 50R may be all I would need for portraiture should I invest in digital medium format.
While it is too early too come to conclusions about the GFX 50R and its lenses, I have been particularly struck by the superb 3D image rendering in the available light snapshot portrait of Warrewyk Williams above and am very much looking forward to exploring more of the creative possibilities of Fujifilm’s GFX camera and lens system very soon.
Portrait of Warrewyk Williams made by Karin Gottschalk on Fujifilm medium format camera with Fujinon GF 120mm f4.0 R LM OIS WR Macro lens as five autoexposure brackets processed in Skylum Aurora HDR 2019 with film emulation LUT applied and further processing in Skylum Luminar.
Documentary photographs made by Karin Gottschalk on Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R lens.
Header image of GFX 50R made by Jonas Rask for Fujifilm.
“Equivalence. It’s the bugbear of anyone who reviews Micro Four Thirds lenses. You are being conned says the incoming mail. Your f/1.4 lens is really an f/2.8. And your so called shallow depth of field is commensurate with f/2.8, too, not f/1.4. It’s an argument I’ve heard so many times and while factually true, is pointless and irrelevant. The only rational response is -so what?…
Put simply, a native Micro Four Thirds lens is just that. A native Micro Four Thirds lens. It isn’t a Full Frame lens. It won’t fit a DSLR and if it did it wouldn’t cover the whole frame. I’ve tried more and more to describe lenses according to their angle of view since that is universal. If you know what angle of view you want, you can choose a lens to get it. Thus, I know that I like as a standard prime a lens with a moderate wide angle, around 54° horizontal. A quick calculation at Points In Focus Photography tells me that for a Micro Four Thirds sensor it would be 17mm, for FF 35mm and for Medium Format 55mm. Easy.”
Former Fleet Street newspaper photographer David Thorpe is in my humble opinion one of the best and most useful writers and reviewers on Micro Four Thirdscameras and lenses though it is a pity that camera and lens makers don’t give him the credit and access to review gear that he deserves.
Mr Thorpe comes from a 35mm and 120 roll-film single lens reflex (SLR) background during the analog era whereas I have always relied on rangefinder and view cameras and prefer digital cameras that give me some semblance of those unique ways of seeing and photographing.
The other big difference between Mr Thorpe and I is that I rely on all my cameras, to varying degrees, when making photographs as well as videos and video is better served by fully manual lenses or at least manual clutch focus lenses such as those made by Fujifilm in APS-C X-Mount format and Olympus in M43.
As a result there are M43 lenses, especially small, light and relatively affordable prime and zoom lenses, that I quite like for stills photography but that are ruled out for serious video production, and more specialized M43 lenses such as those made by Veydra in their Mini Prime range, and those made by Olympus under their M.Zuiko Pro brand.
“… I can understand and agree with every reason put forward for those big, expensive optically superb f/1.2. And yet, in my heart, ever since I bought into Micro Four Thirds I’ve retained my original reasoning. Put an Olympus 17mm f/1.8 on a Panasonic GX9 body and go out street shooting in Soho. Now go out with a 17mm f/1.2 on the front. What can I say? Little and good, big and bad….”
Not quite, insofar as hybrid street shooting goes.
Although I have been tempted by the idea of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8 given its focal length is my own perfect all-in-one go-to, in reality this lens is apparently a little too compromised for documentary video production, according to a number of pro video reviewers.
I have yet to lay my hands on one for serious try out and review, but the first thing to consider is the practicality of attaching fixed or variable neutral density filters to its 46mm filter diameter via a step-up ring.
I have standardized on 77mm and 82mm diameter variable and fixed NDs in order to keep down costs, but need to maintain a selection of step-up rings to fit those NDs on a range of lenses.
Experience has taught me to stick to brass step-up rings to avoid binding, preferring brands that knurl the outside of their rings for best grip in challenging conditions but then that narrows brand choice down to Breakthrough Photography, Heliopan, PolarPro and Sensei Pro.
Of those only Heliopan makes rings for smaller filter diameters like 46mm but they don’t step-up to 82mm; for that you will need to attach a 77mm to 82mm step-up ring for which I would automatically choose the one made by Breakthrough Photography.
