First shots with the Panasonic Leica 45mm macro

The sun glows behind dense fog at Trostle Pond at sunrise, 25 July 2012.

The story of how this came to be is somewhat convoluted, but goes like this: I’m shooting a wedding on Saturday and needed a lens longer than 25mm, hadn’t liked the Olympus 45mm and sold it last month, couldn’t get my hands the new Olympus 75mm in time, and found the Panasonic Leica 45mm used at B&H. Now it’s in my bag.

By all accounts its a solid portrait lens, with qualities similar to the Panasonic Leica 25mm, which I love. And it has the bonus of being a true macro lens, which is a first for me. (I do have an old Takumar 50mm macro with an adapter, but the P45 is my first native, automatic macro lens.) Dual purposes, good price, and I’m a sucker for new gear.

Took it out in the field yesterday for some initial testing. I don’t expect that I’ll have any issues using it this weekend – it’s truly a solid little lens. I shot some standard stuff with it, like the image at the top of this post, and also some macros, like this one:

Macro of a Red Clover blossom at Trostle Pond at sunrise, 25 July 2012.

What have I figured out so far? Well, macro work is definitely tripod-territory. I don’t think I’d bother trying it without one, at least not in any serious fashion. Also, you need dead-calm, since any breeze sends subjects like flowers swaying all over the place. You hardly notice them moving until you’re looking though the lens, then they’re jumping around and throwing your focus off.

Finally, there’s a loss of light when you enter true macro range. I didn’t realize this until I read about it a couple of nights ago – and then saw it myself while shooting – but true macro lenses suffer from the same light-loss effects that you see when using extension tubes on a regular lens. Wide-open at f/2.8, by the time you’re at 1:1 macro the lens is really about an f/4 due to the physics of focusing that close.

Macro of Queen Anne's Lace at Trostle Pond at sunrise, 25 July 2012.

It doesn’t matter that much in practice, but I found it interesting. And I was able to see the exposure shift as I got close and had to adjust my settings.

Here’s a final comparison; I didn’t shoot these for any reason except to show the difference in DOF in a macro image from wide-open at f/2.8 to full-closed at f/22.

DOF comparison shot, Panasonic Leica 45mm macro lens at f/2.8 & f/22

Click to view larger

At f/2.8, the DOF is VERY shallow – having the right angle and position is non-negotiable, else the shot is lost. By a mid-range aperture, like f/8, you’ve got some more leeway and it’s a bit easier to capture a moderately deeper range of focus. And of course at f/22 you can pull a good depth of field, although diffraction becomes an issue. You can’t see it as well at this size, but at full-resolution there’s definite softness and that weird halo-ish look that diffraction brings to the party.

There’s more to come as I continue to play with this lens. There’s a learning curve, but it’ll be an interesting one.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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1 Comment

  1. You know that after you use it at the wedding you might as well hand it over to Mandy. She’s the macro queen :).

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