src="http://www.mirrorlessons.com/wp-content/themes/mirrorlessons Panasonic Lumix 25mm f/1.7 vs. Leica 25mm f/1.4 – MirrorLessons
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Comparisons

Date: 01/02/2016 | By: Heather

Comparing two Panasonic standard primes – Lumix 25mm f/1.7 vs. Leica 25mm f/1.4

panasonic lumix 25mm f1.7 vs leica 25mm f1.4-1

Comparing two Panasonic standard primes – Lumix 25mm f/1.7 vs. Leica 25mm f/1.4

Announced in June 2011, the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 was the first Micro Four Thirds lens to deliver an equivalent focal length of 50mm (full-frame) and was the second Leica-branded prime from Panasonic. Today, there are a five different 25mm lenses for the system including the recent Lumix 25mm f/1.7, the “cheap and cheerful” alternative to its elitely-named cousin.

As a follow-up to my full review of the Lumix 25mm f/1.7, I admit that my original plan was to do a three-way comparison between the lens and its two main competitors in the Micro Four Thirds segment, the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 and Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8. Unfortunately, I was unable to get my hands on the M.Zuiko lens in time, so my comparison is limited to the two Panasonic primes. (I do apologise to those who explicitly requested a comparison.) You can however check out our full review of the M.Zuiko 25mm, which we reviewed at the same time as the original OM-D E-M10.

Note: From now on, I’ll refer to the Panasonic Lumix 25mm f/1.7 as the Lumix and the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 as the Leica for simplicity’s sake.

The Main Specs

The two primes share the same focal length (25mm on MFT or 50mm on full-frame), angle of view (47°) and filter thread (46mm).

Lumix 25mm f/1.7 vs Leica 25mm f/1.4
Lumix 25mm f/1.7 vs Leica 25mm f/1.4

In terms of lens construction, they are nearly identical. They have the same number of aspherical lenses (2) and 1 Ultra High Refractive lens. The only difference is that the Leica has 9 elements in 7 groups while the Lumix has 8 elements in 7 groups. Both have a circular aperture diaphragm with 7 diaphragm blades. The Leica has Nano Surface Coating to reduce flares and ghosting while the Lumix does not.

Lumix 25mm f/1.7 vs Leica 25mm f/1.4
Lumix 25mm f/1.7 vs Leica 25mm f/1.4

Though neither lens can be classified as large, the Leica is certainly the larger, heavier and more robust of the two, weighing 200g and measuring 54.5mm in length. It has a chunky rubber focus ring on the barrel and comes with an octagonal lens hood that makes it look larger than it actually is. By contrast, the Lumix only weighs 125g and measures 52mm, and as a result, feels more plasticky and delicate than its older cousin. It comes with an inconspicuous round lens hood.

The aperture range also differs. Spanning f/1.4 to f/16, the Leica lens is faster but lacks the minimum f/22 aperture. The Lumix lens, on the other hand, has a slightly slower maximum aperture of f/1.7 but travels all the way up to f/22.

The Lumix focuses as close as 25cm, just outperforming the Leica whose closest focusing distance is 30cm. Neither lens incorporates built-in optical stabilisation.

Through the lens – Image Quality

It shouldn’t be a surprise to discover that both lenses can produce excellent results. Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of how they compare in terms of image quality, let’s take a moment to remember what photography is all about by looking through some real-world images taken with both lenses.

lumix 25mm vs leica 25mm
GX8, 6s, f/10, ISO 200 – Lumix 25mm f/1.7
lumix 25mm vs leica 25mm
GH4, 1/320, f/8, ISO 200 – Leica 25mm f/1.4
lumix 25mm vs leica 25mm
GX8, 1/1000, f/2.2, ISO 200 – Lumix 25mm f/1.7
lumix 25mm vs leica 25mm
E-M1, 1/5000, f/1.4, ISO 200 – Leica 25mm f/1.4
lumix 25mm vs leica 25mm
GX8, 1/1250, f/7.1, ISO 400 – Lumix 25mm f/1.7
lumix 25mm vs leica 25mm
E-P5, 1/60, f/9, ISO 200 – Leica 25mm f/1.4

Angle of view

The very first thing I noticed when comparing the two 25mm lenses is that, despite having the same angle of view on paper, their actual angles of view differs ever so slightly. Comparing two shots taken at the same distance and aperture on the same camera body, you’ll notice that the Leica is marginally wider than the Lumix.

For real world shooting, this difference is irrelevant because it is highly unlikely you’d own both lenses, and even if you did, you wouldn’t spend time comparing them as I have for this article!

