The L Mount Really Needed This. Panasonic 85mm F1.8 Review

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The Panasonic 85mm f1.8 is the lens the system really, really needed. The L-Mount alliance likes to tout that they’re the second full-frame mirrorless camera system to hit the market. But they’ve needed more lenses to fill in gaps. Yet, at the same time, the systems don’t need to step on each other’s toes. They have three 24-70mm f2.8 lenses. Sigma also has an 85mm f1.4 Art lens, but it’s larger than the 85mm f1.8. And at this point, I honestly trust Panasonic to make the better lens. As it turns out, I wasn’t disappointed.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

The Panasonic 85mm f1.8 is a fantastic lens for the L-mount and exactly what it needed. It’s lightweight, weather-sealed, fast to focus, and delivers solid image quality. It’s also incredibly affordable, but a bit clinical for my personal tastes.

Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

  • Very clinical image quality

Innovations

The Panasonic 85mm f1.8 isn’t innovating at all. It’s just a small, lightweight, weather-resistant lens with good image quality. In the world of lenses, this isn’t exactly tough to do. But for the L-mount alliance, this is probably the only 85mm lens you need.

Gear Used

We tested the Panasonic 85mm f1.8 on the Leica SL2s and even used the PrismFX Radiant filter to give it a bit of flavor.

Tech Specs

Tech specs are taken from the LensRentals listing:

The Panasonic Lumix S 85mm f/1.8 is a compact short-telephoto prime designed for full-frame L-mount mirrorless cameras. Key features include:

Compact portrait-length prime
High-quality optical design for sharp, clear images
Fast, accurate, and nearly silent autofocus system
Splash-. dust-, and freezeproof metal build
Compact Portrait-Length Prime. The Panasonic Lumix S 85mm f/1.8’s short-telephoto focal length makes it a particularly great option for portraiture. Its reasonably bright f/1.8 aperture and rounded nine-blade diaphragm produce pleasing bokeh and smooth defocus gradation. Using an APS-C camera? You’ll get a 127.5mm focal length.

L-Mount Alliance. This wide-diameter lens mount is a joint collaboration between Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma that’s focused on a line of premium cameras and lenses in a mirrorless format. At 51.6mm mount diameter and just 20mm flange distance, the L-mount is well-suited for fast-aperture full-frame optics with compact dimensions.

Linear Autofocus System. The 85mm f/1.8’s autofocus system uses a linear motor to provide fast, accurate, nearly silent performance for still and video use. You can use the AF/MF switch to easily toggle between autofocus and manual focus modes.

Premium Optics. This lens’s eight-group/nine-element optical formula features two extra-low dispersion elements to reduce chromatic aberrations and color fringing, producing sharp, clear, color-accurate images.

High-Quality Build. The lens construction provides a solid, yet lightweight feel, while its splash-. dust-, and freeze-proof design lets you work in inclement weather conditions down to -14° with confidence.

Ergonomics

The Panasonic 85mm f1.8 has a plastic body. It’s characterized by some pebbled plastic towards the mount. It feels, in some ways, like a Canon L lens on the outside. Then there’s the giant rubber ring for focusing and grip.

This lens has a 67mm filter thread on the front. Of course, that also means it’s pretty small and slim.

On the side, you’ll find this focusing switch. You can go between autofocus and manual focus this way. 

Build Quality

The Panasonic 85mm f1.8 is weather resistant. Like much of Panasonic’s other gear, it can survive quite a bit. I took it out in the rain during my tests and it survived on the Leica SL2s. It does this while still being made of plastic. However, you can’t really find fault with it here.

Personally speaking, I try to only buy metal lenses as much as possible because of environmental concern. But if you want something nice and light, this is the one to go for.

Ease of Use

There’s not really a whole lot to this lens. It’s an autofocus optic, and there’s no aperture ring on it. Point, focus, and shoot. You’ll adore it. The Panasonic 85mm f1.8 has a focusing selection switch on it. 

Autofocus

We tested the Panasonic 85mm f1.8 on the Leica SL2s with the latest firmware update. I felt like this lens is fast but not as consistent as some Leica l for its worth. Tracking a moving subject with this lens and shooting wide open is kind of tough. I first reported on this when the Leica SL2s got its big firmware update. Here’s what I said:

In the standard Children and Pets setting, it will do a good job with subjects at a walking pace. Go faster than that, though, and you’ll probably need to change the tracking profile. It’s good enough for cinematic street photography and photojournalism. But I’m not convinced I’d use it for sports yet.

Image Quality

In terms of image quality, the Panasonic 85mm f1.8 is fantastic. It’s a very affordable lens with good image quality. It’s very sharp and the bokeh is nice. But, while the colors will depend on the camera you’re using, the lens lacks character. Overall though, it’s the best of many worlds.

Bokeh

The Panasonic 85mm f1.8 has nine aperture blades and a beautiful, creamy bokeh. For what it’s worth, I really like it. I think most photographers will really like it for the price point. Is there better bokeh? Yes, but not for this price point. 

Color Rendition

The colors from this lens vary greatly depending on what camera and camera profile you’re using. I stick to the vivid profile on the Leica SL2s. But the Cinelike profile on Panasonic cameras is also lovely. Overall, I like the colors.

Lens Character

Depending on who you are, you’ll either really like this or not. The Panasonic 85mm f1.8 doesn’t exhibit issues with distortion or fringing. Some folks might light that, but I wish it delivered lens flare. Amazingly, even with the lens hood off, the Panasonic 85mm f1.8 reduces flare. To get anything, I had to attach a PrismFX Radiant filter: that’s how I got the look below.

Sharpness

Overall, the sharpness from the Panasonic 85mm f1.8 is fantastic. I didn’t use it much with a flash at all. But from what I did do, I was amazed at how sharp it is. It seems even sharper than Sony’s. 

Extra Image Samples

From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews with a lot of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. It doesn’t show what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.

Unedited

Edited

Panasonic 85mm f1.8 Lens Review Conclusions

Likes

  • Small size
  • Light weigh
  • Fast focusing
  • Weather sealing
  • Good image quality
  • Price point

Dislikes

  • It’s a clinical lens, but I can deal with that.

You should think of the Panasonic 85mm f1.8 not as an option but as an essential lens. If you shoot L-mount, this is a gem. It’s small, lightweight, weather-sealed, and effective. Plus, it’s affordable. There’s no need to get a bigger Sigma lens on your already sizable L-mount camera. Further, the autofocus is excellent. There are lenses everyone has to have, and this is surely one of them.

The Panasonic 85mm f1.8 wins five out of five stars. Want one? Check out Amazon for the latest prices.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.