Monday, February 20, 2017

A Brief Encounter With Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7

Shaun was visiting Kuala Lumpur again last weekend, and he brought with him the Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7 which he claimed to be his favourite lens at this moment for Micro Four Thirds. Another photography friend, Bjorn has also spoken very highly of this lens. I thought, why not give this lens a go and see what I can shoot with it?

I am not sure why Panasonic likes to create lenses with really unusual focal lengths. 15mm, which in 35mm equivalent format is 30mm, is quite an irregular number, and it would have made much more sense if they just have a standard 14mm (classic 28mm equivalent) lens! Since the closest, "popular" focal length is 28mm equivalent, I shall use the lens as if I was composing with a wide angle, 28mm equivalent perspective. Oh dear, wide angle has never been my first choice when it comes to street photography, and I almost always use longer focal lengths, unless absolutely necessary.

This is not a review of the lens, I will need a lot more time to use the lens before I can write a full review. Using the lens for a few hours was not sufficient for me to form a meaningful conclusion. Also, there are already several reliable reviews available for this Panasonic 15mm F1.7 lens. I will also avoid doing any comparisons with any existing lenses from any brand, the last time I did this I suffered through unnecessary bashing, though I was being completely honest. I have figured out that sometimes people just want to hear what they want to hear, so I am shying away from comparison tests and just focus on creating photographs.

The Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7 fits the E-M10 Mark II perfectly. 



I am quite impressed by how small the lens is. I think we should have more of such small, super capable, bright prime lenses. 


This was probably one of the few times that I was just roaming around freely with the lens without any objectives, or have any kind of planning. Usually I do have certain items or subjects that I have decided to hunt or shoot along the way, testing lenses or cameras. Since I was not doing a review, I decided to just go with the flow and shoot anything that came across my path that I thought was worth shooting. Therefore, I hope you can understand the complete randomness of the images.

I really like that the lens is so small. I believe small prime lenses can truly realize the full advantage of Micro Four Thirds system, and we should have more of such capable, small lenses. I think F1.7 is just nice, I certainly would appreciate wider aperture, but that also means the small and compact form factor will be compromised. F1.7 is still extremely bright and more than sufficient for more photography cases. If you intend to create super shallow depth of field shots, there are longer focal lengths to achieve that, such as the Olympus 45mm F1.8 or 75mm F1.8. If ultra thin depth of field is your main priority in photography, why are you not using a full frame system?

I did have difficulties working with the wide angle focal length, this was mainly my own problem and has nothing to do with the lens. I have repeatedly said Olympus 17mm F1.8 lens was my least favourite lens, for the same reason. Dealing with perspective distortion is not easy, and I generally shoot with longer focal lengths. Nonetheless, not being good at something does not mean I should just ignore it and pretend that the weakness never existed. It is also crucial to expose myself to unfamiliar territories and challenge myself to do something that I am not good at. After all, growth can only happen if we move out of our comfort zone and this is me, giving the 15mm F1.7 and myself a chance.

Purple Hair

A Wall of Eggs

Up, Up And Away

Chilli

Watch Your Head

Autofocus was fast and always accurate. The focusing works really well on the OM-D E-M10 Mark II, and I have very high success rates. This was certainly a huge improvement over previous Panasonic lenses that I have tested on Olympus cameras, evidently the Panasonic 15mm F1.7 is noticeably faster in AF than Panasonic 25mm F1.4, 14mm F2.5, and especially the 20mm F1.7.

The Panasonic 15mm F1.7 is a sharp lens. It is sharp wide open, and gets even better when stopped down to F2.8 and beyond. I was generally satisfied with the results taken at F1.7, and I see no reason to stop down the aperture, unless you absolutely need your images to have optimum sharpness. The contrast and colors captured by this lens are fantastic and I quite like how the images are rendered. Since it is a wide angle lens, shallow depth of field was not easily achieved, unless you are shooting close up distances to your subjects.

I did not find any noticeable barrel distortion, which was probably corrected in camera by software processing. Also, chromatic abberration was well controlled, showing almost no trace of purple fringing in any of my shots, even taken at F1.7 wide open. The 15mm F1.7 lens was susceptible to flare when shooting against strong source of light, but to be fair I did not put on the supplied hood, and with the hood attached I believe the chances of catching flare can be lesser. Techncially the Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7 is a stellar performer, almost difficult to find any fault with it.

When shooting people, instead of doing close up portraits, I decided to do more environmental portraits, placing a lot more background in my framing. Since it is quite wide, I did accidentally include subjects or background that I did not want to, which resulted in messier background. Nevertheless, I did find the lens giving me beautiful results, when the composition comes together nicely.

Roti Canai

Crossing The Border

Dim Sum

Man And Sewing Machine

Portrait of a Cat.
This was taken at F1.7

The Panasonic 15mm F1.7 lens performed admirably at F1.7, showing good contrast and high level of clarity. This was a crop from previous image, obviously. 