Sharpness

For my tests, I compared the two lenses by photographing the Commando memorial stone in Penhelig Park (Aberdovey). Interestingly, it was erected not in honour of the Welsh soldiers who fought in the Second World War, but a unique commando troop that consisted of German-speaking refugees from Nazi oppression who were billeted in the town. The undercover efforts of these soldiers greatly contributed to the defeat of Hitler’s Germany.

To test centre sharpness, I placed the memorial in the middle of the frame and used crops of the writing as a point of comparison.

As is only natural considering the price difference, the Leica lens is sharper between f/1.8 and f/8 with the most stark difference occurring at f/4 and f/5.6. However, at their respective fastest apertures – 1.4 on the Leica and 1.7 on the Lumix – they appear to be just as sharp as each another.

After f/11, sharpness gradually gives way to diffraction on both lenses. Though the Leica version only goes up to f/16, it is still quite useable at this aperture. By contrast, the Lumix goes up to f/22 but I would never consider using it because it is quite soft.

Below you can see a series of crops that compare the two lenses at the most important apertures.

Overall, I was very pleased with the centre sharpness from both lenses, especially at the fastest apertures. I noticed that the Leica tends to peak between f/4 and f/5.6 while the Lumix is strongest between f/5.6 and f/8.

I then tested corner sharpness by placing the memorial in the bottom right corner of the frame.

Both lenses perform in a very similar manner across the aperture range, achieving the best performance between f/4 and f/8. The corners are never quite as sharp as the centre but this can only be expected. Once again, sharpness decreases once you hit the slowest apertures.

Below you can see a second series of crops that compare the two lenses at the most important apertures.

Bokeh and Close Focusing

If you compare two images taken at the same distance, I would say that, overall, the Leica’s out of focus rendering is smoother and more controlled. The Lumix can appear more nervous, particularly in places where there is lots of detail or text.

In the example below, I’ve set the lenses to their fastest apertures and cropped the pamphlet in the background to demonstrate the rendering of the bokeh.

They both produce round bokeh balls thanks to the 7 blade circular aperture but the Leica, having a faster maximum aperture, is capable of producing larger balls that are more pleasing to the eye.

Crop showing bokeh ball at respective fastest apertures

That said, the Lumix is able to focus closer than the Leica – 25cm with 0.14x magnification versus 30cm with 0.11x magnification to be precise – which means you can achieve a more attractive blur just by moving in closer to your subject with the Lumix. The example below of the flowers shows the difference 5cm can make to the smoothness of the background blur.

Colour Rendering

Something curious I noticed almost immediately, and that you may too have noticed looking at these images, was that the two lenses produce a slightly different colour rendition. At first, I thought it might have been the fault of the camera choosing different white balances but after comparing both lenses with the exact same settings, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Leica definitely tends toward a magenta tint. Fortunately, these differences are of little consequence as you can easily tweak the white balance in post-production if you wish.

Flare, Vignetting, Chromatic Aberration

Unfortunately, since it was overcast, the only side-by-side flare example I was able to take is the one of the bench below but I don’t believe it demonstrates just how much both lenses can flare in situations with a strong light source. The most common type of flare you’ll come across is either a purple haze or a series of polygonal shapes. Having a lens hood helps protect the lenses but it isn’t enough to eliminate flare completely.

Although I don’t have a good comparison to show, my personal feeling is that the Leica flares somewhat less than the Lumix, which would make sense as the former has a special Nano Surface Coating for the very purpose of reducing flare and ghosting.

As for vignetting, the Lumix seems to suffers the most of the two. At f/1.7, the frame appears one stop darker than at f/2.8. Vignetting is also produced by the Leica lens, being most visible at f/1.4 and f/1.6 but I don’t find it as pronounced. Both lenses are practically clear of vignetting by f/4.

Chromatic aberration, on the other hand, appears very well-controlled even at the fastest apertures. I struggled to find evidence of it with either lens, if not in very extreme examples such as shooting the branches of a tree into direct sunlight with a wide aperture.

Focusing (Auto and Manual)

The Leica lens, being the older of the two, tends to focus a tad slower than the Lumix and makes an unsettling “rattlesnake” noise when it changes apertures. The noise may initially lead you to believe that the lens is malfunctioning but it is, in fact, a well-documented quirk. The Lumix, on the other hand, is fast and deadly silent on all Micro Four Thirds bodies. Both lenses also perform well in poor light conditions.

