Hands-on: Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Lens Opens Up the Night

Hands-on: Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Lens Opens Up the Night

Well-made, Tack Sharp and Super Bright: Say Hello to the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Lens

The Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH is one of the most exciting lenses to come out for the Micro Four Thirds platform yet.

At 42.5mm, the lens offers an 85mm equivalent field of view in 35mm, and at f/1.2 it has the widest aperture of any lens with autofocus on the MFT platform. Not only is the lens fast, it also has Power O.I.S. (optical image stabilization) built in. The only lenses faster than the 42.5mm are the Voigtländers, the 17.5mm, 25mm and 42.5mm can all open up to f/0.95 but can only focus manually.

The name ‘Noticron’ is a brand new designation from Leica Camera AG, and this premium telephoto marks a joint effort from Leica and Panasonic. The 42.5mm is and designed and certified by Leica in Germany and manufactured by Panasonic in Japan. Lest you think this makes it a lesser Leica, we have it on good authority that Leica exercises strict quality control on these jointly made lenses which bear the Leica name.

The 42.5mm lens is hefty, at 77mm in length and weighing 425g you’ll feel it for sure. We mounted it on a Panasonic GX7 and it felt okay, on any of the larger MFT cameras it should do fine, but we doubt any of the smaller ones will feel balanced. The lens hood (included) is huge and adds more length to the entire shooting package.

But the heft is healthy, the lens is made out of metal and feels solid in the hands. Even the lens hood is made out of metal. It doesn’t just feel and look well-made, it handles well too, the manual aperture ring is smooth and clicks at each 1/3 step confidently. Because the ring has an ‘A’ setting you can toggle it straight in and out of automatic quite easily.

There’s also a manual focusing ring, but unfortunately no distance scale, unlike the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 or 17mm f/1.8 lenses. It’s a small thing, but we were expecting that little bit more for such a premium lens.

Even though I only had a short time with the lens, I didn’t want to take it off. The bokeh afforded by a wide f/1.2 was creamy and lent a rich depth of field to pictures. Best of all, when opened wide the lens opened up the night to shooting with acceptably fast shutter speeds and low ISOs. Subjects look tack sharp and focus was reasonably quick, although at f/1.2 you really need to watch where your focus points are or subjects get blurry real fast.

These sample photographs were shot with the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens on a Panasonic Lumix GX7. The originals were shot in raw and processed to taste in Adobe Lightroom 5. They were exported to JPEG in sRGB, and are copyright to SPH Magazines. These photographs are provided for your reference only and we ask that you do not reproduce them elsewhere. Click for the full-resolution JPEG exports.

At an eye-wateringly US$1,599 (approx. S$2,031, the local retail price has not yet been announced), the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH is really either a specialist lens for the professional or a nice addition to the library for the well-heeled. No matter what, it’s a decidedly great lens; well-made, with excellent optics and the brightest lens in the Micro Four Thirds stable with auto-focus. This is one lens that's going to be a classic.