Handling and Features
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
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.
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 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
Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH Specifications
- Panasonic Micro Four Thirds
- Olympus Micro Four Thirds
|Focal Length||12mm - 60mm|
|Angle of View||20.44° - 84.05°|
|Max Aperture||f/2.8 - f/4|
|35mm equivalent||24mm - 120mm|
|Box Contents||No Data|
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