Quick Run with Panasonic Leica 25mm F1.4

I was excited when Luke Ding agreed to lend me his beautiful Panasonic Leica 25mm F1.4 for a run with my Olympus PEN E-PL1, so we, together with another friend Scott attacked the streets earlier this evening. Initially I intended to do a very short review, including some thoughts on my shooting experience and image quality of the 25mm F1.4 lens. However, while shooting I noticed that the lens, in combination with my E-PL1 has some back focusing issues, and it was proven right when more than 50% of my shots were missed focus after inspecting the images on computer screen. I shall refrain from making any comments on this lens, until I have sorted the focusing issue out, which could just be an isolated case anyway, and lets not make a big fuss out of this. 

Nonetheless, I have salvaged whatever images that I could use from the earlier shooting session, and just present them here like my usual shooting session. It was quite a fun lens to use, and I must admit, the 25mm field of view is VERY useful indeed on the street. 

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic Leica 25mm F1.4 lens. Take note that some images have slight back-focusing. 

Be calm, street photographer at work

Owh sweet bokeh...

Men at work



Joy of tele-conversation

Roadside comfort

Spaced out

Big hair


Different levels

Luke's new Nikon beast

Scott's weird camera.

For low light shooting, and the desire for smooth nice bokeh, the 25mm F1.4 is really worth a look. 

Weekend is approaching, can't wait to attack the streets again.


  1. Funny.

    I have both this lens and the previous, Four Thirds based Panasonic Leica 25mm. I got the Four Thirds lens while I was still using my E-520. On my E-520 I noticed a back-focus problem. I tried my wife"s E-520 and the back-focus problem remained, so I thought the lens is the problem. I sent it to Panasonic twice. They didn't find any problem. I then sent in both E-520 cameras we had to Olympus and it turned out they both were faulty. After Olympus fixed the cameras, the lens focused correctly.

    I'd bet it's rather your E-PL1 than the lens that is the problem and you just noticed as the lens opens up wider than the lenses you usually use.

    1. Hello Tobias,
      I have used other lenses with wide aperture, such as 20mm F1.7, 45mm F1.8, as well as Sigma 30mm F1.4 (with a mount adapter) and they all focused perfectly flawless on the E-PL1. In fact I never had any backfocus issues before. I am not saying that it is the 25mm F1.4's fault, perhaps something needs to be fine-tuned somewhere, either the camera or lens, I would not know.

    2. Try the same lens on a Panasonic body. I tested like this: focus at open aperture within close focus range at a single key on a keyboard from a flat angle. The character on the key should be perfectly in focus.

      From all I know, Panasonic lenses are known to behave differently on Olympus bodies in some cases (see also banding issues of 20mm on some OM-D bodies).

      Anyway, I have both the 20mm and the 25mm and they focus correctly on both my GF1 and OM-D.

    3. Hi. I'm using e-pl1 with sigma 30mm f1.4 via oly adaptor. I could not get the camera to lock autofocus correctly. Wht should I do?

  2. Robin: Thanks for the photos! Especially liked the guy on a ladder. So, as a guy who favors the 50mm focal length (in 4/3rd.. 100mm EFL, of course), how do you feel about the 20mm f/1.7 vs 25mm f.14? If you had to choose, which of these two do you prefer? Is it worth the almost twice more price to get the 25mm? Would love to read your opinion.


    1. Thanks Tom !!
      The 20mm vs 25mm is a tricky thing. I would go for the 20mm F1.7 for the lower price tag, and also slightly wider field of view (its good to fit a bit more on the street) but the problem is the AF on 20mm is not exactly that fast. The 25mm has much faster AF, and I can even feel it on my E-PL1. However the 25mm has back focus issue, and I am hoping this is an isolated case for this copy I was using only.
      Suppose in an ideal situation, where both lenses do not have back focus, and both lenses have equal AF speed/reliability, I would go for 20mm.

  3. That is weird. The E-PL1 uses contrast detect AF. There shouldn't be back focusing issues.

    1. Vladimir,
      I have had friends who bought new E-PL2 and had to send back to service center because of back focusing issue. Not very common, but it does happen.

    2. Interesting. What exactly does happen, any idea?

    3. This surprises me too. I thought because the sensor itself is doing the focusing, that focusing issues were a thing of the past.

  4. I've noticed that when I use the center focus point to focus, at low f/ value, and then recompose the frame, the image seems to be a little out of focus... However, if I select the focus point I want to focus, the image is sharper than the taken from the previus methot... Anyway, the lens is amazing! I used it a lot to take pics for my Streets photography series in my blog.
    Good series!!

    1. Thanks for the compliments Juansin.
      Knowing the very shallow DOF, I did not use the center point to lock focus and recompose. I use the individual 11 seperate focus boxes.

    2. Juansin - focus and recompose has its issues, as Robin knows. See http://laurencekim.com/2011/04/21/contax-645-vs-phaseonemamiya-645-the-final-showdown/ about that (he had this from the Hasselblad site; their cameras have one single AF point only).

  5. Replies
    1. THere is nothing wrong with your English !! No worries.

  6. Robin - remember I bought the 20mm from Luke and the PEN Lovers gang welcomed me back to KL with a shoot - I was puzzling the 20mm and mentioned you (and others) at that time? I know you used that 20mm but when I use it now on the E-PL1, it has the following phenomenon.

