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Review Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX

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The Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX is a micro-43 lens that distinguishes itself from previous Panasonic lenses with more than just its name.
Design and build quality make it clear that this Lumix lens bears the name Summilux for a reason. With a list price of 599 euros, this is currently an expensive Panasonic lens – the famous Panasonic 20 mm 1.7 pancake is 200 euros cheaper – and an inexpensive Leica.
The aperture ring and the AF/MF switch on the lens betray the target audience: the enthusiastic amateur photographer. Would the Panasonic 15 mm 1.7 also distinguish itself in terms of image quality from the other micro-43 lenses?

Review Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX and Olympus OM-D E-M1

PanasonicGM1kit15mm
The Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7 makes a very nice combination with the Panasonic GM1 or GX7, happily not only because this 15 mm lens – just like the GM1 – is so nicely compact and light, because the Panasonic 12-32 mm kit lens is that as well..

Build and auto focus Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7

For the photography enthusiast who wants to choose the shutter speed, aperture or focal point themselves, the aperture ring (only usable in combination with Panasonic cameras) and the AF/MF switch on the lens will make your mouth water. The resistance of the focus ring is great: not too heavy and not too smooth. Because you also focus manually electronically, the Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7 has no hard stop at 20 cm or infinity.

The Panasonic 15 mm 1.7 has a field of view that compares with the field of view of a 30 mm lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. Therefore it's an ideal, bright lens for street and documentary photography. The lens is perfectly finished and feels very solid. There is no extra sealing against dust or moisture. The AF is completely silent, very fast and exceptionally precise. With a shortest focal distance and an image scale of 0.1, this is no macrolens, but is sufficient for making close-ups of flowers and insects.

To place the included sun cap the first time, I needed the user instructions. Placing the sun cap is only possible after removing a ring on the lens. Once you know that, it's simple.

 

Vignetting Panasonic 15mm f/1.7

Only at f2 does the vignetting of the uncorrected RAW files rise above 1 stop. Move your mouse over the image to the right for Imatest results for uncorrected RAW files. With the other apertures, the vignetting amounts to a bit more than half a stop. Vignetting will be – also with an Olympus camera (E-M1) – effectively corrected. Both the RAW files in Photoshop or Lightroom and the in-camera corrected jpg files showed less than 0.5% vignetting. What as notable was that in our measurement results at full opening, the vignetting was even lower than at f/2. Very nice results.

BokeliciousPanasonic 15mm f/1.7 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX @ f/1.7, 1/800 sec, 200 ISO

Distortion

If you avoid Photoshop, Lightroom, DxO Optics and Silkypix, you can get a surprise when opening RAW files: the RAW files show more than you saw in your viewfinder when taking a shot and show -5.5% barrel-shaped distortion.
The jpg files saved in the camera and RAW files that you open in Lightroom or other available RAW converters are perfectly corrected for distortion.

Flare

A lens consists of multiple lens elements. With each transition from air to glass in a lens, there is a chance that the light will be reflected, instead of passing through to the sensor. That's why all lens manufacturers apply coatings, to prevent internal reflections as much as possible. In the case of the Panasonic Leica 15 mm f/1.7, that appears to work very well, better than with the Olympus lenses with a fixed focal length that we have reviewed. Even when you photography directly into the sun (move your mouse over the image on the right), there is very little flare. It works so well that you can probably leave the included sun cap at home without much risk.

43lensesIs this the enormous lens selection of Canon? No, there are no white lenses among them. The impressively broad lens selection from Nikon then? No, there are no silver lenses. Sony doesn't have such an expansive array of lenses? Right?
This picture from Olympus shows all the lenses that are now for sale for micro-43 cameras. Competitors of the Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7 that we previously reviewed include, among others, the Olympus 17 mm f/1.8, Panasonic 14 mm f/2.5 (markedly less expensive, less bright and without aperture ring and AF/MF switch), the Panasonic 20 mm f/1.7 mm pancake (more compact and less expensive, but without aperture ring, AF/MF switch and less sharp in the corners). In our lens review list with micro-43 standard lenses, you can compare the performances of these lenses with each other.

Sharpness

The Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7 Leica Summilux belongs, together with a number of other fixed focal length lenses such as the Panasonic 20 mm f/1.7 and the Olympus 25 mm f/1.8, in terms of sharpness among the best micro-43 lenses in the range of 24 through 50 mm, converted to a full-frame sensor. The more expensive, larger and less-bright professional Olympus 12-40 mm f/2.8 zoom lens is just as good, perhaps a bit better. From full aperture on, the Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7 delivers sharp images.

In order to compare MTF50 results for this lens with MTF values for lenses tested on cameras with an APS-C or full frame sensor, we set the micro-43 test camera to a 2: 3 ratio. In other words: we tested this lens with a resolution of 14 megapixels (2:3 ratio) instead of 16 megapixels (4:3 ratio). Using the native 4:3 aspect ratio will yield slightly higher MTF values.

