Choice is good, and unless it is an important, multiple choice test, the more choices, the better I feel. In this constantly growing camera system, we are continuing to get quality choices in the lens game. From semi-wide through standard focal lengths, the micro 4/3 system boasts quite a few options and those options are increasing.
So, with the recent addition of the new Panasonic Leica Summilux 15mm f/1.7 lens, it begs the question, why? With quite a few other comparable focal lengths in the lineup, why this lens? Panasonic has already provided two, pretty comparable, adequately performing focal lengths in this space. Come on in for a comparison between these three lenses to see which might be most deserving of your adoration and hard earned money.
While I’ll be focusing on the two Panasonic pancake lenses and the new Leica branded 15mm lens here, there are quite a few lenses within this space for the system in the semi-wide through standard range. Here are a few (click links to see them at B&H):
Voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95 (manual focus)
Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 (manual focus)
Like I said earlier, choices, and good ones at that. Each of the above lenses does something, or offers value that the others do not, and in my opinion, there are no wrong choices, but merely a set of personal criteria that can be addressed to choose one or more of these to suit an individuals style and budget.
Having owned and thoroughly enjoyed both of the Lumix Pancake lenses for the last 5+ years in some iteration, I wanted to see if I could replace both of them by buying the new Leica 15mm lens. This is not to say that one could not have two or all three of these lenses and find uses for all of them, but for me, I wanted to see if I could satisfy my semi-wide needs with one.
I found the 14mm and 20mm to be pretty complimentary. Personally I’d default to the 20mm 90% of the time because I liked it better, and found the larger maximum aperture to suit my needs. The 14mm would come into play only when I wanted to get as small as possible, and I do feel it is a great mate to the GM1 making it quite literally pocketable. With the addition of the 15mm, the 14mm focal length is arguably surplus, and seeing that I also have and enjoy the Pana-Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens, the space is becoming a bit more crowded for me.
Before diving into image quality, or angle of view comparisons, let’s discuss the differences on paper.
- The 14mm f/2.5 is the slowest, widest, smallest, lightest and cheapest of the three. It auto focuses faster than the 20, about equally as fast as the 15mm in my experience.
- The 15mm f/1.7 is by far the most solidly built, but physically longest in measurement from the camera body making the overall package larger. It is as fast as the 20mm, but incorporates a physical aperture ring (only compatible with Panasonic Lumix camera bodies). It has about the same physical diameter as the 14mm making it a much better mate to a small body like the GM or EPM series. It is the most expensive of the three, carrying the Leica branding.
- The 20mm f/1.7 (I or II) is one of the original gems in the micro 4/3 system. It is the slowest auto focuser of the bunch, but not by a huge margin (I’ve spoken about how I think it’s AF speed has been grossly blown out of proportion in the past, you can see a post and video HERE if interested). It provides the narrowest angle of view due to its longer focal length which also translates to the shallowest DOF capabilities of the three.
All shots comparing these lenses in the article are captured as Panasonic RAW files (.RW2), converted via the standard profile in Aperture 3.5.1 and are shot as listed where settings are applicable for the purpose. For space saving and web viewing speed purposes, these files are converted to JPEG at the time of export, and in cases, exported as non full sized files. Where necessary, I’ve provided 100% crops to be able to pixel peep and see the differences. Because they are captured as RAW files, they are not corrected, nor compressed the way that a JPEG file would be in camera. Just want to get that out of the way.
Okay, let’s get down to it. First, a simple comparison of the field of view differences between what 14mm, 15mm and 20mm look like on the micro 4/3 system.
As you can see, the 1mm (2mm effectively via the crop) provides very little difference between the 14mm and 15mm lenses. The 20mm field of view however does crop into the scene pretty substantially compared to the 14mm or 15mm field of view.
Alright, let’s have an objective look at the same scene shot with all three lenses wide open as well as stopped down to arguably the sharpest aperture for all three being f/5.6. Have a look and let me know what you think.
