Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 ASPH LEICA DG SUMMILUX
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Lab Test Results
July 26, 2011
by Andrew Alexander
The Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm ƒ/1.4 ASPH is a fast fixed-focal length lens, designed to fit the micro four-thirds frame of the G3 camera. The lens is compatible with other micro four-thirds mounts.
Released in 2011, the 25mm ƒ/1.4 provides an effective field of view of 50mm when mounted on cameras using the micro four-thirds standard. The lens takes 46mm filters and comes standard with a rectangular lens hood. The lens is available now for approximately $600.
The 25mm ƒ/1.4 Summilux is exceptionally sharp, especially when stopped down slightly. When used wide open at ƒ/1.4, the vast majority of the frame is incredibly sharp, tapering to very light corner softness in the extreme edges. Stopped down to ƒ/2, this corner softness is dramatically reduced, and disappears completely at ƒ/2.8 where the lens is tack-sharp across the frame. This sharpness continues all the way to ƒ/11, where technically diffraction limiting has set in, but you'd be hard-pressed to see any indication in real-world photographs. Even fully stopped-down at ƒ/16 the 25mm ƒ/1.4 Summilux provides very sharp performance that other lenses would strive for.
There is some chromatic aberration to speak of when the lens is used wide open at ƒ/1.4, taking the form of magenta fringing on areas of high contrast. Unfortunately this fringing is noticeable throughout the frame, not just in the corners, at this aperture. Happily, at other apertures, CA is less visible; consult our sample photos for yourself to see if it's objectionable.
As can be expected of fast lenses, there is some corner shading when used at the widest aperture, but it's not too bad - the corners are three-quarters of a stop darker than the center. Stopping down alleviates the shading, to just a 1/3EV difference at ƒ/2. At any other aperture, corner shading is negligible.
While we're pretty sure there is some post work going on within the camera, it's impressive to note there is no distortion to speak of when using this lens.
The Panasonic 25mm ƒ/1.4 Summilux DG takes less than one second to slew through the entire range of focus. When doing so, it is very quiet. Filters attached to the front element don't rotate.
The 25mm ƒ/1.4 is not a notable macro lens, offering just 0.11x magnification with a minimum close-focusing distance of 30cm (about a foot).
Build Quality and Handling
The Panasonic 25mm ƒ/1.4 Summilux makes a point of mentioning its Leica roots. Its design is fairly complicated for such a small piece of glass - 9 elements in 7 groups, including 1 UHR (Ultra High Refractive Index) and 2 Aspherical elements. The lens mount is metal and the filter ring is plastic. Otherwise, the lens is fairly barren: The lens has no switches, distance scale, depth of field scale or infrared index.
The focus ring is 3/4 inch wide, made of rubber with ribs running lengthwise to the body. The ring is super smooth to turn. Consistent with the fly-by-wire system of the camera, there are no hard stops on the close-focus and infinity end of the lens, and focus is conducted electronically.
The lens hood is a nice deep rectangular type with a flat black inside. Unfortunately it does not reverse and store on the lens backwards.
Panasonic 25mm ƒ/1.4 ASPH Leica D SUMMILUX ~$?
We never had an opportunity to test this lens before it was discontinued, but with the appropriate adapter it would work on a micro four-thirds body, and offer more information and controls than the Summilux DG: the older D version has a distance scale as well as an honest-to-goodness aperture ring.
Panasonic 20mm ƒ/1.7 ASPH LUMIX G ~$400
For slightly less money, you could find a Panasonic 20mm, offering an equivalent 40mm field of view rather than the 50mm equivalent offered by the Summilux. The maximum aperture is comparable, though the optical design is much more simple, offering results which are good, but just not quite as good as the Summilux.
Olympus 25mm ƒ/2.8 Zuiko Digital ~$200
Olympus offers a 25mm lens in the four-thirds mount, meaning it would work on micro four-thirds bodies with the appropriate adapter. The Olympus 25mm is a pancake lens, offering a much smaller package but not quite as fast an aperture (ƒ/2.8 instead of ƒ/1.4). Performance on the Olympus was very good, again, not quite matching the standard of the Panasonic, but for a third of the price.
