Andy Westlake gets his hands on a premium fast wideangle prime for Micro Four Thirds
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 Asph review – Build and handling
For such a steep price, we’d expect a high level of build quality, and the 12mm doesn’t disappoint. It uses a similar design template to Panasonic’s highly regarded Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Asph OIS, with a beautifully finished metal barrel that incorporates a broad, finely ridged manual-focus ring and a physical aperture ring up front. However, as befits a wideangle lens that’s likely to get a lot of outdoor use, the Summilux is dust and splash resistant for use with similarly sealed camera bodies, including a rubber seal around the lens mount.
While the lens is certainly beautifully built, it’s not beyond reproach. As usual for Panasonic, the manual-focus ring has no end-stops, and continues to rotate with no change in feel even when the focus group has reached the end of its travel. This makes it less intuitive to use than the dual-mode focus rings seen on similar Olympus and Fujifilm offerings, which pull back towards the camera to reveal engraved focus distance scales and do an excellent job of imitating old manual-focus lenses.
On a more positive note, the aperture ring is a very welcome addition, with click stops at 1/3-step intervals, alongside an ‘A’ position that hands control back to the camera body, if you prefer to work that way. Olympus users might, however, be dismayed to find that their cameras ignore the aperture ring entirely, in effect treating it as if it’s stuck at the A setting. It’s a shame the two companies don’t cooperate more closely on this aspect of the lens’s operation.
A metal bayonet-fit lens hood is supplied in the box, but its slim cylindrical form comes as a surprise given that petal-type designs are usually more effective with wideangle lenses. It can be reversed to save space when it’s not in use, although in this position it blocks operation of the aperture ring entirely.
At 70mm in both diameter and length, and 335g in weight, the Summilux is relatively bulky as Micro Four Thirds lenses go. Indeed, it’s not dissimilar in size to Panasonic’s Premium 12-35mm f/2.8 zoom, and only fractionally smaller than the Fujifilm 16mm f/1.4 that covers the larger APS-C sensor.
Of course, it’s considerably more petite than Canon and Nikon’s full-frame 24mm f/1.4 optics, but on the other hand it’s rather larger than Canon’s EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM, which should give similar pictorial effects in terms of depth of field control and background blur.