The measured center sharpness peaks at f/2.8, but the eye will discover little difference between f/1.7 through f/11. The sharpness in the corners at full opening is already reasonably good, but falls off visibly to f/4. If you compare the corner sharpness of the Panasonic 15 mm 1.7 with the Olympus 17 mm 1.8 or the Panasonic 20 mm 1.7, then the PanaLeica wins.

Click on the Imatest results on the right for a comparison of two partial enlargements of practice shots – taken by hand – at f/1.7 and f/5.6. Click on the image below for an illustration of the extra creative possibilities with use of f/1.7 versus f/5. Bokehlicious!

Panaleica15mm

Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX @ f/5, 1/80 sec, 200 ISO

Chromatic aberration

Panasonic and Olympus were among the first manufacturers that applied automatic in-camera correction of lateral chromatic aberration. Currently, there are more manufacturers, including Fujifilm, Nikon and Canon, that do that. Automatic correction only has advantages: you don't have to do anything as a photographer, and the sharpness in the corners improves. Even when you use this Panasonic lens on an Olympus camera (OM-D E-M1), you will encounter no visible chromatic aberration.

With bright lenses (< f/1.8), you sometimes see longitudinal chromatic aberration/color bokeh, recognizable by green edges at sharp contrast transitions behind the focal point and purple edges at sharp contrast transitions in front of the focal point. This is nicely limited by the design of the Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7, but it's not completely absent. Move your mouse over the lens design below at the right for a partial enlargement from a practice shot.

Bokeh Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7

It seldom happens that you see a beautiful bokeh with lenses with a short focal distance, primarily because the focal depth is usually so large that you don't really find Out of Focus areas in practice. Panasonic and Leica have probably given a nice bokeh a high priority in the design, because in terms of bokeh, I prefer the Panasonic 15 mm 1.7 above the Panasonic 20 mm f/1.7, Olympus 12 mm f/2 or the Olympus 12-40 mm f/2.8, to name a few. The bokeh in front of the focal point seems more restless than the bokeh behind the focal point (move your mouse over the lens design for an illustration).

The Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7 Leica Summilux consists of 9 elements in 7 groups, including 3 aspherical lenses (shown in pink) to prevent spherical aberrations. Despite the use of aspherical lenses, you see no onion-ring bokeh. That is a unique quality of the recent Panasonic lenses, as we previously revealed in an earlier article. Move your mouse over the practice shot below for an enlargement of the bokeh.

PanaLeica15sampleimage

Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX @ f/1.7, 1/1000 sec, 200 ISO

Conclusion Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 review with OM-D OM-1

Look in our list of reviewed lenses or in our list of reviewed micro-43 lenses to compare the performance of this lens with that of other lenses.

Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7 Leica Summilux WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save the files in the camera as jpg, including in-camera lens corrections (vignetting, chromatic aberration and distortion). This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".


Focal Length
mm @ FF
Total score
Resolution
lat. C.A.
Vignetting
Distortion
AF accur.
AF speed

15
30
7.3
6.8
8.4
8.4
8.5
9
9.9
Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7 Leica Summilux Pure RAW score: This tables shows the performance of this lens if the file is stored in the camera as a RAW file. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera. If you make use of Photoshop, Lightroom or SilkyPix for the conversion of RAW files, then these RAW scores are the same as the jpg scores.


Focal Length
mm @ FF
Total score
Resolution
lat. C.A.
Vignetting
Distortion
AF accur.
AF speed

15
30
7.7
7.9
9.6
8.2
5.5
9
9.9

Pros

  • Bright lens with high build and image quality
  • Nice bokeh for micro-43 wide-angle
  • Compact and light
  • Aperture ring and AF/MF switch
  • Includes great sun cap

Cons

  • Quality has its price
  • No Power OIS (for Panasonic camera owners)

"The Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7 offers an image quality worthy of a Leica Summilux. The price is lower than you would expect of a Summilux".

There are various ways to operate a camera. You can choose 1 zoom lens with AF and automatic exposure and photograph without worries. For some people, that's where it stays. Others are gripped by the photography virus and start experimenting with different lenses, exposure settings and manual focus. The first group can get along fine with a Panasonic GM1 + Panasonic 12-32 mm, or a larger Panasonic camera with a 14-140 mm zoom. I advise the second group to get a Panasonic Leica 15 mm f/1.7 (as well) for documentary or street photography.
This lens is perfectly finished, the focus ring turns wonderfully smoothly, the AF is super-fast and super-precise. The aperture ring (only works with Panasonic camera) and the AF/MF switch on the lens I find to be valuable additions that increase the ease of use – certainly with the GM1, which has few buttons on the camera. Also owners of a Panasonic GH4 will appreciate an aperture ring on the lens, I expect. The GH4 offers so many setting capabilities that AF/MF switch and aperture ring on the lens are less important plus points than they are for a GM1 user. A GH4 user will probably be attracted more by the image quality of the Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7 Leica Summilux than by the ease of use, nice appearance or chic name.

Ivo Freriks
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.

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