Stopped down to f/5.6:
Well, to my eye, having been looking at these crops and even magnifying it to 200%, there is little difference in the center, either wide open or stopped down. The 14mm does show a bit more CA wide open in this particular shot (more later, down below in the CA test), but that disappears when stopped down. The 15mm has better contrast and through that appears sharper, albeit very slightly. In the corners, the 15mm pulls away from the 14mm pretty easily both wide open at while not quite as noticeably, at f/5.6 too. The 20mm fares better than the 14mm in the corners as well, looking comparable to the 15mm to my eye.
How about bokeh? The 14mm has the closest focusing distance achievable between the three at .59 feet (7″) while both the 15mm and 20mm can only focus as close as .66 feet (8″). To see the shots from the same location, I’m going to ignore the near inch in minimum, close focusing distance difference that the 14mm provides, and have a set up where all three are shot from an identical location via a tripod from 8″ away, to see what we can do to throw the background out of focus with these lenses. Being moderate wide angle focal lengths, it is always going to be more difficult to produce a shallower depth of field, but I’ve found that the f/1.7 optics offer enough speed by way of a large enough aperture to provide the ability to separate subjects from background elements in many shooting scenarios. Here are some simple results to show the differences between the three. All lenses shot wide open. Click any to see larger.
This is what over a stop difference will do. While wide angle lenses aren’t traditionally bokeh monsters, both the 15mm and 20mm do well for themselves at f/1.7 I feel, and the obvious differences in focal length certainly come into play when talking about depth of field here as well.
CHROMATIC ABERRATION / FLARE
In the scene of the church above, I found the 14mm to exhibit a poorer control of CA, specifically wide open in the center when looking at the edges between the white letters and dark edges of the hard shadows. Below I shot directly into the sun to see what a subject looks like when the exposure disparity is more extreme by way of being backlit by an extremely imbalanced light source.
Click any to see larger.
Oddly, and to my dismay, the Leica 15mm was by far the worst of the three in regard to CA with pretty bad purple fringing along the bloom with cyan fringing more apparent along the boughs of the tree in the out of focus area. These were all shot in RAW so no in camera correction was applied, and while it is pretty easy to deal with and correct for with software, I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t a little surprised.
All three do well enough to maintain contrast and saturation when shooting directly into a bright light source such as this, performing well regarding flare to my eye.
Here is a shot showing 100% crops of all three shots:
From this, it is evident that the 15 and 20 didn’t quite focus at the same exact spot as the 14 even though the point of focus was placed on the same exact point on the bloom itself, showing me, in this singular test anyway, that the 14 seemed to handle this extreme backlit situation better than the other two.
Having been shooting with all three of these lenses pretty extensively, I can’t say that I’ve ever felt that any of them have had consistent issues with CA, and certainly not noticeably worse than any of the system lenses I shoot with. I think that the newer 20mm v.2 does a much better job than the original does, which I feel I should mention and saw pretty definitively in the test between those two. With the 15mm, I’ll just need to be a bit more aware with extreme contrast and backlighting I guess. Good to know.
Wide angle lenses will have some level of visible distortion if you shooting something with straight lines and have the camera leveled and squared. That is just an optical reality with angles of view as wide as we’re talking here. There are definitely lenses that do better to optically correct for this type of distortion, but I’ve never seen a lens in this range that doesn’t have some perceptible level of it.
Here are shots from each lens from a fixed, leveled and squared location to compare distortion between the three. The surface that I shot was also checked via a 4′ flat edged level to make sure it was on a flat plane, which it was. I’ve overlaid a grid to visually aid us here. Again, shot in RAW, and converted as noted above.
Both the 14 and 15mm show noticeable barrel distortion, evident on the edges of the frame. The 20 seems to perform pretty well, keeping both the vertical and horizontal lines pretty square, at least to my eye. I’m not surprised, nor disappointed by any of these results. While noticeable in the case of the 14mm and to a slightly lesser extent, the 15mm, the distortion is subtle and really only evident on the edges of the frame. No pesky mustache distortion or anything. For wide angle lenses that I shoot with, this is certainly within the levels of what I’d consider “normal” so to speak, and even better controlled than some 28mm – 35mm equivalent options I use elsewhere.
