Panasonic and Leica have had a long partnership in the photographic industry, and one of the bright spots in that arrangement is the excellent prime lenses that the pair have produced for the Micro 4/3 system. The latest Panasonic Leica prime fills out the wide end of the range. The Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux joins the 25mm f/1.4 Summilux, the 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron and the 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit among Leica branded Micro 4/3 lenses. The 15mm f/1.7 is a wide-angle lens with a field of view equivalent to a 30mm lens on a full frame camera. Many have high hopes for this tiny lens, and in this 15mm f/1.7 review, we’ll see if those hopes are warranted.
If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective. You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here. There are plenty of other sites that cover those. I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting.
Build Quality and Handling
The Leica 15mm f/1.7 takes its exterior design cues from its older brother, the 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron (reviewed here), as well as more recent Leica M mount lenses. The result is a very attractive little lens, that would look right at home among the Leica M series. While the 15mm f/1.7 has an all-metal exterior and a similar design, it doesn’t have the same heft or sense of extreme quality that an M-mount Leica would have. The metal used is very thin, so you would be forgiven for thinking the lens barrel is plastic. I actually placed the lens in a cool area to be able to identify which parts were metal by touch, and was somewhat surprised to find it was entirely metal along the barrel, focus and aperture rings. However, that’s not to say the lens is poorly built. Despite the surprisingly light weight, the lens is quite solid and features smooth controls.
Like the 42.5mm Nocticron, the 15mm Summilux is the second of the Panasonic Leica series to feature a dedicated aperture ring. The aperture ring features detents every 1/3 stop, plus a separate ‘A’ position, which essentially disables the aperture ring and moves control to the camera. Like it’s older brother, the aperture ring doesn’t make a ton of sense in the Micro 4/3 world. I’m a lover of aperture rings (it’s one of the reasons I enjoy the Fuji X series), but here it sort of feels tacked on. Part of the reason for that is the limited support in the Micro 4/3 system. The aperture ring only works on Panasonic bodies, reverting to a decorative accent when used on an Olympus camera. While the ring works well on a Panasonic camera I do wish the detents were more positive. It’s quite easy to accidentally change the aperture.
The focus ring is small, but turns very smoothly and feels nice to use. The very small size of the lens makes it a perfect companion for any Micro 4/3 body, from the super small GM1 to the larger cameras like the Olympus E-M1 or Panasonic GH4. It really is a joy to have on the camera, while not as small as some of the Micro 4/3 pancake lenses, it is definitley small enough to make for a jacket-pocketable combo in conjunction with smaller bodies.
While the lens includes a round bayonet mount hood when purchased, I did not have the hood during my evaluation period. A front decorative ring comes off to reveal the hood mounting flanges.
The 15mm f/1.7 features a virtually silent and extremely fast autofocus motor. Autofocus acquisition is nearly instantaneous, and accuracy was top-notch in all situations. Even in dim light, focus speeds remained on a high level.
One great thing about the 15mm Summilux is the close focusing ability. The lens can focus down to about 7″, allowing for great closeup work with a wide angle (though falling short of macro). This can let you get some very interesting perspectives with the lens.
21 thoughts on “Review: Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux”
Thx for the interesting review! How would you rate this lens against the Pana 20mm 1.7 image quality wise?
Interesting; thanks! I have the 14mm/2.5, but I think these look a bit better. And you’re probably right about the colors, they remind me of my 25mm/1.4. Would be interesting to compare it against the 14mm Pana and the 12mm Olympus.
Wolfgang, Gordon Laing did an extensive review of the Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 and also a comparison with the Olympus 17mm f/1.8. It might be interesting.
I used alternately the Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 and the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 on the DMC-GH4 for this film on https://vimeo.com/99292489 at the Jüdischer Friedhof in Berlin. If you see the difference, pay the difference.
Filmed willingly in 1080p for comparison with my previous DMC-GH3. No correction.
To be fair, the differences in these lenses will not be apparent in a 1080p video (and probably not even in a 4K video, simply due to motion).
