Panna-Leica 8-18, first major trip thoughts

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phil from seattle
phil from seattle Senior Member • Posts: 1,869
Panna-Leica 8-18, first major trip thoughts
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Summary:  The PL8-18 is a sharp lens with some annoyances that can be summed up as "not the Oly 12-40Pro". I'm not in love with it but it stays in my kit.

I bought a Panna-Leica 8-18mm about a month ago and took it on my 17 day Ireland trip. We did a lot of driving. Lots of landscape photography - cliffs, shore, fields, hills, castles, abbeys and such.

My camera kit for the trip:

  • EM1 Mk II, latest firmware
  • EM1, latest firmware
  • Oly 12-40mm Pro
  • Panna-Leica 8-18mm 
  • Panny 35-100mm f/2.8
  • Oly 17mm f/1.8

The PL8-18 pretty much stayed on the EM1 the entire trip. I shot about 700 pictures with it.  Prior to the trip I did an informal brick wall test and found it to be basically indistinguishable in sharpness from my Oly 12-40Pro.

What I like about it:

  • Very sharp lens
  • Colors/contrast/wine-tasting-vague-descriptions are good
  • Wide angle (though some of the cliffs didn't fit even inside 8mm!!)
  • Fast AF (but see below)

What I don't like:

  • The view through my EVF seems dim with a slight grayness. Hard to describe. Almost like there's a one stop ND on the EVF.  No other lenses mounted on the same camera showed this. The EVF with the 12-40Pro is bright. It didn't keep me from getting the shots I wanted though.
  • Switching to manual is clumsy. Yes, the switch is relatively easy to get to but I have to take my hand off the barrel to do it. I fully admit that the Oly snap-ring has spoiled me. Why can't all lenses just be like that? I found that I simply didn't use MF with this lens. Not the end of the world.
  • It has a weird AF stall. I turn the camera on, frame a picture while half pressing the shutter. The 8-18 will take maybe a half second before it actually starts to focus. (It seems like an eternity.) And, it starts from a way out of focus point which also increases the time. This only happens on first focus. This is not part of the EM1 startup as I get it even if I wait like 10 seconds after powering up the camera. From there on out the AF is responsive and quite fast. This behavior is consistent, almost like it needs to be woken up. Annoying. The Oly 12-40Pro doesn't show that behavior at all.
  • Variable min aperture. Again, through the lens of a 12-40Pro lover, anything without a constant f-stop is just plain annoying. I found myself fiddling with EV compensation a lot more to get the right histo. 
  • Close focus. When I'm out and about shooting landscapes or architecture, I love to get little close up details like a flower, plant, architectural detail, etc. It really adds to the narrative. The PL8-18 does an ok job though the 12-40Pro is masterful for that. My flower shots with the PL8-18 are just ho-hum.

None of my complaints are killers - I guess I'm spoiled by the near perfection of the 12-40Pro. I took 4 times more pictures with the 12-40Pro - 75% of which were in the 12-18mm range that I could have shot with the PL8-18.

I'll admit that about halfway through the trip I despaired that I had bought the wrong lens. But once I got home and went through 90+ GB of files I found that I liked the lens a lot more.  I'm keeping it because it gives me good results but I probably could have just used something like the Laowa 7.5 and skipped the 8-12mm range entirely.  Would have made for a smaller kit though a bit more cropping and perhaps IQ loss due to that.

Olympus E-M1
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