The same goes for other small M43 lenses some of which may be more suitable for video production such as Panasonic’s Lumix G 42.5mm f/1.7 Aspheric Power OIS with its 37mm filter diameter, the Lumix G Vario 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II Aspheric Mega OIS with its 46mm filter diameter, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2.0 with its 46mm filter diameter and manual clutch focus, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.8 with 46mm filter diameter but no manual clutch focus and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8, again with no manual clutch focus but with a 46mm filter diameter.
Some made by Olympus, some by Panasonic. some with manual clutch focus, some without, none with wide filter diameters and all needing one or two step-up rings to get them to the magic 77mm or 82mm filter diameter, the latter of which I have chosen as my new default given better ND filter choice in that size now.
Digital Trends – Olympus M. Zuiko F1.2 Pro lenses prove there’s life left in Micro Four Thirds – “Naturally, these lenses are fantastic for portraiture. The sense of depth they give at f/1.2 is like nothing else we’ve ever seen on the format. In fact, the remark that kept coming to mind was, “This looks like film.” It is probably the first time we’ve ever felt that way about Micro Four Thirds…. Olympus’ goal with the F1.2 Pro series was to craft a specific quality of blur, which the company calls “feathered bokeh.”
Digital Trends – Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 Pro review – “… until now, there hasn’t been a fast, wide-angle prime that really targeted high-end and professional users. The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 Pro changes that, combining the largest aperture of any wide-angle lens available for the format with exceptional build quality.”
Digital Trends – Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 Pro review – “… [the] Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 Pro, however, is a technically excellent lens that may also just be special enough to inspire you emotionally. It highlights the impressive move that the Micro Four Thirds system has made into the world of professional photography.”
Digital Trends – Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 Pro review – “… the 45mm is perhaps the most exciting entry in the series — everything about it is finely tuned for portrait photography… In fact, it is our favorite portrait-length lens for the MFT system.”
“Sigma just patented two new Micro Four Thirds lenses: 14mm f/1.2 and 35mm f/1.2. Now you will wonder…what has this to do with Panasonic? Because Sigma is known to sell those lens designs to Panasonic. The Leica 12mm f/1.4 for example is designed by Sigma…
That’s why there is a high chance the 14mm and 35mm f/1.2 prime lenses will be released by Panasonic (maybe using Leica brand)….”
Or maybe there is an even higher chance that Sigma is planning on selling these two new f/1.2 prime lens designs to Olympus for its top-tier M.Zuiko Pro lens collection to go with its current 17mm, 25mm and 45mm f/1.2 primes?
Sigma Corporation, like Cosina and several other mostly Japanese companies, is an OEM manufacturer of lenses for other brands and apparently has already sold lens designs to Olympus, such as the 150mm-equivalent M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8, considered to be one of the optically finest Micro Four Thirds lenses available.
Sigma apparently was known for some years as a budget lens maker but its Art range of premium lenses proved that it belongs in the ranks of professional-quality lens makers now.
Sigma’s recently released Ciné prime and zoom lens collection cements the company’s reputation firmly in place as does, on the adapted lens front, the company’s much-lauded Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art, often first choice in combo with Metabones Speed Boosters for M43 video camera users working in available darkness.
Two documentary movie and photography favourites, 28mm and 75mm
My two preferred documentary prime lens focal lengths are 28mm and 75mm in 35mm sensor equivalence and they are my first choice when buying into a new camera system.
That choice is often thwarted, though, by their equivalents’ unavailability as native lenses in some mirrorless camera systems or, in the case of Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R, an ageing lens’ quirky mechanical qualities making it next to useless for a high speed approach necessitated by the nature of my subjects and their circumstances.
28mm equivalent prime lenses by Fujifilm, Leica and Panasonic
Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 II Aspheric pancake prime lens, which appears to be missing in action from most if not all retailers now.
Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R prime lens, regrettably much too slow to focus manually or via autofocus and its aperture ring too flakey and quirky for fast-paced professional work in stills and video, though some folks seem to like it for the quirkiness that made it frustrating for me.
Leica Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 Aspheric prime lens for Leica M-Mount.
