Shall I commit blasphemy? Is the Leica 10-25mm the best photography purchase I’ve ever made?

I love my Panasonic G9 cameras. When I bought my first one, my Panasonic GX8, my first m43 camera and one I used on plenty of fashion shoots, stayed on the shelf so long, the internal battery ran out. Which is a LONG time! There isn’t much I don’t love about my G9.

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My beloved Panasonic G9 attached to my beloved Nocticron. Together, we've done 100's of thousands of images. Maybe the most perfect camera setup I've ever used. It's love...

I purchased the Leica 10-25mm f/1.7 lens mostly because I need a wide-angle lens that I can use in darker locations where I am not permitted or would be inappropriate to use a flash. I really love my 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens when I need wide shots. The f/3.5 is bad enough. But when you throw in the quality of the glass in the lens, it just gets worse. You can make it work. Unfortunately, color is starting to fall apart at 1600 ISO which is almost the minimum you need for low-light situations.

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The mighty Panasonic Leica 10-25mm f/1.7.

So, with f/1.7, I get 3-stops of low-light performance improvement. Which is enormous! Just with that, there is practically nothing I can’t tackle. But when you also throw in the superior glass the lens has, I can PROBABLY get acceptable color quality at 6400 ISO. I haven’t pushed it that far. But I can get totally useable pics with my kit lens at 3200 ISO. The quality of images is at least 1 ISO-stop better than the kit lens. So, this will give me a minimum of a 4-stop light advantage over my kit lens!

If you don’t know what that means, I can basically go from a completely blacked-out image on my kit lens, to something I can actually use on the Leica!

Now, the low-light performance of the lens is quite incredible. Camera gear reviewers have been practically giddy about the lens. But, as I mentioned on a forum recently, there is something about their reviews that gets lost in their presentation.

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Once I mounted the Leica 10-25mm f/1.7 onto my G9, it stayed there for almost 3 months! I finally swapped it out for the Nocticron to do some street fashion photography. The thing with the 10-25mm is: it’s basically a wide-angle Nocticron in every way. Sharpness. Image rendering. When I process images from the 10-25mm, I change basically nothing from my editing workflow with the Nocticron. I basically have a wide-angle Nocticron!

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This is a nice image taken in Central Park on a partially sunny day. I've taken this image with my Nocticron. Plenty of times. The difference between this and the Nocticron: while the center of the image would have great exposure and color detail, it would get a bit, a tiny tiny bit, less so in the corners. I basically gasped when I saw this image. The sharpness if wicked.

The one thing, with the 10-25mm being a newer lens design, it seems to be more sensitive to color. Meaning, colors look brighter and more vibrant than the Nocticron. It’s extremely subtle. So, except for some very rare situations, you just wouldn’t really notice.

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These pics of Central Park were taken with my second outing of the lens. When I saw this image, I really couldn't believe the color quality. The vibrancy is fantastic. The bokeh at f/1.7 is more than good enough. Maybe great. 

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I don't know about you... But the sharpness, detail, bokeh and color......

The Cons

I don’t consider the price to be a con. It’s a superior product and you’re going to have to pay for that. You are getting a Nocticron zoom. It basically replaces three prime lenses. Size and weight. It’s certainly big for a m43 lens. Absolutely. The Nocticron got some flack for its size. The 10-25mm is about 2x the size! However, when mounted onto my G9, it doesn’t feel as big as it should. That might have to with its weight. It doesn’t feel any heavier than the Nocticron!

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Yes, there is a real size difference between the previous size-champion the Leica Nocticron. It's not even close now. But weight-wise, not as much a difference as you would think.

The build construction of the Nocticron is tank-like. The 10-25mm looks to be made of steel vs plastic. But it doesn’t feel tank-like. I think it simply used a different type of metal to keep its weight down especially around the barrel. The mount is definitely your typical steel. I can carry the lens all day and not feel it’s weight any more than the tiny-by-comparison Nocticron.

Any REAL Cons Whatsoever?

It’s not a discreet lens. It’s big. Not as big as a Full Frame lens. But big enough that it attracts attention. Some people, especially when doing street photography, get intimidated by the size of the lens. People will notice you walking down the street with the lens attached to the camera.

I spent several minutes thinking about the downsides of the lens…. That’s all I can think of.

For the Pros and Serious Amateurs

The lens is a no-brainer for the professionals and serious amateurs. And I haven’t even touched on the video possibilities of this lens. For which, this lens is at least half designed for with its click-less aperture ring. Okay, so that’s sort of a downside. But not really.

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ISO 200, f/1.7. Before and after. One of my only issues with m43 is ISO performance. So I like to keep it as low as possible. For the cleanest and best color reproduction. I boosted the exposure for the entire image and the darker areas. While I could do the same with a cheaper lens, the colors and quality couldn't match this. I couldn't ask for a nicer image.

There is nothing out there that touches the performance of this lens. There is no wide-angle zoom, in either m43 or in Full Frame, that is f/1.7. In fact, I couldn’t find anything higher than f/2.8. This is the only lens that does.

But f/1.7 is f/3.5 as far as the bokeh is concerned. This is true. But it’s sort of a wash. Because that necessarily isn’t an issue. It depends on your use case. For me, it’s not an issue. None.

But f/1.7 is f/1.7 in light capture. There is no denying that. And nothing touches this lens in this focal length. Nothing.

So, what do you think now? Is it worth it?

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This image was for a wedding party I did in which the only lens I used was the 10-25mm f/1.7. Done at f/1.7, ISO 800, 1/100sec. It was a bit dark in the room even with the lights and ambient light. I had a flash but didn't want to use it during speeches. If I shot this with a regular, f/2.8 lens, I would've had to use ISO 3200 or use an unacceptably low shutter speed. At f/1.7, not a problem. Especially in black and white. Everything looks fantastic.

Is it the best photography purchase I’ve ever done? No. I love my G9 and there is no other camera out there that I would want to use other than a Full Frame camera that cost 4x more. I’m talking about the big brother to the G9 which is the Panasonic S1R. Even if I use an f/2.8 lens with the S1R, the ISO performance is superior to my G9. So f/2.8 would work just fine with that camera. However, the camera is 4x the price of my G9…. 2x the weight. 50% bigger.

The Panasonic Leica 10-25mm f/1.7 is not my best-best photographic purchase. But it’s a photo finish with my G9!

Ricardo Gomez Photography

Originally from San Francisco, Ricardo is now a New York-based photographer specializing in editorial and commercial photography.
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