Gear is, and should be secondary to creativity, but it is also very useful to understand which tools are capable of performing certain tasks, and can help further enable a creative individual with the ability to more accurately achieve their vision. Any of these lenses is fully capable of partnering with any of the current m4/3 sensors for a beautiful image file, but all offer differences to each other. In my opinion, here are the pros and cons for each:
- Aside from the lens cap lenses, it is the smallest and lightest variable aperture lens for the micro 4/3 system currently
- It is moderately fast and acceptably sharp throughout its range
- It focuses quickly and accurately
- It’s the cheapest of the three lenses compared
- Near silent AF operation
- Fits the smallest bodies (GM, EPM series etc) perfectly, making for a pocketable setup unless you’re a skinny jeans type, in which case it will be tight (I can fit this combo in the back pocket of any pants I own, and some of them are borderline skinny jean, almost kinda anyway)
- It is over a stop slower than either of the other two lenses compared
- It isn’t quite as sharp or contrasty comparatively (especially compared to the 15mm.)
- Distortion on the edges (as one might assume for a 28mm equivalent) is more noticeable than the other two
- It is as fast as the 20mm and over a stop faster than the 14mm
- Faster AF than the 20, and about equal to the 14
- It has the best contrast, saturation and rendering of the three, dare I say soul?
- Manual aperture ring, allowing adjustments in third stops (on Pana bodies only, currently)
- All metal construction with a metal hood included
- It fits the GM1/GM5 perfectly in height as well
- Also has near silent AF operation
- The most expensive of the three
- The largest, or more accurately the longest physically of the three making pocket-ability more difficult
- While perhaps not entirely conclusive, it did show more CA than either of the others in the extremely backlit shots
- Arguably an odd focal length sitting between the more common 28mm and 35mm focal lengths (equivalents)
- Worst performer regarding CA, out of these three lenses
- Sharp. While the version 2 isn’t quite as sharp in the corners wide open as the original, it is slightly sharper in the center (you can see that comparison HERE if interested)
- Compact. Isn’t small enough to perfectly fit the GM1/GM5 in height, but all in all, it is pretty darn small
- Fast. As fast or faster than any of the native, proprietary lenses, less two of the other Pana-Leica’s (25mm f/1.4 and 42.5mm f/1.2)
- A more true “standard” focal length for the format (21mm would be the closest to actual standard based on the sensor size)
- It optically controls distortion really well for a semi wide/standard focal length
- Many dislike the speed at which this lens auto focuses. I’ve never been bothered personally, but it is a little slower than the other two
- it doesn’t quite have the same rendering or contrast as the more expensive 15mm
- If shooting on a GM or EPM body, the lens is a little taller disallowing the camera to sit flat when on a flat surface.
- The AF operation is noticeably more audible than the other two, not a problem unless shooting video, recording sound with in camera mic
Originally, my question to myself here was, can I replace two lenses with one? The answer, again for myself, is yes, kind of. If I did not also have the Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens, I could see holding onto the 20mm because it offers quite a different angle of view. The 15mm lens offers me the upside (less the overall size minimization) while adding a bit of that Leica designed magic in the image rendering compared to the 14mm and 20mm pancakes. While in many cases, that magical punch is minimal as is the situation in the above examples, but when looking at 100% crops, you can see how micro contrast adds a dimensionality compared to a lens that lacks the same characteristics. Perhaps not immediately noticeable in cases, but in my experience, this is what you get when you pay the premium for the Leica branded lenses. I love and use various Olympus lenses too, but I will say that the Oly lenses have a cooler, slightly flatter profile to them, more similar to the 14mm and 20mm. I don’t say this to mean I see the cooler, flatter profiles as bad, in fact it can be beneficial in cases because you can always add punch by way of micro contrast or saturation, as it can be more difficult to remove it, it is just different. More often than not, I personally prefer the punchier, contrasty images that the Leica branded lenses produce straight out of the camera.