In my shooting, I found the 15/1.7 to be roughly equal to the 17/1.8 when shooting in the mid-range, say from 3 to 10 feet. Outside of that range, though, the 15/1.7 is a little better, especially at infinity.
I also think that while the focal lengths are close, they do feel different, with the 17/1.8 slotting in where a typical 35mm lens would fit, while the 15, while not too much wider, is wide enough to feel different. Both are good lenses.
I agree with you.
Gordon Laing did an extensive review of the Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 and also a comparison with the Olympus 17mm f/1.8. The results reflect my own findings. The Panasonic 15mm is the better lens. However, I agree with you Jordan. The focal lengths are close, but do feel different. Just like the Panasonic 20mm feels very different from the 15mm and 17mm lenses. That’s exactly why I use the Panasonic 20mm. The field of view is most important. What good is a sleek looking, fast focussing lens if the focal length prevents you from making the photos you really want? If I likes the wider view though, I would choose the better lens, the Panasonic 15mm.
Would you know how it compares to the pany 20 1.7?
I haven’t shot with the 20/1.7 in quite some time (I owned it for a couple years, but sold it at least two years ago), but from my recollection: At f/1.7, the 20 is a little sharper over more of the frame. That said, I prefer the rendering from the 15. The 20/1.7 has a very clinical rendering that produces very nice images, but they almost feel sterile to me. I prefer the way the 15 (and the 25, which I think is more a direct comparison to the 20, despite the fact it splits the difference) render a scene.
I think the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 and the 15mm f/1.7 have the same rendering. Just like the Panasonic 25mm and 42.5mm. Very consistent.
for bokeh, compare between this lens with Fujifilm Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R.
Do you think which one is better?
It’s hard to really directly compare given just how much more blur you can achieve with the 23/1.4. Both lenses render scenes quite well.
Very nice review, Jordan, and specially lovely images, as usual!
I purchased this lens as soon as it was released, 2 months ago, to use it with my GM1, and it has lived attached to the camera ever since; it’s such a joy to use, and it renders such beautiful pictures! From landscape to streets to people, I find it a very versatile lens, and its diminutive size makes it king of portability.
I wrote my own review in my blog, with plenty of images from the Spanish Pyrenees: http://gonzalobroto.blogspot.com/2014/08/new-lens-old-grounds-review-of.html
great review. thanks. i see columbus and cosi 🙂
I have the DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4. I am thinking about this wide angle 15mm f/1.7 also. What’s your recommendation?
It’s not a particularly strong optical performer. However, at this moment, the new Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 is the best compact moderate wide angle AF prime available for the Micro Four Thirds system. Sharpness and contrast are better than the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 and the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 (especially in the corners). I think the focal length, size, weight and lens speed are perfect for street and other documentary photography. A very all-round focal length. This makes the Panasonic 15mm the moderate wide angle lens I will buy. Click, click, click (order now) and my money is gone.
This is a very good real world review. It helped me decide between the Olympus 17mm and this Panasonic 15mm. I got myself a decent copy of the Panasonic 15mm and I am happy with it. Good sharpness, excellent contrast, fast focussing, great build quality and it’s small too. I tried the Olympus, but images looked a little lifeless to me. Not sure what it is but I guess it’s the lack of contrast and the ‘3D pop’ so many people talk about. I wonder how bad the distortion on the Olympus is. Must be very bad. The corners are visibly worse than th Panasonic. Longer focal lengths are better on Micro Four Thirds cameras. Wide angles are difficult to make I think. Optically they never impress me. Well, we have to make do with what we got. This Panasonic is the best in this focal length so far and I doubt we’ll see anything new or better soon. Highly recommended lens.
In comparison to the Olympus 12mm f2, which lens is better?
I enjoy your site and reviews. I do not want to come across as hypercritical, but I want to point out that the correct use of “it’s” is only when one means to say “it is”. Nothing else. You may be surprised how many readers automatically get a negative feeling when they see this used incorrectly. It puts into question the content of the review. These may have been typos and if so, my apologies.
It’s been difficult to refrain from telling you that you are incorrect.