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Thread: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

  1. #1

    Default Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

    Introduction

    At a recent Clubsnap Panasonic GX85 hands-on session the Panasonic 12mm f1.4 made a surprising appearance, given it was only recently announced and availability had yet to be confirmed. I was quite delighted to be able to handle the pre-production unit albeit quite briefly so things got even better when I received a message from Clubsnap asking whether I'd like to test drive the lens. Even though it wasn't a focal length I frequently used, it was an opportunity too hard to pass up on so I jumped at the chance.
    Many thanks to Panasonic and Clubsnap for the opportunity to test out the Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH (12/1.4 from now on).


    Disclaimer
    As with all user reports, it comes with the usual individual biases.
    Over the course of 2 weeks that I had with a pre-production unit, I tried shooting the lens in a wide variety of circumstances to see how it performed over many genres. There are no payments involved and I was given free reign to express my opinions.
    Images were shot in RAW + JPEG with the RAW files converted to DNG and processed to taste using Lightroom 5 as this is my usual workflow.

    With all that aside, let's take a closer look at the 12/1.4.


    What is it?
    The 12/1.4 is a wide angle autofocus lens for the micro four thirds (m43) format which roughly equates to the field of view (FOV) of a 24mm lens on the 135 full frame format, disregarding any image aspect ratio differences.
    With a maximum aperture of 1.4, it is also the fastest 12mm lens offering in the m43 format. The native m43 lens is weather sealed and will function on any m43 body however the aperture ring function is limited to Panasonic bodies only.


    Panasonic 12mm F1.4 mounted on a Panasonic GX85
    Last edited by swifty; 18th July 2016 at 09:11 AM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

    Look, Handling and Features

    The lens has an all-metal body and mount and comes with a reversible hood. The construction and inclusion of some exotic glass including 2 aspherical , 2 ED and 1 UED elements as well as a fast maximum aperture makes for a hefty, quality feel.




    The lens measures 70mm X 70mm and weighs in at 335g.
    It accepts 62mm filters and for reference, Panasonic's own 12-35/2.8 and 42.5/1.2 Nocticron take on 58mm and 67mm filters respectively so the barrel has quite a lot of girth for a m43 lens.



    Aesthetically the lens fits seamlessly into Panasonic's family of existing Leica DG lenses.


    A ubiquitous AA battery for size


    On the barrel there are easily distinguishable (by feel) aperture and focusing rings as well as an AF/MF switch.
    The aperture ring is has full stop markings and an ‘A’ setting adjacent to the maximum f1.4 setting whilst turning the ring clicks through in 1/3 stop increments with a soft audible click. The ring is easy to turn but offers slightly too little resistance for my liking where I found it easy to inadvertently change aperture settings when holding the lens with my left hand. Similarly it wasn’t difficult to overshoot the f1.4 setting when turning the ring quickly to f1.4 even with some extra resistance between f1.4 and A.
    A hard button stop (like that on a Panasonic LC1 or similar for those with long enough memories) might be preferable to some.
    In the A setting, the aperture is controlled by one of the body dials.

    There are no DOF or focus distance markings on the lens. The focus ring control is fly-by-wire so there are no mechanical linkage to the focus mechanism. Manual focus override and focus distance information as well as a multitude of MF aids are handled electronically so unfortunately for those who like to pre-focus the lens without turning the camera on are out of luck.
    Focus ring resistance is very smooth and conducive to precise manual focusing and I didn’t notice any latency issues. Even someone like me who distrust my personal ability to manual focus got some pretty high keeper rates but I must admit, I did most of my shooting in AF. Focus throw was approximately 360 degrees or one full turn from minimum focus distance to infinity but I suppose being fly-by-wire, it would be possible to change this setting although this wasn’t an option that I noticed on the GX85.
    *EDIT: I have since learnt that the focus throw may be variable in a fly-by-wire setup as turning the ring quickly or slowly may change the focus throw. When I tested the focus throw, I was turning the ring quite slowly and yielded consistent results but I didn't check whether this changed if I turned the ring quickly.*




    Mounted on a GX85, the combination definitely seems front heavy. For single handed operation, I feel the lens is better suited for bodies with more substantial grips such as the GX8 or the G/GH series. However if you'd like to use the aperture ring, this becomes a two-handed operation lens so the front heaviness is limited to carrying the lens which you could supplement with a hand or neck strap or third party thumb rest accessories.

    Unfortunately the lens omits optical stabilisation although camera in-body stabilisation are rapidly becoming the standard in most new bodies.

    Without the hood, the bottom of the lens sits flush with the lower edge of a GX85 when placed on a flat surface. This meant my tripod plate could barely fit on a GX85 and 12/1.4 combo as seen in the picture below.


    Incidentally, this is roughly how close you are to your subject at the minimum focusing distance (MFD). The reproduction ratio at the MFD is 0.1X so this is no macro lens but then again wide angles rarely are.
    Last edited by swifty; 19th July 2016 at 10:05 AM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

    Autofocus

    The 12/1.4 features and internal AF drive system with stepping motors compatible with Panasonic's DFD technology for both video and stills at an impressive 240fps digital signal exchange.
    In practice what that translates to is pretty impressively fast AF that was essentially silent and the barrel doesnít physically get longer or shorter during focusing.

    In single AF mode I generally had no issues acquiring focus except at the very extreme frame edge but this could well be a camera body issue rather than the lens.
    The f1.4 maximum aperture should help deliver more light to any AF systems in low light when conditions approach the minimum EV scene luminance that the camera's AF can work down to.