Panasonic’s pancake prime, the Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 II, had vanished from most retailers after I tried a review loaner out and although I made some great photographs with it, its performance was suboptimal for everything I wanted to do with it, not least due to its lack of a focussing ring.
I and many other Fujifilm camera users are still waiting for the company to issue its long-rumoured 18mm update perhaps in the form of a Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R WR “Fujicron”, especially suitable for documentary photography with the X-Pro2 rangefinder camera, the X-E3 rangefinder-style camera and Fujifilm’s smaller DSLR-style cameras.
75mm equivalent prime lenses by Fujifilm, Leica and Veydra
Fujifilm Fujinon XF 50mm f/2.0 WR R “Fujicron” prime lens.
Leica Apo-Summicron-M 75mm f/2.0 Aspheric prime lens.
Veydra 35mm T2.2 Mini Prime, equivalent to 70mm when used on a Micro Four Thirds camera.
Veydra 50mm T2.2 Mini Prime, equivalent to 75mm when used on a Fujifilm or Sony APS-C camera.
Prime lenses in the 35mm sensor equivalent 75mm focal length are as hard to find in the Micro Four Thirds world as their 28mm equivalent siblings, and that relative rarity is not assisted by Sigma’s patent for a 35mm and not 37.5mm focal length lens.
Even so there are times I miss the 90mm focal length equivalent so have Olympus’ M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro high on my M43 lens wishlist, also due to the manual clutch focus featured in all M.Zuiko Pro prime and zoom lenses making them invaluable for professional moviemaking and photography work.
Given a choice between a manual focus or manual clutch focus lens and a fly-by-wire autofocus or autofocus/manual lens, I will choose the manual or manual clutch focus lens same as I will choose a pair of fast primes over a zoom lens that includes both focal lengths.
There is no denying, though, that some projects demanding stealth, speed and small camera bag transportation can benefit from carrying just one top-quality zoom lens like the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro or the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro.
Designed by Sigma for Olympus or Panasonic?
It is too early to tell whether the 43 Rumors folks are correct about Sigma’s 14mm and 35mm f/1.2 lens design patents being intended for Panasonic.
I am hoping upon hope that the eventual destination will be Olympus and its M.Zuiko Pro lens collection.
Panasonic seems disinclined to replace its lenses’ linear and non-linear fly-by-wire mechanisms with the far more capable manual clutch focus mechanism used in Olympus’ M.Zuiko primes and zooms, and Fujifilm’s 14mm, 16mm and 23mm wider aperture trio for that matter.
Panasonic insiders have told me they constantly receive requests from professional users for manual clutch focus lenses but the company seems set on its current path if its apparently Sigma-designed 12mm, 15mm, 25mm and 42.5mm wide aperture Leica-branded lenses are any indication.
I wish to see Olympus adding to its M.Zuiko Pro collection with 14mm and 37.5mm focal length lenses as well as 10.5mm and 12mm focal length prime lenses.
Sigma’s 70mm-equivalent 35mm f/1.2 lens is not quite my preferred focal length but at least it fills the gap between the current 25mm and 45mm M.Zuiko Pro lenses.
Now let’s see Olympus fill the other gaps in its M.Zuiko Pro collection.
“… The lens is incredibly sharp even when shooting wide open. The sharpness is uniform from edge to edge. The bokeh is beautiful and soft, resulting in pleasing and natural looking images. Technical flaws are well controlled with no noticeable distortion, minimal chromatic aberration and good flare control. AF is speedy and reliable. the lens just works and it exceeded my expectations….
… Of the three F1.2 lenses, I am surprised to conclude that this 17mm F1.2 is my personal favourite.”
I have been recommending the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro collection of fast maximum aperture prime and zoom lenses for their many attributes of use to cinematographers – their affordability and low weight and small size compared to their 35mm sensor format equivalents, mechanical durability, weather resistance and high optical quality as well as their small set of filter diameters allowing for a smaller set of step-up rings and neutral density filters.
The recent addition by Panasonic of the ability to allocate lens-related, barrel-mounted L-Fn functionality to M.Zuiko Pro lenses via firmware when used on the GH5 has added yet another reason to seriously consider M.Zuiko Pro lenses for video production.
