By Armando J. Heredia Introduction The Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5 prime is a lens that is easy to love. Interchangeable lens compact (ILC) camera users are naturally attracted to the format by the size and exceptional image quality, and this wide-angle prime certainly enhances that appeal. As one of several showcase primes featuring a “pancake” or Tessar-style format, the Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5 represents a strong culmination of technological prowess and practical design. With the Micro Four-Thirds field-of-view (FOV) crop, this lens corresponds to a modest 28mm wide-angle. The other native rectilinear lenses wider than this are the costly and heavier Panasonic 7-14mm or the slower Olympus 9-18mm. At only 1.9 oz. and less than an inch in depth, this petite lens seems fragile, but the size belies its capabilities. This optic packs an amazing three aspherical elements to help correct optical distortions, a robust metal mount, and a fast f2.5 aperture allowing hand-holding even in extremely low-light situations. What’s in the Box Thanks to B&H Photo-Video, we were able to evaluate this lens in kit form along with the latest Panasonic GF2 Micro Four-Thirds camera. The 14mm f2.5 was almost lost in the packaging, especially when compared with its older but larger and faster sibling - the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f1.7. The wide-angle features a new thinner lens cover and rear-cap, further emphasizing the format’s philosophy of being lighter and smaller. While the camera kit did not provide it, a matching black nylon carrying case is included when purchasing the lens only. The 14mm continues the standardization of Panasonic primes to a 46mm front thread. The lens uses internal focus, so filter use is simplified. No hood is provided, but aftermarket options exist to protect the front element from flare and physical damage. The lens doesn’t add much to the footprint of the camera it’s mounted to. A prime this size is extremely unobtrusive and doesn’t affect the balance or handling of the camera at all. You almost have to double-check if it’s actually there. Build As with current Lumix Micro Four-Thirds designs, a bright fluorescent dot denotes the lens mounting index, along with maker’s marks and a bright yellow “14” on the light-gray barrel. The build of the lens is solid; there are no creaks and rattles. The focus ring spins freely and is somewhat dampened, but isn’t loose and sloppy. It won’t be pulling double-duty as a macro lens, as the close focusing only gives about 7” working distance. There are no focus markings or distance windows. Handling In the field, the Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5 handles as one would expect a classic prime to behave. The AF performance on both the supplied GF-2 and the author’s personal Olympus E-PL1 is very responsive. In both well-lit and low-light situations, the lens is really only limited by the camera’s AF capability. Because manual focusing is fly-by-wire, the focus ring’s lack of dampening will be a little disappointing to MF purists, but the turning feedback is tight enough to make fine adjustments easily. Wide angle lenses require careful handling. Even though the cameras apply on-board processing to correct much of the optical distortion, one should pay attention to the alignment relative to the plane of the subject and use the camera’s integrated grid overlay to avoid excessive rotation. In other words – get low or high to align with the subject’s mid-point as much as possible and avoid tilting the camera! This mitigates some of the keystoning and horizon leveling that occurs naturally with a wide angle perspective. Note the tiny shadow on the lower right of Newport’s Trinity Church photo below – that’s the author’s hat! The lesson learned is to scrutinize the LCD or viewfinder carefully for any unexpected framing elements or effects when using this lens. In some cases, the keystoning appears because you don’t have the ability to maneuver back or up; in which case, just make sure things are as aligned as possible vertically. Below; landmarks from Boston and Newport: The fast f2.5 aperture lets you go into very dark environments and capture scenes as lit by ambient illumination without having to raise ISO excessively. The autofocus is helped by the wide-open aperture since the irises open up allowing contrast detect to conduct the focusing operation. The Providence Art Club dining room scene below was taken at 1/25, f2.5 @ ISO 400. The scene was really dimly lit, probably rated at LV2 or so. As noted in the specifications, close-focusing is possible with the lens, and you can get some really good dominant foreground-defocused background effects. Some refreshments from Providence’s Art Gallery Night, and al-fresco dining at Newport’s Bowen’s Wharf: People portraits are possible. Using the right stand-off distance, you can avoid perspective distortion from affecting the subject’s appearance. Some candid and surreptitious snaps from a walk in Boston: And sometimes you just let the wide-angle do what it does best; landscapes, tight enclosed spaces and dramatic perspectives that you can’t get with narrower focal lengths: Image Quality Optically, there are no surprises. In center performance, the 14mm f2.5 produces sharp photos with excellent contrast and color reproduction. The corners were tougher to evaluate; on this author’s post-processing workstation, they held up fairly well through mid-apertures to f8-f11. Vignetting does occur a bit at wide-open, and the sweet-spot for overall image quality is about f4. Chromatic aberration (CA) is well-controlled by the in-camera processing, and what little remains isn’t objectionable in most output sizes. Below, a 100% crop and the marked area of interest: The effective Depth-of-Field is fairly generous, even at wide open, which is due mostly to the Four-Thirds sensor. Bokeh is difficult to evaluate with wide-angles. Using what opportunities there were to get sufficient subject-background separation, the defocusing effects were not objectionable. Conclusion The Panasonic Lumix 14mm f2.5 extends the number of excellent native Micro Four-Thirds primes available, and is an outstanding optical performer, despite its small size. Owners will delight in its robust build, fine handling, and superb image quality. It was hard to pack up once the evaluation was over. Please see the complete gallery of samples at: Panasonic 14mm f2.5 Samples - Mu-43 Gallery _____________________ Armando J. Heredia is an amateur photographer living in scenic New England on the US East Coast. He is a new reviewer to Mu-43.com as well as Chief News Editor and moderator at Nikonians.org. When he’s not chasing after the next photo or story, Armando works in the Financial Services industry and spends time with his loving family and a menagerie of pets. -Amin Please help support Mu-43.com by using one of these links prior to your next purchase: B&H Photo | Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca | Adorama Your price is unaffected, and a referral fee (2-4% of your purchase) is paid to us by the retailer. Note: For us to get credit for the referral, you must click our link prior to placing any items in your "shopping cart".