Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH Review

Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH Review:

I really love using ultra wide angle lenses, so when I heard about the release of the Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH, I definitely wanted to give it a try.  Having something with a focal range equivalent to 16-36mm can definitely come in handy.  I’ve tried a few of the Panasonic Leica lenses for the micro four thirds system before, and overall, I’ve been very impressed with them.  My favorite micro four thirds lens to this day is still the 42.5mm Nocticron. f1.2.  So, I would not be lying if I told you that I had very high expectations for this 8-18mm Vario-Elmarit.  Would it be any good?  Is it overpriced?  How well is it built?  All these questions ran through my head.  Luckily, I was able to get one on loan to review, and here are my thoughts on it.

Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH Build Quality:

So, let’s start off by talking about the overall build quality of this lens.  The Panasonic Leica lenses have always been excellent in this department, and the 8-18mm Vario-Elmarit is no different.  The lens is constructed from metal, and it feels quite sturdy, solid, and dense.  The zoom ring is very smooth, and so is the focus ring.  When zooming, the front element does move back and forth but this only occurs inside the barrel of the lens.  The length of the barrel itself never changes.  The lens doesn’t have image stabilization but there is an AF/MF switch on the side.  The Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH is also dust, splash proof, and freeze proof down to -10ºC.

↑ The Panasonic 8-18mm without the lens hood.

Now, if you consider the focal length, speed, construction, and size of the lens, you may think it’s a bit heavy.  Initially, that’s what I thought but I’m happy to report that this lens is surprisingly lighter than I expected.  I pulled the lens right out of the box, and almost couldn’t believe it.  To compare, the official weight of this lens is 315 g, while one of its competitors, the Olympus M. Zuiko ED 7-14mm f2.8 Pro, weighs 534 g.  I was using the 8-18mm f2.8-4 with the Olympus Pen-F, and that’s a very compact camera yet the combo felt very balanced.

↑ The Panasonic 8-18mm with the lens hood attached.

Since I just mentioned the 7-14mm, I might as well say that as a person who loves ultra wides, it’s definitely nice to have just a bit more on the wider end of the Olympus.  However, if I had to choose between these two lenses, I prefer the focal length range of the Panasonic because at the wide end, I’m still getting a 16mm equivalent but on the longer end, I also have a 36mm equivalent, which I find more useful than the Olympus’ 28mm equivalent.  I am not the biggest fan of the 28mm focal length, and much prefer the 35mm or in this case, the 36mm.

↑ The Panasonic 8-18mm and Olympus Pen-F combo.

Now, let’s talk about the 8-18mm’s lens hood.  The lens hood is actually a quality piece that attaches not only very easily but securely as well.  I really like the design of it, and the way that it attaches to the lens.  All it takes is a simple twist, and the lens hood locks into place.  It actually twists on very smoothly as well.  Truthfully, it’s such a nice fit that the lens and hood combo feel like a one piece unit as opposed to two separate parts.  If you want to remove the hood, you simply press a button, and counter twist.  It’s as simple as that.

↑ Simply press on the button on the lens hood to remove it.

Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH Autofocus:

As for the autofocus, saying that it’s quick is an understatement.  Blazing fast is more like it.  There’s actually not much to say in this department because I can’t even remember one time where I had trouble with the autofocus.  It was accurate, and completely dependable.  Focus is near instantaneous.

Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH Image Quality:

Now so far, we have the makings of a great lens here.  We got arguably some of the best build quality and materials used in its class, great ergonomics, and lightning quick autofocus.  All we need is excellent image quality, and there will be no reason not to consider this lens when looking for an ultra wide angle zoom.  Well, the good news is the Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH produces fantastic image quality.

↑ This was taken at the Coney Art Walls in Coney Island.  I had the lens set at f9 with the 9mm focal length.

↑ This was taken with the 8mm focal length at f8.

↑ This was taken with the 18mm focal length at f8.

Beautiful, rich color rendering, and contrast are just the tip of the iceberg.  This lens really just impresses; images have such a nice organic feel to them. They have that pop, and three dimensional feel that we all expect from a high priced pro lens.  As for vignetting, there is a little in the corners at f2.8 but stopping down to just F4 virtually clears it all up.  In other words, there’s nothing to be concerned about.

