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 f/1.2 Asph Power OIS review – Build and handling
With that distinctive amber-yellow paint on the black sheer gloss of a metal barrel, the 42.5 marking could easily fool anyone that this is a genuine made-in-Germany Leica lens. And that is, I’m sure, the impression Panasonic wants us to have. The breadth of the barrel too, designed to hold the large-diameter glass, bursts out from the mount in a V-shaped profile that is not dissimilar to that employed by Leica’s own M-series 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux that this lens aspires to be.
Panasonic has actually done a very good job of emulating many of those things about M lenses that appeal to the eye and the touch – the black paint, the cold metal body, and that close-ribbed, sharp-edged, engineered focusing ring. However, the tell-tale signs that this is something else come from the A setting on the aperture ring, which wouldn’t exist on a Leica lens, and the lack of the traditional depth of field scale.
It is quite something that this lens has an aperture ring at all, and is the first to do so in the Lumix range. While Fujifilm and Zeiss are the only other CSC manufacturers to provide manual aperture rings, I hope more will follow.
Although compact for its specification, the Nocticron is broad and heavy compared to other Lumix models, and it is fractionally larger than one might expect a 50mm f/1.4 lens to be for a DSLR. Attached to the front of Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-GX7 – the camera most likely to do its optics justice – it feels a tad large, but it is quite at home on the more substantial GH3.
The optical construction is not miles away from that of the Noctilux. Leica manages to do in eight elements what Panasonic requires 14 for, but we should remember that the Nocticron offers the AF and image stabilisation that Leica does not. The lens uses two aspherical lenses, one extra-low dispersion element and the forward glass has a particularly high refractive index (UHR lens). This UHR element helps to keep the barrel diameter small and reduces the length of the unit. Closest focus is a reasonable 0.5m, and apertures range from f/1.2 to f/16.