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Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH Review

Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH Review - John Riley reviews the new Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH Micro Four Thirds lens.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH
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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification
Leica Vario Elmarit 12 60mm Front Oblique View

This is the first of a new range of premium Leica DG optics, designed for Micro Four Thirds (MFT) format and reviewed here using the Panasonic Lumix G6 body. 12-60mm on MFT equates to a “35mm-equivalent” of 24-120mm, making an extremely versatile standard zoom range. Appended with the legendary Leica name, expectations will be high, so let's see how the lens performs with a keen sense of anticipation.

Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Asph Handling and Features

Panasonic Leica 12 60mm (7)

Right from the start, it's clear that this is a premium quality, professional offering. Apart from the excellent finish we have a solid lens, dust, splash and freeze-proof down to -10C. The weight is a modest 320g, a perfect balance for the Panasonic Lumix G6 used for the review. The supplied bayonet lens hood fits smoothly as expected and has a retaining catch to prevent accidental loosening in use. However, on being gently nudged it did actually work loose, causing a couple of shots to be lost due to vignetting. The release catch could do with being slightly firmer, or perhaps more recessed than it is. The filter thread is 62mm.

Moving towards the camera body we find an electronic manual focusing ring that rotates continuously. It has no effect in AF mode but operates well in MF. AF on this lens is silent, as is the diaphragm mechanism, which will be helpful for videographers. Focusing is down to 0.2m (0.66 feet), giving a maximum magnification of 0.3x. Focusing is internal, so there is no rotation of the front element, nor is there any extension of the lens itself.

Next up is the zoom ring, clearly and accurately marked. The zooming action is smooth but has enough resistance to ensure it remains set at the desired length. The lens does extend during zooming.

Closest to the camera body, there are two lens switches. One controls the selection of AF/MF and the other switches on/off the OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation). OIS is highly effective, offering at least 4 stops advantage. This will depend upon the individual, but testing found that 4 stops to be a realistic proposition.

Leica Vario Elmarit 12 60mm With Hood On Lumix G6

Lens construction is 14 elements in 12 groups, including 4 Aspherical and 2 ED (Extra Low Dispersion). Nano coatings are applied to help eliminate flare and the 9 rounded aperture blades offer the possibility of smoother bokeh.

Handling was a pleasure, everything operating very precisely. There is a definite feel of quality that is rewarding in use, but of course the real objective is the quality of the results.

Leica Vario Elmarit 12 60mm Rear Oblique View

Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Asph Performance

Sharpness at the centre at 12mm is excellent from f/2.8 right through to f/11. It is still very good at f/16, but does tail off at f/22 to become fairly soft. The edges are very good from f/2.8 to f/8, good at f/11, but become progressively softer at f/16 and especially at f/22.

At 25mm, open aperture becomes f/3.5 and from here through to f/11 central results are excellent. f/16 is still very good, f/22 becoming soft. The edges are also excellent from f/3.5 to f/8, very good at f/11 and f/16, and again soft at f/22.

40mm shows an identical pattern, open aperture being f/3.9, and central results being excellent down to f/11. At f/16 sharpness is still very good, but the lens is soft by f/22. The edges are excellent from f/3.9 to f/8, very good at f/11 and f/16, softness creeping in by f/22.

By 60mm, from f/4 to f/11 is centrally excellent, the lens is very good at f/16 and still good at f/22. The edges are very good from f/4 to f/16, but fairly soft at f/22.

The overall sharpness picture shows a lens that is broadly excellent, very even in performance, especially at middle focal lengths, and generally very evenly sharp across the image area. It's an excellent set of figures all round.

Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH MTF Charts

How to read our MTF charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Panasonic Lumix G6 using Imatest.


CA (Chromatic Aberration) is very well corrected in the centre, especially at middle focal lengths. There is not the ultra-tight correction that some lenses have, but it is still impressive. The edges allow a little fringing to be seen in challenging situations, but of course all of this can be corrected in software.

Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH Chromatic Aberration Charts

How to read our CA charts

Chromatic aberration (CA) 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 G6 using Imatest.


Flare resistance is generally excellent, but given the right light at the right angle then flare can be seen. This shows itself as colour fringing and general loss of contrast, but also with some slight image artefacts as well. Most of the time this is not a problem.