Portrait of a Stranger
While the F1.7 aperture on a wide angle lens for Micro Four Thirds cannot render very shallow depth of field, shooting wide open at F1.7 can still create the "pop" in the image, adding depth to your main subject. 
Crop from previous image

Dragons
The lens is susceptible to flare. I did various compositions, shooting from different angles for this shot, and flare was persistent in all the shots. 

Throw

I think this Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7 lens is just perfect for the casual social media photography, such as use for Facebook or Instagram photographs. Being a wide angle lens, you can shoot full body portraits easily at a rather close distance, and the wide angle perspective works well for food photographs. Minimum focusing distance of 20cm also allows for a little bit of close up photography, which adds a lot of flexibility in composition options. 

While not a macro lens, the lens can go quite near to the subjects. Combined with the wide aperture of F1.7, you can create the smooth, creamy blur background, isolating small objects in your shots. In fact, the close up shooting performance of the lens is respectable, delivering results with plentiful fine details. 

I think I have thoroughly enjoyed my short time with the lens. I can see now why this Panasonic 15mm F1.7 is the favourite lens for some of my friends, and I am happy with what the lens can do. My only regret is not having a Panasonic body with me at the moment, and if only I still have my Panasonic GM1 which would have been the perfect pairing for the Panasonic 15mm F1,7 lens!

Yoyo

Beautiful Morning light

Three Friends

Fish Market Worker

A Pre-Wedding Shoot

School bus on fire

My Leic... I mean my powerbank

The not so smart, smartwatch

Lunch

Close up of lunch

If you are looking for a wide angle perspective, yet not super wide, with manageable perspective distortion (more on how you use the lens, than what the lens can do), this Panasonic 15mm F1.7 should be sitting high in your list of considerations. It is small and compact, yet delivering sharp images with beautiful rendering. I find myself having nothing to complain about this lens, it is just a lens that works and gives you fantastic results.

Will I be getting one for myself? Probably not, considering my focal lengths of choice have always been something much longer. And I seldom shoot with wide angle perspective. However, if I can find a great deal in the used market.... that could be an entirely different story. 



Do you own a Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7? What do you think of the lens? Share your comments!

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28 comments :

  1. I love the first two environmental portraits just for the content and the wa perspective. The others are good too. The colours seen on my Nexus 6P phone and the clarity is awesome.

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    1. Thanks Ananda! Another important element in the first two photographs, is lighting. Side light coming to the five foot way is always doing wonders to portraits, and I take advantage of this for most of my street portrait shots.

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  2. i am looking for at lens in the focal range of 15-20mm. you have made a nice blog post on all 3 options the oly 17mm, the panasonic 20mm and now the leica 15mm. Thanks! opposite from ur likings i like the focal range. But i share your other dislikes about not having a simpel lens at a cheaper price point like the oly 45mm. off the Above 3 the only one achieving that is the panasonic 20mm. And the iq difference off all 3 lenses is not that big. so found a 20mm panasonic for 200$ used and now i Will live with the shortcomings(af and the busy focus transitions) and advantages( size, iq and price) of that lens ;) no need to obsess over it. if i find the shortcomings too hard to live with. ill sell it n try one of the others. if not i will just be happy shooting:)

    thanks again for sharing ur thoughts and photos. Well taken Photos with a natural look and a light and natural processing.

    Kind regards Mads

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    1. but i think i will look for a used 15mm like u to ;) i think the outcome of lens looks good in your hands.

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    2. The 20mm panasonic is great. dont notice af speed, banding or busy transitions. but i use it on a panasonic gx7 and a gm1. that might help on banding and af speed. colors are great to. 20 and 45mm ar a great matchup for me. so i might skip the 15mm n look for the oly 75mm 1.8 and then maby a fast 12mm then im set. thanks again

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. its the mark 2 version i got my hands on if it makes a difference. Im very satisfied!

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    5. The 20mm F1.7 pancake lens from Panasonic is a wonderful lens, I just cannot trust the autofocus, and I have missed some important shots because of that. If you do not need the speed and your subjects are not always moving then the 20mm can be a great lens.

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    6. Have not tested it in depth. but i believe i can live with it after a few days of test. If i need speed i will just pass it up for a different setup. but im am af great believer in keeping ur setup pretty basic. 3-5 primes n 2-3 zooms that cover the 12-200mm (fullframe) ovly using 3-4 lenses and 2 cameras on the individual job. My new micro 4/3 id like to keep even more simple with 3-4 primes and a lx 100 and a fz1000 instead of zooms. But i will just skip the 20mm if i need af speed for a specific shot.

      I have the fz1000, the lx 100, the gm1, the gx7, the oly 45mm f1.8, the pana 20mm 1.7 and the kit 12-32mm.

      i have plans to buy the oly 75mm f1.8 altso and maby a fast 24mm prime. But then i dont whant to build up more equipment. then i will only upgrade if it makes sense or buy new stuff if the old ones breaks. dont a more extensive setup.

