Panasonic Pancake Pandemonium - 14mm vs 20mm vs 12-32mm

jacobm

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I recently picked up an Olympus Pen E-P5 for an everyday carry type camera, and I'm considering my lens options for it. I've looked at the Olympus small primes, but the only pancake is the 17mm f/2.8 which seems pretty universally disliked, and the f/1.8 is about double the length of the three Panny-cakes, and goes for a lot more money. Price being equal, which lens do you prefer and why?

Additional info: I shoot primarily with my EM1.2 and 40-150 PRO, so wider lenses are outside my norm but I'm looking to experiment with more street photography, hence the smaller camera. I don't shoot video or in C-AF mode, so AF noise doesn't bother me. I'm thinking I'd like to own a GM1 or GM5 someday just for the novelty of it, but the Pen is small enough for me for now. I like the width and size of the 14mm, the speed of the 20mm, and the zoominess of the 12-32mm, so I'm hoping to learn any weird quirks that might push me towards or away from any particular lens. Of course I'm happy to find there's no wrong choice and perhaps I'll just put out a want advert and get whichever is the best price at the time I want to buy.

Thank you all!
 

melanieylang

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If you have a phone with a camera you like enough to use in a pinch (which covers the wider range), then my vote is for the Panasonic 20mm. I've had all 3 primes (plus the 12-32), but this was the only one I loved and kept: for the uncommon angle of view, the wide aperture for low light, and the stunning image quality.
 
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If you're not looking to pull maximum detail out of your walkaround shots, like cropping or bringing out a ton of landscape details, then don't write off the Oly 17/2.8. It renders really nicely and some of my favorite shots were taken with it. There's something to it that I don't get with too many other M4/3 lenses.

26234313081_f0cc5f82d4_h.jpg
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P1030200-3 by Andrew Lossing, on Flickr

27533545585_b3a8f56ab1_h.jpg
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P1000830-2 by Andrew Lossing, on Flickr

15971380581_a4a3500b1d_h.jpg
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P1060543 copy by Andrew Lossing, on Flickr

Of course, the 20/1.7 is a special lens, one of the best in the system all around, and a true classic. I never don't recommend the P20.
 

Bushboy

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Low light primes vs the zoom.
I would pic the collapsible zoom and slower shutter speeds that go with it. Luckily they all quite affordable, and buy them all to try out.
I have the 14/2.5, but I’d swap it for the zoom now.
 

cjoliprsf

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If you're not looking to pull maximum detail out of your walkaround shots, like cropping or bringing out a ton of landscape details, then don't write off the Oly 17/2.8. It renders really nicely and some of my favorite shots were taken with it.
I agree. I never understood why many people dislike it. For me, the 17mm focal length is ideal, the 2.8 aperture isn't great, but for daylight is plenty enough. And I have many very good pictures from it. It is my "always on the camera" lens on my GM5.
So, no it is not "universally disliked"! Some of us do like it dearly.

I also have the 12-32, which is a fine lens, but more fragile, and a bit annoying to have to extend it. I use it when I need the wide angle FL that I can't get with the 17mm.
 

Darmok N Jalad

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The gotcha's on the 12-32 is the lack of manual focus, and I don't believe you can get a hood on it either. I liked the 14mm 2.5 on my last trip and used it for landscape shots, including one I hung on the wall in 20 x 14.

On the opinion front, maybe it's too big (though I don't really think so), but I have a soft-spot for the O25mm 1.8. Great indoor lens, IMO. Also, the 9mm BCL can be fun too. I've taken landscape photos with it.
 
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Reflector

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I own all 3 and here are my opinions:
14mm: The smallest and decently fast at f/2.5, "soft" by modern optics standards on 20mp sensors (read: not razor sharp) and doesn't improve too much from stopping down but acceptable.
20mm (II): Slow AF (and external, the lens extends a tiny bit) by modern Micro Four Thirds but optically excellent performance for the size. Powering the camera off has the lens shrinking back in a little.
12-32: A zoom, works with auto-closing lens caps, needs to be deployed to work and extends 2x the length effectively. Pretty good optically ("sharp") but "slow" lens. The retraction/extension from the storage position needs a little bit of force. Smooth body isn't conductive to mounting the lens onto the body but maybe some grip tape would help.

I like all 3 of them. The 12-32 is the ultimate travel wide to normal zoom for me and I also own the 35-100mm f/4-5.6 which is a wonderful tiny telephoto. The 20mm is good if you want the optical optical performance of something similar to a 25mm f/1.7-1.8 but in a smaller package. The 14mm is if you want something wide and in the same size as the 12-32 when it is retracted and minus needing to manually deploy it from just powering the camera on.
 