I think the 15mm is more a replacement for a lens like the 14mm or 17mm’s of the system, but seeing as I also have the Pana-Leica 25mm lens, I can more easily justify passing the 20mm along as well. I’ve already sold and reacquired my older, original 20mm, which I then sold again after getting the newer version 2, so I do have some type of connection to that lens as I feel it has been one of the best balances of size, speed and quality for the system since it’s original release all those years ago. That said, I think this new 15mm, coupled with my ownership of that 25mm lens, will not allow the 20mm to get the exercise it deserves, but that isn’t to say that we couldn’t also be having a conversation that for a more budget minded shooter, the 20mm could be an ample replacement for both the PL 15mm f/1.7 and PL 25mm f/1.4, so having to deal with these types of quandaries in a system is pretty awesome.
I continue to appreciate what Olympus and Panasonic do to develop and grow this system. I have said from the get that I’ve felt it is the best balance of size reduction, sensor size and quality in the mirrorless world, and by far the most mature overall system in the mirrorless landscape. Not to say it is the best for everyone, nor the best for all scenarios but for me, I appreciate the choices (especially lens choices) we have with the micro 4/3 system.
If interested, have a look at the lenses and cameras used in this review via these links:
Panasonic-Leica Summilux 15mm f/1.7
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Any questions, please fire them off in the comments below and I’ll be happy to try and answer them.
Thanks for the read, happy shooting,
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Nice comparison Tyson . But for my more frugal brain…I like the 14 mm 2.5…These can be picked up used at around a hundred dollars…I can always add a little contrast in post..when I shoot street I like the 28 mm view…and as you point out the autofocus is quite quick . Be well .
I cannot, nor would not try to convince anyone of the contrary. I think the 14mm is a great lens, especially at the current prices. If anything, this test has shown me that aside from the obvious differences in physical build and cost, there is little real world performance that separates them, and that this is the case for this system should be a feather (or three!) in the cap.
Thanks as always Sven,
Update: After having spent over a year with the Leica Panny 15mm, I find that it’s my go-to lens and is almost never off my camera. I switched from the 20mm because the slow focus led me to miss to many candid shots at an indoor event and I never went back.
I own the Panny 20mm and recently acquired the Leica 15mm. As much as I love the Leica, I wonder if it’s the wrong choice for me. I mainly do street photography, and the 20mm allows me to get a bit of distance from my subject while still feeling close. I also put the 15mm aperture ring on A so I can use the traditional dial control. Using a ring isn’t natural for me, and I’ve missed a few good shots because muscle memory means I’ve been trying to adjust aperture with the dial and the moment passes
I agree. It has taken me a while to get used to the focal length myself. Doing this comparison, and seeing how very little actual difference there is in angle of view compared to the 14mm, it makes sense to me because I’ve never really liked the 28mm E-FOV, but rather prefer either a true 24mm wide angle, or 35mm as my go to “everything” kind of focal length.
That said, I will say that as I’ve gotten more used to it, I really like the little leica lens. While not hugely different in rendering, it does have that little punch similar to and one that I have grown to appreciate with the PL25.
I still think the 20mm is one of the best overall lenses for the system as it plays to just about every benefit the m4/3 system can provide. Small, light, sharp, fast… It really is a great little lens.
I see the PL15 as a direct replacement, for me, for the 14mm. It is better in every way minus the size, but to be honest, the PL15 isn’t large, it just isn’t a pancake. I can live with that. If I didn’t have the PL25, I would absolutely be keeping and using the 20mm along with the 15mm, but I think I can get by without it, even though it has been such a solid and constant performer for me over the years. That said, I think I will actually hold onto it and possibly sell it with the GX7 if and when I pass that one along, probably. Maybe. I dunno. It’s so hard to say goodbye…
Any real world shots taken with the 15?
You bet… https://flickr.com/photos/7275101@N03/sets/72157645087398340
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Nice and thorough review! The Panny 20 seems very nice.
Thank you Alexander. The 20 is nice indeed!
M4/3 owners are spoiled with choice! Have you ever owned/tried the Oly 17mm? It’s a worth being in the conversation, but I’m guess you don’t quite have the need 😉
I ask because the 17 is in my own bag, and has replaced the 20 and 14-42PZ.
FWIW, I love the 17mm. Color is excellent, sharpness (despite what many protest) is very good to excellent, contrast is pleasing though less than the PL25, focus is blazing, and size is roughly the same as the 15mm.
