The Panasonic Leica DG 15mm F1.7 is a sharp-looking lens that also happens to be very sharp optically as well.

Whenever I see a lens with the name 'Leica' stamped on the front, I assume two things; first, it will be at least 'good' optically. Second, it will be a little pricey. The Panasonic Leica DG 15mm F1.7 reinforces both of those assumptions.

This 15mm F1.7 prime lens is for the Micro Four Thirds system and offers an uncommon 30mm-equivalent field of view. This made it especially exciting to me, as I'm a fan of both the 28mm and 35mm focal lengths, but I can never really decide which I like better - so maybe something in the middle will be just right.

The uncommon 30mm-equivalent focal length makes it pretty special to me.

It features a dedicated aperture ring, and is very compact despite offering nine elements in seven groups – with three of those elements being aspherical. It has seven aperture blades, and the diameter of the lens barrel is among the smallest available for the m43 system, meaning it matches particularly well with Panasonic's (discontinued, sadly) GM1 and GM5 ultra-compact cameras.

The diminutive Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7 pairs magnificently with Panasonic's equally diminutive, though discontinued GM5.

And compactness is something I value pretty highly when it comes to camera gear, despite having a general affinity for full-frame sensors. After all, a smaller kit means I'll bring it along more often and take more pictures, and I do find that the Micro Four Thirds system comes with an excellent balance of portability, speed, features and image quality.

This lens launched at an MSRP of around $600, but it's been on the market long enough that it's quite likely you'll get a better deal than that, especially if you're buying used.

On the camera and in the hand

The build quality of the 15mm F1.7 is nothing short of superb. It feels dense without being heavy, and it offers that pleasant coolness-to-the-touch that indicates mostly metal construction. There's a ring on the front of the lens that detaches to allow the use of an optional bayonet-mount hood.

Here's all the controls you get: an AF/MF switch, aperture control, and a nicely damped manual focus ring.

Handling is fairly straightforward. There's an aperture control ring near the front of the lens, which offers great 'click feel' when you change your settings. Unfortunately, it's only functional when the lens is mounted on one of Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds cameras, so you'll need to use a command dial for aperture if you put it on an Olympus, for example. The AF / MF switch takes a good amount of effort to move, so you won't likely bump it accidentally, and the manual focus ring is exceedingly smooth and well-damped.

While the build quality of the lens inspires some confidence, be aware that Panasonic makes no claims of weather sealing, and there are no signs of any either; not even a rubber gasket around the mount.

Time to start shooting

The Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7 focused fast enough to grab a sharp shot of this adorable and potentially vicious creature. Processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw.
Olympus PEN-F | ISO 2000 | 1/80 sec | F1.7

This lens is fast; not only in terms of maximum aperture, but in operation. All recent Panasonic lenses have been designed to support the company's Depth-from-Defocus (DFD) technology, which results in the use of very lightweight and very fast-moving autofocus elements.

This lens is fantastic for environmental portraits and casual documentary photography.

You'll still get good autofocus speeds on Olympus m43 cameras, but when you mount the 15mm F1.7 on any current Panasonic camera, the autofocus speeds are downright impressive under just about any lighting conditions (this contributed to my getting a huge number of keepers of furry and feathered critters over my weeks of shooting).

'Please don't bark at the other dogs. Please don't bark at the other dogs. Please just sit there and be cute.'
Olympus PEN-F | ISO 200 | 1/80 sec | F1.7

Having shot many 28mm-equivalent and 35mm-equivalent lenses, I found the 30mm-equivalent focal length of the 15mm F1.7 was comfortable for me to use. I tend to find shooting 28mm a little more challenging than 35mm; I end up getting a little closer to my subjects to exaggerate perspective with the former, and I tend to layer compositional elements more with the latter. With this Panasonic, I was doing a bit of both, and I liked it.

But let's move on to image quality; as I mentioned earlier, with that name stamped on the front of the lens, I had some high hopes for the 15mm F1.7, and I wasn't disappointed.

The quality of blur, both in the foreground and background, was something I really enjoyed about the 15mm F1.7. And quality of blur is obviously of paramount importance when shooting portraits of chickens. Processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw.
Panasonic GX85 | ISO 200 | 1/125 sec | F1.7

With the Micro Four Thirds sensor size, this lens isn't going to be an absolute bokeh machine at F1.7 - but that's not the point. If you want to obliterate your backgrounds into blurry swaths of color, well, you'll probably want both a longer lens and a larger sensor, and so this isn't quite the setup for you. That said, I found the quality of the blur that you can get with this lens to be pleasing on both sides of the focal plane.

The Panasonic 15mm F1.7 is just plain fun.

You can shoot this lens close to wide open all the time and still find your images are sharp enough, with enough of your scene in focus to provide some context. It's a fantastic option for environmental portraiture and casual documentary photography, where its small size will let you blend in a little more and keep your subjects from being too intimidated.

Processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw. Panasonic Lumix GX85 | ISO 200 | 1/500 sec | F4

Stopping the lens down a bit gets you great sharpness across the frame, though for landscape photography enthusiasts, you may find the sunstars to be slightly lacking. I've also found some occasional weirdness with the flare this lens produces, but it didn't happen often enough to be a major concern.

Sunstars look decent, but at F11 (F22 equiv) this is a little further stopped-down than I usually like to go on Micro Four Thirds. Funky flare. It's a unique look I didn't mind too much, but it won't be to everyone's personal taste.

Wrapping up

The Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7 is a lens I can wholeheartedly recommend to just about anyone with the requisite cash. It may not be weather-sealed, but the build quality is still excellent, and the straightforward handling and lightning autofocus both do their parts to keep your kit from getting in the way of your photography. It's also just plain fun to use.

Most importantly, it offers a fairly uncommon 30mm-equivalent focal length, and that makes it pretty special to me. For 'walk around' purposes, this lens slots right in the middle of my go-to focal lengths of 28mm and 35mm, and just feels right. If you enjoy this focal length range on the Micro Four Thirds system, the Panasonic 15mm F1.7 is definitely worth a look.

It may be a little pricey for some folks, but as a carry-everywhere walk-around lens, I found the Panasonic Leica 15mm F1.7 hard to beat. Processed to taste in Adobe Camera Raw.
Olympus PEN-F | ISO 200 | 1/1250 sec | F1.7

Additional sample images

We've updated our earlier sample gallery with more images from the Panasonic Leica DG 15mm F1.7. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Panasonic GX85 | ISO 1000 | 1/125 sec | F1.7

Panasonic Lumix G Leica 15mm F1.7 sample gallery

55 images • Posted on Jun 23, 2017 • View album
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