↑ 8mm focal length at f8.

↑ Here’s another taken with the 8mm focal length at f8.

↑ This was taken with the 8mm focal length at f5.6.

↑ I had the lens set at 18mm f8.

Of course, it gets better.  The detail that the Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH retrieves is downright incredible.  It is razor sharp.  The sharpness along with the dramatic images that one is able to achieve using a lens with such a wide focal length is downright a killer combination.  At f2.8, there’s slight softness in the corners but there is absolutely no cause for concern.  You’d really have to be pixel peeping here to notice.  In other words, I have no problems shooting this lens at f2.8.  In fact, I have absolutely no problems shooting this lens throughout the entire aperture range.  You’ll get simply awesome results.  At f4, sharpness increases in the corners but only slightly because at f2.8, it is already so sharp.

↑ As you can see, I used the 8mm focal length quite a bit.  I really enjoyed it.  This was taken at f8.

↑ 8mm at f8.  I really like the color rendering of this lens.

↑ This lens is sharp as a nail too.  This is a 100% crop of the photo above.  Notice how clearly you can read the writing.

↑ This was taken with the lens set at 9mm f8.

↑ 100% crop of the photo above.

↑ 8mm at f8.

↑ 100% crop of the photo above.  Notice how clearly you can read the Bike Rentals sign.

Now, let’s talk a bit about bokeh.  Considering this is an ultra wide angle lens with a maximum aperture of f2.8, it’s not really designed as a bokeh lens but the Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH is able to focus pretty closely, so some shallow depth of field can be achieved.  Of course, the shallow depth of field won’t be nearly as thin as something like a 50mm f1.4 but when you do achieve it, the bokeh is smooth.  From what I got, I didn’t find anything unpleasant or harsh.

↑ This is how the bokeh looks at 8mm.  I was extremely close to the flowers.

↑ Here’s how the bokeh and depth of field look like at 18mm.

So, are there any issues I had with this lens?  It sounds pretty much perfect, right?  Well, I did find it close to perfect with one exception.  This lens has Nano surface coating but I was getting a bit more flare, and ghosting than I expected.  I was actually a little surprised given how utterly amazing this lens performed overall.  However, the flaring is not horrible or anything that extreme.  It only happens occasionally, and only in certain circumstances.  In other words, it is definitely no deal breaker.  It’s something I wanted to mention though, since this is a review.

↑ This was taken at f3.7 using the 15mm focal length.

↑ This was taken at f11 using the 8mm focal length.

↑ 18mm at f11.

↑ 8mm at f8.

Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH Pros And Cons:

Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH Pros:

  • Build quality, and materials used are excellent.
  • Lightweight for this type of lens.
  • Balances nicely even on smaller bodies like the Pen-F.
  • Excellent lens hood.
  • Ultra fast autofocus.
  • LOVE the image quality.
  • SHARP.

Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH Cons:

  • I found it flares more than I expected.

Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH Verdict:

If I were building a micro four thirds system, there would be no doubt in my mind that this lens would make my “must buy” list.  At about $1,100, the Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH is definitely not a cheap lens but is it overpriced?  I don’t think so because the quality is definitely here.

↑ The Olympus Pen-F and Panasonic 8-18mm f2.8-4 made a well-balanced combo.

First off, the materials, and build are phenomenal.  The lens has weather sealing.  The size and weight of the lens are perfect if you consider its focal length range.  Speaking of the focal range, it makes the lens extremely versatile.  I find the range so good that I think a lot of people could carry just this one lens for many situations, such as, street photography or even on vacation.  The autofocus is ultra fast, and reliable as well.  Best of all, image quality is downright superb.  The only downside that I saw was the occasional flaring in certain situations but in my opinion, the issue is so small that it would carry no weight for me when deciding to purchase this lens.  Overall, the 8-18mm is quite impressive, and it should make anyone looking for a decent ultra wide angle zoom a very, very happy shooter.

Thanks for taking the time to read my review!  If you’re considering purchasing the Panasonic 8-18mm, and my review helped you decide, please help support this site by purchasing from any of the links in this review.  It will not cost you anything extra.  Thank you for your support!

Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 ASPH at B&H Photo

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