As always, I enjoyed the read. Thanks for sharing.
I think the 20 had spoiled me to the point where I just couldn’t ever justify (either of) the 17’s from Oly. Personally, I’ve always loved the 35mm e-fov, and would happily give the 17/1.8 a go, but again because of that 20mm, I wanted a larger gap and ended up with the 14, and now the 15. Too many quality choices dammit.
Really interesting read. I’ve been using the 20mm for so long now I’m not sure I could get rid of it. And as price goes the 14mm will be the option I would go for over the 15mm. But the 15 is a lovely lens. Overall, what you’ve shown here is no matter what budget or size or style you want, you cannot go wrong on any of these lenses. Thanks Tyson as usual, I find the these small lenses the most suited to me in the system so appreciate the comparison. Great right up
I’m glad to see this comparison. I considered the 20mm f/1.7 II lens but it was far too slow for what I need.
Have you had trouble with the 15mm f/1.7 hunting for focus in dim light? I have, on both the E-M1 and the GH4. It’s very responsive during video recording and keeps focus very well.
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Thank you for the good comparison.
The 20mm is an amazing lens and the slow AF never bother me. But it not wide enough in many situation, so I upgrade to 15 f/1.7 and I am very happy with it. The 14 f/2.5 is also a good lens but it not fast enough on my GF1. I think the OIS on any Pana’s 14-XX zoom lenses can cover the this lens. So, I sold it a year ago.
While I totally agree that the 14mm can largely be covered by way of the kit zooms or the 15, the one thing it does really have going for it that is unique in the system is its absolutely minuscule dimension. It is so small and light that it is nearly unnoticeable in a bag or even on the camera. If one wants to get as small and light as they can, the 14 is a great way to do that.
That said, I’ve gotten over the need to be small with this system, and have been completely happy with it being able to just be smaller.
I started off wanting to see how small and light this system could be for me, and I’ve since started to come back around to compromising absolute size reduction with quality while still being smaller and lighter than APS-C or FF equivalents. Regardless, so many awesome options.
I have the 14mm which I feel is very underrated. I also have the 20mm. Really, you don’t need the 15mm with those 2 lenses and I’d think long and hard about getting the 15mm if you already have the 14mm. The contrast and light rendering qualities of the 14mm is really good. Only choose the 15mm over the 14mm if consistently shooting under low light conditions. If you shoot during daylight, its the 14mm for me every time given its remarkably low cost.
Straight across, I think the 14 and 15 have enough in common that either’s upside can offset the other. For me, I’m seeing the 15 as capable of replacing both the 14 and the 20 which it effectively has. Three great lenses with three different sets of qualities.
I was thinking about this comparison only yesterday, and found the link this morning on 43rumors! Very very good article which sort of confirms my experiences/impressions of those lenses. However, given that the test shots were all taken in good daylight do you have any comments only about the image quality on the slower 12-32 kit lens that usually comes with the GM1, versus these 3 under similar conditions? I find the kit lens to be pretty good across that range apart from depth-of-field.
I did actually do a comparison between the 12-32 and the pancakes, but it was before I’d bought the 15mm. It’s here:
The little 12-32 is a killer little lens, and I’m bummed that mine bit the dust. (It took the brunt of a little fall while shooting and broke) While it was working, I found it to be a really solid lens when shooting in decent enough light.
Thanks for the read.
I also had the 14mm and the 20mm lens, sold both of them and replaced them with the 15mm. With the sharpness of the 20mm I found I rarely used 14mm plus I grew to really likely the 12 mm to 35mm lens that came with the GM1, so the 14mm was used very little. I liked the 20mm a lot, and was very satisfied with its focusing outdoors in good light but it’s hunting for focus or inability to focus in less light really frustrated me. I like the 15mm just fine and really do not miss the other two lens at all. With the size of the 14mm and 20mm lens I wish the 15mm lens was physically smaller but other than I am quite happy with it. In reality the 15mm is not that large only large in comparison to the 14mn, the 20mm and the 12mm-35mm lens.
