Monday, February 20, 2017

A Brief Encounter With Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7

Shaun was visiting Kuala Lumpur again last weekend, and he brought with him the Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7 which he claimed to be his favourite lens at this moment for Micro Four Thirds. Another photography friend, Bjorn has also spoken very highly of this lens. I thought, why not give this lens a go and see what I can shoot with it?

I am not sure why Panasonic likes to create lenses with really unusual focal lengths. 15mm, which in 35mm equivalent format is 30mm, is quite an irregular number, and it would have made much more sense if they just have a standard 14mm (classic 28mm equivalent) lens! Since the closest, "popular" focal length is 28mm equivalent, I shall use the lens as if I was composing with a wide angle, 28mm equivalent perspective. Oh dear, wide angle has never been my first choice when it comes to street photography, and I almost always use longer focal lengths, unless absolutely necessary.

This is not a review of the lens, I will need a lot more time to use the lens before I can write a full review. Using the lens for a few hours was not sufficient for me to form a meaningful conclusion. Also, there are already several reliable reviews available for this Panasonic 15mm F1.7 lens. I will also avoid doing any comparisons with any existing lenses from any brand, the last time I did this I suffered through unnecessary bashing, though I was being completely honest. I have figured out that sometimes people just want to hear what they want to hear, so I am shying away from comparison tests and just focus on creating photographs.

The Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7 fits the E-M10 Mark II perfectly. 

I am quite impressed by how small the lens is. I think we should have more of such small, super capable, bright prime lenses. 


This was probably one of the few times that I was just roaming around freely with the lens without any objectives, or have any kind of planning. Usually I do have certain items or subjects that I have decided to hunt or shoot along the way, testing lenses or cameras. Since I was not doing a review, I decided to just go with the flow and shoot anything that came across my path that I thought was worth shooting. Therefore, I hope you can understand the complete randomness of the images.

I really like that the lens is so small. I believe small prime lenses can truly realize the full advantage of Micro Four Thirds system, and we should have more of such capable, small lenses. I think F1.7 is just nice, I certainly would appreciate wider aperture, but that also means the small and compact form factor will be compromised. F1.7 is still extremely bright and more than sufficient for more photography cases. If you intend to create super shallow depth of field shots, there are longer focal lengths to achieve that, such as the Olympus 45mm F1.8 or 75mm F1.8. If ultra thin depth of field is your main priority in photography, why are you not using a full frame system?

I did have difficulties working with the wide angle focal length, this was mainly my own problem and has nothing to do with the lens. I have repeatedly said Olympus 17mm F1.8 lens was my least favourite lens, for the same reason. Dealing with perspective distortion is not easy, and I generally shoot with longer focal lengths. Nonetheless, not being good at something does not mean I should just ignore it and pretend that the weakness never existed. It is also crucial to expose myself to unfamiliar territories and challenge myself to do something that I am not good at. After all, growth can only happen if we move out of our comfort zone and this is me, giving the 15mm F1.7 and myself a chance.

Purple Hair

A Wall of Eggs

Up, Up And Away

Chilli

Watch Your Head

Autofocus was fast and always accurate. The focusing works really well on the OM-D E-M10 Mark II, and I have very high success rates. This was certainly a huge improvement over previous Panasonic lenses that I have tested on Olympus cameras, evidently the Panasonic 15mm F1.7 is noticeably faster in AF than Panasonic 25mm F1.4, 14mm F2.5, and especially the 20mm F1.7.

The Panasonic 15mm F1.7 is a sharp lens. It is sharp wide open, and gets even better when stopped down to F2.8 and beyond. I was generally satisfied with the results taken at F1.7, and I see no reason to stop down the aperture, unless you absolutely need your images to have optimum sharpness. The contrast and colors captured by this lens are fantastic and I quite like how the images are rendered. Since it is a wide angle lens, shallow depth of field was not easily achieved, unless you are shooting close up distances to your subjects.

I did not find any noticeable barrel distortion, which was probably corrected in camera by software processing. Also, chromatic abberration was well controlled, showing almost no trace of purple fringing in any of my shots, even taken at F1.7 wide open. The 15mm F1.7 lens was susceptible to flare when shooting against strong source of light, but to be fair I did not put on the supplied hood, and with the hood attached I believe the chances of catching flare can be lesser. Techncially the Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7 is a stellar performer, almost difficult to find any fault with it.

When shooting people, instead of doing close up portraits, I decided to do more environmental portraits, placing a lot more background in my framing. Since it is quite wide, I did accidentally include subjects or background that I did not want to, which resulted in messier background. Nevertheless, I did find the lens giving me beautiful results, when the composition comes together nicely.

Roti Canai

Crossing The Border

Dim Sum

Man And Sewing Machine


Portrait of a Cat.
This was taken at F1.7

The Panasonic 15mm F1.7 lens performed admirably at F1.7, showing good contrast and high level of clarity. This was a crop from previous image, obviously. 

Portrait of a Stranger
While the F1.7 aperture on a wide angle lens for Micro Four Thirds cannot render very shallow depth of field, shooting wide open at F1.7 can still create the "pop" in the image, adding depth to your main subject. 
Crop from previous image

Dragons
The lens is susceptible to flare. I did various compositions, shooting from different angles for this shot, and flare was persistent in all the shots. 

Throw

I think this Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7 lens is just perfect for the casual social media photography, such as use for Facebook or Instagram photographs. Being a wide angle lens, you can shoot full body portraits easily at a rather close distance, and the wide angle perspective works well for food photographs. Minimum focusing distance of 20cm also allows for a little bit of close up photography, which adds a lot of flexibility in composition options. 

