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Lumix G Vario PZ 14-42 f/3.5-5.6 X lens review

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by WoodWorks, Jan 9, 2012.

  1. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Mu-43 Regular

    180
    Oct 10, 2011
    Ashland, OR USA
    David
    Lumix 14-42X Lens Mini Review

    GX1.

    I've been using the Lumix G Vario PZ 14-42 f/3.5-5.6 lens with my Panasonic DMC-GX1 for almost a month now, and finally had the time to do a somewhat systematic evaluation of it, and compare it to the regular Lumix 14-42mm lens, as well do some comparisons with the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 and the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lenses.

    What follows are some comparison shots between the lenses. I tried to level the playing field and show each lens under the best possible, identical circumstances. Both the camera and the lenses have the latest firmware updates.

    There are two different scenes. The first, where I shot hand held images with daylight white balance in manual mode. All of these images were shot at ISO 160, 1/640 sec, f/7.1, and OIS turned off. These were done in a way that I hope eliminates the potential for degradation due to faulty OIS or slow shutter speeds. The second scene, also shot in daylight white balance and manual mode and ISO 160, but at 1/125 sec. and f/5.6. Here I shot a couple of bursts with each lens with OIS turned off, then with OIS turned on, and finally mounted to a tripod with OIS off.

    They were all shot raw and developed in ACR 6.6 at the default settings. There is no sharpening, color correction, noise reduction or any editing other than resizing the full frame images, and cropping the 100% crops.

    So here we go. First, the scene that I shot at 14mm, a barn and pond near my home in Ashland, Oregon.

    Full14.

    And the same scene at 42mm. Both of these were shot with the 14-42X.

    Full42.

    And here are some 100% crops of the center of the frame. The 14-42X is on the left, the 14-42 is on the right. Not much, if any difference. This has been my experience with any shots >1/320 sec.

    Fast42.

    Just for grins, I compared the 14-42X to the Olympus 45 f/1.8. Clearly the Olympus prime has better contrast and resolution. I have shot other images where the difference is more pronounced. But you would expect a prime, especially one as good as the Olympus 45mm, to outperform almost any zoom lens.

    Fast45.

    Compared with the 14mm f/2.5 there was almost no difference in the center of the frame. But at the corners, the 14-42X outperforms the 14mm prime. I have shot other images where the 14mm prime exhibits considerable CA and softness in the corners, which the 14-42X does not. My judgment is that, except for the slight speed advantage, the 14-42X has better IQ than the 14mm prime. Here you can see the difference in corner sharpness, the 14-42X at the left, the 14mm f/2.5 at the right.

    Edge14.

    I then moved to the center of town to shoot a scene where I could shoot at a lower shutter speed, where the 14-42X has exhibited problems with sharpness. I zoomed to 42mm and focused on the lower edge of the center window.

    Plaza.

    I first shot a burst with the 14-42X and then the 14-42, both with OIS off, and then extracted the sharpest frame from each burst, reasoning that this would help eliminate the effects of hand shake.

    Here is a 100% crop from the best frame from each burst, with OIS off. The 14-42X is on top, the 14-42 on the bottom.

    NoOIS.

    These are with OIS on, again with 14-42X on the top, and the 14-42 on the bottom.

    OIS.

    In both of those, I judge the 14-42X to be softer than the standard 14-42mm.

    And here are the two lenses with the camera mounted on a tripod with the OIS off, 14-42X on top, 14-42 on the bottom. Here, the 14-42X seems to be sharper.

    Tripod.

    My Conclusions

    Based on this evaluation, plus the time I have spent using it in the past month, the Lumix G Vario PZ 14-42 f/3.5-5.6 lens seems no better than the standard Lumix 14-42mm lens except in physical size. Given its considerably higher price, only those who value its smaller form factor would find it a worthwhile purchase. Its IQ falls short of any of the µ4/3 primes, with the exception of the 14mm f/2.5, which it clearly outperforms at the edges. To me it is, given its pre-release buzz, a disappointment.

    Having said that, I plan on keeping mine, and perhaps even selling the 14mm f/2.5. I like being able to easily slip the GX1 and lens and EVF into my jacket pocket, something I could never do with the standard Lumix 14-42mm or 14-45mm kit lenses. It is a decent enough lens in good light, focuses very quickly, and together with the 20mm f/1.7 and 45mm f/1.8 prime lenses makes a potent, and yet still pocketable trifecta.

    I think I may be getting a little spoiled here, and have developed some seriously inflated expectations. Today after I did this evaluation, I took the time to pore over some photos I shot with my old Canon Rebel XT and 17-85mm kit lens a mere five years ago. They make the Lumix 14-42X look like a diamond. So though my primes may get the bulk of the shots on my GX1, I think I'll find plenty of opportunities to share the camera with the X lens.

    David
     
    • Like Like x 15
  2. pxpaulx

    pxpaulx Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 19, 2010
    Midwest
    Paul
    Once the price of these gets down into the average kit lens range it looks like a better option when size is considered, nice review!

    Is it just me, or have they tried to fit wayyyy too much branding and information on that tiny lens? Between the lens and the cap, I count a total of 9 separate brand marks or operation designations....seems almost, slightly, tacky!
     
  3. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Dara
    Sounds like a fair assessment to me. I was desperately hoping that this lens would be more than a mediocre kit zoom in a nice package, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Too bad really.

    Still, the size is awfully convenient. I can see it as a good lens when I'm mountaineering and can't afford to have anything heavy hanging off my neck. If only the price were more reasonable...

    Thanks again for taking the trouble to do this and post your results!

