Tuesday, 29 January 2013

New Panasonic kit zoom lens

Today, a new Panasonic Lumix kit zoom lens was announced. This doesn't look like a very interesting lens for seasoned Micro Four Thirds users, as it has the rather boring specifications 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6. Panasonic has already released three lenses with similar specifications, so why make one more?

Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 released in 2013

Here are two of the previous lenses:


Lumix LensG 14-45mmG 14-42mmX PZ 14-42mmG 14-42 II
Year released2008201020112013
Diameter60mm61mm61mm56mm
Length60mm64mm27mm49mm
Weight195g165g95g110g
Filter thread52mm52mm37mm46mm
Front lens diameter*45mm30mm21mm25mm

*) The front lens diameter is not stated in the lens specifications, but is based on my own measurements, supplemented with inspections of product photos.

I'm guessing that the new lens will replace the 2010 Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit zoom lens. It makes no sense to replace the Lumix X PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 pancake lens, since Panasonic needs this one to compete with a similar lens from the Sony NEX system, the Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 pancake zoom lens.

When looking at this table, it is quite clear why Panasonic is replacing the 2010 zoom lens. The new lens is smaller, and lighter. It probably uses a plastic lens mount, which I see as no problem for such a small lens.

The compactness is an important selling argument for Micro Four Thirds lenses. With smaller and smaller competitors, Panasonic must step up and make even smaller stuff, to stay competitive. The old kit zoom lens was not as compact, and hence, not attractive enough for the market.

The new lens appears to be the type which is the most compact at the centre of the zoom range, unlike the older Lumix G 14-42mm, but like APS-C tele zoom lenses.

Another observation is that the front lens element is smaller than that of the 2010 14-42mm lens, but larger than that of the pancake powerzoom 14-42mm lens. The pancake zoom lens achieves the small front lens element by sacrificing aperture speed in the middle of the zoom focal range. Here is a diagram illustrating the aperture as a function of the focal length for the two lenses:


The Lumix X PZ 45-175mm also achieves a smaller front lens element in the same way. Read about it here. With this in mind, I'm guessing the new lens will have an aperture range somewhere between the two lenses above. One could say that this is a form of cheating: Panasonic achieves a more compact lens by lessening the specifications in a way which is not visible in the lens name: The aperture end points are still f/3.5-5.6.

As for the finish of the new lens, it has the new glossy appearance. I'm not too happy with this, as I prefer lenses to be matte and non-obtrusive. But it appears that glossy is what the market demands at this time.

Other lens news


Incidentally, other lens news also fall into the same category: Remakes of existing lenses.

Olympus has launched an updated version of the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 75-300mm f4.8-6.7. The new version has a new design, better matching the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, and also a new lens coating. But the lens is essentially the same. The good news, though, is that the price has decreased significantly.

Olympus M.Zuiko ED 75-300mm f4.8-6.7 II Lens

Sigma has updated their Micro Four Thirds prime lenses. The new lenses appear to have exactly the same optical design, but have a new lens barrel design. In what appears to be a strange design choice, the ribbed plastic focus ring of the original lenses has been replaced with smooth metal rings. From an ergonomic point of view, it is hard to see how this is good news. I'm guessing this was done to make the lenses look more expensive, and to motivate a higher retail price. They are part of Sigma's "Art" line of lenses.





Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN updated




Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN updated

Sigma also launched a new lens, the Sigma 60mm f/2.8 EX DN. This lens is a completely new design, and unlike the Olympus lens with similar focal length and aperture, this one is not a macro lens:

Sigma 60mm f/2.8 EX DN

3 comments:

  1. One thing I like about the 14-42 HD kit lens is that when fully retracted, it sits at the 25mm focal length. So you turn to the right for a wider angle or left for a longer length. The old lens fully retracted sat at the 14mm focal length and you then turned it up until you found the right length, all a bit cumbersome!

    ReplyDelete
  2. When I visited the dealer the on-show unit of the 14-42 II lens had plastic mounts. But the unit I bought had a metal mount! Are the different mounts for the lens supplied as a kit vs supplied as a separate item? Also, there was no lens bag, a first for my Panasonic purchases.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you get the lens as part of a kit (camera + lens), then the lens has a plastic mount. On the other hand, lenses sold stand alone tend to have a metal bayonet mount.

      I wouldn't care much about this. From my point of view, I think that a plastic bayonet is a good choice for a small and light lens like this.

      Delete