Night Walk with the E-P3 and Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 Leica Lens

By Michael Gakuran | | Photography | 30 Comments |

I know, I know. I should be working on the actual review of the E-P3, but the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 Leica DG Summilux lens I ordered finally arrived. As per typical Panasonic, it was delayed by 2 weeks, but it got here safely in the end, a little warm from the Japanese summer heat.

I decided to take it out for a test run. The sun had already gone down, but that provided me the perfect setting to really test its low light ability! I also brought along the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens to compare the two. After all, the Leica lens is about double the size, heavier and only a fraction brighter than the pancake. It’s also nearly double the price. So is it worth it?

Let’s take a look at the shots. All photos are out of camera Jpegs resized in Lightroom with no extra adjustments except where noted.

First up, the new 25mm fully wide open at f/1.4. The camera chose ISO 200.

Some gorgeous bokeh there! Absolutely wonderful :D.

And next the trusty 20mm at its maximum aperture of f/1.7. The camera chose ISO 320 here.

Not bad at all. The 20mm definitely holds its own and lives up to its reputation. But it’s clear that the 25mm holds the edge in terms of clarity and richness, as well as that delicious smooth, circular bokeh.

Next, a very low light shot. ISO 1600, 1/10 second at f/1.4:

The 20mm at f/1.7 ISO 1600 only managed 1/5 second shutter.

Examining them closely, the 20mm shot is slightly more blurred than the 25mm shot. Here the extra brightness of the 25mm made the difference enough to allow a hand-held shot.

Here’s a miniature model of a sushi shop, displayed in the window of a sushi shop! First, the 25mm:

Followed by the 20mm:

Both ISO 200 at 1/160 second. Slight cropping in the 20mm photo and exposure adjustment (applied equally to both photos).

Here we can see the extra smoothness of the 25mm lens, but also, curiously, the reflection of the lens text in the window! Why can’t we see this text on the 20mm picture..?

Here’s another few pictures with the 25mm lens. A beautiful blue lamp that reminded me of jellyfish bioluminescence.

I was getting eaten by insects at this time, so I stopped testing and just enjoyed shooting. I found some fascinating kanabun beetles in the bushes at one point, but just as I was deliberating going back for my macro lens, tripod and flash, the streetlamp went out. Perhaps tomorrow…

To close, a flickering street lamp.

The town is surprisingly full of life at night! And the Japanese summer heat tapered off enough to enjoy a pleasant walk through the streets. I shall have to do this again :).

So what do you think – can you see the differences between the lenses? Which do you prefer and why?

30 comments on “Night Walk with the E-P3 and Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 Leica Lens
  1. Great comparison. I just purchased the 20mm 1.7 for my e-p3 and am quite happy with it. Sure the Bokeh may not be as beautiful as the 25mm 1.4 but its still very good. Also, I own the Oly 45mm 1.8 which has even nicer Bokeh than the 1.4 (I think…). So for me, I went for the 20mm because of the wider FOV (as i already have a 45mm, which although great, can be restricting at times). 

  2. Panasonica says:

    A different focal length, I know, but what about the Panasonic 14mm? It’s small, sharp, and focusses rather silent and fast too. Could be a nice lens to have to complement a standard and short tele like the 20mm and the 45mm.

    • Gakuranman says:

      I’ve never had the opportunity to use the 14mm, but from what I hear it is quite a good lens. Certainly a must-have in you don’t want to cough up the premium price for the Olympus 12mm :).

  3. R Clotenberry says:

    Nice review, just some comments:

    On some pictures you chose a different section of the scene to make a picture of. Why? Although the focal lengths of the tested lenses are slightly different, there are only few situations which forbid getting slightly closer with the 20mm or slightly more away with the 25mm, don’t you think so?
    Exactly these differences in framing also make up for some of the assumptive differences you observed. For example in the scene with the bright lamp on the ground thats surrounded by some plants, the difference in automatically chosen shutter time would not exist (or be maximum 1/3rd of a stop) if the framing was the same. Because in this case on the 25mm shot the bright lamp takes up considerably more space in the otherwise very dark picture than in the 20mm shot. So the camera exposes accordingly – that means brighter in general in the 20mm shot and this also makes the shutter time slower than in the 25mm shot Has a lot more influence than the difference between f/1.4 and f/1.7 alone. As an alternative, you could have chosen spot metering for this test purpose.

    >> Here we can see the extra smoothness of the 25mm lens, but also,
    curiously, the reflection of the lens text in the window! Why can’t we
    see this text on the 20mm picture..? <<
    Because the angle/position to the window was slightly different and the reflection of the 20mm lens wasn't perfectly aligned on the darker parts of the scene? What else should be the reason?

    Really appreciate your hand on reviews, there shold be much more out there.

