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Panasonic Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm F2.8 ASPH OIS Review

October 2009 | By Andy Westlake
Buy on From $897.95

The Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm F2.8 ASPH Mega OIS is one of two compact lenses for Micro Four Thirds that Panasonic announced alongside the DMC-GF1 in September 2009, the other being the Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH Pancake. Like its sibling it fits a lot into a very small space; the 45mm measures just 2.5" in each dimension, yet manages to to incorporate both optical image stabilization and true 1:1 macro focusing capability. Indeed this lens can focus to just 0.15m without changing in length - a feat made possible by a complex internal focusing system which uses three groups in a floating arrangement. The short telephoto focal length (equivalent to 90mm on full frame) is also ideal for shooting head-and-shoulders portraits with a flattering perspective.

The lens uses a complex optical design of 14 elements in 10 groups, including an ED glass element to minimize chromatic aberration and (unusually for a macro) an aspheric element. The diaphragm mechanism uses seven rounded blades, to give a circular aperture for smooth rendition of out-of-focus regions of the image. There's a also a focus limiter switch on the side of the lens barrel, which allows the user to restrict the minimum available distance to 0.5m for faster autofocus when shooting at longer ranges.

Now all this versatility and miniaturization (not to mention the Leica name on the barrel) makes the 45mm macro an expensive lens, which leaves Micro Four Thirds users with an interesting quandary. Because the most direct competitor for the 45mm is Olympus's Zuiko Digital ED 50mm F2 Macro for 'regular' Four Thirds, which can be used via an adapter (the Panasonic DMW-MA1 or the functionally identical Olympus MF-2). This lens won't autofocus on Panasonic bodies, and will only do so hesitantly on the E-P1; but then again macro shooters almost invariably work using manual focus. It also doesn't have image stabilization and only offers 1:2 magnification; but in its favor it's probably the finest lens we've yet tested. So the big question is whether that Leica badge makes the 45mm macro sufficiently special to be able to hold its own against such formidable opposition.

Headline features

  • 45mm fixed focal length; F2.8 maximum aperture
  • Compact design
  • Macro focusing: 1:1 maximum magnification (2:1 35mm equivalent) 
  • 'Focus by wire' manual focus system
  • 'Mega OIS' optical image stabilization
  • Micro Four Thirds mount for Panasonic Lumix G and Olympus Pen systems

Angle of view

The picture below illustrates the lens's angle of view (taken from our standard vantage point):

45mm (90mm equivalent)

Panasonic Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm F2.8 ASPH Mega OIS specifications

Price • US: $900
• UK: £590
Manufacturer's code H-ES045
Date introduced September 2009
Maximum format size Micro Four Thirds
Focal length 45mm
35mm equivalent focal length 90mm
Diagonal angle of view 27°
Maximum aperture F2.8
Minimum aperture F22
Lens Construction • 14 elements / 10 groups
• 1 ED element
• 1 Aspherical element
Number of diaphragm blades 7, rounded
Minimum focus • Full: 0.15m / 0.50ft
• Limit: 0.5m / 1.64ft
Maximum magnification 1.0x (2.0x 35mm equivalent)
AF motor type • DC Micro motor
• 'Focus-by-wire' manual focus
Focus method Internal
Image stabilization Yes
Filter thread • 46mm
• Does not rotate on focus
Supplied accessories* • Front and rear caps
• Lens hood
• Lens case
Weight 225g (7.9 oz)
Dimensions 63mm diameter x 62.5mm length
(2.5 x 2.5 in)
Lens Mount Micro Four Thirds

* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

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