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Leica D VARIO-ELMARIT 14-50mm f2.8-3.5 lens review


When Panasonic announced its debut digital SLR, the Lumix L1, back in February 2006, it’s fair to say a great deal of attention was focused on its kit lens – after all this was no ordinary bundled optic. The D Vario Elmarit 14-50mm was not only Leica’s first lens designed specifically for a digital SLR, but by sporting optical stabilisation, also became the first Four Thirds lens to actively combat camera-shake.

In the months following the announcement, existing Olympus DSLR owners wondered if the Leica zoom could be an option for their cameras; indeed such was the hype behind the lens some even discussed the possibility buying the Lumix L1 kit just to get hold of it. Their prayers were answered in September 2006 when at Photokina, Panasonic confirmed the Leica lens was not only fully compatible with existing Four Thirds DSLRs, but would also be sold separately in the near future. Now that time has come, we’re pleased to publish our full test report of the Leica lens.

In terms of focal range, the Leica D 14-50mm is pretty similar to other Four Thirds kit lenses, but it has several key advantages. First it boasts a brighter f2.8-3.5 focal ratio; second it features optical stabilisation and as mentioned above it’s the only Four Thirds lens to offer this facility; and third, it’s a Leica.

This last point cannot be underestimated. Leica is a legend in the photographic world, so any new Leica products are greeted with considerable excitement – and understandably high expectations. So the big question is how the Leica D 14-50mm lens compares to other Four Thirds lenses? Is it a difference of night and day, or are we looking at more subtle benefits? Since it’s also the only Four Thirds lens with stabilisation, how well does this work in practice, both on the bodies it was launched with, along with existing Olympus models?

Ultimately can it justify its high price tag and become the general purpose lens that all Four Thirds owners aspire to own? Find out in our full review where we test the Leica D 14-50mm on a variety of bodies including the Panasonic Lumix L1 and both the Olympus E-400 and E-410. As always, to view the highlights, check out our Leica D 14-50mm video tour, which includes a demonstration of its optical image stabilisation working in practice.

Testing Notes

We tested the Leica D 14-50mm with the Olympus E-400, Olympus E-410 and the Panasonic Lumix L1. Following our convention of using default factory and best quality JPEG settings, each camera was reset to its defaults and their image quality settings adjusted to deliver the highest resolution and least compression available. See our Olympus E410, E-400 and Panasonic L1 reviews for full testing notes. The serial number of the Leica lens tested was BS6GA01622.

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