I have yet to pull the trigger on either the 12-35 or 12-40/2.8 zooms, but I feel the 12-32mm pancake kit zoom, and the 15mm (or 20mm) could be a completely sufficient travel setup. The zoom for daytime, walk around shooting providing a nice 24mm e-fov through 64mm e-fov short tele with the 15mm thrown on as the light dims. Add to it either the Oly 45/1.8 or Panny 42.5/1.7 and you get a three lens setup that will fit into pockets and weigh next to nothing. Man, I wish I still had my 12-32…
Thanks for the read, Jeff.
With the price of the whole kit currently at 470 from Adorama, why not buy it then sell the body and keep the 12-32? Or gift the body to a loved one?! Everyone’s a winner.
Certainly tempting, but I’m pinching pennies to try and go a bit wider. Waiting to see what the Voigtländer 10.5mm comes in at, as well as the Oly 7-14mm, although I have a feeling that the Oly will be prohibitively expensive, and potentially unnecessary for my UWA needs at that cost… If I were to buy a standard zoom though, I’d certainly entertain rebuying the 12-32. In good light, it is fantastic.
Love the system…have had them all, plus the Oly 17.5mm f/1.8 as well (which I think is better than some of the press it got)…I have settled in to your way of thinking as well, but in a different way. I am old-school so I like my classic focal lengths since my very first new camera ( Minolta SRT-101 bought at a counter in NYC in 1974…”and vat else?”).
I find the 20mm to be an awkward focal length (and noisy & slow to focus..it’s 2015 after all… LOL!).
I too, have the Panny/Leica 25mm f/1.4 and I sold off the 20mm when the Oly 17mm f/1.8 came along….
The 20mm although small, sharp, cost-effective and monumental in defining the MFT system, alas it became a useless pustule in my quiver. 🙂
After reading extensive reviews of the Panny/Leica 15mm I ordered one from Tokyo at a discount in that wonderful Matt silver patina, that was not sold here in the states. It has taken me some time to fight my classic muscle memory…but, as expected I sold off the Oly 17.5mm and have settled in with the 15mm as it renders beautifully and is a tactile joy.
I scooped up the 14mm upon introduction and keep that as a tiny mainstay for my small, out-the-door kit (Oly EPL-6, VF2, 0ly 45mm f/1.8 & Panny 14mm). It’s have-fun photography, in a tiny package with very good image quality.
We all have our preferences, and with MFT it’s all good…just sooo many choices….thanks for the comparison…(but now I am niggling about the CA of the 15mm.LOL!).
Oh….BTW….Nice product images!
Thank you, sir.
Hey, btw, what happened to your ‘Old men and the sea’ shot from last month’s man vs nature flickr challenge? It disappeared from the thread. I really liked it.
I too have been surprised with the CA, but more by how well the 20, and even the 14 do comparatively in situations with extreme backlit exposure disparity. And you know, Bob, I never meant to cause you any need to niggle 😉 to be honest, until this, I’d never noticed any issue and I’ve shot with this little guy for quite a while now.
Thanks for the read,
Hmmm…I do not know why my image would have disappeared from the thread? I added it and just left it there…it’s still up on my Flickr page? …so I do not know…
I am not the sharpest with my Flickr skills, though…but I never intended that it be remove.
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How does the 15mm Pan/Leica compare to the Voigt 17.5 in (image) quality? That’s one lens (17.5) I really regret selling.
Well, I’ve not shot with the Voigt 17.5 so to put it bluntly, I don’t know. My experience with the Voigt 42.5 was that wide open it was a bit soft/dreamy, and didn’t really get tack sharp until it was stopped down to about f/2 or so. If that is the case with the former, then I’d say at comparable f stops, they’re probably equal. The Pana-Leica is nicely sharp wide open and very sharp by F/2.8. There is no replacement for speed, but that can also be said for size and weight reduction 🙂
Thank you Harold. Much appreciated.
hi… is 15mm panaleica aperture ring compatible with the old GF1? thanks
I believe so, but need to check on that to confirm. I don’t know where my GF1 is currently as my life is in boxes right now 🙂
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Thanks for the review, looks like I’ve found my next purchase.
