Kit zoom comparison

DeeJayK

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With the recent introduction of the Panasonic 14-42 Lumix G Vario II, which is the new kit lens to be released with the GF6, we now have 7 kit zooms in the :43: mount. Of these five cover the 14-42mm range, one covers 14-45 and the final one covers 12-50. The 12-50 is an obvious outlier due to its wider range, its size (being nearly 20cm longer than the next largest option), its 1:3 macro ability and the fact that it is the only weather sealed option. The other six are relatively comparable.

Here's an image of the six 14-4x zooms that gives an idea of their relative sizes (I didn't include the 12-50 here because I wasn't able to find an image that was scaled with the rest):
Kit_zoom_comparison_2_1024.jpg
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And here's a comparison chart that breaks down the specs of all seven lenses:
KitZoomComparison_all_1024.jpg
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Which of these lenses is "best"? In terms of performance (sharpness, chromatic aberration, distortion, etc.) not a lot separates all these lenses from the reports I have reviewed. The Panasonic 14-42 PZ might be the best performer objectively according to the tests I have seen.

My personal speculation is the the new Panasonic 14-42 mk II has a similar optical design to the PZ with the removal of the auto-collapsing feature and the addition of zoom and focus rings, so I would expect it to perform similarly. Note that this is based purely on my speculation, I have not yet seen any tests of the new lens.

In terms of ergonomics, the two Olympus lenses feature a collapsing design -- they must be manually extended prior to shooting. The Panasonic 14-42 PZ also collapses, but it extends automatically when the camera is powered on. The PZ also differs from the others in that it lacks zoom and focus rings -- zooming and manual focusing is accomplished via power assisted levers on the side of the lens. It is also the only lens on which zoom can be controlled via the camera with certain bodies.

The Panasonic 14-45 differs from the 14-42 mk I (aside from a slightly longer zoom) in that it has a metal mount and is considered to have a superior "build quality" to the others. It is also the only kit zoom with an OIS switch, which means it's the only one on which OIS can be enabled on an Olympus body, for whatever that is worth. EDIT: The addition of the "Lens I.S. Priority" option in the E-PL5/E-PM2 allows the cameras to disable the IBIS and utilize the lens OIS in any lens so equipped (regardless of whether the lens has an OIS switch). With any of the older Olympus cameras (including the OM-D), the P14-45 is the only kit zoom which can utilize lens OIS (instead of IBIS).

It's worth noting that the Olympus lenses lack OIS, so this is a consideration for those shooting with Panasonic bodies (the Olympus bodies all have in-body stabilization). In a similar vein, the Panasonic lenses exhibit some defects which are auto-corrected by the Panasonic bodies. If you shoot with Panasonic lenses using an Olympus body, you will not get the benefit of these corrections.

Please share your impressions of the kit zooms. What have I missed or gotten wrong?
 

buhfie

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My personal speculation is the the new Panasonic 14-42 mk II has a similar optical design to the PZ with the removal of the auto-collapsing feature and the addition of zoom and focus rings, so I would expect it to perform similarly. Note that this is based purely on my speculation, I have not yet seen any tests of the new lens.

Here is one.

DxOMark - Comparisons


From their results it appears that the mk II outperforms the PZ.
 

juangrande

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Of them all, the 14-45 has a mystique. I had one. It is a sharp kit.
 

teddoman

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As someone who doesn't own one of the zooms, but considering one, I have wondered about this. I've heard good things about the 14-45 as the best Panny zoom but have not read comparisons to the 12-50.
 

juangrande

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Find the thread " From where I live". Those are from the 14-45. The 12-50, I had for 4 days and was not impressed. It's nice to have 12mm and macro, though.
 

DeeJayK

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As someone who doesn't own one of the zooms, but considering one, I have wondered about this. I've heard good things about the 14-45 as the best Panny zoom but have not read comparisons to the 12-50.

I hesitated even to include the 12-50 to this list as it really is such a different beast than the others. It has more reach on both ends (which is most significant on the wide end IMO), it's weather-sealed, it includes the 1:3 "macro" trick and it's significantly bigger than the 14-4x's.

As far as which zoom is "best", I haven't yet come across a single entity that has tested all of them either together or separately. If you have a Panasonic body, I'd give a strong edge to the Panasonic zooms so that you can take advantage of the OIS.

