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Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH. Lens Review

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH. Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the ultra bright Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH. lens for Micro Four Thirds cameras.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2
Price : £1,340
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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42 5mm F1 2 Asph (3)
This new prime lens for Micro Four Thirds system cameras sports a fast f/1.2 maximum aperture, Power Optical Image Stabilisation, Nano Surface anti-reflective coatings and a manual aperture ring. The 42.5mm focal length provides an angle of view equivalent to the classic 85mm focal length on a 35mm camera, which is considered ideal for portraiture. As this lens carries Leica branding, it is one of Panasonic's top of the range lenses, and it is priced accordingly. In this review, we'll take a look at how the lens performs and whether the £1340 price tag is justified.

Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH. Handling and Features

Panasonic Lumix GX7 Leica DG Nocticron 42 5mm F1 2 Asph (3)

Weighing only 425g, this lens is quite lightweight and compact, if you compare it to an 85mm f/1.2 lens. The lens sports a high quality finish, with a good balance of lightweight metals and high quality plastics in combination with a metal lens mount that adds to the overall impression of robustness. The lens balances well with the Panasonic Lumix G3 used for testing, but may feel a little large when used with some of the more compact Micro Four Thirds system bodies.

Focusing is performed internally, so the 67mm filter thread does not rotate, making this lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters. Autofocus is extremely quick in good light and the fast maximum aperture helps a lot when focusing in poor lighting conditions also. The manual focus ring is smooth to operate and well damped, which makes applying fine adjustments a pleasure.

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42 5mm F1 2 Asph (11)

A manual aperture ring provides quick, direct control over the aperture setting. For automatic aperture operation, the ring needs to be placed on the 'A' setting. Some kind of locking mechanism may have been a good addition to prevent accident operation of the aperture ring, but even so, it is a pleasure to use, with click stops placed at 1/3 stop intervals. The aperture ring may not function with Olympus MFT bodies, although this feature could be added via a firmware update. The lens can be used, controlling the aperture from the camera body, instead of the lens.

The Power Optical Image Stabiliser is activated via a switch on the lens barrel. If a little pause is allowed between focusing and taking the image, the system allows sharp hand held images to be taken at shutter speeds as low as 1/5sec around half of the time. This is roughly four stops slower than the usual rule of thumb for sharp hand held images allows, and this makes this lens quite formidable for low light shooting.

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42 5mm F1 2 Asph (10)

Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH. Performance

During testing, this lens displayed characteristics typical for a fast aperture prime lens, with centre sharpness being high, improving as the aperture is stopped down. Even so, sharpness in the centre of the frame is already excellent at maximum aperture, with clarity being very good towards the edges of the frame. Stopping down to between f/4 and f/8 produces peak performance across the frame. Here sharpness is outstanding from edge to edge.

MTF
MTF @ 42.5mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Panasonic Lumix G3 using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are extremely well controlled. Fringing is at its most prominent at f/16, where it is still well below half a pixel width, and therefore nothing to worry about.

CA
Chromatic aberration @ 42.5mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Panasonic Lumix G3 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the edges of the frame is well controlled, especially for a lens sporting such a fast maximum aperture. At f/1.2 the corners are 1.67 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved when stopped down to f/2.8 or beyond.

Distortion is extremely well controlled. Imatest could only detect 0.544% pincushion distortion, which will be extremely difficult to spot, even in images with straight lines parallel to the edges of the frame.

No issues with flare were encountered during testing and only a slight loss of contrast can be seen when shooting into the light at maximum aperture. A deep, metal, circular hood is supplied with the lens, which does an excellent job of shading the lens from extraneous light that may cause issues, as well as protecting the lens from bumps and scrapes. Additional sample photos can be seen here.

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Sample Photos


Value For Money

At the time of writing, this lens is available for around £1340, which is a lot of money for many people to justify, even if the performance of the lens is as good as it is. As the lens has just been launched, there is a chance that the price could drop slightly, as it becomes more available. Even so, considering how well this lens performs, and the features it offers, it still doesn't seem too bad a proposition as far as value is concerned.

Alternatives include Olympus' 45mm f/1.8 lens, which costs a wallet-friendly £210. However, the maximum aperture is roughly a stop slower and this lens also lacks optical stabilisation, due to Olympus including this feature into their camera bodies.

There are a couple of more, slightly left-field alternatives also available, if you're willing to sacrifice autofocus and optical stabilisation. Voigtlander produces a 42.5mm f/0.95, which can be picked up for around £720, which seems like a bargain, especially as the maximum aperture is slightly faster. SLR Magic also offers a 50mm f/0.95 lens, which seems less of a bargain when compared to the Voigtlander, as it costs around £1000. 

Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH. Verdict

Optically, this lens is currently amongst the best performers available for the Micro Four Thirds format due to its delivery of high sharpness, with low CA and distortion. This alone is enough to recommend this lens. The fact that it also includes an effective optical stabilisation system, Nano Surface coatings to suppress flare and a manual aperture ring to improve handling, makes this lens very hard not to love. It may cost a fair few pennies, but it will be money well spent, especially as the price isn't obnoxious in any way.


 
  The Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH. delivers excellent image quality and excellent build quality.

Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH. Pros

Excellent sharpness from maximum aperture
Low distortion, falloff and CA
Effective stabiliser
Excellent build quality
Manual aperture ring
Fast focusing
Realistically priced

Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH. Cons

Aperture ring may not function on all Micro Four Thirds bodies

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Specifications

ManufacturerPanasonic
General
Lens Mounts
  • Panasonic Micro Four Thirds
  • Olympus Micro Four Thirds
Lens
Focal Length42.5mm
Angle of View29
Max Aperturef/1.2
Min Aperturef/16
Filter Size67mm
35mm equivalent85mm
Internal focusingYes
Focusing
Min Focus50cm
StabilisedYes
Construction
Blades9
Elements14
Groups11
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight425g
Height76.8mm

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    Comments


    sasan 27
    23 Jan 2014 3:51PM
    Oh my gosh !!
    What a f number ! Tongue
    What a bokeh!TongueTongue
    What a price !TongueTongueTongue

    Join ePHOTOzine for free and remove these adverts.

    ElSid 6 5 United Kingdom
    30 Jan 2014 5:19PM
    Looks a hell of a performer and the price is very competive against something like Canon's 85mm equivalent.

    Lets hope there are mFT users out there with deep pockets...Grin

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