Review Panasonic 12-32 mm lens (on a Pen-F)

Drdul

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Location
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Real Name
Richard
This is a review of the Panasonic 12-32 mm f3.5-5.6 lens, with commentary about using it on an Olympus Pen-F.

I bought the lens intending to put it on my E-PL7 to use as a (large) pocketable backup camera. Just for fun I put it on my Pen-F, and I like it so much that I’m not taking it off! The lens is small, which makes for an unobtrusive camera that works well for urban/street photography. The lens is sharp, even in the corners (it’s not as sharp as my 12-40 mm Pro, but it’s at least as sharp as my 17 mm f1.8).

Maximum apertures:
  • 12 mm = f3.5
  • 18 mm = f4.2
  • 25 mm = f5.0
  • 32 mm = f5.6
Filter thread = 37 mm

Dimensions:
  • 56 mm dia x 24 mm = 2.20” dia x 0.94”
  • 70 g = 2.5 oz
Price approx. USD $150 = CAD $200 on eBay

Pros:
  • Sharp at all focal lengths and apertures.
  • Acceptably sharp in the corners (see the sample image below).
  • Contrasty (more contrast than my Olympus lenses, and I usually need to boost the shadows in Lightroom by +25 to +50).
  • Optical image stabilization (the 2-axis OIS in the lens is not as good as the 3-axis and 5-axis IBIS in Olympus cameras, but fortunately the OIS can be disabled as noted below).
Cons:
  • Small maximum apertures, especially at longer focal lengths (I typically shoot at f5.0 for depth of field, so these maximum apertures generally aren’t a problem for me).
  • No focus ring on the lens (I get around this by using AFL to manually focus as described below)
  • A small amount of distortion at wide focal lengths (I fix this with +3 or +4 distortion correction in Lightroom, DxO PhotoLab fixes it automatically).
  • Have to extend the lens before turning the camera on.
  • There are several reports on the intertubes of the zoom ring detaching (minimize the risk when mounting or removing the lens by holding the base of the lens and using as little force as possible to twist the lens on/off).
Notes:
  • On an Olympus camera, turn on IBIS and set IS lens priority to “off” (cog menu C), which will disable lens OIS (refer to these stabilization rules for details).
  • For manual focus, I set the Fn1 button on my Pen-F to manual focus toggle, and the Rec button to AEL/AFL (cog menu B). I also set the AEL/AFL function to mode 3 for manual focus (cog menu A) so that in MF mode the Rec button locks focus. With these button settings I can quickly toggle MF mode on with the Fn1 button and then lock focus at the desired distance with the Rec button (optionally tapping the screen first to set the focus point). And I can do this one-handed, which is nice when I’m holding an umbrella in my other hand.

Sample image:
  • This photo was shot at 18 mm, f5.0, 1/2 sec and ISO 200. That’s right, 1/2 sec because the light was poor and I wanted to keep it at the base ISO 200, and to demonstrate how well the Pen-F IBIS works with the 12-32 mm lens.
  • The image was saved in RAW and converted to JPG with Lightroom and DxO PhotoLab.
  • For the Lightroom version I adjusted the exposure, added some clarity (amount 20) and moderate sharpening (amount 50), which are typical adjustments that I would make to an image like this. For the purposes of this review I did not correct the geometry or add any noise reduction.
  • For the DxO version I also adjusted the exposure, added some micro contrast (amount 15) and left the lens sharpness at the default setting. I turned off noise reduction.
  • I have included crops from the corners and centre of each version to illustrate the sharpness of the lens. Note that DxO reveals more pixels along the edges of an image, so the corner crops don't match exactly.
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