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:
|Lens||Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/4-5.8||Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6|
|Announced||Mar 3, 2009||Apr 24, 2013|
|Maximum magnification||0.2 x||0.25 x|
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.
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/4||14-140mm 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/5.8||14-140mm 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.
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.