I hope that Panasonic will add that L-Fn functionality to the G9, GH4 and GX8 as well as other Lumix cameras in a new set of firmware updates.
Size, weight, price and capability are relative traits.
Ming Thein reviewer Robin Wong writes:
A genuine concern, however, is the diminishing benefit of Micro Four Thirds systems having smaller, more portable lenses. These new F1.2 PRO lenses are no smaller or lighter than their DSLR counterparts.
Maybe so, and at USD1,199.00 the three M.Zuiko Pro prime lenses are not a great deal cheaper than their f/1.2 Canon equivalents in the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM and EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lenses, but the GH5 possesses video production traits simply not available on Canon EOS DSLRs.
I have not tried any of the Olympus M.Zuiko f/1.8 lenses to which Mr Wong compares the M.Zuiko Pro primes, but have used and owned some of Panasonic’s excellent and affordable little f/1.7 or slower Lumix G prime lenses which are well-matched to the smaller Lumix cameras for fast, discrete stills photography.
Professional video production is something else, often demanding the use of step-up rings, variable and fixed ND filters of 77m or 82mm filter diameters, follow focus devices and focus gearing slipped over manual clutch focus rings for accurate and repeatable focus.
Earlier today I was travelling down suburban streets emptied by withering 40-degree-plus laser-beam sunlight, with Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Aspheric lens mounted on the GH5 and a couple of other small Lumix G lenses on standby should I spot a likely fellow citizen to commemorate with 10-bit 4:2:2 4K HLG HDR video footage.
“It’s wide, it’s fast and it’s tiny! Laowa’s 7.5mm f/2 is a very credible addition to the ever expanding armoury of Micro Four Thirds lenses. Is it a credible buy instead of a native Micro Four Thirds wide-zoom? It’s cheaper, that’s for sure. But does the IQ match up?…”
This morning I had to jump into action to shoot a small series of architectural interior photographs to send off to a potential buyer of our house and soon-to-be subdivided property in one of the most prestigious suburbs in Sydney’s upper north shore.
Our plan has always been to sell our house only if the subdivision takes far too long to complete, subject as such things are to the vagaries of bureaucracies and the availability or lack of it of consultants and tradesmen, as a last resort.
With almost every cent of our savings spoken for and the final cost of the last stage of the subdivision process of unknown cost depending on when a tradesman can be persuaded to arrive to take on the final stage and what he finds when he starts digging, we have had to suspend all new photography and video production hardware and software purchases and it really grates.
I have been wanting some wider focal lengths than 12mm (in Micro Four Thirds) or 16mm (in APS-C) both of which are equivalent to 24mm in the 35mm format, for quite some time, for architectural photography and moviemaking as well as scene-setting shots in photoessays and movies.
The optimum super wide-angle lens solutions for each or just one of those two mirrorless sensor formats that I use are neither clear nor obvious.
Choose a zoom lens and compromise on optical distortion and vignetting?
Compromise again on a variable instead of fixed maximum aperture zoom lens knowing that I find variable maximum apertures irritating when shooting video though acceptable enough when shooting stills?
And what do you do about superwide zoom lenses and some superwide prime lenses with convex front elements that make attaching protective, UV or ND filters really expensive, bulky or next-to-impossible?
One possible stop-gap solution might be an affordable, small flat-fronted manual prime like the Laowa 7.5mm f/2.0 rectilinear superwide lens.
There is nothing so annoying as shooting a figure walking through a cityscape and the lens is turning all the parallel straight lines into curves, morphing from straight to bent and back as you follow your subject.
The Laowa 7.5mm f/2.0, equivalent to 15mm in 35mm sensor terms, is wider than my preferred go-to superwide focal length of 10.5mm in M43, 14mm in APS-C or 21mm in 35mm format, and the Laowa has a very small filter diameter of 46mm, necessitating finding an alternative to my preferred range of top-quality knurled brass step-up rings made by Breakthrough Photography.
My second-choice brand in knurled brass step-up rings, Sensei Pro, does not appear to make a 46mm diameter step-up ring either so I am limited to my third-choice, the non-knurled but thankfully non-binding brass Heliopan, made in Germany.
Why aren’t these things straightforward and easy to solve?