      By the way your pre wedding shot is awsome in so many ways. both as a streetshooter but as a wedding shooter. it tells a lot of stories :)

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  3. Hi Robin,

    Does the aperture ring on that lens work with the OMD?

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    1. I'm afraid not, at least based on everything I've read (but don't currently have an OMD body)

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    2. Nope, the aperture ring did not work, unfortunately.

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  4. I used the Oly 17/1.8 until recently but have abandoned it for the 15/1.7 - I sold the 17 along with the 45 (replaced with the 42.5/1.2) and the 20. I loved the 17/1.8, love the 15/1.7 even more. The improvement in contrast and sharpness wide open sold me on it. BTW, I don't find it faster than the 25/1.4 - that's one of the fastest, more sure footed focusing lenses I have, especially in low light.

    I'm glad to see you talk about using lenses like this on Oly bodies. I like both the Olympus and the Panasonic equipment and have owned both. The concept of the m4/3 system seems to becoming lost in the fray as people buy one brand and then believe the hype that the other brand is junk... not so in my experience!

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    1. I disagree with the 25mm F1.4 being the fastest. I have used it, the lens was fast, but no where near any of the Olympus prime lenses. The 15mm F1.7 is close to what I usually experience with Olympus AF speed. However, I am claiming this based on the use of Panasonic lenses on Olympus camera bodies.

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    2. I'm not claiming it is the fastest, just haven't experienced it being particularly any slower than other primes, Oly or otherwise. The DFD technology does make most of the lenses that support it with a body that also supports it focus unbelievably fast... faster than the Olympus lenses I've had (17, 45, 75)... but we are comparing the blink of an eye with a blink and a half of an eye.

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  5. At a time when MFT is getting bigger and heavier to compete with DSLRs, your reminder about the system, and this lens in particular, providing a lighter alternative indeed hits the point. The 15mm 1.7 is astoundingly versatile, and combined with the Olympus 45/1.8, possibly provides the lightest high quality travel pack ever...Anyway these two alone made it into my bag for long walks in the streets of Moscow last week...

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    1. You are absolutely right about the two lenses covering almost everything needed for photowalks! Yet keeping small footprint, fitting into smaller bags.

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    2. I shoot shoot 80% of my wedding shots with the 35mm and 85mm primes. So i absolutely agree on the wonders of having the same setup in that small a package. and silent to ! this year i made a deal with my self to shoot at least one event with the MFT system. and then by next year i would like to use it even more where it fits.

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  6. Robin

    I for one WOULD be interested in a comparison with similar Olympus lenses - just so we have an idea of the differences/similarities. I know the last time you did this it drew a lot of debate(?).

    The pictures taken appear to give lovely colour, clarity and some real 3D to the pictures. I'm starting to try panasonic lenses with my OMD and so we should - isn't that the purpose of M4/3? I've recently acquired the Panasonic 12-32 so going to see if this works better for me.

    Please, keep up the excellent work.

    Simon

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    1. Unfortunately there was a bloodbath the last time I did a comparison so I have moved on and shall never look back. I was being completely honest but people mistake that as being biased.

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  7. I am interested in this lens but found a lot of comments on a focus issue of that lens on Oly bodies. Is that something you could confirm?

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    1. I have no issues using it with Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II. But then again I was not testing the AF in very challenging conditions.

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  8. Very nice review Robin. I am considering this lens in future. I have a question. You mentioned Bjorn Upott in post. Do You know what is happening with him, since he closed his page bmupix.com. His last post on blog You post is from last Year.
    Cheers.

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  9. The 15mm makes a great lens for IR photography. I had my E-P5 converted to IR and this little gem of a lens just captures great IR images with no hot spots. It's super in visible light too. Thanks for your post Robin!

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  10. Initially I have limited use of the 17mm.
    Due to its perspective distortion.
    However if I back it up far enough and place the subject in the middle i can compensate for it.

    I guess I am looking for something what they call "rectalinear" something that most Camera phones seem to have due to its smaller sensor.
    But recently I am luvin the 17mm 1.8, and if does have perspective distortion, the lens profile correction in LR seems to work :)

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  11. Pre-wedding shoot was wonderful.

    I've used my 15mm f/1.7 for just about everything, including skate park video clips. On Olympus bodies, there is a lot of fringing at night. The lens fits the GM5 really well, but it works just as well on the GH4 and E-M1.

    I noticed that DJI, the drone maker, has a version, complete with aperture ring, under its own name (without "Leica") for the same price.

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  12. My 2 key lenses will be the 15mm and the 42.5mm. Love this combination to bits to the extend that the 25mm f1.4 and the olympus 12-40mm sits on the shelve all the time now.

    I just like the sharpness and the colour from the 15mm. It's just my taste I guess.

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