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Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 Gordon Laing, March 2013
 
 

Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 quality

 
The following images were taken with the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 lens mounted onto a Panasonic GX1 body. All were handheld (unstabilised) shots and you can access the original files over at Flickr by clicking the main images. For each image on this page I've taken three crops and reproduced them at 100% - the cropped areas are marked by the red squares.

 
The Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 has an effective field of view of 50mm which makes it a little short to be considered a classic portrait lens, but many including myself still use it as their main option when photographing people.

For a tighter head and shoulders shot like this, you'll need to get quite close to your subject, at a distance which some may find uncomfortable, but the flipside is greater intimacy and connection with the subject. From this close range it's easy to achieve sharp details against a nicely blurred background with the aperture fully-opened to f1.4. Remember in terms of effective depth of field, this is comparable to using a 50mm f2.8 lens on a full-frame system, so the depth of field won't ever be razor thin, but on the upside it will be more forgiving on focus without sacrificing two stops of light to get there. That said, if you take a closer look at this image you'll see the subject's ear is still comfortably falling outside the plane of focus which illustrates the degree of focus isolation most people desire from a lens like this.

Indeed while the Olympus 45mm f1.8 is technically a better choice for classic portraits, I personally turn to the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 for most of my people shots. I find it strikes the right balance of achieving a shallow depth of field without becoming too challenging to focus successfully. I have a much higher hit rate when photographing kids with this lens rather than the longer options and they seem to respond better to the closer shooting distance too. When shooting with, say, the Olympus 45mm f1.8 or 75mm f1.8 wide open, you really need a co-operative adult subject who'll keep still.

Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 on Panasonic GX1 (100% crops)
1/100, f1.4, 160 ISO, 25mm (50mm equivalent)
 
 
 
Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 on Panasonic GX1 architecture
 
The 50mm equivalent field of view gives the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 so-called standard coverage, roughly equivalent in magnification to the human eye. While many photographers prefer the flexibility of something wider for general use, I still found the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 my go-to lens for day-to-day shooting. Maybe it was a throwback to my old days of film SLRs when everyone started with a 50mm lens and often had nothing else for several years. Maybe it is a classic focal length that needs to be rediscovered. Either way, the following images should hopefully illustrate how it can be ideal for a variety of situations.

Close the lens aperture to between f2.8 and f5.6 and it'll deliver very sharp images, with the best results in my tests being at f4. In this and the following images I shot with the lens at f5.6 to achieve a slightly deeper depth of field, although since the effective depth of field is actually two times that number, f4 would have probably achieved the desired result with a slightly sharper image. Either way, avoid shooting at f8 or smaller to minimise diffraction and a soft image.

The crops here reveal the kind of sharp details that the lens can capture, although you'll notice the upper right corner suffers from some softness which isn't mirrored on the left side. I believe this is due to possible de-centering with my test sample, although was rarely an issue in practice as it generally fell over areas of sky in portrait aspect images.

Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 on Panasonic GX1 (100% crops)
1/1000, f5.6, 160 ISO, 25mm (50mm equivalent)
 
 
 
 
Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 on Panasonic GX1 architecture

 
This third shot really illustrates the kind of sharpness you can enjoy from the lens. Virtually the entire frame is crisp and packed with fine details which are a joy to pore over. I've taken three crops from towards the edges and even they're looking very strong. The first crop is a tad softer than the others though and corresponds to the weak corner of my test sample.

Having performed many more tests since taking this photo, I also believe a slighter crisper result would be possible with the aperture set to f4 rather than f5.6.

When working with the smaller formats like Micro Four Thirds, it's important to be more careful over the apertures you use as they'll start to suffer from the effects of diffraction (with a subsequent softening of details) much sooner than larger formats. So while full-frame owners can be quite gung-ho about shooting at, say, f8, f11 or even f16, these all represent compromised territory for image quality on smaller formats.

Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 on Panasonic GX1 (100% crops)
1/1250, f5.6, 160 ISO, 25mm (50mm equivalent)
 
 
 
Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 on Panasonic GX1 landscape

This fourth shot of a landscape taken at infinity again illustrates the fine details that can be recorded by this lens. Most of the frame looks like the crop taken from the middle that contains a degree of fine detail that would satisfy even the most demanding pixel-peepers. As before I also believe it could have been a tad sharper still at f4.

At the extreme edges of the frame the details begin to soften a little, again more so on the right side on my test sample, although the left wasn't immune as you can see in the crops below.

So it's not a home-run for the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4. Unlike, say, the Olympus 45mm f1.8 it is not capable of delivering a perfectly sharp frame right up to all four corners - or at least not on my test sample anyway. But it does come close with softening only in the extremes.

Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 on Panasonic GX1 (100% crops)
1/1250, f5.6, 160 ISO, 25mm (50mm equivalent)
 
 
 
 
Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 on Panasonic GX1 landscape

 
My final image for analysis here is again packed with detail, and the three crops taken from towards the edges or even from a corner, all look respectably sharp. Suffice it to say there's no complaints as you move inwards on the frame, and again like the other shots here I believe there's the potential for a minor boost in crispness by opening the aperture to f4.

So overall I feel this page illustrates not just how flexible the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 can be for general-use, but also the degree of quality it can deliver. I also think it's interesting to remind yourself that these are 16 Megapixel images, the highest resolution offered by Micro Four Thirds at the time of writing in early 2013. Many people may think they need 24 or even 36 Megapixels, but when coupled with a sharp high performance lens, I personally find 16 is more than sufficient. When you're looking at these crops, do you feel you really need more detail?

I would encourage you to take a closer look for yourself though, so on the next page I have provided all of these images plus several more in their original 16 Megapixel formats for your analysis. See my Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 sample images page, or if you've seen enough, head straight to my verdict.

Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 on Panasonic GX1 (100% crops)
1/2500, f5.6, 160 ISO, 25mm (50mm equivalent)

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