    DH
     
  4. chip

    chip Mu-43 Regular

    86
    Jan 7, 2012
    Connecticut, USA
    WoodWorks,

    Nice review. Thanks for the effort. Where, may I ask, did you purchase the combined package? I've yet to see it in the US. Just the bodies or with the older 14-42mm kit lens.
     
  5. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Jason
    Thank you for the review.

    I'm not convinced the first crop of X lenses are any better than the previous offerings, just different and maybe geared more toward video. I would be interested in this lens, but not at the price. The Oly kit is compact enough for me.
     
  6. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Mu-43 Regular

    180
    Oct 10, 2011
    Ashland, OR USA
    David
    I didn't buy it as a combined kit, Chip. I purchased the lens in combo with a GF3 (since eBayed off), and bought the GX1 body by itself. Here's hoping that the scarcity of the combo kits means that Panasonic is holding them back while they're working on a fix for the lens's shortcomings.

    David
     
  7. Armanius

    Armanius Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2010
    Houston
    Muttley
    Thanks for the excellent review David.

    Buying the 14-42X as a combo makes the price of the lens about $250. Would you have paid $250 for it, knowing everything that you know now?
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Mu-43 Regular

    180
    Oct 10, 2011
    Ashland, OR USA
    David
    Hm. I did have to think about that for a few seconds. :smile:

    Yes. I would have. But only because I place a high value on a compact camera package. So no one should take this as my recommendation to buy it unless size is major consideration. For that price, it should be a better lens. But life is full of tradeoffs, and even with its flaws, it's "good enough" for my purposes. And when it isn't, I turn to my primes.

    David
     
  9. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    Hmm I'm not very surprised to be honest. It would seem pretty amazing to somehow produce a lens way tinier than the existing kit lenses AND improve IQ. Compromises surely must be made.

    That said, perhaps the thing that I took from the review is that it's a rather damning comparison to the 14mm prime! :eek:
     
  10. carpandean

    carpandean Mu-43 Top Veteran

    827
    Oct 29, 2010
    Western NY
    I will buy one of these at some point just for the size, but will keep my old 14-45mm for use when size isn't much of a concern. My standard 14-42mm will be the odd man out.
     
  11. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    When you tested it and found the 14/2.5 softer, did you use the same aperture for both lenses?

    If this lens started at f/2.5 (or even 2.8), then I would seriously consider it to replace the 14mm pancake, but it's tough for me to give away almost a whole stop, as I use the 14mm a lot indoors.
     
  12. chip

    chip Mu-43 Regular

    86
    Jan 7, 2012
    Connecticut, USA
    Interesting... maybe I'll go with a GX1 + LVF2 package and hold off on the 14-42mm. I already have plenty of primes and zooms, and don't really need it anyway. But, I agree with the attraction of having very a compact zoom for quick/less important trips into the field.

    That said (hoping not to go too off topic), how do you like the LVF2?
     
  13. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Mu-43 Regular

    180
    Oct 10, 2011
    Ashland, OR USA
    David
    Yes, all the comparison shots in this test were with the camera on manual with the identical shutter speed, aperture, ISO and white balance. But on previous occasions, when I was making more casual comparisons, the corner softness, and especially the CA of the 14mm was impossible to miss.

    If you wander through the 14mm f/2.5 Image Thread here, you'll come across many other samples with the same problem. I wish now that I had looked a little more closely at that thread before buying the lens.

    David
     
  14. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Mu-43 Regular

    180
    Oct 10, 2011
    Ashland, OR USA
    David
    Love it! I sold my GH2 (which uses the same VF display) to buy the GX1, and I use the EVF on almost every shot I take. It locks securely to the camera, so there's no fear of accidentally dislodging it. The swivel is great for low angle shots. And it's sharp enough for precise manual focusing.

    After the first few days of mounting it and then taking it off again, I've just left it permanently attached to the camera now. I wish it had automatic eye-detection like the GH2, but... For my way of shooting, it's definitely worth the cost.

    David
     
  15. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    OK. Thanks. Was just wondering. I have 435 shots that I've kept with the Panasonic 14/2.5 and I've never had an issue with the corners. I just looked through a bunch, and still don't see anything particularly bad. Maybe it's a matter of what I shoot and my expectations. If that zoom was faster on the wide end, though, it'd be nice to have a lens that small, but that could zoom out.

    Thanks for the review!
     
  16. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Dara
    I was thinking of doing that too, but didn't think there'd be much demand for the GF3 body?

    For $250 more than the body alone, the GX1 kit seems like a comparative bargain. Just not available though...

    DH
     
  17. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Mu-43 Regular

    180
    Oct 10, 2011
    Ashland, OR USA
    David
    Well, to paraphrase Bill Clinton: It depends on what your definition of the word "much" is. :biggrin:

    David
     
    • Like Like x 1
  18. stripedrex

    stripedrex Do or do not. There is no try.

    374
    Jun 8, 2012
    Long Island, NY
    Alex
    Thank you, this post gave me hope on the lens and diving into m43 with a new GF3 kit with this lens. Now I feel I don't need to get a 14mm prime (this being pancake and similar performance at 14mm you saved me a lens =) but plan on 20 / 45 or 25 / 45 combo. Waiting on the GH3 to come out for a more serious body and I'm off to the races =).
     
  19. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    Larry
    thanks for the review. I'm hoping to get this lens so I can use the E-PM2 with Panasonic 14-42 as a replacement for my point and shoot. Sometimes I do want something I can fit in a large vest pocket.
     
  20. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    Larry
    Still waiting for the E-PM2 to arrive, though I've got the PZ and it seems to perform reasonably well on the E-M5