Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Asph Power OIS review

Price as reviewed

£1,399.00

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A lens that carries all the glamour of the 85mm f/1.2, but with the ease of construction of the 50mm standard is an exciting prospect. Damien Demolder tests Panasonic’s Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Asph Power OIS

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm-f1.2
Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm-f1.2 Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm-f1.2

The difference between a myth and a legend is less than entirely clear-cut. In common usage, a ‘myth' is a story that is wholly fabricated, while a legend is at least based on a degree of truth - however historic and altered that truth might be. This minutiae of linguistics occurred to me as I brought to mind the glitzy reputations of the wide-aperture 85mm portrait lenses used by professionals down the generations. I suppose it is the look and style of this focal length, with the possibility of extremely shallow depth of field, that has made the 85mm f/1.2 a legendary lens for those hoping to make a difference in the field of people pictures. That these lenses have been of exceptional quality, though, is the bit that is completely mythical.

The fact is that all those lenses I have ever used have performed very much like a toy lens when used wide open. The centres might be sharp, but image quality falls away as we progress down that diagonal line from the centre of the frame to the corner, and we get to enjoy vignetting, dropped focus and occasionally the swirling madness of coma distortions - not to mention the break up of contrasty edges into a neon cocktail of green/cyan chromatic fringing.

Technically, these lenses have been poor, requiring the expensive iris to be closed to f/4 or f/5.6 before a respectable performance can be achieved - although, of course, it is easy to forget that this is their charm. For a centrally placed subject and a desire to draw a focused eye from the page in glorious 3D effect, these characteristics are heaven-sent.

With the benefit of a smaller imaging area, the micro four thirds system has the opportunity to create the classic shallow depth-of-field effect with a focal length that is much easier to make well. And when we double the focal length of this new 42.5mm lens according to the 2x magnification of the four thirds system, we find we have the same view as that achieved by the legendary 85mm.

However, making a super-fast 42.5mm lens involves many fewer compromises than the design and construction of the longer focal length demands.