Panasonic 12mm f/1.4 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX
Lab Test Results
July 19, 2016
by Andrew Alexander
Panasonic continues its partnership with German optics producer Leica with the new 12mm ƒ/1.4 DG Summilux. Designed for the Micro Four Thirds mount, the lens provides a 24mm (equivalent) field of view with a very fast ƒ/1.4 aperture.
The lens ships with the H-X012 hood and takes 62mm filters. It is scheduled to ship in August 2016, and will have an anticipated price of around $1,300, making it one of the more pricier lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system.
The Panasonic 12mm ƒ/1.4 DG Summilux provides excellent sharpness, even when used wide open at ƒ/1.4. At this aperture we note only very slightly soft corners in the top left and right (showing perhaps a trace of de-centering in this sample) but otherwise excellent sharpness throughout the main region of the image.
Stopping down does improve image sharpness, at least on a technical level: in real-world usage, you probably won't notice much of a difference as it's very sharp to begin with at ƒ/1.4. Maximum sharpness - tack-sharp across the frame - is achieved by ƒ/2.8. Diffraction limiting starts to set in at ƒ/8, but even then you won't notice any impact on sharpness until at least ƒ/11.
All in all, excellent performance, and well worth the money.
The Panasonic 12mm ƒ/1.4 DG Summilux displays impressive performance when it comes to preventing chromatic aberration. If you notice it at all, it'll be at the ƒ/1.4 setting, where we note some magenta fringing in areas of high contrast.
Corner shading isn't too troubling for this lens. The only aperture setting that displays any issue for vignetting is wide open at ƒ/1.4; at this setting, the extreme corners are 2/3 of a stop darker than the center of the image. Otherwise, the corners are only 1/4EV darker, or less.
Distortion is very minimal on the 12mm ƒ/1.4; there is just a hint of barrel distortion, but probably nothing that you will notice.
The Panasonic 12mm ƒ/1.4 is autofocuses very quickly: it takes well under one second to slew through the entire range of focus. When doing so, it is also very quiet. Additionally, the 62mm filters attached to the front element don't rotate while focusing, so no issue there for filter users.
The 12mm Summilux wasn't designed as a macro lens, and it shows with just 0.10x magnification. However, with a minimum close-focusing distance of 20cm (around 8 inches), the lens can be used very effectively for an interesting, close-up wide-angle perspective.
Build Quality and Handling
Like most Micro Four Thirds primes, the 12mm ƒ/1.4 DG Summilux is a relatively small, lightweight lens at 335 grams (just under 12 ounces), but it's definitely got a nice solid feel to it. For a prime lens, it has a fairly complex design: 15 elements in 12 groups, including 1 ED, 2 UED and 2 aspherical elements. Its nine circular diaphragm blades make up the aperture for smooth, nice background blurring. The lens is minimalist in its design -- there aren't indicators or scales, and there is only a single switch which activates or deactivates autofocus. The only other points of operation are the aperture ring, and the manual focus ring.
The lens construction is very solid, with metal barrel, metal filter threads and a metal lens mount. The lens is splash and dustproof, too, including a weather seal on the mount. The manual focusing ring feels like metal, has a ribbed texture and is 5/8" wide. The ring will turn forever in either direction, not being limited at the infinity or close-focusing distances. There is an impressive amount of focus throw: With the magnified focus area and the focus peaking on, its very easy to manually focus precisely.
The manual aperture ring is quite thin at around 1/4th of an inch with small ridges for an easy grip. It features soft, clicked aperture settings, as well as an Auto mode at the left-most position of the ring for those times when you want the camera to electronically adjust the aperture. It should be noted that the aperture ring is entirely electronic, just like the focus ring.
The lens ships with the H-X012 hood, made from metal in a round design, with matte black paint in the interior to cut down on flare. The hood is 1 inch long and can be reversed to mount on the lens for storage.
Panasonic 14mm ƒ/2.5 ASPH LUMIX G ~$290
What was once the widest non-fisheye standard prime from Panasonic prior to this 12mm ƒ/1.4 lens, the 14mm ƒ/2.5 is a pancake lens, which makes it very small and compact. It's significantly more affordable than the 12mm prime and quite sharp, but CA and vignetting can be problematic, and it's certainly much slower than the 12mm, at only ƒ/2.5.
Panasonic 15mm ƒ/1.7 ASPH LEICA DG SUMMILUX ~$600
We haven't yet tested this lens, but if you were a bit taken aback by the sticker price of the 12mm ƒ/1.4, you can get into the Summilux game for about half the price if you don't mind a lens that is a little longer and a tiny bit slower.
Olympus 12mm ƒ/2 ED M.Zuiko Digital ~$800
The Olympus lens sports the same focal length, but is slightly slower at ƒ/2 compared to Panasonic's ƒ/1.4. They are very similar in their test results, but the Olympus just isn't as sharp as the Panasonic at ƒ/2 and ƒ/2.8; as they're stopped down, though, they become very similar.
Panasonic's partnership with Leica continues to bear excellent fruit. The 12mm ƒ/1.4 Summilux provides an excellent shooting experience for Micro Four Thirds users, especially at the wide ƒ/1.4 aperture where it will probably spend most of its time being used. While the price point may be a bit high for the lens, it is definitely worth every penny.
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 12mm f/1.4 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX
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