Playing with the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f1.2

Dominique, Drink and Click Portrait - Austin, Texas

Dominique, Drink and Click Portrait – Austin, Texas

I mentioned yesterday that I played with the Panasonic GX85 a few months ago, coupled with the wonderful Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f1.2 portrait lens. The wonderful thing about the micro 4/3 format is that both the Panasonic and Olympus lenses work on Panasonic and Olympus cameras. Together, the two companies and a few others have the largest collection of lenses for any mirrorless system.

After getting the feel of the GX85, I returned the camera, but held on to the lens. I attached it to my Olympus PEN-F. The lens worked well, as expected, but strangely it seemed to overexpose at times, maybe about a 1/3 of a stop. My often used Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 doesn’t do this. I’m not sure if it was this particular lens or some small incompatibility between the two systems. Either way, I adjusted to it quickly.

The knock some people have about micro 4/3 is that, with the smaller sensor, it’s harder to get a shallower depth of field. Sometimes this is an advantage, for landscape and street photography, for example. However, for portraits, I can see why one would like to blur the background. With this lens, the 42.4 f1.2 is equivalent to a 85mm f2.4 in full frame angle of view and depth of field. It makes for a really nice and usable portrait lens.

You can see from this portrait of Dominique that, at f1.2, the background is sufficiently blurred, making an unattractive background somewhat more palatable. The shallow depth of field also gives a three-dimensional quality that makes Dominique stand out. While the lens may give a f2.4 level of blur, it is a f1.2 lens, which means it’s great for low light. I shot this in a dim corridor, in ambient light, and was surprised how well this portrait turned out.

My current go to portrait lens is the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4. And, I’m considering getting a slightly longer portrait lens. This one, perhaps because of the Leica branding, is quite expensive at $1600. Olympus has an equally well-regard lens, the 45mm f1.2 that runs between $1000 and $1200.

Either way, it’s a good chunk of money so I’m not fully convinced. I have the Olympus 75mm f1.8, another beautiful lens, but at 150mm equivalent, I find the focal length a bit too long, especially for Drink and Click shooting. I also have the Olympus 45mm f1.8, which I rarely use. This f1.8 version is an affordable, small and sharp lens, but I don’t like it too much. I find the quality of the background blur, also known as Bokeh, to be a little harsh. The significantly more expensive f1.2 version, is a lot larger but produces a silky out of focus blur and is even sharper.

I have no complaints about the Panasonic Leica 42.5 and while it worked well on my Olympus, if I do need this kind of lens, I would probably buy the Olympus 45mm f1.2 instead. The price difference alone is significant and I would expect perfect compatibility with my Olympus cameras.

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