I have to admit; I didn’t have the highest expectations for the Panasonic 18mm f1.8 Lumix S lens. That’s because I’ve been reviewing a bunch of lenses with gorgeous bokeh and a render that’s not overly sharp. It’s not to say that the Panasonic 18mm f1.8 doesn’t deliver striking beauty. In fact, it reminds me a bit of medium format. At times, I shot photos that remind me of a 28mm f2.8 for 645 format. Indeed, there’s a je ne sais quoi about it that makes everything feel magical. Only on close inspection did I realize what made it so great; the photos remind me of old Canon EF L-lenses.
With a super lightweight and weather-resistant body, the Panasonic 18mm f1.8 is the latest of the Panasonic f1.8 prime lenses to hit the market. They provide what Sigma refuses to: lightweight lenses with good optics, fast focus, and full weather resistance. Where Sigma only seals the mount of their contemporary lenses, Panasonic seals it throughout the body and without the metallic body. And while Sigma gives you a 20mm f1.4 DG DN Art lens for a bit less what the Panasonic 18mm f1.8 costs, you’re sacrificing weight, a bit of wideness, and speed. As it is, I don’t see anyone photowalking around with Sigma lenses attached to their cameras because. They’re way too big and heavy.
And, of course, they’re nowhere as expensive as a Leica.
The Big Picture
The Panasonic 18mm f1.8 is in a pretty special place. It’s a small, lightweight lens with full weather resistance, and it focuses incredibly fast. Beyond that, it delivered images that I wouldn’t have imagined otherwise. The bokeh reminds me of old Canon L lenses for EF mount cameras while also giving the look of 645 medium format wide angle primes. For that reason, I think a whole host of photographers could make this lens feel at home on their camera. It’s great for photowalking, food, landscapes, long exposures, and so much more.
Most importantly, I think it gives the L-mount something it really needs. L-mount needs a wide-angle lens that’s lightweight, weather resistant enough to stand up to harsh elements, and that delivers great image quality. And the Panasonic 18mm f1.8 excels very well here.
We’re giving the Panasonic 18mm f1.8 five out of five stars. Want one? Check them out on Amazon.
- Bokeh is gorgeous
- A medium format look
- Very fast focusing
- Weather resistant
- Really nice colors
- Some folks may not like the price of just under $1,000. But in our opinion, that’s not too bad.
The Panasonic 18mm f1.8 we tested is a loaner unit sent by Panasonic. It was tested with the Leica SL2s, which is our own.
What makes the Panasonic 18mm f1.8 innovative is the fact that, at the moment of publishing, it’s the widest angle for the L mount with the fastest aperture. It’s also much faster to focus than some competing lenses in the same mount. Plus it’s lightweight and delivers a character unlike so many other lenses these days.
The Panasonic 18mm f1.8 is a pretty small lens with a big front. It’s got a 67mm filter thread: not all that enormous, but not the smallest we’ve seen either.
The body of this lens has textured plastic that’s akin to lots of other Panasonic lenses. This makes it easier to grip. Additionally, there’s a big giant rubber ring here. Together with the textured body, it makes the overall package easier to hold.
On the side is the lens’s only control: the AF/MF switch. This too is weather-resistant.
The Panasonic 18mm f1.8 boasts incredible weather resistance, as does the rest of Panasonic’s lineup. While we tested it, it held up to lots of rain here in NYC. It can hold up to some of the toughest conditions you can throw at it if it’s mounted to Leica cameras. As a reminder, the Leica SL2s is IP-durability rated, and quite highly too.
But besides the weather resistance, there’s the actual feel of the body itself. It’s plastic for sure, but it’s not a bad, plasticky feeling. There’s a giant rubber ring with a grip in addition to the textured plastic. These make holding the lens much better. We can’t find a fault with this lens.
As it is, I own the Panasonic 50mm f1.8 and 85mm f1.8. Both are incredible. And I might consider adding this one to the list of lenses I own.
Ease of Use
This lens is straightforward to use. Screw it onto the camera, point, focus, and shoot. It’s truly that simple. Then there’s the manual focus switch, which makes it easy go into manual focus at a moment’s notice. I truly wish that this lens had a zone focus marker on it though.
Here’s where I’m very excited to talk about the Panasonic 18mm f1.8. I’m happy to say that L-mount is staying true to their word here. When I talked to Panasonic a while ago about how this relationship works, I was told that the mount delivers and shares all autofocus and other information through the lens. That’s unlike Panasonic’s relationship with OM System. With that said, because the Panasonic 18mm f1.8 has an AF/MF switch, it should work perfectly, right? Well, it does indeed. It’s unlike other systems where you sometimes need to switch both the 3rd party lens and the camera into MF mode to manually focus.
If you don’t care about manual focus, then you’ll still be very pleased. This lens focuses incredibly quickly and accurately. On top of that, it’s silent. And in dim lighting, you’ll still be able to easily nail the shot. In fact, I only missed maybe two photos through my entire shooting session with the Panasonic 18mm f1.8. That’s impressive!
Overall, the Panasonic 18mm f1.8 reminds me of two things. At times, it reminds me of a 28mm f2.8 645 format lens because of how it renders. And, when I look at the bokeh, it looks like old school Canon L lenses. We’ll take a deeper look at this and more within this section.
This is an 18mm f1.8 lens. That’s pretty wild, honestly! Couple that with how closely it can focus at just over half a foot away and you’ll have great bokeh potential. While it lacks the swirly bokeh of some of our other favorite lenses, it boasts something else. What I’ve seen recently in a few lenses is subdued onion bokeh. For some odd reason, a few years ago the industry decided that onion bokeh was bad. But when you look at lots of modern cinema and television, they’re all embracing it. Further, photographers have really started clamoring over the past few years that they all want character to return back to photography.
Truly, this is a step in the right direction.
Part of this comes from using a Leica camera. But for what it’s worth, the colors from the Panasonic 18mm f1.8 are deliciously saturated without going overboard. They look very true to life if you wore blue-reflective lenses over your eyes. That’s to say that it naturally works with Leica to deliver warmer images.
Sure, there’s some perceptual distortion. But overall, it’s kept well under control and it doesn’t bother us all too much. Further, to recap from earlier, there’s a bit of onion bokeh, which I really love.
Of course, when rain hits the front element, it will create really fun effects with street lights.
This lens is very sharp when shot wide open. And it becomes even more sharp when stopped down. What even better about this lens is that not only does it become sharper, but the colors don’t really fade as a result. With lots of other lenses, there’s so much contrast when shooting wide open that’s partially a result of vignetting. But with the Panasonic 18mm f1.8, the sharpness is there and it’s pure.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing 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.
Who Should Buy the Panasonic 18mm f1.8?
The Panasonic 18mm f1.8 lens should be purchased by anyone that wants a lightweight, fast focusing, reliable lens for L mount cameras. If you own the Panasonic S5, you’ll gladly use it with the Live Composite feature. With heavier Leica SL cameras, you’ll always want it mounted to your camera because of how small and lightweight it is. And most importantly, you’ll have a lot of fun with it because it’s a wide-angle lens.
These specs were taken from the LensRentals listing:
|Angle of View||100°|
|Aperture Blades||9, Rounded|
|Lens Type||Wide Angle|
|Mfr. Model Number||S-S18|
|Minimum Focusing Distance||0.6’|
|Optical Design||Groups/Elements12/133311Aspherical ElementsExtra-Low Dispersion ElementsUltra Extra-Low Refractive Index ElementsUltra-High Refractive Index Elements|
|Physical||Dimensions (ø x L)2.9 × 3.2″0.8 lb.Weight|
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