Sunday, 9 March 2014

Comparison @ 12mm

The launch of the Lumix GM1 compact M4/3 camera also brought the collapsible wide zoom lens, the Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Mega O.I.S. It is seen below to the left in the extended position, together with the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 and Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 (Four Thirds lens with adapter):

The Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 is designed with a form factor to fit the new Lumix GM1 compact camera. It has a clean, smooth look, and is one of the few lenses which is small enough to go flush with the very low GM1 camera body.

The Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 is Panasonic's answer to the classic standard pro zoom lens. It is very compact for a lens of this class, and performs excellent. It is probably the best lens I have ever used.

The third lens above, the Olympus Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6 is a Four Thirds lens, designed not for mirrorless cameras, but for DSLR cameras. Hence, it requires an adapter, and is not really relevant anymore. For use on a Micro Four Thirds camera, it has been obsoleted by the Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm f/4-5.6, which is much more compact.

LensLumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8
Lens elements/groups8/714/9
Aperture diaphragm blades77
Minimum focus0.2m0.25m
Length24mm (not extended)74mm
Filter thread37mm58mm
Hood includedNoYes, well designed
Optical image stabilisationYesYes

The new 12-32mm lens is remarkably compact. The addition of a compact, light and affordable wide angle zoom lens is good news. It is what I have been waiting for a long time.

It is not very wide, of course, but 24mm equivalent is quite decent. But how does it fare, quality wise, at 12mm? Here is a comparison at 12mm with the three lenses.

I took the images using the Lumix GM1 on a tripod, at ISO 200. The focus was done with autofocus, on the trees in the foreground:

Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 @ 12mm f/2.8

Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 @ 12mm f/4.3

To better compare the images, I have compiled 100% crops from the centre of the images at various apertures:

What we see here is not surprising at all. The Lumix X 12-35mm performs the best. After all, it is also the most expensive of the lenses, and is highly acclaimed. Already at f/2.8, it is remarkably sharp in the centre.

The Olympus lens has a maximum aperture of f/4.3 at 12mm focal length. It, too, does very well here.

The Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 performs the worst, which is, perhaps, again not surprising. It is the cheapest and most compact of the three, after all. It is rather dull at f/3.5, but sharpens up sufficiently at f/5.6. It also appears to handle the high contrast the worst of the three lenses. The sky is very bright compared with the foreground, which appears to "bleed" into the trees and twigs. The other lenses handle this better.

Some rumours say that some of the 12-32mm lenses have a defect which make them dull in the right side. So it makes sense for me to look more closely at that part of the images. Here are 100% crops from the upper right side:

I don't think my lens has this rumoured problem with blurry right side. We see that the 12-32mm lens handles the high contrast poorly, just like in the centre. But otherwise, it does well in terms of sharpness.

To illustrate that it is the high contrast which causes the problems with the 12-32mm lens, I have taken another series in lower contrast. Here are the full images:

Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 @ 12mm f/2.8

Looking at the centre crops, we see that pretty much all of them are fine. One can see that at f/3.5, the Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 is a bit dull. But this is hardly a problem.

In the lower left corner, we see more dullness at f/3.5 with the 12-32mm lens at 12mm. But it sharpens up fairly soon, and at f/5.6, it is rather impressive for a compact kit zoom lens.

We also see that the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 has a truly impressive performance.


The Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Mega O.I.S. lens is generally getting high praises on the internet these days. I think my test shows that it is hardly a miracle lens, the performance is not perfect. Still, considering the size and weight, I am happy with the performance.

My first test scene was probably a bit challenging, with the high contrast. In a normal, low contrast scene, it does better.

While the results can be seen as a bit disappointing, I am not concerned about this. I think the performance is still very good, and I will continue to use the lens, due to the very handy size. It is worth noting that you may experience sub-optimal performance in high contrast situation, e.g., with strong backlight or during night time.

Here is another example image taken with the Lumix G 12-32mm taken at 12mm f/5.6, 1/320s:


And 100% crops from the image:

I think this is perfectly fine performance, and I am looking forward to continuing to use this lens. To be honest, my biggest concern with the 12-32mm lens is the lack of ergonomics: The lens barrel is very smooth and lacks any gripping surfaces, making it awkward to mount and to handle. This appears to be a side effect of the current consumer electronics trend: All objects must have a smooth metal surface. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this trend to disappear soon.


  1. Hey, about the blurry right side - where I've seen it's been in the right side / middle (not upper corner).

    1. Ok, in my example image from the construction site, there is a 100% crop from the middle right side. It does perhaps look a tad bit more dull, but not enough to have me worried.

  2. Good and objective review. It is clear that considering size and price, the 12-32mm can't compete with the 12-35mm f2.8. But it is still a great lens to have as a walk around and if you are not a pixel peeper it is very acceptable. I do use it a lot and am very happy with it.

  3. Wish you could add the Oly 12-40 to this interesting comparison.

  4. Good and objective review. It is clear that considering size and price, the 12-32mm can't compete with the 12-35mm f2.8. But it is still a great lens to have as a walk around and if you are not a pixel peeper it is very acceptable. I do use it a lot and am very happy with it.

  5. in fact, the old 9-18 wins. My m43 9-18 is excellent throughout the range too. I have noticed that my 12-35 is subject to flare a bit. like you, I am not hysterical that the 12-32 can't match its generally excellent performance -- it makes a great walk around lens on either the GM1 or the G6.

    Cheers, geoff

  6. Awesome comparisson. I was considering buying the GM1 kit just for the lens but this has made me stop. Going to compare the 12-35 to the Samayang 10 and 12mm lenses next instead. Will probably end up with the 12-35 though as everyone seems to love it.

  7. Just found the 9-18mm Olympus which seems perfect. Mid range price at around $600 (or half that ish on ebay), great reviews, can add ND filter, wider than other non-fisheye options except the 7-14 Panasonic (which costs much more and can't take filters easily). Nice to have the zoom range too rather than a Samayang prime (plus the 10mm is massive). Will keep with the good old 14-45mm Panasonic for a nice range. Plus a couple of vintage Pentax K lenses for telephoto.