Panasonic has done very well with this lens. The only objectionable thing about it might be its price tag, which strikes a bit high for what some might see as the micro four-thirds equivalent of the nifty fifty. However, its fast aperture and high quality justify a higher price, and given the current lack of competition in its class, you're just going to have to pay a premium price if you want what it can offer. That said, it's well worth the investment.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 ASPH LEICA DG SUMMILUX User Reviews
10 out of 10 points and recommended by graben (1 reviews)sharp, fast, beautiful bokehnone
Before the Olympus 25mm f1.8 was available this was the only game in town for auto-focus. It renders beautifully, what is in focus is sharp and what is out of focus is dreamy soft. My favorite lens.reviewed February 22nd, 2014 (purchased for $350)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Romboutroemer (2 reviews)Sharpness, bokehNone
I have a D700 and used this camera with a variety of 50 mm lenses from Nikon (1.8D/G) and the Sigma 1.4 but all these FF lenses can't hold a candle to this little optical marvel fromreviewed October 25th, 2012 (purchased for $590)
Panasonic. Already supersharp wide open and with a very nice bokeh (considering the cropfactor). Af on the Om-d is blazingly fast. No rattlesnaking on this body. Imo the best Mft lens to date, so much better than the 20/1.7. I haven't tried the 75/1.8 though.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by joekashi (7 reviews)Sharp, light, good feel and balance on E-P3none significant
One of the best lenses that I've ever used.reviewed March 13th, 2012 (purchased for $569)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Prime Minister (40 reviews)Very sharp, quick autofocus, accurate autofocus, good build quality, good gripRather expensive, nervously clicking aperture blades
This is not a pancake lens, so I don't mind the size and weight compared to the 20mm f/1.7. Sharpness and contrast are very good, straight from the maximum aperture. The autofocus system is quick enough for most work. It doesn't feel sluggish like the 20mm pancake and it's very quiet too.reviewed January 24th, 2012 (purchased for $700)
The relatively large barrel provides a good grip on small micro 4/3 camera bodies, and the wide focus ring moves smooth and precise. This lens gives you the classic 50mm field of view. The 20mm pancake really is significantly wider. This is a very important factor.
Compared to other standard lenses, the price of this Panasonic is rather high. However, I feel that the image quality, build quality and autofocus speed reflect that price.
Update: The aperture blades click nervously in high contrast situation. There's nothing you can do about it. I don't like it. It should not happen with a lens this expensive.
If you have the money to spend and if you don't mind the larger size and more narrow field of view (and the clicking aperture blades), I can recommend this 25mm over the 20mm pancake. I think the Olympus 25mm is a nicer lens all together.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by spencerberus (2 reviews)Very sharp, lightweight, good in low lightlens hood doesn't reverse for storage
This is the first lens for which I've ever paid full retail price, and I have no regrets about it. I needed a fast, fairly wide (my only other fast lens was a manual focus 50mm f1.4), sharp lens with auto focus so I could get indoor pics of numerous active nephews & nieces with minimal flash. This definitely fit the bill - and has become my primary lens for everything but macro photography - it isn't a macro lens and doesn't claim to be. It's pretty sharp wide open, which is crucial in low light if you want to avoid using a flash as much as possible. It really sharpens up around f4, I think that is about optimal for this lens though anything from 1.4 to 11 is pretty sharp (haven't tried it any smaller, if it even goes smaller). It's not built like a tank, but then it doesn't weigh as much as one either, and the materials used seem solid and high quality. I wouldn't throw it against a wall, but I can't think of much that costs $600 that I would. It's also not a pancake lens, but its my smallest non-pancake lens so I can't complain there. I've actually fit a GF2 with this lens on it (no lens hood) in a large jacket pocket comfortably. The only complaint I can come up with is that the lens hood doesn't reverse for storage - and I think it would if it were just a couple millimeters taller, but that's really minor. The same lens hood can be used with the Panasonic-Leica 45mm macro lens, and it fits right over the Panasonic 14mm lens in my camera bag so it really isn't a problem to carry around. The big plus? I'm taking a lot more pictures and not thinking 'if only I had that lens....'.reviewed December 16th, 2011 (purchased for $600)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by asulea (12 reviews)Sharp, fast focus, low light, great bokeh, well built.No.
Excelent lens for my Olympus E-P3, great color, contrast and bokeh, sharp and fast focus.reviewed December 14th, 2011 (purchased for $540)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by halfmac (11 reviews)Sharp, Fast, Small, Reasonably PricedShade does not reverse, Noisy Aperture
This lens is great. I am have so much fun with this lens. It now lives on my GH2. Makes a great size and weight. Love the manual focus ring. It is large and smooth. Odd that the lens shade does not reverse for storage.reviewed December 12th, 2011 (purchased for $529)
Did I say sharp. I should. Stellar performer, @ the fraction of a Leica M lens. A Summilux for $500?
I plan on using this lens for video recording.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by kinematic (13 reviews)super bright wide aperture, lovely build quality, includes lens hood and protective pouch. Fast AF performance and nice big focus ring.Expensive, cheap quality lens hood with no internal flocking which doesn't reverse. A little bulky.
One of my first in the holy trinity of micro four third lenses (12mm F/2, 25mm F/1.4 and 45 F/1.8).reviewed September 30th, 2011 (purchased for $650)
This lens is very nice and a treat to use for selective focusing. For 3/4 body portrait shots, it's a superb performer. I use this lens professionally for portrait work, but also recreationally for street photography. The large focus ring is very nice to use, and super smooth. The wide aperture isn't too hard to use, but shallow enough to give you great subject isolation.
There is a slight bug to using this on an Pen which makes the aperture freak out because of how bright it is. In fact you do kind of need to get an ND filter to use this during the day if you want to keep your shallow depth of field.
Overall it's a great lens to use and as one of my holy trinity of lenses, is a must have lens if you like the 50 mm equivalent.
Couple sample images here;