I had no trouble manual focusing with either lens despite the “fly by wire” mechanism. Both are well damped, making fine adjustments to focus easy to apply. Since the focus ring is made of plastic on the Lumix and rubber on the Leica, neither is cold to the touch, though the latter does attract some dust. What’s more, both are ribbed, improving the tactile experience of turning the ring.

Conclusion

The Lumix 25mm f/1.7 and Leica 25mm f/1.4 are both valid choices for the Micro Four Thirds photographer who is in the process of building up a collection of primes. As is often the case with these comparisons, whether you choose one or the other really depends on your needs and budget.

In terms of pure optical quality, the prize goes to the Leica but this is logical considering the price difference between the two. Not only is it marginally sharper at all apertures but it also has a slightly more pleasing bokeh and the added bonus of a f/1.4 aperture that performs as well as the Lumix at f/1.7.

However, the Lumix has its own set of surprises up its sleeve. Its focus mechanism is quieter and faster and it has the added benefit of a closer minimum focusing distance. This means that, even though the Leica has a nicer bokeh overall, you can achieve a blurrier background with the Lumix if you focus as close as possible to your subject.

GH4, 1/500, f/8, ISO 200 – Leica 25mm f/1.4
GX8, 1/500, f/4.5, ISO 200 – Lumix 25mm f/1.7

Personally speaking, if I were to start my Micro Four Thirds collection all over again, I would probably chose the Lumix version instead of the Leica. (In fact, the primary reason we picked up the Leica is because we found it at a very good price second hand.) Besides the fact that it is extremely affordable, its performance is enough for my personal photography needs and I love how it hardly adds any weight or bulk to our cameras.

How about you? Which lens would you pick and why?

Choose the Lumix 25mm f/1.7 if …

– you are on a budget

– you need a perfectly silent AF mechanism

 

See our full review of the Lumix 25mm f/1.7

Choose the Leica 25mm f/1.4 if …

– you prioritise sharpness above all else

– you need the fastest aperture possible

 

See our full review of the Leica 25mm f/1.4



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About the author: Heather Broster

Heather Broster was born in Canada, has lived in Japan and Italy but currently calls Wales home. She is a full-time gear tester at MirrorLessons. You can follow her on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Dominic Driman

    How about video? Which lens is best when shooting in UHD with Lumix G7? Is the AF-noise there in video-mode as well?

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com/ Heather Broster

    I’ve actually never tried the 20mm, so I cannot comment on the low-light performance. However, in my experience, most Lumix lenses are fast enough for most purposes even in difficult light conditions. Whether you go for the 20mm or 25mm should really depend on the focal length you prefer. :)

  • http://www.teknomodo.com Elzafir Habsjah

    Is the Lumix 25mm 1.7 better than the pancake 20mm 1.7 for low-light photography?

    I need inclined to have small lenses because I have the GM1 as my sole ILC, but I heard the slow autofocus on the pancake make it not suitable for low-light

    I only want one fast normal prime lens, to compliment my standard 12-32mm kit zoom and the 35-100mm medium-telephoto zoom that I will buy soon. After that I’ll get the 14mm 2.5 wide-angle and the 30mm 2.8 macro (which will serve double function as a portrait lens as well), and I’ll be done (until I’m rich enough to replace them with their respective Leica DG brethren).

    Note: I’m not a photographer, but I like nice pictures to preserve memory of my good life. I will most likely shoot with autofocus with the Intelligence Auto+ mode 99% of the time.

  • http://www.jphotog.com Hrunga Zmuda

    Now with the new Sigma 30mm 1.4, with optical quality the same as their fantastic Art lenses, I’m thinking I might just go with that instead.

  • Mark Lavrijsen

    Apples and oranges . The Sigma’s are very sharp and have excellent rendering, especially the 60mm. But they are f2.8, and that’s a huge difference, two full stops compared to the f1.4 leica(that is half a stop faster then the pana f1.7, that is also a big difference in itself). 2 stops is like taking a picture on ISO 800 (leica) in stead of ISO 3200 (sigma) for the same exposure.

  • http://www.bestmirrorlesscamerareviews.com/ Heather Broster

    Wow, good question. I admit I didn’t try attaching it. What about an inexpensive third-party option? I found this one here (http://amzn.to/1NRXEII) but I am sure there are others.

