Full review of the Panasonic Leica DG Macro Elmarit 45mm F/2.8 ASPH.
The Olympus E-M5 was used for this review.
For a better understanding of terms and methods used in this review, go here.
The usual center, mid-section and corner crops are located at the very bottom of the page.
The Panasonic Leica DG Macro Elmarit 45mm F/2.8 ASPH lens (Made in Japan) is a fairly small 1:1 macro lens (2:1 in 135 film format) that doesn’t extend when focusing, which is good in my opinion. Other features include an OIS switch so Panasonic camera users can turn stabilization either on or off quickly, (and leaving it off permanently will depend on the camera body used, as the newest Olympus bodies have an excellent 5 axis system), and a handy focus limiter switch, which keeps the lens from having to cycle through the entire focus range when it isn’t necessary. For instance; when set to ‘full’ it will focus throughout the entire range, including full magnification range. In ‘limit’ range it will not focus to full macro, this speeds up the AF when shooting at longer distances (from 1.64 feet or .5m) to infinity. The specs for this lens says there is one aspherical element and one ‘ED’ element used in its construction.
Warnings from the manufacturer: don’t soak, clean or expose the lens to flammable liquids like gasoline. Lens may make weird noises when shaken, or with OIS turned on or off. Do not set lens in direct sun as it may cause a fire and burn your house or car. Do not spray pesticides on lens, it may cause damage to the lens.
For use on micro 4/3 mirrorless cameras only.
Fit and finish are very good. The lens is clad in plastic, with plastic filter threads, a wide rubber focus ring around the middle and a metal mount.
In the box: the lens, front and rear caps, a cinematic style hood, nylon pouch and owner’s manual.
Focusing. This lens auto-focuses almost silently. Focusing seems quite accurate at all distances except macro range, (DOF issues are more problematic than AF), and reasonable quick in good light with the E-M5; other cameras may be different. The front filter ring doesn’t turn when focusing, so your polarizers and grads will work great.
Panasonic pays Leica Microsystems IR GmbH to use the name ‘Leica’ on its lenses, and Leica camera AG for using the ‘Elmarit’ name.
Requisite product shots.
General information and specifications.
Optical qualities summary.
Lens flare/ghosting. Some large but dull ghosts appear when super bright light sources are close to, or inside the frame, flare control is not very good, see samples below.
Color fringing (CA). Good to very good control along the sides of the image, but I see small amounts of axial type, which shows up as magenta tinges in high contrast areas at F/2.8-4.
Bokeh. A slightly outlined disk at medium to longer focusing distances, and smooth at close focusing, see crops below.
Close up filter. N/A.
Regular filters N/A
Filter size is 46mm. This small filter size is fairly popular; with plenty of filter types available at good prices.
Distortion. Flat in RAW, and there is no correction when saving as Jpegs.
Distortion is very flat, even at macro range. There is no in-camera correction going on when saving as a jpeg.
Light fall-off is moderate when the aperture is wide open, but the sides brighten up significantly just one stop down. These images above were taken in RAW; when saving as jpegs, the light fall-off at F/2.8 is slightly reduced in-camera, but it’s not really noticeable unless you flip between the two on a computer screen.
Flare and ghosting.
Flare and ghosting can be strong when the sun is close to the frame. In the left image above, the sun is just out of view, but not enough so that the hood will be of any help. Using your hand to shield the front of the lens is the best method to avoid loss of contrast and the big magenta blob that’s common with micro 4/3 lenses.
Bokeh looks decent at all apertures, but never great at longer focusing distances with not much room between the subject and background. Bokeh looks good at closer focusing distances, see below. Note; Bokeh is out of focus highlight blur, and not simply how far out of focus the background is.
Different bokeh crop.
Here I show bokeh in a more natural state at F/2.8, at a fairly close focusing distance with a close background. Blur doesn’t look too bad here. This crop was taken from the side of the image, and shows the blur discs as lentil shaped along the sides when the aperture is fully open.
Light loss at high magnification.
Here are the approximate F-numbers you will get as you increase the magnification. The effective F-numbers and shutter speeds will not be indicated on the camera, and will still read F/2.8 even at 1:1 magnification, this is a reality in macro use. This is for your information only, so just shoot away, the camera will adjust your exposure automatically. I’m simply providing this in case you’re wondering why your shutter speeds are so low when the LCD says F/2.8. If you’re focusing over 1.5 feet (.5m) from your subject, don’t worry about this.
Close focus capabilities
Check out the 100% cropped portion of the full image. The sample shot was taken with the Olympus E-5M 16mp camera, so don’t compare it to others that were taken with 12 or 24mp cameras. The subject is a standard US stamp, 0.87″x 1.0″ or 22mm x 25mm. Also, note the shot was taken as close to the subject as focusing allowed; in this case a fairly short 2.75″ (70mm), measured from the front of the lens barrel to the subject.
This is a true macro lens, and then some, with a reproduction ratio of 1.0x, (2.0x in 135 format); and it produced a sharp close focus shot with good contrast at F/5.6, stopping down to F/8 softens slightly due to diffraction. As a side note; the “1996” on the bottom left of the stamp measures a mere 1mm wide. The whole stamp is not shown because the coverage are is so small! Below is the full image, click to view.
Now for the conclusion.
The Panasonic Leica DG Macro Elmarit 45mm F/2.8 ASPH turned in a nice performance; there really isn’t much to complain about. Pluses include: low light fall off-even wide open: lens doesn’t extend when focusing: lateral color fringing is well controlled: very sharp throughout most of the image area at F/4-5.6: a focus limiter switch; and image stabilization, although that’s not very important if you have a newer Olympus camera with 5 axis stabilization control.
A couple of minor complaints are slight axial color fringing when used at large apertures, and bokeh at certain subject to background distances isn’t all that smooth, well, big deal right, that’s not much to complain about.
Although the Panasonic Leica Macro Elmarit works well for landscape purposes, its best qualities in my opinion are at close focusing distances, that’s what it’s designed for. I’d probably choose the smaller and less expensiveOlympus 45/1.8 if your primary use will be landscapes and low light hand-held work.
Sample crops from the centers, mid-sections and corners.
In the centers, the image is critically sharp at F/4-5.6, but F/2.8 is not bad by any means. In the mid-sections, I see gradual improvements until F/5.6, which is sharp, but not tack sharp like the centers are. The corners are pretty sharp at F/5.6, but don’t respond well to changes in aperture. Stopping down past F/8 results in excessive softening due to diffraction. There is almost no color fringing noticeable in the corner crops, that’s great!
As always, I bracketed the focusing manually, and used the absolute sharpest shot setting, then took the series of test shots.
That’s it for the review, if you’d like to help out the site, please visit B&H Photo if you’re thinking of purchasing the Panasonic Leica DG Macro Elmarit 45mm F/2.8 lens.