The 24-70mm lens is considered by many to be a versatile workhorse. But on the Micro Four Thirds system, that workhorse lens can come in a much smaller package — like the three-inch long Panasonic Leica 12-35mm f2.8 ASPH Vario-Elmarit Power OIS. As the update to the Panasonic 12-35mm f2.8 X Power OIS II, the lens is the third iteration of the company’s 24-70mm equivalent, but it takes on a Leica name instead of a III in the title. That gives the lens a refresh with a Leica-like look on the exterior and some coatings borrowed from Leica, but otherwise, the lens has the same general construction as its predecessor.
While the crop factor brings this lens to a standard 24-70mm, that also applies to the aperture, which is the equivalent of an f5.6 lens. Translation: it’s not the lens for bokeh lovers. But, coming in at well under a pound and $900, there are a few perks to the new Panasonic Leica 12-35mm f2.8 lens.
I quickly fell in love with the size and lens flare coming from this lens. But, photographers looking for buttery smooth backgrounds will likely want to wait and save up a little more cash for Panasonic’s f1.7 zooms, like the Panasonic 10-25mm f1.7 or the Panasonic Leica 25-50mm f1.7.
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Panasonic Leica 12-35mm f2.8 Tech Specs
LensRentals lists the following specifications for the Panasonic Leica 12-35mm f2.8:
- Angle of View: 84° to 34°
- Aperture Blades: 7, Rounded
- Autofocus: Autofocus
- Brand: Panasonic
- Filter Size: 58.0mm
- Focal Length: 12.0-35.0
- Hood Included: Yes
- Image Stabilization: Yes
- Item Type: Lens
- Lens Type: Normal Range
- Max Aperture: 2.8
- Maximum Magnification: 0.21x
- Mfr. Model Number: H-ES12035
- Minimum Aperture: 22.0
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 0.5feet
- Mount: Micro 4/3rds
- Optical Design
- Groups/Elements: 9/14
- Aspherical Elements: 4
- Ultra Extra-Low Dispersion Elements: 1
- Ultra High-Refractive Index Elements: 1
- Physical Dimensions (ø x L): 2.7 × 2.9″
- Weight: 0.7 lb.
Considering the size of most 24-70mm f2.8 lenses, the crop factor allows the Panasonic Leica 12-35mm f2.8 to come in a considerably smaller package. The lens is just under three inches long and weighs about .7 pounds despite using metal rather than plastic in the barrel. The lens is not an internal zoom, so it does extend out at 35mm. It’s an easy lens to wear for long periods, especially on the G9 II, which is a little large for a Micro Four Thirds but has a great grip on it.
The controls on the lens are minimalist but sufficient. The barrel houses a Power OIS on and off switch, a zoom ring, and a manual focus ring. The zoom ring has a nice rubber texture, while the focus maintains the metal feel of the rest of the barrel. The two different textures make it easy to grab the correct ring without pulling your eye away from the viewfinder. I did, however, miss the aperture ring on the Panasonic Leica f1.7 zoom lenses, which is absent here.
The lens uses Leica’s fonts and styling on the labels at the top of the barrel and the front of the lens. It uses 85mm filters at the front and ships with a lens hood.
I love a good metal lens, and the Panasonic Leica 12-35mm f2.8 doesn’t disappoint here. The lens barrel uses a metal construction that feels great in the hands. The controls and rings also feel solid in the hands. I love that it’s possible to get the look and feel of a Leica metal lens at a Panasonic price.
The lens uses seals against dust and moisture and is also rated to be freeze-proof. I used this lens during light rain and doused it with a splash of water. The lens and camera body held up fine, without water entering the camera. I did spot a spec of dust on the sensor, but that could have appeared during one of the multiple lens swaps I made when using this lens and the 100-400mm on the same body.
Ease of Use
The minimal controls make this lens easy to use, even for beginners. The only control to be aware of is simply an on-off switch for stabilization. The zoom and focus rings have a different texture, making it easier to use as well. While more advanced photographers may prefer more control options, with Panasonic bodies being set up for a dedicated switch for manual focus on the body, I didn’t mind that there wasn’t one on the lens.
One major pro of the Micro Four Thirds system is that both brands developing bodies and lenses in this format do a superb job at image stabilization. The Panasonic Leica 12-35mm f2.8 lens is stabilized. Mounted on the stabilized G9 II body, I took handheld shots up to 5 seconds long at 12mm, bracing my elbows.
Paired with the Panasonic G9ii, the Panasonic Leica 12-25mm f2.8 offers decent speed. The lens was able to keep up with a child running towards the camera, even using the longer 35mm focal length. Performance was a bit more inconsistent when working with moving subjects up close to the lens, with a few more misses in that scenario.
The lens also seemed to have more misses when working with tricky backlighting. I had more misses working with backlight portraits, still a few hours off from golden hour, than with fast action that wasn’t backlit.
The lens is capable of focusing as close as six inches from the front of the lens. That gives this workhorse lens even more versatility. The wide angle means even focusing that close, the maximum magnification is .21x.
If I had to sum up the image quality from the Panasonic Leica 12-35mm f2.8 lens in less than five words, it would be this: Spectacular flare, boring bokeh. I love getting streaky flare in backlit shots, but this often requires using a lens smudged with fingerprints or cheating and using a narrower aperture to create a starburst. But, with the Panasonic Leica 12-35mm f2.8, I could get streaky sunlight with a clean lens front shooting wide open. Colorful ghosting spots are also pretty easy to create with this lens — a con if you need sterile, ultra-technical images but a pro if you favor character.
However, the crop factor that brings this lens to a 24-70mm equivalent also applies to the aperture, which is an f5.6 equivalent. It’s still possible to get soft backgrounds and bokeh balls with this lens, but nowhere near as lovely as the Panasonic Leica f1.7 zoom lenses. Bokeh balls tend to have a hard edge to them as well.
Sharpness is another positive with this lens, however. Taking portraits, the eyes had a really great pop to them.
Using this lens on the brand new G9 II, I haven’t yet edited RAW files from this lens — so it’s difficult to say how much is corrected in-camera. But, the JPEGs didn’t have any evidence of chromatic aberration or a strong vignette. Color also seemed to fit right in line with what I would expect from Panasonic.
Extra Image Samples – Unedited
My initial impression of the new Panasonic Leica 12-35mm f2.8 lens is positive, but not the kind of instant love that I had for the Panasonic Leica 25-50mm f1.7. The compact size and decent autofocus speed, plus the versatile zoom range, make it a lens that could live on the camera body for long shoots. Both lens flare and sharpness is charming and capable of creating great character. Plus, the price of about $900 is reasonable as well. But, the trade-off for the size and cost is that the bokeh isn’t as lovely as the Panasonic Leica f1.7 zoom options, which are also pricier, heavier, and have a narrower zoom range of 10-25mm or 25-50mm. However, I’ll hold off on any final judgment until I can edit a few RAW files, so watch for the full review soon.
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