The new 12-32mm lens is remarkably compact. The addition of a compact, light and affordable wide angle zoom lens is good news. It is what I have been waiting for a long time. It is not very wide, of course, but 24mm equivalent is quite decent. But how does it fare, quality wise, at 12mm? Here is a comparison at 12mm with the three lenses.
I took the images using the Lumix GM1 on a tripod, at ISO 200. The focus was done with autofocus, on the trees in the foreground:
Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 @ 12mm f/2.8
Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm f/4.3
To better compare the images, I have compiled 100% crops from the centre of the images at various apertures:
What we see here is not surprising at all. The Lumix X 12-35mm performs the best. After all, it is also the most expensive of the lenses, and is highly acclaimed. Already at f/2.8, it is remarkably sharp in the centre.
The Olympus lens has a maximum aperture of f/4.3 at 12mm focal length. It, too, does very well here.
The Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 performs the worst, which is, perhaps, again not surprising. It is the cheapest and most compact of the three, after all. It is rather dull at f/3.5, but sharpens up sufficiently at f/5.6. It also appears to handle the high contrast the worst of the three lenses. The sky is very bright compared with the foreground, which appears to "bleed" into the trees and twigs. The other lenses handle this better.
Some rumours say that some of the 12-32mm lenses have a defect which make them dull in the right side. So it makes sense for me to look more closely at that part of the images. Here are 100% crops from the upper right side:
I don't think my lens has this rumoured problem with blurry right side. We see that the 12-32mm lens handles the high contrast poorly, just like in the centre. But otherwise, it does well in terms of sharpness.
To illustrate that it is the high contrast which causes the problems with the 12-32mm lens, I have taken another series in lower contrast. Here are the full images:
Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 @ 12mm f/2.8
Looking at the centre crops, we see that pretty much all of them are fine. One can see that at f/3.5, the Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 is a bit dull. But this is hardly a problem.
In the lower left corner, we see more dullness at f/3.5 with the 12-32mm lens at 12mm. But it sharpens up fairly soon, and at f/5.6, it is rather impressive for a compact kit zoom lens.
We also see that the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 has a truly impressive performance.
ConclusionThe Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Mega O.I.S. lens is generally getting high praises on the internet these days. I think my test shows that it is hardly a miracle lens, the performance is not perfect. Still, considering the size and weight, I am happy with the performance.
My first test scene was probably a bit challenging, with the high contrast. In a normal, low contrast scene, it does better.
While the results can be seen as a bit disappointing, I am not concerned about this. I think the performance is still very good, and I will continue to use the lens, due to the very handy size. It is worth noting that you may experience sub-optimal performance in high contrast situation, e.g., with strong backlight or during night time.
Here is another example image taken with the Lumix G 12-32mm taken at 12mm f/5.6, 1/320s:
And 100% crops from the image:
I think this is perfectly fine performance, and I am looking forward to continuing to use this lens. To be honest, my biggest concern with the 12-32mm lens is the lack of ergonomics: The lens barrel is very smooth and lacks any gripping surfaces, making it awkward to mount and to handle. This appears to be a side effect of the current consumer electronics trend: All objects must have a smooth metal surface. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this trend to disappear soon.