  • Kenny

    One question: does the lens hood of the Lumix fit on the Leica? I Love the Leica Lens, but the Lens hood is a pain…

  • Turbofrog

    The 20mm is great. Optically very good, and makes for an extremely compact package. The autofocus is a bit slower, though, but as long as you give it a hand by using the touch-screen to pick a high contrast edge, it’s rarely an issue in practice. However, it does feel much more like a 35mm than a 50mm, though, which is a focal length that’s never thrilled me that much, hence my order for the 25mm when I saw that unbelievable price…

  • http://www.bestmirrorlesscamerareviews.com/ Heather Broster

    It’s still on back order? I guess it proved far more popular than they expected, but at that price, it’s amazing they didn’t foresee the issue!
    I had heard the same thing about the Olympus as well, which is part of the reason I’m a bit disappointed I couldn’t include it in the comparison.
    How do you like the 20mm? It’s a lens I’ve yet to try. :)

  • http://www.bestmirrorlesscamerareviews.com/ Heather Broster

    Thanks for your thoughts about the Sigma, David. :) Even though they’re relatively old, I might try and get my hands on their MFT lenses. Many such as yourself have highly recommended them.

  • http://www.bestmirrorlesscamerareviews.com/ Heather Broster

    I agree, OIS would have been a plus, especially since so many Pana bodies aren’t stabilised. The 30mm is a nice little lens as well, and very compact!

  • David Barwick

    I would pick the Sigma 30mm f2.8 art-line m4/3, because it is very sharp @ 2.8, is made in Japan, has a nice solid, quality feel, comes a with a hood and excellent protection pouch, also shares the same 46mm filter thread, hood and body diameter as the other sigma primes – (19mm & 60mm) for consistency, only the length varies. It is smaller (60mm x 38mm) than the Lumix 25mm F1.7 and weighs the same. Oh, and it costs £119.00.

    I find the Chinese made panasonic and some olympus lenses feel suprisingly cheap and “plasticy” and do not sit well on the metal bodies.

    Thanks for your excellent and thorough comparison Heather.

  • Turbofrog

    Thanks for the comparison. I have a 25mm/1.7 on the way (purchased in November for $99, but back-ordered until March or maybe even April!). While there are differences visible with the PanaLeica, they are very subtle, and both have very pleasing out-of-focus areas.

    I actually appreciate that the 25mm/1.7 has a slightly narrower field of view. Apparently the same is true with the Olympus 25/1.8, which is even wider than the 25/1.4. This way I won’t feel so bad about having both the 20mm/1.7 and the 25/1.7, giving me a “wide normal” and a “tight normal.” In some brief testing that I did when I had a copy of the 25/1.7, I found that the difference between those two lenses was surprisingly large – you’d need to crop away fully 50% of your pixels with a 20mm to get the same field of view. While the difference between just 5mm seems minor, it’s clearly not that minor!

    (the full image is taken with the 20mm/1.7, while the red box in the image shows the framing taken from the same spot on a tripod with the 25/1.7)

    http://i.imgur.com/1MDQuf1.jpg

  • Marco Colombo

    It’s a pity that they don’t have entered the OIS, as was done for the Lumix 42.5mm. If they had done this would have been my favorite fixed lens for my lumix GM5. I already own the Lumix 20mm and the Oly 45mm. I think now I will insert in the middle of the Lumix 30mm 2.8.

  • http://keithgoldstein.me/ Keith Goldstein

    I have actually shot on the street with it a few times Heather, and if it wasn’t for the fast focus of my OMD-EM5, I never would have used it in this particular application. Great article BTW.

  • http://www.bestmirrorlesscamerareviews.com/ Heather Broster

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mike. I came across some severe examples of flare in my tests with the 1.7 so that is probably what swayed my opinion.
    I wish I’d had the Voigtlander and Olympus on hand for a 4-ways comparison. It would have been interesting!

  • http://www.bestmirrorlesscamerareviews.com/ Heather Broster

    I feel the same way about the 50mm focal length but it is useful to own for certain applications. :) Thanks for commenting!

  • http://keithgoldstein.me/ Keith Goldstein

    I have the Leica. While I am not a big fan of the 50mm focal length, I got it at a great price and couldn’t be happier.

  • Mike Peters

    I had both, sold the Leica. The focus on the 1.4 is slower by a fair amount in my estimation. The 1.7 performs at 1.7 similarly to the 1.4, and the lighter weight and much closer focus are a bonus.

    And frankly, I don’t notice flaring to be any worse than the 1.4 which suffered it’s fair share of internal reflections in night photography with bright light sources. Besides, for night photography and super low light I have my Voigtlander Nokton’s which seem to be almost completely impervious to flare.

    For how I use the auto focus lenses, the 1.7 works very nicely.

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