The Leica/Panasonic 15mm f1.7 lens is a very expressive and capable lens. And very affordable for the rendering quality it provides.

Lighthouse or beacon at the harbor in Reykjavik, Iceland. November 2018.

I used to dislike wide angle lenses in general, and focal lengths near the traditional 28mm full frame equivalent most especially. They all seemed too wide for shooting people but not dramatically wide enough for the kinds of subjects that could be well exploited by a more obvious wide angle perspective. 

I bought the L/P 15mm f1.7 on a whim. I had a store credit at Precision Camera and wanted to fill out the missing nooks and crannies of my m4:3rds inventory with focal lengths that I rarely use...but might...someday. I think the feature of the lens that pushed me to purchase it was how much like my Leica M series rangefinders it looks. There is an aperture ring, click stopped in 1/3 stops, that has a perfect tactile character and the lens adds no significant bulk to any of the cameras I use. 

When I do use a wide angle lens on a m4:3 camera it's a pretty good bet that narrow depth of field is not my primary consideration. Since I'm not trying to show off my ability to focus on next to nothing in a wide, establishing scene I am  happy to use this lens at middling apertures like f4.0 and f5.6. It just so happens that the lens is particularly sharp at those settings. And, like most traditional photographers, I do feel compelled to have areas of high sharpness somewhere in my images. 

There are a few photographer/reviewer "experts" who can't figure out the (fantasy) focus shift on lenses made for small sensors but neither my camera nor I had any issues getting the focus right where we wanted it. Most wide angle lenses have a bit of curvature of field; it comes with the territory. But if you focus a flat (test target?) on its edge with a wide angle you might find the center less than sharp. But guess what? Most really great wide angles aren't designed as flat field lenses. Too many imaging compromises involved. That's why we embrace various lenses for what they can bring to the table. 

In this case it's a very good ability to distinguish between colors and tones, something beyond "analytical" that's more in line with the way we optically process scenes with our own eyes. The lens's lack of gross, hamfisted transitions between gradual tone shifts leads some people to discount the sharpness of this lens but the sharpness is certainly there and can be exploited if you process correctly --- or you can just leave the GH5S in a nice Jpeg setting...

This lens is teaching me to appreciate a focal length I had passed over for decades. That alone speaks to me of its potential and its performance. Not bad for a small and lightweight addition to my backpack.  If you own a current Panasonic or Olympus m4:3 camera you might want to consider this lens. While I have several very, very good zooms that cover this focal length I find the different "look", the small size, and the fast aperture a compelling alternative. With this lens on a camera and the 42.5mm f1,7 in my pocket I feel ready to handle a wide mix of photographic "errands." You might too. Or you could bitch about field curvature instead.

A mystical early morning expression of man's obsession with duality.
Next up: hermenuetics. 


Jeff Smith said...

Hi Kirk,

Glad you gave the Panny/Leica 15mm lens a try. I find it is my favorite lens in the M4/3 lineup and it s on my camera about 80% of the time. Build quality is very good, the way it renders is very good, it's small and light to boot. In short it's a gem of a lens. I will have to give the 42.5mm, f1.7 lens a try based on your endorsement. Jeff

PS Also recently purchased your novel and I am looking forward to reading it when I have some down time.

Aaron Hines said...

The 15mm was one of my favorite lenses when I shot Micro 4/3. On a small rangefinder-style body, it is really sublime; tiny, unassuming, fly-under-the-radar... but capable of producing such great images!


dwross said...

You'd be mistaken if you thought you hadn't found "inspiration" in Iceland. Color, light, buildings. You hit them all gloriously. I see a book forming that looks at Iceland beyond geology and shaggy ponies.