I’ve been following Sigma with interest for years, marveling at how a manufacturer of middling third-party lenses has gone on to become one of the world’s leading producers of superb optics.

But lately I’ve come to think of their approach as a bit old-fashioned. Their ART lenses may be a bargain, but their massive size and weight is a big downer.

I thought of this when setting eyes on a prototype of Panasonic’s humungous full frame 50mm f/1.4 L-mount lens announced at Photokina and hearing of their proposed partnership with Sigma. It almost looked like a grotesque caricature of an ART lens.

I also couldn’t help but remark how much more beautiful Olympus’s 12-40mm rendering looked when compared to Panasonic’s rather pedestrian 12-35mm in recent videos shot with the batcam. Panasonic has not exactly been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to optics as far as I can tell.

At least Olympus features clutch manual focus on their PRO lineup, and most seem to feel that their lenses rely less on software correction than Panasonic’s.

Fuji introduced a feature in their X-H1 that enables linear response when manually focusing; Canon’s EOS R allows the user to change the direction of focus and they’ve added rings to both their adapters and lenses for added functionality;  Nikon’s S line is supposed to have little to no breathing; and Sony’s G Master lenses appear to be prioritizing light weight, performance and appealing bokeh.

What do you think? Is Panasonic really headed in the right direction partnering with Leica and Sigma when it comes to innovative approaches to optical design and state-of-the-art performance?

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