Hello I have to say that I enjoyed the article very much, specially if one is in my situation :confused 😕. Well, I have the 45mm but I want a lense to be wide enough to take for a street photography, so someone suggested the 17mm 1.8, others the 19mm, the 20mm, etc. Basically I wanted something to give me the same bokeh as the 45mm but since this is imposible, I decided to choose quality. So basically will be for street photography and to some events (to complete the 45mm) cause I’m an amateur trying to gain coins with some little works. Can you help me decide?
Hi Sarah! Thanks for the read. Well, bokeh is a term used for the subjective qualities in the out of focus areas of an image, traditionally achieved through shallow depth of field. To shallow up depth of field, there are really only three factors that control it. One, focus distance vs distance behind or in front of that point of focus. The larger these distances from the point of focus, the more “out of focus” that area will become. The catch is that the further away your point of focus, the larger the depth of field, and the more gradual that area of defocus becomes. Two, a larger aperture will allow for a shallower DOF as it focuses the cone of light onto the sensor. Larger the hole (aperture) shallower the DOF. Thirdly, is focal length. This is somewhat circumstantial though. All other things being equal (shooting from a fixed position, at same aperture, etc) the longer the focal length, focused at the same subject distance will produce a shallowing of the DOF compared to a shorter focal length at that same aperture setting and focusing distance. It really is just math. There are nuances involved in the equation like circle of confusion, which simply put, is the transition from in to out of focus within that DOF (but quite a bit more complex though), field curvature which will effect how the plane of focus, or more accurately the elliptical area from the camera’s vantage, will affect how something within that plane is focused, etc.
All said and done, focal length is focal length and aperture is aperture. Ignore the “sensor size” arguments as they’re all just detractors as long as you’re not using “focal length equivalents” because a 45mm lens is a 45mm lens and has the same DOF attributes as any 45mm lens on any format at the same focusing distance and aperture setting. The crop will make that image look tighter on a smaller format, but the basic math is the same.
That said, with a cropped (smaller than “Full Frame”) format, we do need to account for that crop. If you want a wide angle lens with shallow depth of field, it becomes more tricky with the math on a smaller, cropped format.. simply put. Olympus does now have the 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens, and Voigtländer has the amazing (albeit manual focus) 17.5mm f/0.95 which is as fast (largest maximum aperture) as any lens available for the system. These would probably enable you to have a tool capable of shallowing up your depth of field more than any semi wide to wide angle lens for the system. To get those nice, creamy out of focus areas though, you’ll need to be pretty close to your subject to shallow up that DOF. They are both of a very high quality as well, but also come with a higher price. The alternatives, which are also good, just not quite as “fast” would be the Oly 17mm f/1.8, Lumix 20mm f/1.7 or the Lumix/Leica 15mm f/1.7 perhaps. You can’t go wrong with any of these system lenses I feel, it’s just that each will have cost attached to speed and function (weather sealing, aperture ring, size/weight, etc) and will depend on your preferred field/angle of view, and requirements.
Hope this helps!
The Lumix 14/2.5 has an advantage that many forget about: It was designed to accept four Lumix conversion lenses, including a fisheye and a 0.79x wide-angle. It also works exceedingly well with the dirt-cheap Fujifilm’s WL-FXE01 0.76x wide angle conversion lens paired with a slim 46-to-43mm stepdown ring, giving you an affordable 10.6mm rectilinear prime with sharp edges, high contrast, almost no distortion.
It’s unfortunate that Panasonic stopped making this lens as well. I fully expected a version 2, to pop up after they discontinued it.
Great article Tyson! I’m deciding between the Pan 14mm & Leica 15mm. I found the Pan for $150 vs $400 for the Leica. I don’t mind spending more but is the Leica truly worth it? Also, the 14mm has a more classic cinema perspective.
In this thread, I don’t see much difference image wise: https://www.mu-43.com/threads/panasonic-14mm-2-5-vs-15mm-1-7.88018/
In all honesty, in good light, there is very little to distinguish the two from my experience. My concerns with buying used would be down more to durability. The build quality of the PanaLeica 15 is certainly at a different level than the 14mm. That said, any lens can be beaten up, or babied and taken care of, so at least something to consider. I guess, still owning both lenses, the only time I used the 14mm over the 15mm personally, is when I want to get my GM5 as compact as I can, and I’m shooting during the day time. In darker hours, or indoors, I find the more than a stop difference to be a great value with the 15mm, and to be honest, having both, I use the 15mm 95% of the time as it does all the the 14mm does as well or better, with only a slight bump in total size as it’s downside. That is because I have the luxury of access to both though.