  4. Panasonica says:

    Today I’ll receive a sample of the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 and I will compare it to the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7. From the various tests on the internet I learned that up to f/2.8 there’s not much difference. The 20mm is probably even a little better in the corners and has a slightly higher contrast. However, at f/2.8 things might change in favor of the 25mm. For people not addicted or in need of beautiful creamy bokeh, this could be interesting. Personally I love to get maximum detail from a lens. Bokeh is of lesser importance to me. Another thing that is important to me, is the field of view. The 20mm is perfect for taking in some surroundings. The field of view of the 25mm is much narrower and I feel that can be a little restrictive, especially if you don’t have much room to take a step back. On the other hand the 25mm is better suited for portraits from a smaller distance (you don’ have to step back and cut of pixels later), because the distortion is noticeably lower. And then there is the size and weight matter. The 20mm just can’t be beat here. It’s so small and lightweight! Oh, yeah, the price of the 25mm is ridiculously high. I though the 20mm was expensive, but this one tops it. If I am not blown away by the image quality, the 25mm will find it’s way back to the store as fast as it came to my door, and I’ll never look back again.

    • Panasonica says:

      And back to the store it goes. This lens is big and with the lens hood it’s even bigger! Makes your tiny m4/3 camera look like an DSLR. Autofocus is smoother and slightly faster then the Panasonic 20mm. The image quality is very good and at some points (up to f/2.8, contrast, center sharpness) better then the Panasonic 20mm. There was a strange unsharp area at the top near the border though. Stopping down didn’t make it any better. I think it’s slight de-centering. However, to me it’s not good enough to justify the weight, size and price difference. I’ll skip this one.

  5. hlbt says:

    I’m a Japan native, and found the colors on the “flickering street light” shot to be very evocative.  The Paloma sign and brown drain on the roof provide a reference point to the original colors for me, and the flickering light and Summi together are certainly doing some kind of magic here!  I wonder what ISO you used?

  6. zonjineko says:

    Whoops double post sorry…

  7. zonjineko says:

    I’m looking at getting the 25mm 1.4 but already have the 20mm 1.7 so this is an interesting post. The contrast and bokeh does seem to have a slight edge on the 25mm but I wonder if the size difference outweighs the IQ gains.

    I’m looking at something to take to Tokyo at the end of next month for general shooting. Tossing up between getting the 14-150 Pana-Leica and keeping the 20mm for general use or ditching the 20mm and getting the 25mm plus another prime at the longer end like a 90mm Leica.

    Of course the new X lenses are now doing my head in with another option! ^^

  8. Nope says:

    still prefer the 25/095 :-P
    Well, don’t need that speeedy autofocus that much. A picture in focus doesn’t mean it to be a good picture at all. But that’s a personal decision…

  9. Jaladhi says:

    Would you mind commenting on the focusing speed of the 20mm lens on E-P3? Is it better than previous m43 cameras you might have owned?

  10. yonasu says:

    I can’t really see the difference, but the photos are lovely(^_^)

  11. Daniel Pua says:

    Thanks for doing a real life comparison of the two. I hope you do more :) If you don’t have either lenses and you’re fine with the size then I think the 25mm would be hard to pass up. If you already have the 20mm pancake then it’s a different story.

  12. BigRed says:

    Thanks for posting these shots. I’ve already ordered the 25mm (delivery is even more delayed in England – though I’m still hoping for the end of August) but every quality shot I see like these reassures me that I’ve made the right decision. I’m an older tog who has shot at 50mm for decades and have been waiting for Panny/Leica to actually bring this prime lens to market for what seems an age :)

  13. Frank says:

    What i would like to see is a photo portrait, composition like the avatar of Gakuraman, with a background 2 or 3 meters from the subjects head. Then you can compare the two lenses bokeh. That is a more real life use of the lenses, and the bokeh will be much less. You can get bokeh easily when your subject is small and close focus like the photos shown. I cannot compare the two lenses with these photos.

    • Twalker294 says:

      I completely disagree. I think this is a perfect real world comparison. I buy fast primes to shoot them wide open — I rarely use anything smaller than 1.7 on my Panasonic 20. The fact that the lens can produce beautiful bokeh with a close subject/distant background combination is one of the main reasons to buy it in the first place. I’m not sure why you can’t compare the lenses with these photos — I think the comparison is right on target…

  14. Gen Kanai says:

    I’m with Twalker294. I like what I see from the 25, but the greater size and price does detract. I’m keeping my 20 for the time being.

  15. Twalker294 says:

    Both lenses are fantastic here but yes I can see the 25 has the SLIGHT edge. However I love my 20 not only for its picture quality but also for its diminutive size, which the 25 doesn’t have. So I’ll stick with my 20 for now. Thanks for the comparison!

    • Gakuranman says:

      Thanks for dropping by! The 20mm is an amazing lens. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to anyone looking for a tiny low light beast. It’s served me well these last 2 years :D.

  16. Mu-43.com says:

     I blogged this on our site at Mu-43.com.  Great comparison.  Thanks for posting! 

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