Wednesday, 7 August 2013

New 14-140mm: Smaller, faster, sharper

Since writing this first impressions article, I have made a more thorough review. Most likely, this is what you want to read.

When I first bought into Micro Four Thirds, it was with the GH1 and the kit zoom lens, the Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/4-5.8. At first, I was thrilled with the superzoom lens, my first, and it was also a lot better than the previous Pentax lenses that I used. However, after some time, I was quite disappointed with it, since it is not very sharp in the short and long ends, and it is very large and heavy. So it mostly sat unused.

It was not surprising for me, then, that Panasonic announced a new, revised version of the lens called Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6. Then new lens comes at a smaller size, it is lighter, and has a faster aperture range. It even has a lower list price than the old version. So, I was very curious to see how they compare.

They are shown below, with the new version to the right:



LensLumix G HD 14-140mm f/4-5.8Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6
AnnouncedMar 3, 2009Apr 24, 2013
Weight460g265g
Diameter70mm67mm
Length84mm75mm
Filter thread62mm58mm
Minimum focus0.5m0.3m
Maximum magnification0.2 x0.25 x
Lens elements/groups17/1314/12
Product codeH-VS014140H-FS014140



Aperture range


With the smaller size, one might expect that the new lens more quickly stops down the aperture as you zoom in. That is how Panasonic have been shrinking their lenses lately. However, I was surprised to see that it is the other way around:



From the diagram, we see that both lenses reduce the aperture as you zoom in from wide to tele. But the old lens stops down more quickly, reaching f/5.8 already at 70mm. The new lens, on the other hand, does not reach f/5.6 until quite close to the longest focal length.

Sharpness


Let's look at the sharpness then. Based on my previous experience with the old lens, I know that it is worst in the short and long end. So I test them at those zoom positions. Here is a comparison at 14mm. (Click for larger images)

14-140mm f/4-5.8 @ 14mm f/414-140mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 14mm f/3.5

To better evaluate the sharpness, here are 100% crops from the centre:



And from the top left corner:



At 14mm, they are fairly similar. But I think the new lens has better sharpness, and better contrast. There is not a huge difference, but I generally feel more confident with the images coming from the new lens.

Let's see how they compare at 140mm:

14-140mm f/4-5.8 @ 140mm f/5.814-140mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 140mm f/5.6

Here is a comparison from the centre:



And from the top right corner:



At 140mm, there is a significant difference between the two lenses. The new lens clearly has better resolution, both in the centre and in the corner.

Conclusion


While the new lens is certainly not perfect in terms of sharpness in the short and long end of the zoom range, it improves noticeably on the predecessor. Especially in the long, tele end, where the old lens had the most image quality problems. To achieve this while also offering a faster aperture range, and a significantly lighter and smaller lens, is amazing. This shows how much experience Panasonic have gained in lens design over the recent years.

The improved sharpness, and the more compact form factor makes the new lens much more useful as a walk around lens, just as the original was intended to be.



15 comments:

  1. Would the age (or use) of the old lens have its influence as well?

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    Replies
    1. I don't think that is an issue here. The older of the lenses has not been used a lot.

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  2. In terms of better IQ would you say its up par to the 14-42 II or 14-45? or at least to the new oly 14-42 kit?

    I'm looking for a travel lens and will be looking for having a decent IQ on my travel photos, without changing everytime the lenses, for example in a tour would be not possible.
    Note: will be using the e-pl5 as the body.
    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. I haven't tried any of those lenses, so I cannot tell. I would expect, though, that pretty much all of them beat the 14-140mm in the 14-42mm range.

      My experience with the Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, is that it is sharper than the original 14-140mm at 14mm. Compared with the new 14-140mm, I would guess the 14-42mm still comes out a tad bit better, but the gap may be smaller.

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  3. First of all, thank you for your Blog containing very valuable information. I was able to agree to many of your findings based on my own gear.

    However, I tested a 14-140 II part of a G6 kit and I had different results compared to my old trusty 14-140 which I bought together with a GH1 in 2009 as well. My 14-140 is much sharper at the corners at the short end (14mm). I had to use at least f 5.6 on the 14-140 II to achieve comparable results compared to the old 14-140 at f 4.0.
    I can confirm, that my old 14-140 has slightly less sharpness and contrast at the long end.
    There seem to be significant differences depending on production charges. Very bad.
    Last but not least, the increased weight of the old lens seems to have advantages in video mode. My Video recordings were more stable using the old lens. Additionally, the new lens seems to be more prone to shutter shock, wenn used on GH1 or GH2 bodies. I got more sharp pictures in the 1/100-1/200 sek range using the old lens.

    I decided to keep my old lens, even more as it currently gets only low prices on ebay auctions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comments, I think this is interesting. Out of all my lenses, zoom and prime, that feature 14mm, I've found that the original 14-140mm lens was the worst at 14mm. So it seems that you may have been more lucky with your copy of the 14-140mm version 1 at 14mm.

      I agree that the handling of the old lens is better than the new. The old one has a rubber zoom grip, and a better dampened zoom ring. And the weight adds some stability, no doubt about it.

      Overall, my feeling so far is that the new one is superior in terms of image quality, but I will be doing more testing in the weeks to come to investigate this.

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  4. Wow, even on a thumbnail the difference in the chimney shot is obvious. Thank you for your review.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, at 140mm, the improvement of the new lens is very clear. At 14mm it is still a bit undecided. I plan to make a more thorough test and review later.

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  5. Thanks for the review!
    You could photograph a brick wall, text, notes (pictures of leaves are not suitable for comparison)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I am planning to make more comparisons in a proper review later.

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  6. I have the new 14-140mm on a Panasonic G6. I'm deeply in love with the combination. Although I have some other lenses, this one rarely leaves the camera.

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    Replies
    1. I'm liking it more and more too. I think it will replace the Lumix X 45-175mm as my walk around lens. The Lumix X 45-175mm is probably better in terms of image quality, but the 14-140mm is more versatile.

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  7. Very useful info. I had been looking for a comparison between these two lenses and found it here... Thank you!

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  8. Great, the review I was looking for!

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  9. Great, the review I was looking for!

    ReplyDelete