While not a macro lens, the lens can go quite near to the subjects. Combined with the wide aperture of F1.7, you can create the smooth, creamy blur background, isolating small objects in your shots. In fact, the close up shooting performance of the lens is respectable, delivering results with plentiful fine details. 

I think I have thoroughly enjoyed my short time with the lens. I can see now why this Panasonic 15mm F1.7 is the favourite lens for some of my friends, and I am happy with what the lens can do. My only regret is not having a Panasonic body with me at the moment, and if only I still have my Panasonic GM1 which would have been the perfect pairing for the Panasonic 15mm F1,7 lens!

Yoyo

Beautiful Morning light

Three Friends

Fish Market Worker

A Pre-Wedding Shoot

School bus on fire

My Leic... I mean my powerbank

The not so smart, smartwatch

Lunch

Close up of lunch

If you are looking for a wide angle perspective, yet not super wide, with manageable perspective distortion (more on how you use the lens, than what the lens can do), this Panasonic 15mm F1.7 should be sitting high in your list of considerations. It is small and compact, yet delivering sharp images with beautiful rendering. I find myself having nothing to complain about this lens, it is just a lens that works and gives you fantastic results.

Will I be getting one for myself? Probably not, considering my focal lengths of choice have always been something much longer. And I seldom shoot with wide angle perspective. However, if I can find a great deal in the used market.... that could be an entirely different story. 



Do you own a Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7? What do you think of the lens? Share your comments!

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Adventures in Hokkaido With Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Edit: I have included more food photographs, just for you, Jason. 

I recently have visited Hokkaido, Japan in an officially organized trip by Olympus. There were rounds of sight-seeing and doing touristy activities, and I had the opportunity to bring with me an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with several PRO lenses to use throughout the trip. We did not have a lot of time, and most of the trip was already planned out, so I was merely tagging along. As a result, most of my images taken were nothing more than snapshots that any ordinary visiting tourists would have taken, in the eyes of a foreigner visiting an alien land.

The experience was quite surreal, it was my first time seeing so much snow, and being in a place with almost -10 degrees Celcius was both fun and painful in some ways. I have always loved the cold but the trouble to go through, putting on layers and layers of cloths, wearing proper walking boots as well as using gloves, seriously no joy in those. And operating a camera, shooting through the gloves was so difficult!

I did have one final day in Shinjuku, which I had some brief time to myself to explore on my own. I have decided to merge the images from Shinjuku together with Hokkaido series, since I did not have enough images to create a Shinjuku series on its own.

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko lenses 7-14mm F2.8 PRO, 25mm F1.2 PRO, 45mm F1.8 and 40-150mm F2.8 PRO

The Sapporo TV Tower, with an observation deck at the top. Of course, like any other tourists I went up and had a high viewpoint of Sapporo's beautiful city from up there.  

Japanese cities are so beautiful, many of them are surrounded by high mountains. 

Naked tree branches, in winter. I know some of you are bored of this sight, but to me, this is something quite unusual and never seen in Malaysia. 

Sunday, February 05, 2017

The Panasonic LX100 Is Not A Bad Street Shooting Machine

So I have had the Panasonic LX100 for a while now, despite some shortcomings and my complains of a few key missing features, it is starting to grow on me and I am getting more and more shots that I really like shooting with LX100. It is surely not the love at first sight, this camera takes time to learn and understand, surely takes much longer time to love.

Yesterday, I did a quick catch up session with dear friend and fellow Micro Four Thirds shooter from Melbourne, Australia, Ananda who was home for Chinese New Year holidays. We decided to go to Pudu Wet Market, and it has been a while since my last visit there. Initially I wanted to shoot Pudu with just the new Huawei Mate 9 Pro that I have loaned from Huawei Malaysia (you know, do as much as you can with it before return) but I realized one of the favourite things I want to do in Pudu is portraits of strangers. Therefore, having a versatile zoom lens is crucial to deal with the messy background of a wet market.

I guess I still do have to complain about a few things. While I can now live with the poor JPEG rendering of LX100, and perfectly comfortable post-processing the RAW files, I still cannot let go the issues of the poor image stabilization and not having tilt-screen on the camera. There were a few moments I was shooting at dangerously slow shutter speed, without realizing, because you know, shooting at wide angle with any Olympus cameras at about 1/5 to 1/10 second shutter speed is almost 100% guaranteed to be free of hand/camera shake. That is not the case with the LX100, even at 1/15 seconds, shooting at wide angle, there is about 50% of a chance of camera shake! It is not a huge shake, it is bad enough for the image to look soft, annoyingly soft. The only solution is to increase the ISO sensitivity, which is not an issue since LX100 can handle up to ISO1600 with no serious issues.

I miss the tilt screen so much, I find myself having difficulty doing compositions at low and high angles, and these are IMPORTANT compositions to get the perspective that I want. I seriously also wonder why Fuji did not add tilt screen for their latest X100F camera. I believe tilt screen, or swivel screen is a MUST have feature in all modern cameras.

Morning Karaoke

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

I Recorded Myself Doing Shutter Therapy In Video! Check It out!

Following up my recent camera review of the Huawei Mate 9 Pro smartphone I did few days ago, I have made a video of myself doing shutter therapy in KL streets. The video screenshot feature was particularly useful, so I could capture in video what the camera was seeing!