Free, Discounted or Full Price, The Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Lens Is Pretty Darned Good, Especially on a GX8.

by Karin GottschalkLeave a Comment

In readiness for a series of short videos on various health and human rights topics, I have been re-educating myself on the pleasures and terrors of seeing and shooting in monochrome aka black-and-white, with the benefit of a recently-acquired Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 prime lens on my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 camera.

I gave up monochrome analog photography when my health was threatened by overexposure to photochemicals in poorly maintained commercial darkrooms and have resorted to shooting digital photographs in monochrome infrequently, only when the subject’s colors could add nothing useful to the image’s core motivation.

This upcoming project is a little different. Its subject is somber, common health and human rights abuses. Not the kind of subject matter that demands a Technicolor treatment. And there is another consideration. Activist organizations working in the field have adopted the color purple as a signifier, although a number of other causes also use variations of the same color in their logos and corporate livery.

How to distinguish my subjects’ cause from competing ones using the same color? My solution was to combine purple text and graphics with monochrome stills and video footage, similar to the way IBM used monochrome footage with IBM blue graphics in a series of famous TV commercials and social media advertisements some years ago.

A sharp photograph shot handheld at 1/4 second with the recently released Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 lens. Photographed on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8, ISO 200, f/6.3. Using in-body stabilization aka IBIS only as the 25mm lens does not have OIS aka optical image stabilization built not the lens. Panasonic OIS plus IBIS equals Dual stabilization

A sharp photograph shot handheld at 1/4 second with the recently released Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 lens. Photographed on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8, ISO 200, f/6.3. Using in-body stabilization aka IBIS only as the 25mm lens does not have OIS aka optical image stabilization built into the lens. Impressive stabilization at such a slow shutter speed.

A recent monochrome project.

A little while ago I began killing several birds with one stone – relearning to see and shoot monochrome, learning to grade monochrome by doing more than simply removing the color data, getting used to my Panasonic GX8 and especially the recently arrived Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 lens – by shooting street photographs and portraits in black-and-white.

Why stills and not video? Because I can get more out of a good, solid set or two of photographs than a collection of footage that won’t be used in a movie project any time soon if ever. I have been wanting to revive my long-dormant photography career in some way and I often think about much I loved shooting portraits and street photographs in monochrome during the analog era.

I had processed and printed my own monochrome photographs for many years, pushing the medium and my skills to a high level of quality and expression. I had been a university photography teacher, a commercial darkroom worker, had printed for several fine art photographers, trained several commercial darkroom operators, and had been a newspaper photographer before succumbing to photochemical dermatitis.

I have long been wanting to put that knowledge back into practice with the far greater flexibility of digital imaging. I only needed the right project. The monochrome images on this page are the start of my first new street photography project in the medium.

I have been shooting square images for the first time in years. The reason? The GX8’s flip-up EVF, giving me the same low-level view of the world I used to get from my beloved but long-gone Rolleiflex T and Rolleiflex 2.8 F. Rolleiflex cameras are no longer made, but the GX8’s tilting EVF makes a good enough simulation of the Rolleiflex waist-level viewfinder for the imagery I have in mind.

Better than good enough.

In fact, better than good enough, especially in combination with the Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 lens. I received the lens soon after purchasing my GX8 as part of a Panasonic Australia promotion. The 25mm f/1.7 was free, and it is now my GX8’s default lens. It is also my very first Micro Four Thirds prime lens – the other lenses I have for the GH4 and GX8 are native M43 zooms and adapted Canon EF glass.

The 25mm f/1.7 immediately took me back to the days I carried two Leica M-series rangefinder cameras for my daily work as a magazine and newspaper photographer. Although I owned two 50mm lenses then, the 35mm equivalent of M43’s 25mm focal length, I wasn’t fond of the so-called standard focal length aka normal lens.

Normal felt like neither fish nor fowl for the 35mm format, and I much preferred the 35mm lens’ slightly shorter than normal and the 75mm lens’ slight longer than normal. I also carried a 28mm and a 90mm lens in my camera bag for wider and longer again.

Shooting with the 25mm f/1.7 on the GX8.

I tried photographing in 35mm’s 3:2 ratio with the Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 lens the day it arrived, but it was back to the same “normal just isn’t quite right for 3:2” feeling I had when relying on Leicas.

Remembering my Rolleiflexes, I created a square, monochrome custom setting for the GX8 and have been shooting mostly with that or another for vivid color in the 4:3 ratio, reminiscent of the Mamiya and Fujifilm 120 rangefinders I loved for when 35mm lacked enough image quality and I needed nice, big 120 format transparencies.

Like all fast lenses, the 25mm f/1.7 benefits from stopping the aperture down a little, at least one or one-and-a-half stops from wide open. My GX8 custom setting for monochrome stills has the aperture set at f/4 and is aperture-priority, with an ISO of 200.

