Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 review

The Panasonic Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 is a premium standard zoom lens. It was released in 2012, but obviously intended as the kit lens for the high end GH3 camera released later the same year. The lens is show below, together the with basic Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit zoom lens:


Appearance


The Panasonic lenses now come in four distinct looks: There are the basic lenses, with the matte appearance and grey ring close to the camera. Then, we have the Leica-branded lenses, which are matte black, without the grey ring.

The two Lumix X branded powerzoom lenses, Lumix X PZ 14-42mm and Lumix X PZ 45-175mm, which have a glossy black finish.

Finally, in 2012, we got the two f/2.8 zoom lenses, with the premium metal finish. The lens barrel is made of anodized metal with a purple-ish colour. This leaves me a bit unhappy. The lens barrel has two functions, in my opinion: To be solid, and to provide a good grip. With the latter in mind, why make it out of glossy metal? Other manufacturers go for a matte crinkle finish, which I think is better.

While the two kit zoom lenses above look similar, they are in fact very different. The Lumix G 14-42mm basic kit lens has a plastic lens mount, and is a very light lens. The Lumix X 12-35mm lens has an OIS switch on the barrel, and is much more heavy.

In use


The zoom ring on the Lumix G 14-42mm basic kit lens is plastic, and feels a bit sticky when I rotate it. The Lumix X 12-35mm lens, on the other hand, has a rubberised zoom ring, which is very smooth to rotate, and well dampened. Even without a power zoom function, it is possible to zoom very smoothly during video using this lens, due to the well dampened zoom ring.

The lens comes with a hood in the box. The hood is well designed, and I certainly recommend using it. The only downside is that the ends are very rounded, meaning that you cannot safely put it upside down on a table.


The focus ring is not rubberised, which is perhaps a bit of a disappointment. But using the focus ring still works quite well. Just like the zoom ring, it has a very smooth and nice damping, even if it doesn't directly control the focus. Just like the majority of the Micro Four Thirds lenses, the manual focus is "by wire".

Autofocus speed


I've tested the two kit zoom lenses on the Panasonic GH3 in the same conditions:



With both lenses at 35mm, the camera spent 0.225s focusing with the Lumix X 12-35mm lens, and 0.298s with the Lumix G 14-42mm lens. Here is another test, showing that the focus speed is even quicker at 12mm, which is quite common for the kit zoom lenses.

In general, this lens focuses very quickly and virtually inaudibly. This is what one would expect from a premium lens like this.

Sharpness


I made a sharpness comparison at close focus distance, comparing the lens with the Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 pancake, and the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN. The tests were not entirely perfectly made, but they still show that the Lumix X 12-35mm has very good results in terms of sharpness. It is more prone to flare with strong light sources in the frame, though.

Here is another sharpness comparison with the Lumix G 14-42mm lens at infinity focus distance:

At 14mm


Here are the full images:



Lumix G 14-42mm @ 14mm f/3.5 Lumix X 12-35mm @ 14mm f/2.8

To evaluate the image quality, here are 100% crops from the top left corner:


Here, we see that the Lumix X 12-35mm lens is the sharpest, even at f/2.8, wide open. The corner sharpness is very good.

At 35mm


Here are the full images, taken at wide open:



Lumix G 14-42mm @ 35mm f/5.2 Lumix X 12-35mm @ 35mm f/2.8

From the top left corner, I took these 100% crops:


Here we see that the Lumix X 12-35mm lens is a tad bit soft at f/2.8, but becomes very sharp at f/4.

Bokeh


You can find some out of focus rendering (bokeh) for the Lumix X 12-35mm lens here.

Here are some example images taken at close focus distance, so you can see how the out of focus rendering is. Click on the images to enlarge them:



Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 @ f/2.8 Lumix X 12-35mm @ 14mm f/2.8

Here are some 100% crops from the centre using both lenses:


We see that the Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 has somewhat non-circular bokeh outside of the centre of the image frame. The Lumix X 12-35mm lens gives you more smooth out of focus rendering here.

And at 30mm:



Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN @ f/2.8 Lumix X 12-35mm @ 30mm f/2.8

And centre crops from both lenses:


In this comparison, we again see that the Lumix X 12-35mm lens renders the out of focus background the nicest. The Sigma 30mm EX DN lens renders the out of focus highlights with somewhat hard edges and ringing, making the background look more busy. The Lumix X 12-35mm lens gives much more smooth background.