DXOMark has tested the P14-42 PZ, P14-42 (II) and the O12-50. The P14-42(II) scored highest, particularly in terms of sharpness and CA.

Photozone has tested the P14-45, P14-42(I), P14-42 PZ and the O14-42(I). In analyzing their results the P14-42 PZ is probably the best of the bunch in terms of resolution (sharpness) although the O14-42(I) performs best in terms of vignetting and CA. The P14-45 definitely outperforms the P14-42(I).

SLRGear has tested all but the new P14-42 (II). Again, the P14-42 PZ was at least arguably their best performer. They also judge the P14-45 at least slightly ahead of the P14-42(I). They confirm the superiority of the O14-42(II) to the O14-42(I) and judge it's performance nearly equal to the O12-50 which seems to be a close second to the P14-42PZ.

Taking all of this, I think that my best guess at a ranking for all of the various kit zooms (putting aside any differences in packaging, usability, price, etc.) goes something like:
  1. P14-42 (II)
  2. P14-42 PZ
  3. O12-50
  4. O14-42 (II)
  5. P14-45
  6. O14-42 (I)
  7. P14-42 (I)
 

Cruzan80

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I am just suprised at this, at least coming from all of the people who seem to dislike the PZ 14-42. Goes to show that tests aren't everything.
 

teddoman

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Don't mean to drop a bomb on this thread, but how does shutter shock affect these zoom lens reviews and also people's perceptions of the different zoom lenses? It's possible these were reviewed by professional reviewers by using shutter speeds outside the shutter shock danger zone.

As I recall from my early research on m4/3, shutter shock was prevalent with the kit 14-42 zoom that came with the GX1 when it first came out. Do all the zooms have shutter shock equally so it's not really a differentiator?

I hesitated even to include the 12-50 to this list as it really is such a different beast than the others. It has more reach on both ends (which is most significant on the wide end IMO), it's weather-sealed, it includes the 1:3 "macro" trick and it's significantly bigger than the 14-4x's.
For all those reasons, the 12-50 got my attention. Purely spec-wise, I love the added focal range, particularly at the wide end, macro, and weather sealing is a bonus. For that, I might just try to get away with no stabilization and use it as more of a day lens by running it at higher shutter speeds. But again, these are all subject to overall lens image quality.
 

DeeJayK

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I am just suprised at this, at least coming from all of the people who seem to dislike the PZ 14-42. Goes to show that tests aren't everything.

Good reminder. I meant to point out that there have been some tests of the P14-42 PZ which indicated that the lens suffers (suffered?) from some relatively severe blurriness issues at the long end of its zoom range. These issues seemed to be limited to a particular range of shutter speeds (1/60 - 1/200 second) which tended to point the finger at vibration/OIS issues. It's unclear to me whether this issue (which was reported shortly after the PZ came out) has been addressed by Panasonic, because many of the reviews of this lens fail to mention it. I can't tell if that's simply due to the differences in the test methodologies of the various tester or whether this issue was limited to early examples of the lens. If anyone has anything more definitive about this issue, I'd love to see it.

Is that the particular issue with the 14-42 PZ you are referring to? Or are there other concerns about this lens that have been raised?
 

DeeJayK

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Don't mean to drop a bomb on this thread, but how does shutter shock affect these zoom lens reviews and also people's perceptions of the different zoom lenses? It's possible these were reviewed by professional reviewers by using shutter speeds outside the shutter shock danger zone.

As I recall from my early research on m4/3, shutter shock was prevalent with the kit 14-42 zoom that came with the GX1 when it first came out. Do all the zooms have shutter shock equally so it's not really a differentiator?

Can you expound on what you mean by "shutter shock"? Is this a term used to describe the blurriness experienced by many users at the long end of the 14-42 PZ lens?
 

Biro

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I still have the Lumix 14-45mm that came with my original G1. A great kit lens; very sharp with effective image stabilization. No issues that I can find other than that it's not a really fast lens.

Also, people can say what they will about the Oly Zuiko 14-42. But I've seen some really nice images from both the Mark I and Mark II editions.
 

teddoman

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Can you expound on what you mean by "shutter shock"? Is this a term used to describe the blurriness experienced by many users at the long end of the 14-42 PZ lens?
Yes, 1/60 - 1/200 sounds about right for the shutter speed danger zone that the "shutter shock" issue typically refers to. Basically, my understanding is certain bodies when combined with certain lenses would get blurred photos. It's not the lens per se or the body per se. It's the vibration of a specific body's shutter, plus whatever happens in the lens acting together that result in blurred photos.

