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Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 25-50mm f/1.7 ASPH Review

John Riley reviews the new Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 25-50mm f/1.7 ASPH Micro Four Thirds lens.


|  Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-SUMMILUX 25-50mm f/1.7 (H-X2550) in Interchangeable Lenses
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Leica Dg Vario Summilux 25 50mm F1,7 Front Oblique View | 1/4 sec | f/16.0 | 78.0 mm | ISO 100

Panasonic's new Leica DG Vario-Summilux 25-50mm f/1.7 ASPH lens is now available, and it is almost exactly two years since we reviewed its wider sibling, the equally fast Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 ASPH. Apart from sharing the coveted Leica name, these two lenses share a fast f/1.7 maximum aperture over the full range, and also form a continuous focal range of 10-50mm, a “35mm equivalent” of 20-100mm. All this at a fast f/1.7 and this gives us quite a bit of potential for faster shutter speeds and wider control of depth of field.

The first lens was very impressive and was Highly Recommended, so let's see if the new lens can compete in terms of usefulness and in terms of quality, using the same Panasonic Lumix G9 20MP body that was used in the first review.

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Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 25-50mm f/1.7 ASPH Handling and Features

Leica Dg Vario Summilux 25 50mm F1,7 On Panasonic G9 | 1/4 sec | f/16.0 | 40.0 mm | ISO 100

The lens is solidly made, weighing in at 654g. It balances well on the G9 body and although it does seem quite bulky it works just fine in practice. It is “dust and splash resistant” and here we have, as before, a delightfully ambivalent and vague description of what this might mean, to quote the instructions, “a minimal amount of moisture, water or dust”. The website description is rather more confident, so we interpret all that as we will.

The provided round lens hood is deep and effective and it bayonets smoothly onto the front of the lens. As before, the lens release catch is proud of the rim of the hood, so if the camera is placed sideways down in a bag it is likely the catch will be depressed and the hood will become loose. With the petal hood of the 10-25mm this could mean inadvertent vignetting if not noticed, with the 25-50mm the round hood will not cause the same problem, but it will still be loose. My solution is to ignore the matching marks on lens and hood and attach the hood upside down, thus placing the release catch on the other side. With a round hood this works perfectly well.

Within the bayonet fit is a standard 77mm filter thread.
Leica Dg Vario Summilux 25 50mm F1,7 Top View MF Position | 0.5 sec | f/16.0 | 68.0 mm | ISO 100

The nicely engineered aperture ring offers an A setting should we wish to control the aperture via the camera. The marked apertures are in one-third of a stop intervals and are completely clickless. There is no option for click stops. This will be perfect for videographers, especially as the aperture selection is totally silent.

The focusing ring continues to be active in AF mode, so tweaks can be made to the focusing position. In any event, the AF is fast, accurate and virtually silent. If the focusing ring is pulled towards the camera body then a distance scale is revealed and we are in MF mode. Focusing is down to 0.28m (0.92 feet) at 25mm and 0.31m (1.02 feet) at 50mm. This equates to a maximum magnification of 0.21x, impressively close and very useful.

The comfortably wide zoom ring is very clearly marked at 25mm, 30mm, 35mm, 40mm, 45mm and 50mm. The settings are very accurate.

Optical construction is 16 elements in 11 groups, including 1 Aspherical, 3 ED (Extra Low Dispersion) and 1 UHR (Ultra High Refractive Index). The diaphragm comprises 9 rounded blades, with the aim of improving bokeh.

Leica Dg Vario Summilux 25 50mm F1,7 Front Element View | 0.3 sec | f/16.0 | 68.0 mm | ISO 100

On the face of it, having a wide range with two zoom lenses seems quite an attractive proposition, although I have experienced situations where the overlap (if there is one) can be awkward if the photographer shoots routinely at a point around the changeover. However, Panasonic seems to have chosen the changeover point very well, and as I see it the 10-25mm is a wide-angle zoom offering the bonus of extending to standard lens length and the 25-50mm is a short telephoto with the bonus of allowing a slightly wider view to standard lens length when needed. This avoids too much lens swapping when out and about with varied subject matter.

All this, coupled with the ability to focus very close, make the new lens perfect for landscape, close up sports, portraits and architecture. It may be a large lens for the small MFT format, but it works very well. As regards depth of field, smaller formats offer extended DOF and although many will consider this a benefit, many will not as putting a background out of focus will be more difficult. The f/1.7 aperture comes into its own not only for its light-gathering power but for resulting in reduced DOF on the MFT format.

Leica Dg Vario Summilux 25 50mm F1,7 Rear Oblique View | 0.4 sec | f/16.0 | 68.0 mm | ISO 100
 


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