Field Test: Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8-4 ASPH lens

If you are really interested in the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8-4 ASPH lens, I would like to suggest that you first read my First Impressions post and Mark Toal’s look at the lens where he compares it to the Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4 ASPH lens .

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Whenever I get a new lens or camera, I drive to O’Brien Park in Parker, Colorado and photograph the gazebo there. This exercise is especially useful when testing wide-angle zoom lenses because I can show (as I do below) the real world zoom range of the lens. Both shots were made in the same spot: I set the lens at 18mm and then put myself in a position to produce what I would consider the normal view of the gazebo (top) then, without moving, zoomed out to 8mm and made the bottom shot. The official angle-of-view range for the 8-18mm lens is 107 – 62 degrees. By comparison, the Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4 ASPH lens that Mark tested has an angle-of-view range of 114 – 75 degrees, giving it a 13-degree advantage over the Leica DG lens at the wide end. If all you care is about coverage, the Lumix G Vario clearly has an edge.

Next I wanted to see how the sharpness of the lens when wide open and at the sweet spot of f/8. To do that I used the brick wall test, using the same set of well-laid bricks for both my tests here and the lens reviews that I do for Shutterbug magazine. At 18mm and f/8 the lens is tack sharp with no vignetting across the frame, with very little softening at the edges wide open that only die-hard pixel peepers might find unacceptable. Real world shooter won’t notice nor care.

Results at 8mm and wide open could only be describes as spectacular and explains why the lens is not inexpensive. Images were sharp edge-to-edge with no fall off an vignetting of any kind. Results at the f/8 sweet spot were identical. All in all impressive performance with the lens that matches up with a build quality that could only be describes as exemplary.

Mark has already discussed the physical and price differences between the Leica DG 8-18mm and the Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4 and while on the surface the Leica DG is faster at f/2.8 that advantage quickly disappears when the lens is zoomed past 8.5mm.One thing Mark didn’t mention is close focusing: The 7-14mm lens focuses as close as 9.84-inches, while the 8-18mm lens focuses to 9.06-inches, so maybe he didn’t mention it because it’s push, although close focusing fans might prefer to have that extra three-quarters of an inch.

What I don’t know is how the Lumix 7-14mm lens feels and how the lens is built when compared to the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8-4 ASPH. If that thousand dollar bill isn’t burning a hole in your pocket, I’d like to run the 7-14mm lens through a similar test and, you know, see what happens. In the meantime, I plan to take the Leica DG to Cars and Coffee this Saturday at the Vehicle Vault in Parker, CO. Look for an update on shooting cars with the Leica lens, next week on my car photography website/blog.