Yes, it's expensive. Yes, it's big. But what a lens it is.
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Leica and Panasonic have had a close relationship in recent years, collaborating on several lenses for the Micro Four Thirds standard. The latest progeny of the house of Pana-Leica is the Nocticron, a 42.5mm f/1.2 lens with optical image stabilization for MFT cameras.
Panasonic was kind enough to lend us a sample of the new lens for the last few weeks, on the condition that we don't drool all over it. After lots of shooting with it both at home and here in Las Vegas, we're ready to tell you all about it. The short version? This may be the best Micro Four Thirds lens currently in existence.
As soon as you pick up the lens it immediately feels different than many MFT lenses. Lots of lenses are regarded as "well built" these days, but the Nocticron feels like a true Leica lens. It's heavy the way classic Leica glass is heavy, with what seems on the surface like all-metal construction, a lovely fat focus ring (though no hard stops), and an actual aperture ring. It has a 67mm filter thread and a screw-tightened metal hood that is lined with a felt-like material.
The Nocticron is an ideal low light portrait lens, with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 85mm. At f/1.2 the depth of field isolates faces wonderfully, while the bokeh wide open has a slightly swirled quality. Details are tack sharp at f/1.2, however, and the bokeh and sharpness both improve as you stop down slightly, as you'd expect.
There are some weird quirks that we did notice in our time with the lens, namely that the aperture ring does nothing with Olympus bodies. Panasonic says this is because Olympus simply doesn't support aperture rings (they're not found on most MFT lenses), but they may change that in the future. Anyway, we'll let the samples speak for themselves, which you can see below.
UPDATE: Panasonic has confirmed that the U.S. price for the Nocticron will be $1,599.
Here are our first snaps with the Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2. All of these images are straight out of either the Olympus OM-D E-M5 or OM-D E-M1, with no retouching.
To view any image in full size, simply click the preview image.
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