I think it is fair to say that there are more than a few people who have been waiting for this lens to arrive since it was first revealed at Photokina last year. The prospect of such a wide angled zoom with such a wide and constant aperture is almost too much to hope for. It’s had stills and video photographers alike holding their breath for some time.
A sample lens arrived here yesterday so I took the opportunity to get some hands on time with it, to shoot it in detail and on a range of camera bodies so you can get a better idea of what it looks like. This is a pilot sample, so some details may not be the same in the production models, but it will give you a better sense than the versions we’ve seen behind glass so far.
This is the lens mounted on the Lumix G9. You can see that it is quite big – 128×87.6mm in fact – but it looks pretty comfortable on this body. It is finished in the way we have become used to for Leica lenses – with metal focus, zoom and aperture rings, and a nice semi-matt paint.
Here you can see all the markings you’d expect on a modern Panasonic Leica lens – the yellow lettering for the focal length, that red dot and the white paint markings around the barrel. All the markings are engraved, so the paint sits below the surface and will be protected from wear and scratching.
The 14mm position sees the lens at its shortest physically.
There’s not much movement in the front element between the widest and longest focal length positions. The front of the lens only shifts by a finger’s width as the zoom ring is turned from one extreme to the other (click on the picture to see this animated). The front element doesn’t twist during zooming, so filters will maintain their orientation at all times.
As you can see from the video above, the aperture ring is silent as the click stops have been removed. This allows aperture changes to take place during a video recording without the sound of the click stops appearing on the audio track. It also allows seamless exposure changes as the ring can be turned smoothly from one aperture setting to the next without dramatic jumps.
Mounted on the Lumix G9 the Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 looks quite at home. Although it is undoubtedly one of the larger lenses in the Lumix G range it isn’t quite as big as I thought it would be. With the focal range and that f/1.7 constant aperture I assumed it would be quite a lot more bulky.
The lens on its own is also remarkably lightweight for its size and focal range. It is only as heavy as the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4, which I think is quite an achievement, especially considering its metal construction.
The front element is quite close to the forward extremes of the barrel, but I’m told a petal lens hood comes in the box – one didn’t come with this sample so we will have to wait to see what it looks like.
The filter thread is the standard 77mm, which will please many filter users.
The design of the lens shares a number of characteristics with the new S Pro lenses for the Lumix S1R and S1 cameras. Although there are plenty of differences too, they look somewhat related. The 10-25mm f/1.7 isn’t quite as broad as the Lumix S Pro 50mm f/1.4 but it is almost as long.
Compared to the existing Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8-4 the new lens appears pretty chunky. The key difference is that super-wide constant f/1.7 aperture that means everything has to be bigger to let more light in. The 8-18mm is a 2.25x zoom as well, while the 10-25mm is a 2.5x zoom – which also adds to the size difference.
As well as a great stills lens this new 10-25mm is going to be a favourite for movie shooters. On the Lumix GH5s the lens feels very well balanced and is extremely comfortable to use. Videographers will appreciate the click-less aperture ring that glides smoothly from f/1.7 to f/16. It only clicks to go into the A position.
Making the most of those compact proportions I tried the lens on one of my favourite bodies – the Lumix GX800. Sure they aren’t exactly a match made in heaven, but the camera means the whole kit fits in my coat pocket and, when you hold the lens rather than the camera. operation is balanced and smooth. These two will be seeing a lot of each other in the coming months.
As this is such an early sample I’m not able to make any comments on image quality at this stage but I have a very good feeling about this lens. It handles really very well and is very comfortable to use when mounted on all the bodies I’ve tried it on. Realistically it will appeal to Lumix G9, G90, G80 and GH owners most, but there’s no reason it can’t be used successfully on the other bodies too.
The Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 ASPH will cost £1799, and is due to become available in the middle of July.
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