I believe Panasonic made some firmware adjustments at the time which helped, but didn't eliminate, the issue.
 

dhazeghi

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Yes, 1/60 - 1/200 sounds about right for the shutter speed danger zone that the "shutter shock" issue typically refers to. Basically, my understanding is certain bodies when combined with certain lenses would get blurred photos. It's not the lens per se or the body per se. It's the vibration of a specific body's shutter, plus whatever happens in the lens acting together that result in blurred photos.

I believe Panasonic made some firmware adjustments at the time which helped, but didn't eliminate, the issue.

The firmware helped on the 45-175X. It didn't really make a difference on the 14-42X. You can tell that the shutter is the cause of the problem because the problem largely disappears if you enable the electronic shutter on the G5 or GH3. Unfortunately, most m4/3 cameras don't have that option.
 

DeeJayK

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I still have the Lumix 14-15 that came with my original G1.
That's the narrowest range zoom I've ever heard of. Sort of a zoom/prime. [Sorry, couldn't resist being a smartass.] :rolleyes:

A great kit lens; very sharp with effective image stabilization. No issues that I can find other than that it's not a really fast lens.

Also, people can say what they will about the Oly Zuiko 14-42. But I've seen some really nice images from both the Mark I and Mark II editions.
ALL of these lenses are definitely capable of producing nice images, and the differences in quality between them are relatively small. There's almost certainly a larger difference in terms of overall quality between even the "best" of these kit zooms and the "worst" of the primes than there is between any two of these zooms.
 

DeeJayK

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The firmware helped on the 45-175X. It didn't really make a difference on the 14-42X. You can tell that the shutter is the cause of the problem because the problem largely disappears if you enable the electronic shutter on the G5 or GH3. Unfortunately, most m4/3 cameras don't have that option.

Dara, as far as you know is this issue limited to the PZ lenses? Or do any other lenses exhibit this "shutter shock"?

Is it caused by something inherent in the power zoom design?
 

Steven

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Question about Panasonic OIS on Olympus - doesn't the lens communicate with the body to help the body come up with optimal shutter speed etc. If that is what happens on Pana bodies , it can't possibly be happening on Olympus because the body software is different. Does anyone know how this works? Thanks.
 

mattia

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Question about Panasonic OIS on Olympus - doesn't the lens communicate with the body to help the body come up with optimal shutter speed etc. If that is what happens on Pana bodies , it can't possibly be happening on Olympus because the body software is different. Does anyone know how this works? Thanks.

In a word...not really. The lens communicates with both bodies, informing it of whether or not IS is active and/or available, and the body adjusts shutter speed and aperture and ISO to suit in the automatic modes.

Honestly, though, in marginal conditions I want to control aperture and ISO (I usually shoot in Av if metering is accurate, otherwise manual) because the optimal shutter speed is dependent on 1) the subject matter and 2) the photographer's ability to hold a camera still at slow shutter speeds at any given focal length. My girlfriend (non-photographer) cannot get sharp pictures at many of the shutter speeds I still have a high keeper rate at, and that's purely due to technique and practice. Not something any 'intelligent feature' in-camera can determine.
 

teddoman

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The firmware helped on the 45-175X. It didn't really make a difference on the 14-42X. You can tell that the shutter is the cause of the problem because the problem largely disappears if you enable the electronic shutter on the G5 or GH3. Unfortunately, most m4/3 cameras don't have that option.
Interesting if if it only occurs with zooms and not primes. I'm not an expert on it, but I mainly recall reading about it with regards to the kit zoom lens.
 

spatulaboy

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Interesting if if it only occurs with zooms and not primes. I'm not an expert on it, but I mainly recall reading about it with regards to the kit zoom lens.

The "shutter shock" issue is only related to the two powerzoom models. No other lenses are affected by it.
 

bwc1976

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Ha, DxOmark say they can't be bothered to test the 14-45, yet they did have time to test the 15mm body cap? (which I do have and love, but I already KNOW it's not as sharp as my other lenses, I don't need THEM telling me that!)
 
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