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Jun 26

Review: Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux

Image Quality

Sharpness

Music Window - Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 @ f/2.8

Music Window – Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 @ f/2.8

The Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 is a lens that performs well with regards to image sharpness, but falls a bit short of the best lenses in the Micro 4/3 system.  At f/1.7, the image center provides nice crisp images with plenty of detail, though the edges and corners are a bit soft at this wide aperture.  Stopping down to f/2.8 to f/4 sharpens the edges up nicely and brings the corners into good territory.  The remaining corner softness is likely a result of the automatic distortion correction, which I’ll touch on a bit later.

While that touch of corner softness keeps the lens from achieving truly excellent cross frame sharpness, the stopped down results should be good enough for most any purpose.  While the 15mm f/1.7 isn’t the gem that it’s more expensive 42.5mm brother is at the widest apertures, the relatively good performance over the central 2/3 of the frame at f/1.7 should provide adequate sharpness for closer environmental portraiture and the like (though be careful to not get too close with a lens of this width, or perspective distortion will result.)

Click on the image above, which was taken at f/2.8 indoors and click the green arrow to view a large version.

Bokeh

The wide-angle focal length of 15mm and the moderately fast aperture of f/1.7 allows for some excellent blurring of the background when focusing close up, though relatively little blurring at further distances.  In a lens of this width, there’s not going to be a huge need to blur the background in most situations, but when you are focusing closely and shooting at wide apertures, the bokeh out of the 15mm f/1.7 is generally pretty good.  At f/1.7, there can be some bright ring outlining with a colored fringe on specular highlights due to longitudinal CA. Stopping down a bit seems to remove these fringes, resulting in very attractive blur.  In most situations, the out of focus areas are predominantly smooth, and I usually found the results pleasing.  Aside from the example provided below, make sure to look at the other samples in the Image Sample gallery on the next page to see how the bokeh changes somewhat in different situations and with different settings.

Register - Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 @ f/1.7

Register – Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 @ f/1.7

Color, Contrast and Chromatic Aberration

Like the other Leica branded lenses in the Micro 4/3 lineup, the 15mm f/1.7 features a rich color palette with very nice contrast.  It’s a great look right out of camera and provides images with a bit of presence.  It’s something that’s a little hard to describe, but when you see it, you know what it looks like.

The lens can show a bit of lateral chromatic aberration that is relatively easily fixed, and can show some longitudinal CA in certain instances, though overall, neither pose much of an issue for most shots.

Distortion, Vignetting and Flare

Like a lot of Micro 4/3 lenses, the Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 uses software distortion correction to achieve its out of camera look.  This is applied automatically to JPEG images as well as to RAW files in converters that support it (such as Lightroom and Adobe ACR).  In these converters, there is no way to turn it off.  When using these converters, the images from the 15mm show a slight amount of barrel distortion that is usually not relevant in field conditions, though it may be noticeable if your image contains many straight lines.

The native distortion can be seen here when processed with Capture One Pro.

The native distortion can be seen here when processed with Capture One Pro.

Using a RAW converter that doesn’t support this automatic correction, such as Capture One, reveals the 15mm f/1.7 to show rather pronounced barrel distortion and a rather wider field of view than what most people will see.  With the distortion uncorrected, the corners of the lens are actually pretty sharp, showing that the corner softness that remains is generally an effect of the distortion correction.  The image to the right is the same image as the one shown above for the sharpness example, but processed in Capture One Pro 7 instead of Lightroom.  Note the pronounced distortion and the significantly wider view.  For most, this won’t end up being an issue, as it will be invisible, but it’s worth noting.

At f/1.7, the 15mm shows rather pronounced vignetting, which is predominantly gone by f/2.8.

The 15mm works quite well against bright light.  While it isn’t immune to flare, a point source really needs to be in just the right spot to produce ghosting flare, and veiling flare is very well controlled, with strong contrast even in backlit situations. Overall, the lens performs quite well optically.

Continue: Conclusion and Image Samples

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

19 comments

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  1. Michel

    Thx for the interesting review! How would you rate this lens against the Pana 20mm 1.7 image quality wise?

  2. Wolfgang Lonien

    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.

    1. Mack

      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.

  3. Pier-Yves Menkhoff

    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.
    Regards,

    1. Jordan Steele

      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.

      1. Pier-Yves Menkhoff

        I agree with you.
        Cheers

      2. Sam

        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.

  4. Neil Brander

    Would you know how it compares to the pany 20 1.7?

    1. Jordan Steele

      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.

      1. Sam

        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.

  5. AZA

    for bokeh, compare between this lens with Fujifilm Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R.
    Do you think which one is better?

    1. Jordan Steele

      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.

  6. Gonzalo Broto

    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

  7. ye

    great review. thanks. i see columbus and cosi :-)

  8. Chik

    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?

  9. Mack

    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.

  10. Thomas

    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.

  11. Teresa

    In comparison to the Olympus 12mm f2, which lens is better?

  12. RJ

    Jordan,
    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.

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