Given the GX8’s right hand-biased under interface, it is easy and fast to switch aperture and ISO depending on circumstances. An aperture of f/4 is more than enough for the depth of focus I want most of the time.

Due to Micro Four Thirds sensors being a quarter the size of so-called full frame sensors, f/4 on M43 has as much depth of focus as, say, f/5.6 on 35mm. During my 35mm days, the rule of thumb was to stop down to f/5.6 to hit the lens’ sweet spot sharpness-wise, going no further down the scale than f/8.

All photographs on this page made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 camera and Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 lens, processed with DxO OpticsPro, DxO FilmPack and Adobe Photoshop CC 2015. ISO 400, f/8 and 1/500th of a second, more than enough for plenty of depth and to freeze moving figures while still maintaining image quality.

All photographs on this page made with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 camera and Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 lens, processed with DxO OpticsPro, DxO FilmPack and Adobe Photoshop CC 2015. ISO 400, f/8 and 1/500th of a second, more than enough for plenty of depth and to freeze moving figures while still maintaining image quality.

The GX8 has the least shutter lag of all the cameras I now own or have used recently.

The GX8 has the least shutter lag of all the cameras I now own or have used, allowing for fairly precise alignment of objects in space.

The GX8's electronic view finder aka EVF is the best so far, almost as sharp and as clear as an optical view finder aka OVF. But as my years with Leica M-series and other rangefinder cameras proved, images requiring split-second alignment of objects in deep space will always be easier and more sure with OVF cameras. It is still possible to make such images with great EVF cameras like the GX8, but you have to work a lot harder and accept more misses than hits.

The GX8's electronic view finder aka EVF is the best so far, almost as sharp and as clear as an optical view finder aka OVF. But as my years with Leica M-series and other rangefinder cameras proved, images requiring split-second alignment of objects in deep space will always be easier and more sure with OVF cameras. It is still possible to make such images with great EVF cameras like the GX8, but you have to work a lot harder and accept more misses than hits.

Spectators outside the Apple Store in the Sydney CBD. I have no idea what they were watching so intently for so long, on the upper floors of the store, but it must have been riveting!

Spectators outside the Apple Store in the Sydney CBD. I have no idea what they were watching so intently for so long, on the upper floors of the store, but it must have been riveting! One of the many pleasures of waist level viewfinder cameras or tilting EVFs is you can stand up close to people and observe them unawares.

I chose the Tri-X film profile in DxO FilmPack then split-toned the image. Split-toning options in current raw processing software only allow for two splits. I would prefer a three-way split. By using benzotriazole in Dektol paper developer, selenium toning followed by gold toning with certain silver-rich baryta photographic papers, I achieved a three-way color split. Cool in the high values, slightly warmer in the mid values and bluish in the low values. I want to do the same or better with raw processing software. This image lacks gold's blue-toned shadows.

I chose the Tri-X film profile in DxO FilmPack then split-toned the image. Split-toning options in current raw processing software only allow for two splits. I would prefer a three-way split. By using benzotriazole in Dektol paper developer, selenium toning followed by gold toning with certain silver-rich baryta photographic papers, I achieved a three-way color split. Cool in the high values, slightly warmer in the mid values and bluish in the low values. I want to do the same or better with raw processing software. This image lacks gold's blue-toned shadows.

Remarkable sharpness and photographic quality.

I am not a techie but if technical analysis of the Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 lens is what you need, you can do no better than visit the DxOMark website where you can compare this lens’ performance against that of other 25mm lenses for M43.

I tend to avoid such comparisons, however. Several reasons. I don’t have the means to buy or borrow every lens I would like. And whether shooting video or stills, a lens is just part of the equation. How you process your footage intimately affects your lenses’ perceived cinematic or photographic qualities.

That has came to the fore in the course of shooting the monochrome street project illustrated on this page. I have been pondering how much the way I processed and printed film affected the images I made, choosing specific films, film developers, developing methods, printing papers, print developers, developing methods and especially toning chemical and procedures.

My approach to monochrome was anything but mere black-and-white, and went beyond an arrangement of tones of grey on paper. I was after a dimensionality, a depth of tone, color and emotion, that was almost more real than real. I am pursuing the same agenda, and more, now that we are well and truly in the digital age.

The Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 has more than enough sharpness for me right now, given how I am using it and how I am processing the results. I made the examples on this page at the start of my recent explorations, using fairly mundane raw conversion settings. Now I am adding digital grain, extra sharpness, clarity and color analogous to how I most often processed and printed my favorite vintage analog films, Kodak Panatomic X and Tri-X.

Like many others, I bought up big and froze down many of the great but tragically discontinued films and relied on them years beyond their demise, maintaining a style clients found appealing enough to pay good money for long beyond the disappearance of the films that had shaped my style.

Going beyond analog, while just as expressive.

