Sunday, 24 October 2010

Lumix G 14-42, new kit zoom

For the introduction of the Panasonic Lumix G2 and G10 cameras, a new kit zoom was launched. Much to the dismay of Micro Four Thirds users, since on first sight it looks like a dumbed down version of the old kit zoom.


First of all, it has slightly worse technical specifications: The long end of the zoom is 42mm, while the old had 45mm. Next, the new kit lens has got a plastic mount, while the older has a metal mount. The new zoom also lost the OIS switch: Switching OIS on or off is now done through the menus.

In terms of ergonomy, the new lens also lost the rubber zoom ring. It now features a plastic zoom ring, which gives somewhat less friction when operating it with your fingers.  Some users of the old lens experienced that the rubber zoom ring came loose.  This will not be a problem with the new lens, since there is no rubber ring.

Now, the change of the long end focal length doesn't bother me. 42mm and 45mm is basically the same field of view, there is no significant difference here. Also, the plastic mount, if done properly with good quality materials, is probably solid enough. After all, this is a very light weight lens, and in normal use, it doesn't need as strong support as larger lenses.

What about other aspects? Some reports indicate that the sharpness of the new lens is not as good as the original Lumix G 14-45mm lens. I cannot comment this, since I haven't used both.

Here's an analysis of the sharpness and bokeh of the lens.

The GH1 kit lens, the Lumix G HD 14-140mm, is specified with an aperture range from f/4 to f/5.8. However, while zooming from wide to tele, it closes down very quickly. So it is fair to say that this is essentially an "around f/5.6" lens, with a bonus brightness in the short end.

What about the other kit lenses? This diagram shows the relationship between the focal length and the maximum aperture for the three kit lenses:


For the 14-42mm and 14-140mm kit lenses, these values were sampled by using the actual lens. For the 14-45mm lens, I took the values from various reviews off the Internet.

It looks like the new kit lens has slightly better speed at f=25mm: f/4.6, compared with f/4.9 for the old kit lens.

I also added the aperture data for the premium Olympus standard zoom, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ power zoom. This lens is comparable with the other kit lenses in the short end, but the aperture closes down very quickly as the focal length increases. I think this is consistent with the Olympus M 4/3 design philosophy, which generally puts compactness ahead of maximum aperture.

The main purpose of the kit lens, is to be cheap and good enough for most beginners. I'm guessing that the size and number of the glass lens elements is an important contributor to the price.

The diameter of the front element of the 14-42mm lens is 13% smaller than that of the 14-45mm lens. And that means the area is 25% smaller:


It is quite remarkable that Panasonic has essentially retained the specifications, while shrinking the front element so much.  Of course, reducing the front lens diameter is not necessarily good for the image quality.  It could lead to more vignetting at max aperture, for example.

All in all, I think this will be a pretty successful lens. Some early reports indicate slightly worse sharpness, however, for the target audience that may not be a problem. The cheaper construction means that Panasonic can sell them in kits at a lower price point, which they will need now that the competition has gotten their systems launched.

The autofocus speed of the newer 14-42mm lens is very good.

12 comments:

  1. For someone who is contemplating buying a GF2, which of the two kit lens would you recommend? The 14mm pancake or this 14-42mm lens? Cheers.

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  2. I think most people would prefer the Lumix G 14-42mm kit zoom lens. It is more versatile than having a wide angle prime lens.

    On the other hand, the Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 pancake is very compact and light, and goes well with the GF2.

    If you want a prime lens, I think you should consider the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 pancake as well. It has a more "normal" field of view, and much better low light capabilities.

    If in doubt, I recommend that you get the 14-42mm zoom first, and then you can consider if you want to supplement with a prime lens later.

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  3. That's a great point! Get the 14-42mm kit lens, play around and see.

    I've done a bit of digging but I can't seem to find anything on your site with regards to the 17mm Olympus pancake lens. I'm seeing a great deal on craigslist right now in my area for that lens. How would you compare that with the panasonic 14mm or 20mm?

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  4. I haven't got the Olympus 17mm f/2.8 lens, and I haven't used it.

    From what I've read, it compares to the 14mm lens in that it focuses quickly. However, it is not as sharp as the 14mm and 20mm lenses. That's what people say, anyway. I'm sure it is a very adquate lens, though.

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  5. I have just purchased a GF2 with 14-42mm kit lens. I'm definitely considering the 14mm lens for it's wide angle capability, is it worth keeping the 14-42mm? Would you recommend it for other uses (such as low light, portraits...etc)? Would love to hear your other recommendations. I intend to use my GF2 mainly for traveling and outdoor activities.

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  6. I think it makes sense to keep the Lumix G 14-42mm lens. After all, it has a low resale value, and for you, the value as a light walk around zoom lens is probably higher.

    I know some people frown upon the Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit zoom lens, since it is cheap and light. But considering the price, I think it does a good job. It is a very good kit lens, I think.

    It can be used for all kinds of general photography, but perhaps not low light photography, since it has a small maximum aperture.

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  7. I got GF2 with 14mm-42mm kit lens a year ago, most of the time I put iA mode on, so glad I found your blog, full of useful information, I learned a lot from it. You did an excellent job! Really appreciate!

    So the 20mm is good for environmental portrait/indoor/low light, but slow auto-focus in video mode; 14mm is fast auto-focus/inaudible, good video mode, but incapable under low light.

    Is there a lens that compensates both weakness while keeps both goodies?

    Thanks!

    John.L

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    Replies
    1. There is a prime lens which has a good aperture, and a fast autofocus, and that is the Panasonic-Leica 25mm f/1.4. It is much larger than the pancake lenses, and more expensive.

      There is also the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8, which is fast both in terms of the large aperture size, and in terms of autofocus. But again, it is not a pancake lens, and it is more expensive.

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    2. Thanks! My Christmas shopping list has an occupant now! :D
      John.L

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    3. I highly recommend the 25mm. Before I sold my m4/3 and went over to the Fuji X series, I had a 14, 25, the kit 14-42, and a 40-150 on my gf3. Loved the 25, took pictures of tremendous quality. However, as Fredrik mentioned (on I think the post about the 14mm), the lens that I used the most was the 14 because with it, the gf3 became so pocketable. I understand neither of you have cameras that are pocketable but don't sleep on the 14, it's a great lens too.

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    4. Yes, I agree with you, the Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 is one of my favourite lenses. It is compact, good, fast.

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  8. Thanks again guys, just checked B&H prices:
    14mm $295CAD; 20mm $350; 25mm $492

    guess I will go with either 14mm or 25mm, depending on the discount percentage during the holiday season.

    Seems 14mm is more suitable for my needs: landscape, group of people, and affordable too; but its performance under low light makes me hesitate, also sometime I like to take close shot of flowers and night views too.

    Wish there existed a all-rounder perfect lens...

    John.L

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