    The E-PL1 goes max liveview at f/2.8 (guess). It does go even smaller, f/.4 or f/8 in bright light but in max, it is f/2.8. If you set the PL1 on Aperture Priority and force it to use f/1.7, the liveview is NOT showing the true DOF. Only the click and the image causes the iris to go f/1.7 - the liveview does not.

    Thus the difference in DOF between liveview and the shot image explains why you point and shoot but the focus is "off" in the captured image. You can use the DOF preview and check before you shoot before you click.

    Second, the PL1 has user customisable AF point size. I use single point AF and I make the AF point small. I think Doug Parsons (?) Pardee (?) has a web article about setting AF point size. However, I don't know whether this is automatically used by normal click or it is only used when you press the zoom magnify button to inspect the scene with MF.

    In any case, the PL1 has a habit of grabbing focus for me, behind the subject - some wall or street, and miss the human with 20mm on f/1.7 - important moment shots can be lost like that.

    I have not issues with back or front focus. By theory CDAF does not have that issue - this is a DSLR issue.

    I also find Face Detect on the PL1 does not work as I think it does. I thought FD would grab a face and focus on the face, solving the PL1 grabbing the background. It doesn't do anything like that for me.

    Pleased to hear your conclusions when you figure yours out.

    1. Ananda,
      Thanks for your sharing and feedback, appreciate it much.
      I did have friends who just bought new PEN cameras, with obvious back focusing issue, and have them sent back to Olympus for servicing. It is not common, but back focusing does happen. It could be either both: body or lens.
      Nonetheless, I did use the 20mm F1.7, the exact same copy as yours before, and did not have any issue with E-PL1. If I miss the image, it is quite obvious that it was off focus, usually due to the camera not being fast enough to autofocus, or my own fault for not responding fast enough. But this 25mm is quite different. Have got to try out more to figure things out.

  7. can't wait to see ur full review on this lens!

    1. Thanks !! I might need to find a lens that does not have back focusing issue though. not many of my friends have that 25mm.

  8. I wonder are all your B&W pictures auto set with CS3 or custom tuned?

    Or are they even shot with the camera's art filter?


    1. Hey Ivan,
      I have blogged about this just the entry after this post. Hope you find it useful.

  9. Does it do this in a controlled, flat plane situation? I've found the AF boxes on my OM-D are large, and focus can be off at wide apertures. I've started using the magnify option with AF and getting good results. Also, the thin depth of field would likely be an issue if there is enough light that the lens has to focus stopped down.

    Backfocus on CDAF doesn't make any sense to me :). It is supposed to avoid all that pesky dSLR business!

    1. I have used other lenses on the E-PL1 before, 20mm F1.7, 45mm F1.8, and even mount the 30mm F1.4 sigma via adapter on it. Never had any backfocusing issue before, this 25mm is the first case.

  10. Back to the pictures... Really like the poster/people shots! 'Mirror' is especially good as is 'Different Levels' but all are very nicely seen and composed.

  11. Would very much appreciate another report after further testing! The photos you posted are fabulous.

    1. Hello Rev,
      Will surely report back after finding out the problem !!

  12. Awesome pics, especially the 'roadside comfort'! Have you tried the 25mm with an OM-D? I have one on order and was considering getting this lens for it...


  13. Robin,

    apparently you have come back invigorated!!

    Having used the E30 and E5 and the EP1 to EPL2, EP3 and OMD, I have to say the back focusing issue may be part of a wider problem that rears it ugly head from time to time.

    I have had backfocusing issues on ALL of these cameras. Using a variety of lens including the CDAF 14 - 54mm II, the 9-18mm m43 and the 25mm m43 leica at different times and seetings, on and off the back focus problem will come out every now and then.

    It most often comes up when you wake the camera from sleep and focus and shoot instantly. I have had the single AF point selected and focused on my subject and shoot instantly; but then the background would be in focus. If I refocused its fine again. Its funny as we all accept this should happen with CDAF. The feeling I get is that the camera 'decides' what I should have in focus.

    I have since accepted this as one of the limitations of the system, but thought to comment seeing you experiencing it. You might recall me mentioning putting my E-5 to OLY service regarding this, only to have them say the camera is fine. I do have similar instances with my m43 25mm 1.4 and even the 20mm I have also.

    1. Hey Mark,
      I have not had that much experience shooting with the E-PL1, as I only had one lens with it, the 14-42mm kit lens that I use all the time. The 20mm and the 25mm were borrowed from a good friend, and I shot only briefly with them. I shall not comment further unless I am really sure what was going on.

      On the E-5, I was using the camera with 11-22mm, 50mm macro and 50-200mm non SWD lenses, and I almost have never had any issues focusing with those lenses. However, I do have serious focusing issues with the 30mm, which I think we did go through a while back.

      I have had friends who have problems with the original DSLR 4/3 panasonic 25mm F1.4 mounted on E-3 and also the E-5. The backfocusing on the 25mm is so obvious that it is almost impossible to shoot at wide open F1.4

      I have advised my friend to send in his 25mm F1.4 (the micro 4/3 version) together with his E-P3 to Olympus service center for further inspection. I shall be awaiting news from him. He did say that he had many back focusing issues on his E-P3 too.

  14. Hi Robin,

    Am i right to say that the 20mm f1.7 is much suitable for street and night shots? Am facing the dilemma to get the 25mm or the 20mm.


  15. Hi Durainello. I'm thinking the same problem as you are. How about this? http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/Panasonic_Leica_DG_Summilux_25mm_f1-4_H-X025/

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  23. keep calm and take a photo..
    nice great photo..
    leica :)