PANASONIC GX1 LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-150mm

PANASONIC GX1 LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-150mm

PANASONIC GX1 LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-150mm
PANASONIC LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-150mm

I had one of these lenses for quite some time, used it extensively and wrote many posts about it.
http://soundimageplus.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/PANASONIC%20LEICA%20D%20VARIO-ELMAR%2014-150mm%2FF3.5-5.6 

When I sold it I was becoming quite disillusioned with m4/3. Panasonic seemed determined to make smaller and smaller cameras (GF2, GF3) Olympus were releasing slight variants on previous Pen designs and seemed determined to stick with 12MP sensors in perpetuity. A system that I had adopted early and enthused about was going in a different direction to what I had hoped. Consequently I sold the 14-150mm, which was one of my favourite and most used lenses.

My feelings about m4/3 now are a good deal more positive. Panasonic released the GX1, announced the 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100 f/2.8 lenses and are rumoured to be coming up with a battery grip and weather sealing for the future GH3. Olympus released the OM-D E-M5, 12mm f/2 and 45mm f/1.8 lenses, announced the 75mm f/1.8 and finally moved to a 16MP sensor.

Consequently I've started buying some of the lenses I had sold. It is the nature of these things that I've been able to do that at the same prices I sold them for, so I haven't really lost anything.

The Panasonic Leica D Vario-Elmar 14-150mm is the best "superzoom" I've ever used. In terms of sharpness and quality at all focal lengths I've never used anything better. Its also better than most prime lenses I've ever used. Its big, but not as heavy as it looks, its expensive, not very fast, but using it is like carrying a selection of prime lenses from 14mm to 150mm (28mm to 300mm in 35mm terms) around with you at all times.

I bought this one S/H at a reasonable price. It arrived yesterday, the sun came out and I put it on my GX1 and drove down to the Cotswolds to take some pictures. I had a smile on my face using it and when I came home and looked at the pictures that smile got bigger.

PANASONIC GX1 LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-150mm

PANASONIC GX1 LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-150mm

PANASONIC GX1 LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-150mm

For those who don't know anything about the lens, it isn't made by Leica. My understanding is that the Leica branding is because the lens is "Leica approved" and meets their exacting  standards. Panasonic made two 4/3 cameras prior to introducing m4/3, and this is one of the four lenses for that system. These were the 7MP L1 (there was a Leica version called the Digilux 3) which came out in 2006. Then there was the 10MP L10 which followed in 2007. I've owned all three cameras, and while they are pretty useless at anything other than base ISO, they do provide good results if used at that setting.

There is speculation as to whether these four lenses are still being manufactured. However they are all on the Panasonic website and you can still buy all of them new, though they do take some tracking down.

These lenses are:-
Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50mm f/2.8-3.5  Kit lens for the L1/Digilux 3
Leica D Summilux 25mm/F1.4  Fast standard lens
Leica D Vario-Elmar 14-150mm F3.5-5.6 
Leica D Vario-Elmar 14-50mm  F3.8-5.6 Kit lens for the L10

At one time or another I've owned them all and used them on m4/3 cameras. They do of course need a 4/3 > m4/3 adapter for this.

They are generally regarded as some of the best digital camera lenses ever made. There are AF issues with some of them, but the last two on the list will AF on current m4/3 cameras, though somewhat slowly.

The 14-150mm isn't that bad with my MMF-2 adapter, but my OM-D doesn't like it when the camera IS is turned on. It actually blurs the image. I suspect this may be the adapter. The MMF-3 adapter may fix this. However, though IS would be nice and indeed the lens IS works well on the GX1, if it doesn't work on the OM-D I can live with it.

PANASONIC GX1 LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-150mm

PANASONIC GX1 LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-150mm

PANASONIC GX1 LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-150mm

Sometime ago I wrote a post that said this lens breaks all the rules. These superzooms tend to be somewhat of an optical compromise and the long telephoto end is usually somewhat of a problem. Not so with the 14-150mm. The results from this were somewhat jaw-dropping when I looked at them on the screen. I don't know whether its because of the GX1 sensor or improvements in Photoshop raw processing or because this one is a better copy, but the files from this lens look sharper than from the one I owned before. Quite simply the best I've ever got from a m4/3 camera, and this from a zoom.

Its not for everyone, because its big. You should see it on the OM-D + grip!! Its also pretty expensive. Around £1300 new. However it is by some distance better than the competition, such as the Panasonic 14-140mm and Olympus 14-150mm. Its also significantly better than the Sony NEX Tamron 18-200mm I've been reviewing.

I'm actually really glad to be using one of these again, and recent developments have got me back into m4/3 again. So much so that I am seriously considering moving to a situation where I use that format exclusively. It may happen, it may not. I know myself well enough to realise that I often change my mind about these things. However I will say that I REALLY enjoyed using this lens with the GX1 yesterday and the quality of the results was spectacular. Today I'm planning to try it on the OM-D so I'll report back on that.

This wasn't the extent of my m4/3 "binge". I also bought a new 7-14mm Panasonic zoom on ebay. £200 cheaper than any UK dealer. I have also bought a S/H Olympus 17mm f/2.8 pancake + VF-1 optical viewfinder which I'm planning to use with my E-PL3 as a small fixed lens compact camera. So, all in all I'm back using m4/3 with a vengence.

All of this is basically down to the OM-D. For me, this is simply a wonderful camera. The modular approach enables me to use it in a variety of ways. From small compact camera to highly specified and fast responding DSLR like pro machine. This is what I always hoped m4/3 would be. Finally Olympus and Panasonic seemed to have realised that the main market for m4/3 isn''t point and shoot compact users upgrading, but serious photographers looking for a smaller, lighter yet well-specified alternative to a DSLR. The 16MP sensor has proved that m4/3 can compete with other formats. Issues like dynamic range and high ISO performance have been adressed and are now much improved. The lens range is exapnding and becoming rather good, with a variety of zooms and fast primes. Plus of course the huge choice of lenses available via adapters.

At the moment m4/3 is healthy. And yes I know the two companies who make it are both in difficult financial situations, but in the current economic climate who isn't? I do believe that the revolution started by the G1 is making an impact and more and more photographers are beginning to see the benefits. I must admit going back into the format seriously again is very enjoyable and beats the hell out of fiddling around with an X-Pro 1!!

More later.

PANASONIC GX1 LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-150mm

PANASONIC GX1 LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-150mm

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