Thursday, April 18, 2013

Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 Summilux

OM-D & Leica 25mm f/1.4 (taken with the Sony RX100, check the end of the post for a BTS)

This Leica lens is one of the great lenses available for MFT (Micro Four Thirds), it gives you a fast f/1.4 aperture, a favorite 50mm equivalent focal length, good sharpness, small size, fast focusing, and special image rendering.

In this post I will attempt to write down my impressions after using this combo for a few months now.

A few stats before I start, out of the shots I took using the OM-D:
  • 50% are taken with the 25mm f/1.4.
  • 30% are taken with the 45mm f/1.8.
  • 15% are taken with the 12-50mm.
  • 15% are taken with the 40-150mm.

And out of the shots taken with the 25mm f/1.4:
  • 50% shot at f/1.4.
  • 48% shot between f/1.8 and f/4.
  • 2% shot beyond f/4.

Self Portrait, 1/40, f/1.4, ISO 400

If that's an indication, it shows how much I enjoy shooting a fast, 50mm equivalent lens, it is my go to lens without much thinking, with APS-C I enjoyed shooting the Canon 35mm f/2, with full frame I enjoyed shooting the Canon 50mm f/1.4. And now, I am having a lot of fun with this lens. I will show you a lot of pictures in this post.

Size Comparison (taken with the Sony RX100)

First things first, this is a small lens, you can see above how it compares to a "AA" battery, I would say it is similar in size to Canon's 50mm f/1.8, but it has a smaller 46mm filter thread, however it is not as tiny as the 45mm f/1.8. It has a metal lens mount and feels very solid. You get a soft carrying case and a weird rectangular snap-on lens hood, which I never used once in the box.

This brings me to the major change that happened in my shooting habits, during my DSLR shooting days I developed some habits that were sort of religious for me:
  • Never shoot without a lens hood, I bought the expensive Canon lens hoods for ALL of my Canon lenses, even the 18-55 kit lens.
  • Always shoot at higher than "1/eq. focal length" shutter speeds, even with IS.
  • Always use AI Servo continuous focusing, never single focus.
  • Always use a single focus-point, never trust auto-focus point selection.
  • Take lots of shots while keeping the focus tracking on, you never know when the eye will be in perfect focus.
  • When in doubt, expose to the right and reduce the highlights/exposure in post.
Incredibly with the OMD, I discarded all of these habits, all of them. I don't use lens hoods anymore, it doesn't feel right to have a small camera and lens, and a large hood in front. I don't hesitate to shoot at shutter speeds as low as 1/6 sec. I always let the camera detect the face and the nearest eye with an 85% hit rate. I take one or two shots and am sure that both are in focus and sharp. And finally the OMD sensor is so tolerant to shadow pushing, that I am pushing now much more than I am used to, even at ISOs as high as 3200 without hesitation.

Chasing Cats (you can see my reflection, shot using the tilt screen), 1/80, f/1.4, ISO 800

Back to the lens, if you want a fast 50mm lens for MFT, you have this one, the Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95, albeit with manual focus, and they say the 20mm f/1.7, but from my experience with the 40mm and 50mm lenses on the 5D3, I found out that 40mm is significantly wider than 50mm and more similar to a 35mm lens, so they are quite different.

Come With Me, 1/2000, f/1.6, ISO 200

I like the rendering of this lens, it has a certain cinematic look to it when shot wide-open or thereabouts, there is pink/green CA when shooting wide-open at the edges of high contrast, however it is easily corrected in lightroom. Here's one more cinematic looking picture:

Colorful Restaurant, 1/125, f/1.4, ISO 1600

As for sharpness, this lens is fairly sharp wide-open, and gets very sharp by f/2.8, check the picture below, with a 100% crop:

Disapproving, 1/1250, f/1.4, ISO 400

100% crop, sharper than my Canon 50 f/1.4 wide-open

There are a few people who reported that this lens produced clicking sounds when used on an Olympus body, and the reason is that the aperture blades are opening and closing quickly all the time. This had me worried when I decided to buy this lens, but I am glad to report that it doesn't happen on my OMD at all.

Old Bed, 1/40, f/4, ISO 400

This might not be a technical review of the lens, but that's all I have to say about it, it is definitely worth trying out if you love a 50mm focal length and have a MFT camera. Last thing I want to comment on is the focusing speed, it is very fast, same as the 45mm f/1.8.

Despite all this, and my pleasure using this combo, there is nothing like a fast 50mm and a full frame combo, I really wish someone makes a small full frame mirrorless camera with an EVF and a great 50mm f/1.4 lens, this is a camera that could force me to sell everything and just own it and a speedlite, even if it cost $2500. Here's one of the more magical shots taken with my 5D3 and 50mm f/1.4 wide-open, it is not as sharp as the OMD/Leica combo at 100%, but you can't deny it oozes bokehlicious-ness, eh? Sometimes I think of buying a 5D2 + 50 1.4 or a D700 + Sigma 50 1.4.

5D Mark 3 & Canon 50mm f/1.4, 1/100, f/1.4, ISO 400

Below are some more pictures from this lens for your entertainment.

Deserted, 1/50, f/1.4, ISO 1600

Moon Shine, 1/3, f/4.5, ISO 1600

Energizer, 1/40, f/1.4, ISO 200

Home Sweet Home, 1/30, f/1.4, ISO 200

Petrol Station, 1/30, f/5.6, ISO 1600

B&W Sunset, 1/50, f/9, ISO 400

Kewl, 1/60, f/2.8, ISO 640, yellow color and grain added in post


Here's a little bonus for reaching this far, the opening shot and the size comparison shot were both shot using the tiny Sony RX100.

I used two Yongnuo 560-II flashes in optical slave mode (S2), and triggered them using the Sony's popup flash set to fill-light and -2 FEC, and bounced to the ceiling using my DIY bouncer. I was syncing the Sony at ISO 400, f/8 and 1/2000 sec which is it's fastest shutter speed, how cool is that?

Here's the setup shot:

Sony RX100, 1/2000, f/8, ISO 400


Olympus OM-D: First Impressions & Comments on DOF
OM-D: Macro Fun @ Home
OM-D, Bits & Pieces
Review: Sony RX100