Distortion is quite extraordinary overall. At 12mm we start off with -1.97% barrel distortion, very reasonable for a lens of this type. By 25mm the lens is almost perfectly rectilinear, having just -0.00544% of barrel distortion. This is better than some macro lenses. By 40mm we have slight pincushion distortion at +0.0631%, again remarkably low and insignificant. 60mm sees just +0.0285% pincushion. For any lens this would be an excellent result, but especially so for a zoom. We have here a zoom lens that will be perfect for architectural photography of the greatest precision.

Lenses also have a “look” that is influenced by many factors apart from sharpness. Bokeh is one of them, and the quality of the out of focus areas is given much attention. This zoom offers lovely bokeh, nice and soft in its gradation, offering a very attractive backdrop to whatever our main subject might be. It is not always the sharpest lenses that show the most pleasing Bokeh, but here we have both qualities, smooth bokeh and high sharpness.

Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH Sample Photos

Value For Money

The Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Asph lens is priced at £879, reflecting its premium quality. Panasonic also offer the 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 Lumix G Vario Power OIS at £329.

The closest alternative MFT lenses might be the Olympus M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO (£849), the Olympus M. Zuiko 12-100mm f/4 PRO (£1099) or the Olympus M. Zuiko 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 Digital ED (£279).

To add perspective in the wider field, Nikon DSLR users would be looking at the Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 G AF-S ED VR, priced at £939.

If we are looking at premium quality lenses, the the excellent Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Asph does offer good value, although clearly there are less expensive options. For more options have a look at the Top 30 Best Micro Four Thirds Lenses.

 

Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Asph Verdict

A standard zoom is a very useful lens and one that offers a high level of performance even more so. The Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Asph is a remarkably fine lens and despite the higher price that it demands gives excellent VFM. Definitely this is a very strong contender if looking for a versatile all purpose Micro Four Thirds zoom.

Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Asph Pros

  • Excellent, even sharpness throughout
  • Outstanding control of distortion
  • Fast, silent AF
  • Impressive OIS system
  • Splash, dust and freeze-proof
  • High quality construction
  • Attractive bokeh

Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Asph Cons

  • Some CA at edges
  • Some flare in extreme situations
  • Slightly vulnerable lens hood catch

Features4/5
Handling5/5
Performance4.5/5
Value4/5
Overall Verdict

Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH Specifications

ManufacturerPanasonic
General
Lens Mounts
  • Panasonic Micro Four Thirds
  • Olympus Micro Four Thirds
Lens
Focal Length12mm - 60mm
Angle of View20.44 - 84.05
Max Aperturef/2.8 - f/4
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size62mm
StabilisedYes
35mm equivalent24mm - 120mm
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnification0.3x
Focusing
Min Focus20cm
Construction
Blades9
Elements14
Groups12
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight320g
HeightNo Data

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Comments


17 Feb 2017 3:09AM
Hi Joshua.
I'm wondering if the distortion figures for this lens were with or without software correction. Some of the reviews here list both. If they are corrected, would you mind sharing the uncorrected figures?
Thanks.

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17 Feb 2017 7:21AM
Software correction is always turned off for the lens reviews.

Hope that helps!
19 Feb 2017 2:15PM
I had hoped to compare this lens with its cheape sibling, the 12-60mm 3.5 lens. However, that lens was tested on the modern 20 mp gx8, whereas here you test the expensive Leica with the old 16 mp G6.... Can one really compare these lenses in this way?
19 Feb 2017 2:42PM
A couple of things arise from the questions above. To expand a little on the distortion issue, it's also recognised that particularly MFT cameras might do some corrections even before the RAW file is made, so although any corrections in camera are always switched off it would be much more difficult to separate out the inbuilt corrections, if any.

Regarding the use of different cameras, ideally the same sensor might be desired for every lens tested, but this isn't possible. So the results are analysed with the relative performance in mind. That is, the expectation of results from 16MP is quite different to the expectation from 36MP, and so on. Combined with real world image making, overall comparisons can be made. I think it gives a very good guide to what we can expect from a lens.
Is this a parfocal lens? I am thinking about ordering the GH5 bundled with this lens or GH5 body only and the new 12-35mm F2.8 (which should be parfocal). An answer to this question would make my decision much easier.
23 Feb 2017 10:11AM
Parfocal lenses will retain the point of focus when zooming, so the technique of focusing at the longest end and then zooming out to recompose can work. This doesn't really gel with AF as the camera will refocus anyway as we press the shutter release. I did not make a special note of whether or not this lens is parfocal, because of the way I used it, so next time I will make sure to record whether or not a lens is parfocal or varifocal (focus changes when zoom setting is changed). Inexpensive kit zooms are almost certainly varifocal. Having said all that, even using MF, even with a totally parfocal optic, I would still personally do a final focus check before releasing the shutter. Belt and braces approach.
dcash29 11 2.2k England
25 Feb 2017 10:02AM
1. Why do I have to search on Google to locate this review? This has been my biggest issue with this site for years.
Edit: got it .....Google search comes up with Panasonic, the hands on review on here comes up with Panasonic Leica
This review comes up with Leica, I rest my case.

