Is the Panasonic 12-32mm an upgrade?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by Turbofrog, Feb 25, 2015.

  1. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    So my go-to lens kit is the 20mm/1.7, 14-140 (first gen), and the 7.5mm/3.5 fisheye - it's what I'm taking to the Galapagos (leaving tomorrow!) - and from a general photographic point of view, there's almost nothing I can't do with them.

    There are times, however, when I wish I had something a little wider, smaller, lighter, and optically better than the 14-140, but still with some flexibility. I've considered the f2.8 normal zooms, or the 9-18mm, but inevitably I get sticker shock, and even f2.8 is really not fast enough to make a big difference in low light, so neither could replace primes in the situations where I am most inclined to use them. With the 7.5mm, I really don't need the 9mm end of the 9-18, either.

    Enter the 12-32mm. I was immediately intrigued when the GM1 appeared, and when reviews came out suggesting that it was the best kit lens yet, my curiosity was piqued further. Used prices on GM1 kits, and even lens-only kits, continue to fall, and now that they're in the $200 range, I'm starting to consider them.

    The big question mark, then, is whether the 12-32 actually represents a real quality upgrade in its focal range over something like the 14-140? Does anyone with experience have feedback on this? Obviously it goes a bit wider (and is much shorter), but if it's not going to be any better than the 14-140 where they overlap, it might be worth putting my pennies in a jar for a future mid-range lens (a la the 4/3s "HGs") or just continue keeping my eyes peeled for a 12-35/2.8 deal somewhere when pursuing optical excellence.
  2. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    I recently bought a 12-32. It's an OK lens. Sharp enough over most of the frame for most of the zoom range. The corners lose some sharpness but at its price point that's to be expected. Its only real downside is that it's pretty slow. The aperture drops fairly quickly - e.g. at f5.1 by 25mm. However, if compact and wide is what you want and you can cope with a little softness in the corners and a fairly small max aperture, then I think it's a good buy. Here's a shot I took with it last week. You can click through to Flickr and you'll find a Hi Res version there.

    Gnarled & Whizened
    by Paul Kaye, on Flickr
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  3. TwoWheels

    TwoWheels Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 28, 2014
    British Columbia
    Real Name:
    I've been very happy with the quality of my 12-32. I'm not a pixel peeper but I've found it to be sharp enough that I never really think about it. I took it as my only lens on a couple trips where size and weight were the key considerations. Having said that, I recently bought a used 14mm and it rarely comes off of my GM1. I'm currently trying to decide which of the two to take on an upcoming backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon. Life is full of hard choices. :)
  4. budeny

    budeny Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 4, 2014
    Boulder, CO
    The strongest point of 12-32mm is its size, so if you plan to mount it to something bigger than GM, then you can also consider 12-50mm lens which goes on used market for $120-$160.
  5. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    TurboFrog you seem like a prime candidate for owning one of the original Lumix 14-45 kit zooms,
    unless you already had one and sold it.
  6. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    I had the 14-42mm plastic version 1, and it didn't particularly impress me. If I was going to get a dedicated normal zoom it would need to offer better speed, much smaller size, and/or a wider FOV than my 14-140. Hence my interest in the 12-32, or gritting my teeth, the 12-35 (though the focus clutch on the Oly 12-40 is really nice).
  7. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    The 12-35 is superb. If the size (& cost) isn't an issue then it's obviously a better choice.
  8. cptobvious

    cptobvious Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 8, 2013
    The samples I've seen from the 12-32mm look good. The only issue is right-side decentering in some copies (including in some reviews).
  9. MoonMind

    MoonMind Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 25, 2014
    Real Name:
    For your initial question, I'd say: not really - I'd expect about the same in terms of image quality as from the 14-140mm. But for small and reasonably wide, the 12-32mm is still hard to beat, and it's a joy to shoot with (if you're not into manual focus, that is). I loved mine as long as it lasted - I actually managed to break it, though it's probably not beyond repair (I slipped and fell, the camera in my hand, and the lens took a hit ...).

    Mine was nice and sharp and very quick to focus - a perfect travel lens for its focal length, and I have used it as such with good success. I also have the 12-40mm, however, and the 12-32mm simply gets nowhere near the quality this lens delivers - but if I read you right, that kind of investment is out of the question. Anyway, I'd never take my 12-40mm on the kind of trip I used the 12-32mm on, that's for sure ...

    • Informative Informative x 2
  10. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    Thanks for the first hand comparison. I suppose it was naive of me to expect that a tiny kit lens would be able to compete with the Pro zooms.