I managed to produce an acceptable set of interior photographs with my Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom set at 12mm, my least favourite focal length for architectural and interiors photography, but at least it got the job done.
When it comes time to produce a complete set of images of this house and land once the final work is done and the council approvals – fingers crossed – come through, then I will have to do it with a much wider lens to get the feel of really being there in the interior or in the landscape rather than peering at it from a slight distance.
I would rather spend more money on Micro Four Thirds lenses and accessories right now than on APS-C gear as I need to have a well-rounded video and stills kit based on Panasonic’s Lumix Super 16/M43 cameras rather than Fujifilm’s Super 35/APS-C cameras.
Panasonic has really hit the moviemaking mark whereas Fujifilm is still playing catch-up from well behind in the video stakes and seems to have lost interest in producing more moviemaking-ready manual clutch focus primes and zooms.
Fujifilm’s strength is in stills photography with my preferred camera series being the professional digital rangefinder X-Pron (n standing for a number) and the compact digital rangefinder X100n, both of which allow me to create photographs with image design and timing that continue to elude me in EVF-based cameras like Panasonic’s.
If Fujifilm comes out with a top-quality, non-compromised EVF in the X-Pro2’s successor than I may well add one for use with prime lenses longer than 35mm and wider than 18mm, as well as all zoom lenses, making for a classic two-camera, longer plus wider prime lens kit for immersive documentary photography.
Meanwhile Panasonic goes from strength to strength with its EVF-based, DSLR-style video stills hybrids cameras, though I do have a very special fondness for its Lumix GXn rangefinder-style series with its unique tilting EVF that allows me to photograph in the style of my beloved, long-lost Rolleiflex twin lens reflex cameras.
Olympus has announced the next two prime lenses in its M.Zuiko Pro collection of top quality zoom and prime lenses, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro.
The M.Zuiko Pro collection currently includes 7-14mm, 8mm, 12-40mm, 12-100mm, 25mm, 40-150mm and 300mm focal lengths, or in 35mm sensor equivalent terms, 14-28mm, 16mm, 24-80mm, 24-200mm, 80-300mm and 600mm focal lengths.
Apart from the 8mm full-frame fisheye and 300mm long telephoto lenses in the lineup, the M.Zuiko Pro collection’s fast primes will soon number three that are equivalent to 34mm, 50mm and 90mm in 35mm sensor format terms.
Add the 21mm or 24mm equivalent focal lengths of 10.5mm and 12mm to those three and you have an excellent though lean core set of colour-matched primes capable of repeatable manual focus via their manual clutch focussing mechanism.
Add the 28mm equivalent focal length of 14mm and you have a complete set of wide through to medium long focal lengths able to handle most anything that comes along, whether documentary stills or video.
Focus-by-wire is a right royal pain
As the guys at Calgary’s The Camera Store often point out, focus-by-wire lenses suck when shooting video and manual clutch focus lenses in the M.Zuiko Pro and other Olympus collections are preferable by far.
Manual clutch focus is also useful in achieving fast, accurate focus in stills photography, especially when using fast maximum aperture lenses in longer focal lengths.
I hope that these three fast M.Zuiko Pro lenses – 17mm, 25mm and 45mm – are just the start of a growing prime lens subset.
They don’t all need to be as fast at f/1.2.
A maximum aperture of f/1.4 is fine for wider lenses so long as they have the same construction quality, colour rendering and optical correction as the rest of the M.Zuiko Pro collection.
I can get by without 14mm for the time being.
The 14mm focal length (28mm equivalent in 35mm sensor size) is the default setting on my Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom lens for documentary photography and video – I rotate the lens’ focal length aka zoom ring to the 14mm mark when extracting my GX8 or GH4 out of my camera bag.
Robert Capa’s saying that “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” holds true in the digital age and a reasonably wide default focal length like 14mm forces you to get up close, personal, immersive and emotional in contrast to 25mm’s surrealist distancing or 17mm’s neither-fish-nor-fowl though often handy moderate wide-angle compromise.
Don’t underestimate the joys of a matched lens set…
… and never underestimate the usefulness of the 17mm focal length.
