Monday, 8 August 2011

A tale of a broken Lumix kit lens

Contrary to much of the online opinion, I think that the basic kit lens from Panasonic, the Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6, is rather good. Considering the price, the size and the weight, I think it gives a good performance. The autofocus is fast, the sharpness is generally good.

However, when evaluating the bokeh characteristics of the lens, I noticed that the out of focus highlights were non-round. This is found for some lenses, for example the Lumix Leica 45mm f/2.8 1:1 macro lens has elliptical out of focus highlight rendering outside of the centre of the frame. But I found that the Lumix G 14-42mm lens had more like potato shaped highlights.

A closer examination revealed that the aperture diaphragm was indeed misaligned, giving non-round out of focus highlights for all stopped down aperture sizes. If found this to be so bad, that I took the lens back to the shop where I bought it in the first place.

The store keeper has some problem verifying that his off the shelf lens did not exhibit the same non-round aperture. I helped him by taking a photo with the lens mounted to the Panasonic GF2 camera at f/9, 2 seconds, and removed the lens during the exposure. Looking towards the light through the lens showed that his copy had a round aperture.

So he accepted my lens as defective, and sent it for repair.

After one month, I started enquiring about the lens. I always got the same answer: "The lens is just around the corner, should be in our store the beginning of the next week."

It was not until after three months that the lens finally did arrive in the store. When I went to pick it up, I was told that they simply replaced the lens with a new one. Why let me wait for three months when they would just give me a new copy?

Coming home, I once again checked if the aperture was rounded. See for yourself, this image was taken with the Lumix Leica 45mm f/2.8 1:1 macro lens:


In fact, my new lens exhibits exactly the same problem as the one I returned in the first place. I did check that the new lens has a different serial number, so it is not the same lens that I returned.

Letting me wait three months for a new lens is bad. But giving me a new lens which has the same problem as the one I returned is simply appalling.

Epilogue

I took the lens back to the retailer again. This time, they offered to change my lens directly from their stock. We tested two lenses, and neither had completely round apertures. One was as bad as my own lens, and the other was pretty rounded. So I took the best one.

I don't expect perfectness from a lens this cheap. So I am happy with the near round aperture opening.

5 comments:

  1. Which demonstrates that Panasonic don't take Micro Four Thirds users seriously. What if you were a professional videographer using a GH2 with the 14-42 kit lens to make a living? I guess that though didn't even occur to them.

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  2. I just had a big comment typed up and I accidentally clicked a link... so... there's that. Anyway, it came down to a few main points:

    - Love your site, very helpful and informative articles relevant to my interests.
    - Recommend you make your article titles seem more personal since many of your current titles ("Lumix G 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye" for example) make me, as a long-time internet user, expect one paragraph of copy-pasted text followed by a wall of paid referral links - which is clearly not the case in reality. As a consequence I almost lost out on reading a lot of interesting stuff since my first impulse was to just close the browser tab.
    - Maybe a prominently-placed personal name or just a general location of where you live would give the blog a bit more immediate "realness". For example, instead of "This blog is a user's perspective on the Micro Four Thirds camera system" you might say "A [country of residence] camera enthusiast's experiences with the Micro Four Thirds system". Your location also helps with knowing what kind of products are available in your region, which can be relevant to comparisons. For example, the Japanese Olympus E-PL1 had a very different kit lens than in other countries from what I understand.
    - Favorite features are your diagrams explaining stuff about lenses and your direct image comparisons. Please make sure to show ALL shooting conditions on your images though, not just aperture or ISO, since these can be strongly relevant. Aperture, ISO, exposure time, time of day, camera model, and any accessories used for example. These are often found in the text, but I have a bad memory.
    - Please keep up the good work!

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  3. Thank you so much for your comments, Nalor.

    You make many good points. My style so far has been to focus on the contents, and not on my person. So I prefer to keep it to the point, rather than too personal. You are certainly right that it could have been more "lively" by being more personal.

    Also, your comment about the titles is very good. They could certainly be more spicy. Again, I think the titles are a consequence of my low key approach.

    I tend to think that if I deliver consistent quality, the readers will come. And I don't have a hurry.

    You've made very good comments, and they will change my style a bit going forward.

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  4. First, great blog. I enjoy reading your articles and insights.

    Your experience with Panasonic's repair service is similar to one I had. My 20mm lens started behaving strangely doing a lot of focus hunting. I sent it in to be repaired.

    After three months of waiting I started calling them daily. After another month of "It's next in line to be looked at" I finally got a new lens shipped to me.

    Luckily the new lens works as it should, but the whole process left a bad taste in my mouth. I understand they need to review the returned lens to verify it wasn't abused, but why does that take 4 months?

    I have the GF-1 and the 20mm lens and I like them both, but I'm not sure I'll be buying more Panasonic lenses (or cameras) after my experience.

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  5. In all fairness, it must be said that I returned the lens to the dealer, and not to Panasonic. It is the dealer's responsibility to do the repair or replacement.

    Of course, it is in Panasonic's interest that this is handled in a good way. But it's not technically Panasonic's responsibility.

    All in all, I would certainly buy Panasonic products again, and I think it is rather probable that I do so. Perhaps I am just a fanboi ...

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