2. Resolution report on EPZ - For one lens its, excellent, very good, poor etc. The a silly graph with 1000, 2000, 3000. To make the latter any use the values must be in the bar otherwise its not accurate, its really annoying that the industry never mind EPZ cant keep to a standard. How are you able to evaluate the reviews properly?


dcash29 11 2.2k England
25 Feb 2017 10:08AM

Quote:1. Why do I have to search on Google to locate this review? This has been my biggest issue with this site for years.
Edit: got it .....Google search comes up with Panasonic, the hands on review on here comes up with Panasonic Leica
This review comes up with Leica, I rest my case.

2. Resolution report on EPZ - For one lens its, excellent, very good, poor etc. Then on another review a graph with 1000, 2000, 3000. To make the latter any use the values must be in the bar otherwise its not accurate, its really annoying that the industry never mind EPZ cant keep to a standard. How are you able to evaluate the reviews properly? Or should I not really bother as its generally the same lens going around all the reviewers anyway?



25 Feb 2017 2:29PM
The inclusion of figures is intended to make it easier to compare samples (and there is always more than one doing the rounds) with other reviews and the judgements of excellent etc. are made to make a connection with the older reviews that have no figures provided. The lenses are also actually used out there in the wild, so to speak, so an evaluation can be made. The sample pictures are unsharpened ready for you to download the high res version and have a play with your own workflow. Hope that helps to explain the rationale!
26 Feb 2017 9:17AM
I asked about the comparability between tests of lenses with different bodies, because when comparing the mft graphs with the cheaper 12-60 mm 3.5 they look kinda dissapointing. Is this lens really better than its much cheaper cousin?
dcash29 11 2.2k England
27 Feb 2017 6:31PM

Quote:The inclusion of figures is intended to make it easier to compare samples
There's no continuity with the graphs used to make a comparison.
19 Mar 2017 11:23AM
John, I am a great fan of your site and your tests, but it really would be very useful if we can compare lenses among each other.

I copied quite a bunch of resolution graphs over into a document to do some comparing, but it leaves me in doubt about the comparability.

The choice between the 12-60 from Panasonic and the tree times more expensive Leica sibling is a tough one, and many people will ask themselves how much resolution difference there is between these two. The Leica is a stop faster of course, but both are weather sealed, so for most people the difference in resolution will be the main factor. When I compare the graphs, the cheaper Pana seems much better at 12 mm with the centre reaching a 700 points higher score, while the edge is about the same... Can this really be? Only when going into more tele territory, the Leica gets better than the Panny.

I also wanted to compare with my 12-32 3.5 pancake zoom, and there we have the problem of graphs without numbers... Am I right in presuming that 2000 equates with GOOD and 2500 with EXCELLENT?

If so, the very small 12-32 seems to be better at the edges than both the larger 12-60 Panny and Leica.... Can that really be true?

Some clarification would be very much appreciated!

Best wishes,

Lucas
19 Mar 2017 1:06PM
Unfortunately it's not possible to equate the figures directly unless the same pixel count is used for the cameras in a review. In other words, two 16MP sets of results could indeed be compared side by side. However, the ratings of "good" etc do relate directly, and are assessed for each lens in relation to the resolution of the total optical chain, including the MP count. In this way, it's possible to compare a 16MP result with a lens where readings are from a 24MP result. Thus lenses can be compared, but nobody would claim it's perfect as we don't have a situation where, as in the days of film, everything could be shot using Kodak Technical Pan film. That in itself could even be considered unfair in that such a high resolution film on a camera solidly mounted on a tripod bore little relation to the real world experience of using Ilford FP4 hand held.

As regards the bald figures, the reason they are indicated is that they can be compared with other results on the web, giving perhaps a clue as to how different samples of the same lens compare. So if I measure high figures and some other site returns much lower figures, we might conclude that there is some sample variation.

The conclusion overall is that the text is as important as the graphs, as the text is the analysis of the results and their significance. Hope that helps!
19 Mar 2017 5:49PM
Hi John,

Thanks for clarifying that!

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