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Monday, February 27, 2017

Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Lens Review

Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Lens Review
February 2017, Carl Garrard

Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Lens Review: As lens names grow longer and longer, so too does the list of features and quality you get for your money these days. Panasonic's Leica DG 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Vario-Elmarit is the first in a new high quality series of zoom lenses they are offering this year. Basically, they are high end Leica zoom lenses for less money than .. uh... Leica's Leica lenses. Um, anyways, so yeah it's a premium high end zoom lens with freeze proof weather sealing, fast 9 blade aperture, all metal construction, and built in image stabilization. Add that this lens is super quick focusing with a very quiet focusing mechanism, and you just might have one of the most versatile zooms made for any lens mount currently on the market. At $998.00 retail, you'll pay the price for it too. And I could care less about the price for what I'm getting. So lets see just how good this lens really is. If you want to check the latest price at any given time, well, see below.
Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm f/2.8-4

This review will be written in stages. The first stage is the buying process and why I decided to ultimately get this lens over other lenses in the micro four thirds range. The answer is simple and the road is complicated. The lens choice mates to a new GX8, this combination being used for a photo project I'm working on that requires ultimate flexibility, high quality images, and supreme versatility in a compact package. Many lenses were considered, only one shall reign supreme, SUPREME!

Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Review: Buying the Right Lens (pt. 1)

I started with the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8, a highly regarded well built lens of premium quality. Ultimately its shorter focal length and maximum magnification capabilities were dethroned by the lens I'm reviewing. I needed a closest to near 1:1 capable maximum magnification zoom lens, one that could close focus far enough away from subjects so that the lens would not shadow them. I wanted a lens to be weather proof, versatile, sharp, and have a fast aperture. High quality images are a must.

I also bought the other Panasonic 12-60mm, a nice lens for the money and a great alternative to the one I'm reviewing. That said the premium price of this lens pays for better optical quality, slightly better magnification, and a faster aperture. Build quality wise, there is no comparison. Also, this lens will hold its value far longer than the latter. Sometimes buying high end equipment saves you money, it's all in the choice.

For the macro end of the photo project, I purchased the Olympus 30mm f/3.5. Seemed like quite a bargain, but I failed to check the close focus distance in order to take advantage of its 2.5x equivalent macro capability..... in plain terms the subject is almost touching the lens when at full magnification. That's an epic fail for macro as you'll see reflections of the lens itself in certain subjects, and, subjects are just too close (scare them away), or shaded by the lens. Nope, I need some distance from the subject when shooting macros, and I prefer natural light not ringlights. And while the lens I'm reviewing now doesn't achieve nearly that max magnification specification, it's "good enough" for some/most of the macro work I do. And with that lens, I have enough distance to actually make usable images. Trade-offs, trade-offs.

So the Panasonic 12-60mm Leica DG it is. This is a lens that can cover a wide range of photographic tasks under any conditions. When you add exceptional image quality output, build quality, and features to the mix, it's a real steal of a lens for its price.

Part II coming up shortly...

Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Review: Build Quality and Handling (pt.2)

Forgive me if I mistake this lens for an older Leica R series zoom, but this lens's styling and design looks almost identical to those older lenses. And no, I'm not complaining. In fact, it looks even more refined than those lenses, and if it weren't for Panasonic's name being put on the lens, I'd easily mistake this for a genuine Leica mount product. Perhaps I shouldn't comment that this lens is extremely handsome in its design, but it is. The machined rings, and all satin black look with white lettering and orange focal length designation, is just an outstanding and professional all business and classy aesthetic. Thumbs up times two please.

In terms of build quality, you aren't going to find a better made lens for the m4/3 cameras. This is their top notch equipment. If you're like me, you can appreciate fine engineering like this not only practically, but emotionally. It's like Panasonic and Leica really care how a lens operates and feels in my hands, all of the fine details and refinements are so well thought out and implemented...I'm like a giggly little girl when I use it!

How the zoom ring feels, ah, silky magic. It almost makes photography fun again in its own right. And the great thing is that there's enough resistance that gravity won't make this lens loose its focal length position- i.e. no need for a zoom lock. The focus ring is also perfection, excellent feeling resistance, a quick enough focus throw (not too fast or too slow), and excellent for fine tuned adjustments for stills or video. This is hands down, one of the finest zoom lenses I've ever used, and I have some dandy's! If you are looking for Leica glass, this is one heck of a bargain. It's too bad that Leica doesn't make a m4/3 camera to match it (a Leica branded GX8 clone would be nice?). But my Panasonic GX8 is a pretty good match I think.

But really, its build quality and handling will impress. Even the highest level of snobbery will crack a smile when they hold this lens in hand knowing full well this is a quality product. Add that it's weather sealed, has a very common size filter thread, and the switches feel precise, and whoa buddy, hold on here. If you want to take a bumpy journey back in time, it reminds me of a much more refined, smaller and superior, second version of Olympus's 12-60mm lens for the "old" four thirds mount DSLR's. For just under a grand, it might be the best quality zoom lens of any mount I've owned or reviewed yet. Superb stuff.

Part III coming soon...

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