Using digital processing settings available in DxO OpticsPro, Macphun Noiseless, Alien Skin Exposure X and other raw developing software, I am now going beyond the best of what I achieved in analog. Exposure X has me intrigued, with its Rodinal presets and accurate Panatomic X, Tri-X and Polaroid Type 55 film emulations as well as a host of split toning and alternative printing presets.

I am looking for the perfect combination of simulated grain, high acutance developing, gold and selenium split-toning, and benzotriazole in Dektol developer with silver-rich baryta paper. If I can approach or even surpass the look and feel of the stand or more often inversion developing I used with Tri-X 120 and other films, I will be happy.

The challenge then will be to work out how to do the same for monochrome video footage, using Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 12 or within Final Cut Pro X with the benefit of LUTs and third-party plug-ins.

Current tests look promising. Digital video and stills are not, of course, imitations of analog movie and photographic films, but the aim is to achieve equally expressive looks-and-feels and I appear well on the way now.

Just as monochrome is not the poor person’s substitute for color that it was touted to be in my early days shooting stills and movie film, digital is not a pale imitation of analog. In the same way, as the images on this page attest, the Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 is not a poor person’s substitute for pricier Micro Four Thirds normal prime lenses.

Every lens has its merits and character, and I can see myself trying out and purchasing one or two other 25mm lenses from amongst the growing list being made by Mitakon, Olympus, Panasonic, SLR Magic, Veydra, Voigtlaender and others.

I have been using Alien Skin Exposure X lately, for processing raw files. It contains a large, excellent set of presets for many of the great analog films of the past, including movie films and developing methods, as well as alternative or arduous monochrome printing processes. This image was processed with the Velvia 50 preset. Velvia was my favorite color transparency film for subjects other than portraits, in 35mm and 120 film formats. It had a dimensionality that few other films could approach. Exposure X's Velvia preset does a great job of simulating the real thing, even surpassing it.

I have been using Alien Skin Exposure X lately, for processing raw files. It contains a large, excellent set of presets for many of the great analog films of the past, including movie films and developing methods, as well as alternative or arduous monochrome printing processes. This image was processed with the Velvia 50 preset. Velvia was my favorite color transparency film for subjects other than portraits, in 35mm and 120 film formats. It had a dimensionality that few other films could approach. Exposure X's Velvia preset does a great job of simulating the real thing, even surpassing it. Shot on the GX8 and 25mm f/1.7 lens. From a personal stills and movie project on the suburbs where I live now.

The Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 prime lens proves pretty darned good, especially on a Lumix GX8. Click To Tweet

Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Lens

 

Via B&H:

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS

  • Micro Four Thirds System Lens
  • 50mm (35mm Equivalent)
  • Aperture Range: f/1.7 to f/22
  • One Ultra-High Refractive Index Element
  • Two Aspherical Elements
  • Stepping AF Motor
  • Rounded 7-Blade Diaphragm

 

Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f1.7 ASPH feat image

A fast, normal prime designed for Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras, the Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 ASPH. Lens from Panasonic is a 50mm equivalent lens featuring a bright f/1.7 maximum aperture for enhanced low-light shooting and depth of field control. One UHR (Ultra-High Refractive Index) element pairs with two aspherical elements to reduce chromatic aberrations and distortions for consistent edge-to-edge sharpness and illumination. The optical construction also helps to realize a compact overall form factor, measuring just 2″-long and weighing 4.4 oz. Benefitting both stills and video capture, this lens also incorporates a stepping motor for smooth, quiet autofocus performance that is compatible with Lumix cameras' high-speed contrast-detection focusing systems.

  • Designed for Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras, this lens provides a 50mm equivalent focal length to represent a normal perspective.
  • Designed for Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras, this lens provides a 50mm equivalent focal length to represent a normal perspective.
  • Fast f/1.7 maximum aperture benefits working in difficult lighting conditions and also enables extensive control over focus placement for selective focus applications.
  • One UHR element helps to achieve even illumination and sharpness for consistent performance throughout the aperture range.
  • A pair of aspherical elements reduces chromatic and spherical aberrations for increased sharpness and clarity.
  • Stepping motor delivers fast, smooth, and near-silent autofocus performance to benefit both still photograph and movie recording applications.
  • Rounded seven-blade diaphragm produces a smooth out-of-focus quality when working with shallow depth of field techniques.

Read more and buy the Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Lens at B&H.

Recommended viewing by other reviewers:

(cover photo credit: snap from B&H)

Karin Gottschalk

Karin Gottschalk

Karin is a documentary moviemaker, journalist, photographer and teacher who conceived and cofounded an influential, globally-read, Australian magazine of contemporary art, culture and photography. While based in Europe, contributing to the magazine and working in advertising, she visualised a future telling the same sorts of stories with a movie camera and audio recorder. Now back in her home base in Sydney, Karin is pursuing her goal of becoming an independent, one-person, backpack multimedia journalist and documentary moviemaker. Mentorless and un-filmschooled, she is constantly learning and sharpening up her skill set.
Karin Gottschalk

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