Geometric distortion correction


Like most Micro Four Thirds lenses, this lens also uses in-camera software corrections to give rectilinear images. In the wide end, the lens natively has some heavy barrel distortion, which is corrected. In the long end, there is no geometric distortion correction at all. Read more about it here.

Even after the software distortion correction, there is some residual barrel distortion in the wide end, and some pincushion distortion in the long end, especially at short focus distance. This is a bit disappointing.

Here is an example image illustrating the barrel distortion at 12mm:


I put an orange ruler into the image, to make it easier to see barrel distortion. This was taken at infinity focus. At closer focus, there is even more barrel distortion.

Here's an example at 35mm as well, showing the pincushion distortion:




Example images


This image was taken at 26mm, f/4, ISO 200, 1/60s with the GH3:


This image was taken at 12mm, f/3.5, ISO 200, 1/200s with the GH3:


And some 100% crops from the image:


Example video


This video was recorded with the Panasonic GH3 camera, at f/2.8, in a dimly lit location, handheld:



Conclusion


This is a very good performing lens, with few flaws. It is probably the best lens I have ever used. However, it comes at a rather steep price.

If you want to pay the price, you get a very good lens.


8 comments:

  1. How is the problems reported with the changing Aperture when Zooming during video-shoot? I think one describes it as a flicker that comes from that there is some automatic process that alerts aperture when Zooming. The 14 - 140 for instance don't have this problem.

    Best

    Leif Mohlin

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    Replies
    1. So far, I have only used the lens wide open for video, and not experienced the problem you mention while zooming. I'll try later with a smaller aperture, to see if that makes any difference.

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    2. I tried again today. I used the A-mode (at f/5.6) and P mode while recording video, and zooming. I did not note any flicker coming from aperture change. I also tried to set ISO 6400 in P mode, to force the camera to set a smaller aperture in bright light, but again, no flicker while zooming.

      When pointing the camera towards the sun and not video recording, I did note the flicker, though. This is normal: The camera stops down the lens for optimal live view when it is very bright.

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  2. This lens 12-34 lens or the leica 25 mm ?

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  3. i have the 14-140mm lens which i love for my video work, but i was always curious of getting the 12-35mm. now that im ordering the gh4 and theres a kit with that lens im thinking about it again. but i gotta say: half a stop is not that much when zoomed out and 1,5 stops isnt a huge difference at 35mm.

    is there any real other advantage over the 14-140mm if i isnt for more light?

    im thinking of rather buying the sigma 18-35mm 1,8 with a lens turbo. same money as the lumix but 12-25mm 1,2 sounds really dope. what do you think of that?

    oh i mostly do video, i have to add.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have both the 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6, and the 12-35mm f/2.8 lenses. They are about the same size. The 12-35mm lens weights a bit more, but not much.

      Beyond the speed, the 12-35mm lens also has weather protection. Your GH4 is also weather protected, so they make a nice pair. Also, the 12-35mm lens has better wide angle, which could come in handy with the 4K video from the GH4, as the GH4 crops a bit in 4K.

      I mostly use the 14-140mm lens, as it is more flexible. Only when I know I will be out in the darkness or in a dimly lit room, I would grab the 12-35mm lens.

      The 12-35mm lens is probably slightly better optically, but for video use, both are more than sharp enough.

      I haven't used the 18-35mm f/1.8. Personally, I like to have autofocus and automatic aperture handling, which you lose on the Sigma lens. For me, using an adapted lens is just too much of a hassle. And the Sigma will be much larger and heavier.

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    2. thanks for your thoughts :)

      yeah, it really comes down to what youre doing with it. since my camera will be mostly on a tripod, i dont mind the weight or size. i would only use the sigma setup for commercial shots, for which im using manual focus either way. so this really might be a better setup than the 12-35mm

      if you have some spare time and both of the GH cameras at hand, i would love to see some more comparison shots between the 3 and 4. gh3 1080p vs gh4 1080p vs gh4 4k downscaled but with the same view of field as the others were. as well as high iso comparisons between these 3 setups.

      thanks again.

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