Hands-on with the Panasonic Leica 8-18mm F2.8-4
Panasonic has announced the second member of its Leica DG Vario-Elmarit F2.8-4 series of lenses: an ultra-wide 8-18mm (16-36mm equivalent) that offers fields of view ranging from as wide as 107 degrees down to 62 degrees.
The lens’s metal construction feels sturdy, with a smooth zoom action. It is dust and splash-proof, and freeze-proof down to -10℃.
The optical design comprises 15 elements in 10 groups. To combat chromatic aberration and spherical distortion the lens features an aspherical extra-low dispersion element, three aspherical elements, two extra-low dispersion elements and one ultra high refractive index element.
When zooming, the front element moves back and forth, but the movement is inside the barrel. This keeps the overall length of the lens at a constant 88mm (~3.5 inches). The lens’s construction ensures ‘barycentric stability’, which means that whatever is in the center of the image at one focal length remains exactly centered as the lens is zoomed in and out. This is especially important for video work.
The focus drive can use data read out from the sensor at 240 fps, assisting the contrast detect autofocus system in Panasonic cameras in taking measurements quickly.
Here’s the lens next to the first member of the F2.8-4 lineup, the 12-60mm. Both feature a micro-step drive system in the aperture control to allow the camera to smoothly open and close the aperture. The 8-18 lacks image stabilization, so it loses the switch to turn it on and off, but otherwise the two have a very similar external appearance.
Compared to the older 7-14mm F4, the new lens is bigger, but doesn’t gain a whole lot of extra heft. Even without a built-in hood it is longer and wider, but at 315 grams (0.7lb) it only weighs in at 15 grams more than the 7-14mm.
With the included lens hood installed its increase in size over the 7-14mm with its built-in hood is a bit more apparent, thanks to the 8-18 gaining an extra stop of light on the wide end, and a bit more zoom range on the long end.
When mounted on a camera like the GH5, the lens feels as light and easy to use as the 7-14mm thanks to there being virtually no weight difference between the two. The black paintwork suits the GH5 nicely as well.
The 8-18mm will be released at the end of May with an asking price of $1099.