Monday, February 16, 2009

Olympus: Zuiko Digital 25mm f2.8 vs. Panasonic: Leica D Summilux 25mm f 1.4

Say hello to the tiny Zuiko pancake lens ! Robin has this lens, and he did a review on it a while ago (he loves it btw), so now its my turn to see if it lives up to (*my) standards.

You see, I'm a photographer who doesn't mind sacrificing portability for image quality. On good days, I lug around one of my standard zooms, a 7-14, 35-100 and a FL50 for most photo shoots in my lowepro 200AW. It makes my back pack weigh at least 6 or 7 kgs. but I don't mind that.

The Zuiko 25mm highlights the best of the 4/3rds system in a lens that is very light and gives great optical quality for its price, at 350 AUD.

Mounted on the e-3, the body alone looks huge and overwhelms the physical properties of the lens.

Viewed from the side, it almost looks as if there was no such thing as a lens to begin with!

It looks better when mounted on the e5xx (or the e4xx series). At least it doesn't look that big.

For comparisons sake, i shall be pitting the zuiko 25 with the panasonic leica D summilux 25mm f1.4

The pancake lens (95 g) is 5 times lighter than the leica (510 g) because its comprised of less glass (5 elements in 4 groups) compared to 10 elements in 9 groups. Both lenses give an equivalent FOV of 50mm, which is the approximate image angle of the human eye. The leica is also approximately 4 times more expensive than the pancake lens. Its considered a cult legend among the 4/3rds faithful, because the moment its on stock (eg. B & H photovideo), it sells out almost immediately!

The pancake isn't a great macro performer (Closest focusing distance = 0.2m, 0.19x max magnification) but it performs sufficiently well if you'd like to isolate singular objects.

Despite being designated as a standard grade lens, the pancake is also very well made. Its not weather-proofed, but it has a metal lens mount and a rubberized textured manual focus ring.

Aside the aperture (and price) differences, what do the DIWA labs say in terms of optical quality?

*Both lenses were tested on an E-3 body


The pancake lens is satisfying sharp for what it is. Both center and corner sharpness are maintained from f2.8 till f8 and center sharpness till f16. Works wonders for what it can do at this size!

The leica exhibits excellent center sharpness at all apertures (even at f1.4... drool..) There is a larger difference between center and corner sharpness, but nothing to be concerned about.

an example from the 4/3rds king of bokeh at f1.4

Geometric Distortion

The leica absolutely trumps the pancake in distortion tests at all apertures (wow!). While the pancake lens does exhibit 'acceptable' levels of distortion, it can be corrected in Photoshop.

A full sized, uncorrected picture (for pixel peepers). You can see barrel distortion occuring for the horizontal lines; not my cup of tea for architectural images.
f5.6, 1/800, ISO 250, 1.93 mb

The corrected image after Photoshop

Chromatic Aberration

Both lenses show 'noticeable' CA when used wide open, which steadily increases as the lens is stopped down. The leica exhibits more CA's than the pancake since its has a larger aperture.


The leica shows peak center MTF performance at f2.8-8 when the pancake only catches up from f5.6-11. On contrary, the leica's edge MTF performance is slightly worse, but that shouldn't be much of a problem as long as the subject remains at the center of the image.


Not surprisingly, the leica shows worse vignetting wide open compared to the pancake, but it shouldn't be an issue. It disappears at f8 for both lenses.

Concluding thoughts

The pancake isn't the cheapest prime lens on the block at 350AUD compared to the Canon 50 f1.8 at 145 AUD, for example. Nevertheless, it is a decent performer, and you can't get a smallerand lighter Zuiko lens than this. At 100grams only, its practically weightless!

Of course you do get what you pay for, but at a much higher cost. The leica has excellent center MTF and is very sharp even when used wide open. It has a slight edge in AF speed compared to the pancake too.

If you have some spare cash lying around, a pancake is an affordable price to pay for a phenomenal lens with this good an image quality for a kit lens. Otherwise, by all means, go for the Leica!

Other references:

dpreview - I agree with the fact that 4/3rds users are more attracted to the concept of this lens rather than the image quality that it produces. It is sharp, no doubt, but its not that fast aperture-wise for a prime, and image quality is similar to the olympus kit lenses eg. the Zuiko 14-42 (which sorts of defeats the reason for getting a prime in the first place).

cameralabs - highlights the frustration of using the screw on lens cap supplied with the pancake lens in their youtube video. Solution? Get a cheap clip-on cap instead. - "a very fun lens to use"


Anonymous said...

Great comparsion, thank you!

Fu-ManchĂș said...

I'm on the process of deciding between these very two lenses. Thanks for your comparison!


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