Panasonic Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 real world review

January 19, 2014

Following on from my recent Olympus 75mm f1.8 review, I thought I would do something similar with the Panasonic Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8.

I picked up this lens around the summer of 2013 in Campkins Cameras in Cambridge. I actually managed to grab what I felt was a pretty impressive bargain. They had it second hand in absolute mint condition for £219.99, which when I saw it, I thought it had the wrong price on it. But I went in and checked and all was as it should be so I thought at that price, I somewhat planned to buy it and just put it straight on eBay.

But getting it home, I attached it to my EM5 and had a play around. Macro has never interested me and I will be absolutely honest that I have zero expertise in that particular area but having a play around with it with focus set to ‘full’ I was absolutely amazed at the detail it could capture. With a minimum focusing distance of 15cm, it allows you to get incredibly close to things and it will still focus. Focus is pretty fast, a slight bit faster than the Panasonic 20mm f1.7.

My initial impressions were favourable, but I was really hoping I wouldn’t like it and it would make it easy for me to sell. That was not to be the case…

Over summer I had a fair few BBQ’s and the like and I took it along to one I think the day I got the lens. Sitting outside as the sun set, I took some photos and there was something magical about them. I couldn’t quite explain it, but the characteristics of this lens are very pleasing to my eye. They have a beautiful clarity and you get enough background blur for it to make a surprisingly useful portrait lens. Below are some of the pics from that evening which should hopefully show you what I am talking about.

Brett with Panasonic Leica 45mm f2.8

Shot at f2.8 1/100 second at iso 200.

So over the course of summer, I used it extensively and loved everything I got with it. I actually did own the Olympus 45mm f1.8 which on paper should be better for portraiture and general photography with the only area where the Panasonic Leica’s should excel would be at macro. But in reality, I never really loved the output from the Oly 45mm, something about it, the background blur was almost too smooth and it just lacked character. I wanted to love it as it gets such rave reviews but I just never felt it. Also the Panasonic Leica does feel a lot more solid and a lot less plastic than the Oly, but I realise that to buy new, the Panasonic Leica is at least twice as expensive so it would be expected that it should be a bit better built.

Another place that I found it a great asset was at the airshows I visit at Duxford which is very close to Cambridge where I live. The 90mm equivalent focal length was perfect for the aircraft on the ground and I was amazed at the sharpness you could get out of this thing. Again, I had historically just used the Panasonic 100-300mm f4.0-5.6 exclusively with the occasional use of the 12-50mm for when they got a bit close. But the Panasonic just has a lovely way of rendering colour. Below you can see some samples which again, hopefully illustrate my point.

Hawker Hurricane shot with Panasonic Leica 45mm f2.8

Shot at f8 1/800 second shutter and iso 200. Should have used a slower shutter to get more prop blur but it was an incredibly bright day.

As the year has went on I have found more and more uses for this thing and actually its my second most used lens after the 20mm f1.7. After acquiring the Olympus 75mm f1.8 I expected that to replace the 45mm as my most loved lens but actually it hasn’t. It’s a lovely piece of glass but the 150mm equivalent focal length is just a bit too long to find regular effective uses for it. But the 90mm equivalent feels just right. You can keep it on the camera and be reasonably sure it will suit most purposes that I need.

It’s also pretty impressive for wildlife shots at reasonably close proximity. We visited a wildlife park and got some nice shots, I particularly like the Iguana you see below. At f2.8 its not as effective as the Oly in low light (obviously) but the EM5’s ISO performance allows it to be used reasonably well in most situations. The Iguana shot really does show the detail this thing can capture.

Iguana shot with Pansonic Leica 45mm f2.8

Shot wide open at f2.8 1/100 second at iso 200. Love the detail in this one, particularly around the eye. It was shot through a glass pain but that was easily blurred out but I was still amazed at how clear it came out.

It is even a lot of fun using it for landscapes, below are some samples I got in Southwold, St Ives and Alozaina in Andalusia. Again, the level of detail it can capture is pretty spectacular and I actually really enjoy landscape photography with longer focal lengths. Can produce a lot more interesting image within my style of photography.

Southwold shot with the Panasonic Leica 45mm f2.8

Southwold on the Suffolk coast, shot at f5.6 1/2000 of a second at iso 200.

And this brings me to the end of this short (ish) review. Hopefully if you are in the market for one of the 45mm (or 42.5mm) lenses this might be useful. I think the Panasonic Leica is possibly often overlooked as it people commonly believe the Oly 45mm to be far better value for money. But the Panasonic is most definitely worth a look as I hope these photos attest.

Shot wide open at f2.8 1/2500 second shutter and iso 200. I was trying something different with this one. I imagine there must be thousands of people come away from airshows with pretty much exactly the same pictures. So I am trying to see if there are any other creative ways of capturing these beautiful machines. Probably not to everyones taste but I love the atmospheric sky and the light background blur on the fuselage.

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Any questions, please ask!