Many new lenses with revolutionary, modern lens designs appear—and with clearly higher image quality, as it appears from our tests. There are so many great lenses coming out that we unfortunately have to make choices about what we will and will not review. But what do you do when so many requests keep coming in from readers for a review of a lens from 2009? Do you keep trying to keep up with the current releases? Then you know for sure that you will never succeed. Or do you take your readers seriously? We chose the latter. All those requests made us curious as well. How good is the Panasonic 45 mm f/2.8 Leica macro Elmarit? Can this PanaLeica handle all the new lenses? Is this high-end macro still worth its price?
PanaLeica 45 mm f/2.8 Elmarit: Macro Fun!
A Panasonic 45 mm macro lens gives you another view of the world: These are rising bubbles in my glass of tonic, taken with a too-long shutter time. (edited RAW shot, by hand, f/2.8, 1/8 sec).
Build and auto focus
The field of view of this macro lens corresponds with the field of view of a 90 mm macro lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. This somewhat longer focal length is nice when you are trying to photograph insects. With a shorter focal length, you get so close to the subject that the risk is great that you will chase away an insect when you want to take a picture. Just like a macro lens for a full-format camera, the Panasonic 45 mm macro has a 1:1 magnification. That is to say: the subject will be shown on the sensor at the same size as in real life. If you take the crop factor into account, then the magnification is even 2:1. Bright macro lenses are usually relatively big and heavy, if you're used to an SLR camera. With a 46 mm filter diameter, a length of under 6.5 cm and a weight of 225 grams, the Panasonic 45 mm f/2.9 Leica is amazingly compact and light. The optical design consists of 14 elements, including 1 extra-dispersion element and 1 aspherical lens, in 10 groups. The build quality is very good, although I feel that it's a bit lower level than the two most recent PanaLeicas (Panasonic Leica 25 mm and Panasonic Leica 42.5 mm). On this lens, there are two switches: a switch for the built-in image stabilization (Mega OIS on/off) and a focus limiter (Full/limit). By disabling the macro range when using the 45 mm Panasonic Leica Macro, the focal arc is much smaller and the AF is therefore faster. Without the limiter, the AF works well, but it is a bit less fast than the AF of the most modern micro-43 lenses.
On our test camera (Olympus Om-D E-M1), there was no correction of vignetting. The RAW and jpg files showed pricely the same image: 1.5 stops of vignetting is clearly visible at full aperture. That sounds more like a (good) lens for an SLR camera with a full-frame sensor than a micro-43 lens. But at f/4, the vignetting decreases to a bit more than half a stop. Because with macro photography you usually stop down so that you get more focal depth, the vignetting will usually not be a problem at full aperture. If you take shots at full aperture—and the vignetting is disturbingly present—then that is simple to correct with software.
Panasonic 25 mm f/1.4 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX @ f/2.8, 1/8 sec, 400 ISO
At full aperture, the blur is also very beautiful, the focal depth is very small, and the transition from sharp to blur is beautifully even.
Distortion Panasonic 45 mm f/2.4 Leica DG SUMMILUX
The Panasonic 45 mm f/2.8 Leica Summilux meets the strongest possible requirements.
The great thing about reviewing macro lenses is that they practically always stand out in resolution (sharp from corner to corner), and in the lack of distortion. Here, too. This is a dream lens for a reproduction or architectural photographer. In uncorrected RAW files, the distortion was practically zero. For standard jpg files, we found the same perfectly low "distortion."
The Panasonic 45 mm f/2.8 macro Leica Elmarit is one of the sharpest short telephoto lenses
Actually, you can say that the Panasonic 45 mm f/2.8 macro Leica is sharp from corner to corner, from f/2.8 through f/11. That is a very good performance. The MTF50 was tested by setting the aspect ratio of the test camera to 2:3, so that the measurement results can be compared directly with the measurement results for lenses on a camera with an APS-C or full-format sensor. If you use the Panasonic 45 mm f/2.8 on a micro-43 camera in the standard aspect ratio of 4:3, then the number of lines per image height is higher.
If you compare the focal depth of a bright f/2.8 45 mm lens with a zoom lens @ 45 mm, then you see a significant difference in focal depth. You thereby significantly increase your creative options.
Lateral chromatic aberration & color bokeh
Lateral chromatic aberration is well suppressed in the lens design. The aspherical and UD lens elements do fantastic work. You will have no trouble from lateral chromatic aberration with the Panasonic 45 mm f/2.8 macro Leica. The PanaLeica has no problem at all from color bokeh/longitudinal chromatic aberration—which is clearly present with the otherwise outstanding Olympus 50 mm f/2 macro.
Bokeh Panasonic 25 mm f/1.4 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX
At full aperture, this lens has a beautiful background blur/bokeh. With most lenses, we encounter clear rings, but that is not the case here at f/2.8. It looks like a very good lens on a full-format camera because the bokeh is so beautiful even. Even the cat's eye bokeh in the corners, the result of vignetting, is reminiscent of a lens on a camera with a full-format sensor. The more you stop down, the more the bokeh of a bright light source in the foreground or background takes on the angular shapes of the seven-bladed aperture. Keep this lens on f/2.8 if you want to enjoy a sublime bokeh.
Conclusion Panasonic 45 mm f/2.8 Macro Leica Elmarit review
Look in our list of reviewed lenses or in our list of reviewed micro-43 lenses in order to compare the performance of this lens with other lenses.
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you store the files in the camera as jpg, with all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens if the file is saved in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera. If you make use of Photoshop, Lightroom or SilkyPix for converting RAW files, then the RAW scores are the same as the jpg scores.
High build quality (although the PanaLeica 42.5 mm is even nicer)
Light and compact
Extremely high image quality in practically all respects
Built-in image stabilization
Without correction, vignetting is visible at full aperture
AF is less fast than modern lenses
Too long, didn't read (TL/DR): Panasonic 45 mm f/2.8 Leica DG MACRO-ELMARIT is good, very good. An absolute recommendation for macro, reproduction and portrait photography.
We understand our readers who have requested a review of the Panasonic 45 mm f/2.8. Olympus has two attractive and less expensive alternatives for the Panasonic 45 mm f/2.8 Leica macro-Elmarit: the Olympus 45 mm f/1.8 ED M.Zuiko Digital (if you do not need macro) and the Olympus 60 mm f/2.8 M.Zuiko Digital ED Macro. Both were beaten by the Panasonic 45 mm f/2.8 where build and image quality are concerned. That is not a given, since both Olympus lenses are very good. The differences are modest. The somewhat higher price of the PanaLeica macro (Current price: Click here) might be a stumbling block for some people, but those who go for the highest quality are accustomed to paying more in order to squeeze out just that little bit of extra quality. With an image quality that is reminiscent of a much more expensive lens on a camera with a full-format sensor, including the visible vignetting at full aperture, this is a lens that is convincing. The image quality is comparable with the legendary four-thirds Olympus 50 mm f/2 macro, but without the color bokeh at full aperture, which the Olympus 50 mm f/2 Zuiko Digital Macro sometimes has trouble with.
Do we have nothing to criticize about this Panasonic 45 mm f/2.8 Leica Elmarit Macro? Actually not. We have one more wish at most: Panasonic now and then brings out a second version (Panasonic 20 mm f/1.7 ASPH LUMIX G II, Panasonic 14 mm f/2.5), in which the optics are little changed, but the AF is somewhat improved and/or the appearance of the lens is modernized. If the Panasonic 45 mm f/2.8 Leica Elmarit had the same appearance as the Panasonic 42.5 mm f/1.2 Nocticron or the Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX, then the 45 mm f/2.8 would be even more sexy.
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.