I don’t think you could go wrong with either, and I apologize for firmly planting myself right on top of the fence. Assuming both of these used lenses are in good working order, I’d ask yourself if the extra stop+, build quality, manual aperture ring and slightly punchier optical output is worth $250 to you?
Both lens are new so that’s not an issue. Out of all the factors you mentioned, punchy Leica colors are what I’d pay a premium for. However, I have to see evidence of this. Can you see color difference of Pan Leica 15 vs Pan 14 (assuming good light conditions)? Got any images that show the punchiness of the 15 vs 14?
I would say that it’s most evident in subtle tonality and contrast shifts like skin or highlight to shadow falloff, as opposed to more obvious oversaturation which I feel people think about when they hear “punchy” color or dimensionality, which I feel is probably a better term. In most cases, one can up the contrast or saturation in camera if shooting jpegs, or tweak in post with RAW files, but I guess not having to do that is where the rubber hits the road in my opinion. It’s more about micro contrast than saturation, with these optics if that makes sense. In that, I don’t have direct comparisons other than side by sides I did for the article.
Over the years, I’ve found the 14mm and 20mm Lumix lenses to have a cooler overall profile, especially compared to the 15 and 25mm Leica lenses to my eye. The 20 in particular (or the first version primarily) seemed clinically sharp with a more Olympus (again in my experience with my Oly lenses) trend to the bluer side of the scale compared to a more red/warm bias on the leicas.
Also, at those prices for NEW? I’d buy them both 🙂 Where are you finding a discontinued 14mm new, and where in the world are they selling the Leica for $400!? That’s cheaper than a good used one goes for.
Leica 15 new: https://www.adorama.com/us%20%20%201135719.html?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=adl-gbase
Panny 14 refurbished: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Panasonic-Lumix-G-14mm-f-2-5-Aspherical-ASPH-AF-H-H014-Lens-M-3-4-Made-in-Japan/163032470901
I hear you about the cooler color profile. I got that subtle impression too. The Leica would be my first “premium” lens. However, the cheapness and smallness of the 14mm is compelling too. I’m overanalyzing lol.
My only fear is Panasonic discontinued the 14mm to push the 15mm without a considerable image quality difference. If the image quality is noticeable, I’ll get the 15mm. Otherwise I’m leaning 14mm.
I don’t shoot in low light often. Most of my pictures are travel day time shots, street photography, and indoor shots. I have the kit 12-32, Pan 25 1.7, Pan 45-150. None of these are wide enough for my preference. Getting a Leica would be cool if it lives up to the Leica reputation and isn’t just an overpriced lens almost similar to 14mm image quality.
The image quality difference is going to be noticed more in corners, edges and honestly when pixel peeping, so for most purposes in practice, you’re not going to notice a huge difference. The larger reason for the price difference is build quality and more than that, lens speed. f/1.7 is over a full stop faster than f/2.5 (1.8-2.2-2.5 is a full stop in 1/3 stops). Fast lenses will always demand higher premiums, regardless of the resolution numbers.
With that, $400 for the Leica is the opposite of an overpriced version of the 14mm. It’s a cheap version that is over a stop faster, the way I look at it. You’ll always pay a premium to get faster glass. There’s no real way around that. I’d also proceed with caution buying through ebay from China. From the link, I can’t really see much about the seller, and when it says “seller refurbished” does that mean they wiped it down with a micro fiber cloth and got all the dust off, or did they disassemble the lens and make sure it was up to factory standards? Either way, I’d be a little nervous without much more info from the seller and what kind of return/insurance/warranty you get with that. Unfortunately it looks like the Leica isn’t for sale anymore, but Adorama is very reputable, and I’d buy thorough them any day of the week.
Very good review Tyson 🙂