Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 released in 2013
Here are two of the previous lenses:
|Lumix Lens||G 14-45mm||G 14-42mm||X PZ 14-42mm||G 14-42 II|
|Front lens diameter*||45mm||30mm||21mm||25mm|
*) 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