    It kind of irks me that M4/3 doesn't seem to have any true mid-range zooms. I would really happy with a compact, weathersealed f4 zoom that had a very high level of optical quality at a lower price than the f2.8 options. I don't care as much about speed as I do about sharp corners and reduced distortion (though I guess both of those are at odds with a compact size, anyway...).
  11. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    So why keep denying the sharpness of the two really sharp cheap kit zooms?
    Just because you started with the worst kit zoom in the whole lineup? = Lumix 14-42 original : worse than the collapsible Olympus kits, generated umpteen threads about blurred pictures when it was released with the G3 (maybe G2 too?)
    The proper 14-45 and the metal-skinned 14-42MkII are a whole different kettle of fish but you won't let the info into your head.
  12. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    The Panasonic 14-42 II is crazy sharp. I am coming from a DSLR where I was using $500-600 Canon 15-85 and Sigma 17-70 zooms, and this little 14-42 II kit zoom is giving me sharper pics.
  13. dissembled

    dissembled Mu-43 Veteran

    May 2, 2013
    Real Name:
    A. Quia
    A f5.1 aperture at 25mm? Yikes. No thanks. I was interested in this lens up until now.
  14. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    What would you have expected a f3.5-5.6 zoom to be at exactly mid range? Even if it was a perfect linear progression it would be f4.6 and that's only 1/3 a stop faster.

    Kit zooms are slow. That's why it is inexpensive and small and it comes with OIS.
  15. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    I did some pixel-peeping with the 12-32 this last weekend, comparing it at 12mm to the 12-35 and the 7-14; at 32mm with the 12-35; and at 25mm to the 12-35 and the Oly 25/1.8. I shot all the lenses at f5.6 to give equal DOF. Given that the other lenses were stopped down by at least 1 stop and in the case of the 25mm by 3.5 stops, I was surprised by the results....

    - At 12mm, it's indistinguishable from the other two lenses except for some very minor loss of sharpness in the far corners. There's also a tad more fringing near the edges, but that's correctable in LR. I am, quite frankly, amazed!

    - At 25mm, it's also indistinguishable from the other two lenses. Again, quite astonishing.

    - At 32mm, it's showing some softness compared to the 12-35, but it's not a massive difference.

    Overall, I'm astonished by this result and I keep going back to look at the files to convince myself I've made a mistake.
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  16. datagov

    datagov Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 2, 2012
    New York
    P1160733. honestly, any of the three zooms mentioned here - 12-32, 14-45, and 14-42ii are sharp enough for outstanding photos. The 12-40 scores MTF values between 5 and 10% greater and in every day use no one will tell the difference. I prefer primes, but find the 14-42ii so sharp, light, and easy to take along I use it a lot and I love the photos it takes. Best of all, I bought mine on ebay for $120! There is no way that a 12-40 is worth 10x the price.

    Case in point... shot with the P14-42ii @ f9
  17. Art

    Art Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 13, 2011
    San Francisco, CA
    I've been very happy with Panny 12-32. It is now my favorite kit lens, great for general daylight photography and for use with bounce flash indoors. It has similar sharpness to Panny 14-42 II but the colors and contrast are better. I also like it better than Panny 14mm because I find 12-32 has much leas purple fringing and less distortion even at 14mm. Panny 14-140 II is a great lens too but sharpness drops for distant objects and files can't take as much post-processing due to less contrast. It is not as perceptually sharp as PL25, my most used lens but the resolution is there. 12-32 is significantly and noticeably sharper than Oly 9-18 (yep, own three copies of it before giving up)
    • Informative Informative x 1
  18. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Well it's not worth any more for shooting at f/9. However when you are out of light or want some subject isolation, f2.8 can mean the shot and f5.6 means a ruined one. If you are shooting an event with lower light and you won't have time to swap primes, then an expensive f2.8 zoom is ideal. I think for an amateur, a couple of f1.8 primes and a kit zoom can be more versatile, though. I've done both at different times in my life and both have their merits.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2015
  19. timinsingapore

    timinsingapore Mu-43 Rookie

    Oct 17, 2014
    Ah ha! Gardens by the Bay, eh? That makes the Singapore weather look even more unpredictable than it is. Which is saying something.

    I have the P12-32, the P14-42ii and the P20/1.7. I bought the 12-32 secondhand on a casual whim, thinking that for travel purposes that extra 2mm on the wide end might come in useful. I didn't have very high expectations. As it turns out I am astonished by how good it is. Sure, it's too slow for much handheld low-light work, or subject separation effects, but I think it may turn out to be one of the best lens buys I have done … and I have done a few! You can get faster and sharper, but at a considerable cost in terms of price, weight and bulk. For how many of my photographs would that difference have been decisive? Not many.
  20. tjdean01

    tjdean01 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 20, 2013
    The 12-32 is fantastic. You can use it as a 12mm prime if you want for shooting wide landscapes (who needs f/2 anyway?). It's sharper than the 14/2.5.