When I discovered the Leica M-System during the analog era, the only lens I could buy locally was a Summicron-M 35mm f/2.0 lens, the “compact classic prime”.
The 35mm focal length, 17.5mm in Micro Four Thirds, is the perfect compromise if carrying just the one lens.
Not too wide for portraiture and especially suited to environmental portraiture, not too narrow for getting deep and intense inside a rapidly moving mass of people such as a demonstration, protest or rally, the moderate wide-angle 17mm focal length is a versatile compromise and the one I always recommend to beginning photographers whether in its M43 17mm form, APS-C 23mm equivalent, 35mm sensor 35mm equivalent or 45mm for Fujifilm’s GFX 50S medium format camera.
Until the arrival of the M.Zuiko Pro 17mm f/1.2 lens, the only other M43 17mm lens will have been the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8, perfectly suited to small stills-oriented cameras like the rangefinder-style Pen F though less appropriate, according to users, for shooting video due to its noisy internal focussing motors.
Like many others in the various Olympus lens collections, the 17mm f/1.8 has manual clutch focus, a crucial feature that should be built into all lenses, especially those intended for use by moviemakers.
Primes or zooms?
As many wiser heads than I have pointed out over the years, relying on a set of prime lenses as opposed to zooms has a number of benefits despite the convenience of having a number of focal lengths in the one lens.
I would love Olympus to add the 10.5mmm focal length (21mm equivalent in 35mm sensor size) to the M.Zuiko Pro collection for scene-setting shots for which 12mm is too constricting, especially when shooting DCI4K and other aspect ratios and resolutions.
No other lens maker has come up with a truly professional-quality M43 manual and autofocus native 10.5mm lens and I am sure Olympus has what it takes to do it.
Olympus does offer the 10.5mm-inclusive 7-14mm f/2.8 zoom lens in its M.Zuiko Pro collection, and from the all-too-brief in-store tryout I had when a mid-sized camera store existed nearby, the lens’ one downside is its large protruding convex front element.
Not such a problem when shooting stills, though I do feel better installing a top-quality protective or UV filter in front when working on location.
Neither the 45mm f/1.2 nor 17mm f/1.2 are available yet and have only been tried out by a handful of users, mostly Olympus Visionaries.
Despite their early praise, some potential buyers chatting on online fora seem to believe that these two lenses plus the 25mm f/1.2 that appeared over a year ago are too large, too heavy and too costly.
So, I did a quick test on the Compact Camera Meter website in order to compare the dimensions of my most-used M.Zuiko Pro lens with the three fast M.Zuiko Pro primes, placing them on the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5.
They look well-proportioned in relation to the camera to me, and all are about the same size.
As with most items of hardware, you get what you pay for and if the few photographs made with these lenses that have been released so far are any indication, these three lenses look well worthwhile.
I asked cinematographer/director Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT One fame what native lenses he would use on his GH5 for making feature films.
“Olympus would be my pick if I was using M43 lenses”, he told me.
Mr Leeming currently uses Metabones Speed Booster-adapted Zeiss Contax manual prime lenses on his GH5, attaching his ND filters with the Xume magnetic system.
Product shots and sample photographs kindly supplied by Olympus Australia and Olympus USA and their public relations agencies and staff.
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 with manual clutch focusing, brilliant for shooting video or stills where accurate focus is absolutely critical.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II DSLR-style camera with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens with manual clutch focus. Photograph courtesy of Olympus.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro lens. Olympus has got manual focus right with its retractable manual clutch focus ring that allows accurate, repeatable focus and focus pulling.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro lens. Not shown in this photograph: retracting the focus ring activates the lens’ manual cutch focus mechanism, allowing for fast, accurate, repeatable focussing and focus pulling.
The M.Zuiko Pro 17mm f/1.2 on an Olympus Pen-F, probably not much larger or heavier than, say, the popular 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
The M.Zuiko Pro 25mm f/1.2 on an Olympus Pen, probably not much larger or heavier than, say, the popular 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
The M.Zuiko Pro 45mm f/1.2 on an Olympus Pen-F, probably not much larger or heavier than, say, the popular 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens.
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro prime lens with manual clutch focusing via retracting focus control ring. Equivalent to 90mm in the 35mm sensor format. If only ALL lenses offered manual clutch focus!
