Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Lens disappointment, Lumix G HD 14-140mm

Normally, I write the most about the lenses I like the most. I guess this is partly natural, to write about what is positive, and also reflecting my nature. But, this time, for a change, I write about a lens that has disappointed me: The Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/4-5.8.


To put it shortly, I think this lens has failed to live up to the promise: It is not very sharp, with the exception of the middle of the zoom range. Also, it does not focus faster than the other, and much cheaper, zoom lenses, nor does it operate less loudly, both of which were the claims of the "HD" branding.

The lens was originally launched in 2009, and for the first period only sold in a kit with the Panasonic GH1. It was marketed as a video optimized superzoom lens, and said to have a very quiet, accurate aperture mechanism, capable of near stepless changes. Some have said that the aperture can change in 1/6th stop steps.

It is fairly well known and agreed that the lens is dull in the long end. To further make this claim more credible, here is a comparion of the sharpness at 100mm, where significantly less expensive lenses come out much better. In this test, I am comparing the lens to the Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 and the Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 pancake lenses at 14mm, and conclude that both of the latter are significantly better. So in my experience, the 14-140mm lens only really shines in the middle of the zoom range.

When measuring the autofocus noise, the lens comes out at a fairly average level, comparable with all the other zoom lenses. Also, the aperture change noise was measured to be at a higher level than the other zoom lenses, not really any impressive. This suggests that the HD designation of the lens is rather worthless, as non-HD lenses perform as well, or even better.

The aperture range of the lens is also not so impressive, f/4-5.8. Competing superzoom lenses tend to have the aperture range f/3.5-5.6. Also, when looking at the aperture as a function of the focal length range, you'll see that it very quickly goes up to f/5.8:



Given these experiences, it is perhaps only fair that this lens is now rumoured to get a makeover. A picture of a new version of the lens has been seen. The new lens retains the same basic specifications, but is smaller, with a 58mm front lens thread. The original lens has a 62mm lens thread. The 58mm front lens thread is the same as is used on the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 and Lumix X 35-100mm f/2.8 pro spec zooms.

Since making the original 14-140mm lens, Panasonic has come a long way. The new X branded f/2.8 zooms are very good, and I am sure that with this experience, Panasonic can design a much better 14-140mm lens.

Since writing this article, the new lens has been announced, and it has the more attractive aperture range of f/3.5-5.6, in additon to being smaller and lighter. I would definitively go for the new version, if I had the choice now.



10 comments:

  1. Yes, it has many flaws. However, I love it for video. When there's enough light, it delivers beautiful, crisp images plus the zoom range is VERY handy.

    BTW where did you hear about the makeover? I haven't seen such news even on rumor sites. Thx!

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    1. I agree with you, the 14-140mm lens is plenty sharp enough for video use. And for video use, it is certainly a very fun lens.

      The rumour about the makeover turned out to be false.

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  2. I take both photos and videos. Unfortunately, I hardly use this lens anymore. I am disappointed that it does not produce sharp photos and videos. However, I should not be expecting much when the range of its focal lengths is amazing.

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  3. How do you think this lens compares with the M.Zuiko 40-150mm for photo work? On Panasonic bodies, it at least offers image stabilization, which the Oly doesn't; OTOH, it seems to be a lot heavier than the Oly, and on a GX1 that's not insignificant. Also, I've seen the Oly on sale for $99 a couple of times in the last couple of weeks, and that's a heck of a good price.

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    1. They are rather different lenses. In general, I think the Olympus 40-150mm f/4-5.6 will give you more pleasing images. But used on a Panasonic camera body, it is probably less suited for video. Since the 40-150mm f/4-5.6 has a larger aperture through the whole common focal range, it will give you more selective focus and is better for portraits.

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  4. Aww man, I was considering this lens as the perfect walkaround lens, and then I come across your post. Go figure!
    But as a casual travel photographer, I suppose that the advantage of having versatility in focal length outweighs the cons, and the image quality would probably still be acceptable. But that said, sometimes I do want shallow DOF and sharper images, so then this lens won't give what I want. I don't think I want the Olympus 40-150mm since it has no IS, and I probably want that.
    I guess I'll just have to wait for the recently announced Tamron superzoom and see how it fares? Will you be testing it when it comes out?
    Thanks for all the info on this blog, it's been extremely helpful!

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    1. It's not like the Lumix G HD 14-140mm lens is bad, it just disappoints me, considering the price.

      If a superzoom lens is what you want, and you have a Panasonic camera, then there is no alternative at the moment. As you say, the Tamron 14-150mm lens will be an alternative when it comes. I don't plan to buy it, so no review planned.

      If you also want more selective focus (larger aperture), then that is an impossible combination. You will not find a superzoom lens with a large aperture.

      For this use, you could supplement with a tele zoom lens, e.g., the Lumix G 45-200mm (budget) or the Lumix X PZ 45-175mm (premium). But then you end up switching lenses anyway.

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  5. I don't agree with the assessment that the 14-140 for video. I've used that lens exclusively for video with the GH1 and GH2 on all my Pro event shoots for the past 3 years and regard it as an exceptional lens for this usage. IOS is good, it's perfectly sharp for video thru the entire range, colour rendering is very good, doesn't veil flare, focus is accurate if you use the AE/AF lock to focus and lock aperture without using the shutter button, it has ample shallow DOF if you use the zoom and an ND to keep aperture open, rugged and in 3 years of shooting on the ocean never had salt water/air issues, it does acceptable auto aperture changes when you need it but best to lock AE/AF in most cases.

    Every video on this website shot in the last 3 years was with this lens and a GH camera.

    http://rambos-locker.blogspot.com

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    1. For video, I agree that the sharpness is good enough. The sharpness is more of an issue with still images.

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  6. Could there be differences in the make? I love my 14-140. GH1 + 14-140 is my grab and go setup if we are going outdoors. I own the 45/1.8 and 20/1.7.

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