Panasonic has released details of an upcoming wide-angle zoom lens for Micro Four-Thirds cameras with optics by Leica – the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8-4 ASPH (16-36mm in 35mm-format equivalent). Its focusing distance options cover everything from ultra wide-angle to super-telephoto. With such a versatile zoom range, Panasonic says that the lens will perform well across a large number of photographic styles, from street photography snapshots to landscapes.

Built with 15 elements in 10 groups, the lens features an aspherical ED (Extra-low Dispersion) lens, three aspherical lenses, two ED lenses and an UHR (Ultra High Refractive Index) lens in order to suppress spherical distortion or chromatic aberration, which should go some way to maintaining high resolution and contrast from center to corners. As with all its lenses, the 8-18mm is built with Panasonic’s Nano Surface Coating to avoid unwanted flare and ghosting effects.

On the outside, the 8-18mm boasts a rugged design, dust- and splash-proof and safely operational down to -10°C. It also features the ability to take screw-in filters – in fact, it’s the widest-angle autofocus lens that’s able to do so.

Panasonic also appears to be courting the video market with the 8-18mm. At its max speed of 240fps, the lens’ sensor drive is built to take advantage of the fast and precise autofocus offered by higher-end cameras and to reduce ‘wobbling’ when the camera is recording. A micro-step drive system in the aperture control section will help the camera to smoothly catch up to brightness changes when zooming or panning. Thanks to high-speed frame analysis for focus control, the AF tracking performance while zooming should also be solid.

The Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm is due to be available in the UK from late May for £1,049, in black. Panasonic have confirmed that the lens line-up will extend again in the future, to include a 50-200mm (100-400mm equiv.) telephoto zoom option.