Leica Summilux C cinema primes for the Panasonic AF100?

With the announcement of the AF100, Panasonic have got a jump on the professional video departments of other manufacturers, notably Sony and Canon. They also have a relationship with Leica.

Today I received news that new Micro 4/3rds cine lenses similar to the Summilux C range (housing by Band Pro, optical formulas by Leica) are going to form an integral part of the AF100 package.

Lenses can really set the AF100 apart, and the current Lumix Micro 4/3rds lens line up is consumer stills orientated and rather limited in scope.

Whilst the GH1’s sensor is certainly good enough for professionals (most of the AF100’s improvements will come from beefier image processing hardware) the AF100 will act similarly to the consumer camera in terms of rolling shutter, noise and low light performance (at this stage of the CMOS sensor technology) – so good lenses are essential.

Additionally Panasonic and Leica would rather you spent money on their new glass, rather than adapted ones from eBay or rehoused ones, since there is a lot of profit to be had from lenses.

The rather interesting information I received from one of my sources whilst discussing exactly this, is that cinema primes from Leica are indeed in development especially for the AF100 in Micro Four Thirds mount rather than the Band Pro’s PL mount format.

These lenses will be customised for the AF100’s mount electronics, and the Micro 4/3rds mount – so I expect they’ll also work with the GH1 and forthcoming GH2! There will also be a cine zoom with AF, similar to the consumer 14-140mm with Panasonic’s electronics (silent AF, continuous iris) but Leica’s optical formula (based on their Four Thirds 14-150mm) and also a cine lens based on the existing Four Thirds Summilux 25mm F1.4, which is a fantastic piece of glass – I’ve used it on the GH1 and it is about as sharp wide open as you can get.

The PL versions of the Summilux C lenses have already been announced and confirmed by Band Pro – these Leica lenses all feature a maximum aperture of T1.4, close focussing ability and a standard 95mm front filter thread. They’re also extremely expensive! The new versions will sit between the top end Summilux C range by Band Pro and the high end consumer stills lenses for Lumix G cameras.

Band Pro revealed the PL Summilux C lineup on April 8th and Panasonic’s press conference for the AF100 was just a few days later. The development paths of such lenses are interlinked in time and Panasonic are saying on the record that their relationship with Leica is continuing and is as close as ever.

If Sony can have a set of specially made Zeiss primes for their digital ‘cinematic camera’, released 2011 that would be a worthy competitor. This means the gauntlet has truly been thrown down to Canon now and they really must respond with a line of C lenses based on their L series for EF mount. The rumours are that Canon have an EF mount camcorder in development and so maybe now these announcements from rival companies are out in the open, they’ll choose to respond and get it on record.

All this pro stuff unfolding is mana from heaven for GH1 owners by the way – the prospect of all these new professional lenses and accessories filtering down to the little consumer camera is a joy to behold, and maybe now people will begin to take it even more seriously. HDSLRs will continue to prosper – the perfect option for those who can’t afford, or dislike the bulk of the professional department’s gear.

UPDATE: Although I’ve not had any information on it, I expect a motorised zoom lens (think c-mount Sony and Fuji TV lenses!) to be made in the Micro 4/3rds format especially for the AF100, although it would add a lot of bulk to what are otherwise very compact lenses considering their performance. I really do think such a lens would be required by many potential AF100 customers, because the 14-140mm’s DSLR style zoom is not very suitable for ENG / broadcast or documentary work.