Official Olympus sample image shot with the 17mm f/1.2 M.Zuiko Pro lens, cropped to 16×9 to simulate video. A sense of being close to the subject but with distracting background elements blurred (aka bokeh) to concentrate fully on the subject.
I could not, alas, find an official Olympus 25mm lens sample shot of a human female to crop to 16×9 in order to simulate video so have had to resort to this cute little kitten. Visualize a human female here instead. The 25mm f/1.2 gives a look and feel in between those of the 17mm and 45mm M.Zuiko Pro f/1.2 lenses.
Official Olympus sample image shot with the 45mm f/1.2 M.Zuiko Pro lens, cropped to 16×9 to simulate video. A sense of being much further from the subject but with distracting background elements blurred (aka bokeh) even more than the 17mm and 25mm to concentrate even more fully on the subject.
The Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lens line-up as of late October 2017.
The addition of the 17mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2 lenses to Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro professional Micro Four Thirds lens collection is an exciting development and offers the hope that more such fast prime lenses will be forthcoming.
When I began looking at Super 16/Micro Four Thirds as a serious documentary moviemaking and photography platform some years ago, my biggest concern was the apparent lack of an extensive optically and mechanically matched set of well-spaced prime and zoom lenses as we long have been accustomed to in other sensor formats.
The prospect of having to assemble a lens set comprising different brands and different optical and mechanical characteristics and qualities was not an attractive one.
That concern has now been largely allayed.
I will be even less concerned if Olympus adds a reasonably fast 10.5mm to the M.Zuiko Pro collection as the widest offering in its core prime lens subset.
I bought into the Super 16/Micro Four Thirds system when needing to shoot more video than stills, and while waiting for Fujifilm to come up with what finally turned out to be the X-Pro2, which was being spoken of back then as a Super 16/APS-C 4K-capable stills camera with accurate film simulations for video and JPEGs.
With the GH5, Panasonic has soared ahead and Fujifilm has years of catching up to do.
Of Panasonic’s own lens offerings, I am not so sure especially as they rely on focus-by-wire, which is fine for autofocus and back-button focus for stills but lousy for manually focussing video.
After trying out the Panasonic Lumix G 12-35mm f/2.8 and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 lenses, I chose the latter and as Olympus released more M.Zuiko Pro lenses was increasingly impressed with the direction they were taking.
The three latest M.Zuiko Primes have me really impressed, for stills as well as video.
I relied on kits of two, three or four prime lenses for each camera system I used during the analog era, often carrying no more than three on most assignments, most often one long, one wide and one even wider.
It feels like I could do the same with these three M.Zuiko primes, for cinematography and photography, so long as I have a couple of matching zooms and one prime lens on the wide end socked away.
Olympus, please give us a 10.5mm prime lens to go with your 17mm, 25mm and 45mm primes, along with your 12-40mm and 40-150mm zooms to fill in the gaps.
Articles and Other Links
43Rumors.com – rumours website that has my gratitude for doing a great job keeping those of us relying on Olympus, Panasonic and other brand of Micro Four Thirds cameras and lenses.
Cosyspeed – The OLYMPUS 25/1.2 Street-Review – “The OLY 25/1.2 has a certain magic and I would describe it’s special character in the way it closes the gap between a pronounced three dimensional look and a portrait friendly (lower) level of micro contrast…. I don’t know how the OLYMPUS engineers made it, but they found a way to give it a lot of 3D pop while micro contrast is on a natural level.”
Ming Thein – Review: the 2017 Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f1.2 PRO – article and photographs by Robin Wong. “… I find the images from the 45mm PRO lens to be lively, vibrant and realistic. There is an extra dimension to the images… Whatever secret sauce Olympus is using here, I sure hope they add it to their future lenses.”
Olympus – M.Zuiko Pro – has yet to be updated with the new lenses.
redtealongan – Olympus 45mm F1.2 PRO Lens Hands-On – “How good was the F1.2 PRO series lens in comparison to the Fujinon XF56mmF1.2 R which I currently own? Well, after having the hands-on with the Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO, I think I am convinced that Olympus has successfully created a phenomenal portrait lens.”