Brought onto the market by Panasonic in 2007, this lens was my permanent buddy on one of my 4/3 Panasonic L1 bodies. It always went with me on my holidays and it has seen a lot of action over the years.
Size: 90mm x 79mm
Aperture: f3.5 - f22
I believe I paid in the region of €1200 for it in 2009, but I must admit, it was worth every penny. Even today when used on my Panasonic L1 it produces really nice images. The rendition is great and even though the L1 is only a 7.5MP camera, I still love using this combination. I realize 7.5MP is nothing compared to what cameras offer today, but megapixels isn’t everything is it?
This was my second Panasonic-Leica lens after the Panasonic-Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50 f2.8-3.5 Mega O.I.S. It was the kit lens for the Panasonic L1 camera. Unfortunately, Panasonic brought this to market with an extortionate price tag, hence the reason why it didn’t really sell that well. I didn’t purchase it either when it came out as the price was really too high but I did get on the band wagon a couple of years later when newer cameras came onto the market and the L1 was too expensive for the market. I purchased a couple actually at really good prices.
If you haven’t tried either of these lenses out, you really don’t know what you’re missing. Even today both produce excellent images and I use both on the L1, not too often but they do get to see some daylight. I have used the Vario-Elmar on several m43 bodies using an adapter and it works. However, this doesn’t mean it works as well as on the L1. It is slower to focus with a few problems in low contrast situations but it will finally lock on focus. I can’t recommend this to everyone as there are much better and cheaper lenses for the m43 system. I would also recommend an SLR type body if you do want to use this lens on M43 cameras. €1000 for a 4/3 lens is too much to pay as the system has been discontinued. It really does shine on the L1 and I will be using on that camera in the future too.
What I like about the two lenses above is the build quality and the fact they have an aperture ring. All metal bodies and quite heavy; you know you’re carrying something around when you pair them with the L1.
The following images were taken on the Panasonic G81 camera which offers tremendous value for money.
I think it’s because of these two lenses that I’m a real fan of the recent m43 Panasonic-Leica lenses. They have the same feel to them. Excellent solid build and image quality to die for.
I don’t think anyone would purchase either of the above lenses for the M43 system nowadays. There are alternatives from Olympus, Panasonic and even Tamron:
14-150 f4.0-5.6 Version I and II
Review here: https://www.ephotozine.com/article/leica-dg-vario-elmarit-12-60mm-f-2-8-4-0-asph-review-30597
It looks like the lens we have come to expect from the Panasonic-Leica team.
There are many more to choose from, those above are just examples. Of course only a few offer the same focal range as the Vario-Elmar. Since everything is a compromise, I like the older design better, if only for the aperture ring. Having said that I must admit to being a sucker for the Olympus Pro series and the Panasonic-Leica series lenses. They ooze quality and the performance matches the price tag.
Maybe I’m being a bit nostalgic with these lenses in keeping them but then again they match the Four-Thirds Panasonic L1 very well indeed. I think I’ll just keep on using them, for the simple reason that I think it’s fun and rewarding in using something you like.
Some of you reading this may ask themselves "What's the point of posting this about an old lens that nobody's going to purchase?". Well, not everything that's new is automatically better. Some of the lenses I use are manual focus only, are decades old and let me tell you, some of those produce images that really turn your head. Yes, it takes a little longer to focus, but I know for certain that what I want in focus really is in focus. It gives me pleasure to use these older lenses and takes me away from my daily routine. I'm in a world of my own for a few hours which I need to compensate for my day job; and it's going to stay that way until I retire. After that though, the world will be my oyster.
Try it, you may even enjoy it.