    In continuous AF, it still seems to work quite well too but I found it couldnít keep up in the below difficult shooting conditions.
    Indoors and back lit, I tried letting the cameraís continuous AF with face recognition track back and forth on my daughterís face at a fairly close shooting distance. Keeper rates where focus was spot on werenít very high but most were quite close and could be deemed usable if the output medium was less demanding eg. web publishing.



    The focus landed on the shirt instead of the face.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

    DOF and Bokeh

    People rarely associate wide angles with shallow DOF. Yet this is something that can produce fairly unique images with the ability to isolate without completely obliterating the background context.
    I personally like this for environmental portraits but the 12mm focal length require you get quite close to your subject which can introduces a fair amount of unwanted distortion if youíre not careful with your framing.


    F1.4 at the zoo.

    As a street photography lens, I find it tricky to get close enough to limit my DOF so the f1.4 aperture became more useful as a way to increase or maintain good shutter speeds.

    The 9 blade aperture diaphragm produces very smooth bokeh both in the transitional and completely defocused areas.


    Foreground to background bokeh transition at F1.4


    Completely defocussed zone with point source highlights at F1.4

  5. #5

    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

    Image quality

    Iíll refer to some obligatory test shots with crops from the maximum f1.4 to minimum f16.
    In the first series I borrowed Cameralabs.comís diagonal composition test so I could more easily place distant areas of detail at opposite corners of the frame.

    The entire scene:


    Centre Crops:

    f1.4


    f2


    f2.8


    f4

  6. #6

    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report


    f5.6


    f8


    f11


    f16

  7. #7

    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

    Lower Left extreme corner:


    f1.4


    f2


    f2.8


    f4


    f5.6

  8. #8

    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report


    f8


    f11


    f16

    You can make up your own mind about the performance but to my eye, centre detail is already impressive at f1.4 and just keeps getting better but does get quite soft from f11. In the corners, wide open the lens is still performing well peaking at around f4-f5.6 and still good to f8 but again becomes quite soft from f11.
    However, it is interesting to note the lens produces some of the best starburst when stopped down. So if you can live with some diffraction and softness, you can be rewarded with some brilliant starbursts from point light sources at f16.

    For an example of this, I'll refer to an already excellent example from another clubsnap thread:
    http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1617295
    Post #8
    Last edited by swifty; 17th July 2016 at 10:53 PM.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

    At f1.4 the lens also suffers from some coma and chromatic aberration (CA) in the corners with point light sources but is mostly gone by f2.

    Whole scene:


    Crops:

    f1.4


    f2


    f2.8


    But in general CA and purple fringing are well controlled other than the point light sources examples above. All I can say is that it's not a concern with this lens and if you do happen to find it, itís only a click away to eliminate via post processing.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

    Additionally I did a close focus test at f1.4 where I varied the subject position from centre to edge, refocusing on the subject each time.


    Last edited by swifty; 17th July 2016 at 11:46 PM.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

    Here both centre and off-centre performed well. I needed to zoom in 200% to really see a significant difference between the centre and off centre.

    Crops:

    Centre


    Off centre


    Thereís a noticeable drop in detail at the corners when viewed at 200% but on a practical basis, I donít see many situations where youíd need to place your subject that far into the corners for this to be a concern. But as they say, your miles may vary so Iím just going to put the information out there for you to decide whether this is of concern.

    Corner

  12. #12

    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

    Image Quality (continued)

    Vignetting: There is visible vignetting at f1.4, a trace at f2 and essentially gone above that.

    f1.4 vs f2

    Flare: The lens does suffer from some significant flaring with strong light sources so beware of this when the sun is in the frame or other strong point light sources such as a street lamp. Iíd recommend keeping the lens hood on at all times but even then you should be careful when framing to include strong light sources.
    However if thereís a silver lining, I didnít find the flare pattern to be particularly objectionable so one could imaging inducing lens flare in an image for artistic purposes.



    Distortions: I donít have any software that could be used to analyse the images for distortions but suffice it to say it is at a low enough level not to be noticeable.
    I compared the SOOC JPEGs to the RAW files and they were essentially the same in terms of image distortions so unless the RAW files are preconditioned, I think the lens is very well corrected optically for distortions.


    There's a little bit of keystoning in this pic but still you can see all the lines are essentially straight.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

    Concluding remarks

    Iíve thoroughly enjoyed my time with the 12/1.4 For a format such as m43, Iíd be happy to take an extra stop in aperture any time whether it be used to gain and extra stop of isolation or shutter speed. The price you pay is the extra weight and bulk.

    I wish I had a longer time with the lens since I normally donít find it easy to form an opinion on something until Iíve had extensive use of the product over several months but I hope my brief report has given you some accurate impressions of what the lens is all about.

    If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them as best as I can from memory as I no longer have the lens.

    Iíll just leave you with a variety of images I managed to take over the last 2 weeks.


  14. #14

    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

    Astro and night photography








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    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report










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    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report










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    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report










  19. #19
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    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

    wonderful images, thanks for the comparisons at different apertures. At F1.4 it's plenty sharp and detailed, even better than F16. Quite a lethal companion with GX85 for low light & astro.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH Lens User Report

    Thanks LP.
    Really a great addition to the m43 line-up. Not for everyone but certainly brings something new to the format.
    Wished I had more time to shoot with it haha.

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