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I often don't choose my 20mm because the slow autofocus kind of annoys me. I sometimes do choose it because I love the rendering and sometimes the focal length feels just right...
2015-03-26--08-20-30--p1090485.jpg

I would suggest that you also consider the Panasonic Leica 15mm. It's a bit longer in size, but autofocus is great, it has a large widest aperture, it's sharp and has a wonderful rendition in my opinion. I also liked the manual aperture ring when I was using mostly Panasonic bodies.
2016-12-11--16-29-54--p1050103.jpg
 
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I have the 12-32mm and the 20mm and would find it hard to choose between them - the zoom is great for casual daytime use including family trips, the prime for low light and more considered photography.

Between the two, I feel the 12-32 is more of a compromise than the 20. I do find 32mm quite limiting at the long end, so I am giving something up in exchange for the pancake format. I suppose the compromise with the 20mm is slow auto focus, but personally I don't find that affects me much. So I sometimes consider replacing the 12-32 with a non-pancake 12-60, but I never consider replacing the 20.

As somebody else mentioned the 9mm body cap lens can be good fun, and is even more compact than the pancakes. Obviously it is not a "do anything" lens though.
 

Stanga

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I have the 14mm and 12-32mm, and each is used according to the light conditions. The 12-32mm is for everyday/always ready use when I just want something that can slip into a jacket pocket. The 14mm is more for evening and low light use. I often carry it with the Panasonic DMW-GCK1 converter kit.
 

PeeBee

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I've owned the 14 and have the 20 and 12-32. The 20 is my favourite, the slow af doesn't cause me much concern since most things I shoot with it are fairly static. It's my go-to for an evening walkabout lens.

I pair the 12-32 with my GX80 and consider it a premium compact. I use this for documentary photographs and snapshots where convenience has a higher priority than IQ, not because the 12-32's IQ is bad, but it doesn't shine like the 20's.

The 14 is the hardest sale to me, hence it's the one I sold. It's too much the 'middle man'. It doesn't have any significant advantages over the other 2.
 

RAH

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The 20mm 1.7 would be my choice. It's hard for me to understand why someone would chose the 25mm over it, except for the AF, but I have never had a problem with it. The 12-32 would be a close second. Get both if you can afford it! :)
 
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If you're not looking to pull maximum detail out of your walkaround shots, like cropping or bringing out a ton of landscape details, then don't write off the Oly 17/2.8. It renders really nicely and some of my favorite shots were taken with it. There's something to it that I don't get with too many other M4/3 lenses.

View attachment 893496 P1030200-3 by Andrew Lossing, on Flickr

View attachment 893497 P1000830-2 by Andrew Lossing, on Flickr

View attachment 893498 P1060543 copy by Andrew Lossing, on Flickr

Of course, the 20/1.7 is a special lens, one of the best in the system all around, and a true classic. I never don't recommend the P20.
Great photos. I agree that there was some character to the 17mm 2.8 that I don't have in any of the lenses I currently have. I had it as the first lens with my EM5. I sold it after getting the 12-40 2.8 to fund a focal range that I didn't have covered. I wish I had kept it at this point for that character. The AF speed was pretty slow from my recollection compared to the 45mm and the 12-40 that I had at the same time.
 

fransglans

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If you haven't owned and tested p20, then it's a no brainer imo. If the system only had this lens I would still be loyal
 
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The Panasonic 20mm was the only lens I had for the first two years I was in the system. If I sold all of my mu43 the 20mm with the gx7 would be the only combo I would keep. The 20mm just has something special about it, its unique and although it doesnt get used as much these days, everytime I pull it out I seem to always capture a keeper with it.
 
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Possibly unpopular opinion here:
None of them are ideal for the E-P5. If you're going to use primarily Lumix lenses get a Panasonic camera, or a newer Olympus camera (no older than the E-M1).
The E-P5 does not correct for chromatic aberrations etc. correctly with Lumix lenses.
Explanation in the thread here: https://www.mu-43.com/threads/in-body-lens-correction.108023/

As for the lenses themselves,
- the 20mm is an absolute gem, for anything other than moving subjects it is great (otherwise you will miss focus for most shots). Also the best low-light capabilities out of the bunch here.
- the 14mm is a cool lens, but its main strength is its small size. Get it only if you need the smallest and lightest complete package. The 14mm is a 28mm equivalent that is quite a boring perspective because everyone from smartphones to the Ricoh GR covers the same angle of view.
- the 12-32 is the most versatile here, neither very bright nor very well-built, but small and a good copy can exceed some primes in sharpness. If you use it mostly in daylight it will be the best choice, if you don't mind extending and retracting it for use.

but I stand by my word, none of them are a good choice for the older Olympus cameras. Unless you want to correct CA in post every time.
Take a look at the Olympus lens offerings or get a small Lumix camera.

I've been there, and sold both the E-P5 and the E-PM2 later because I was primarily using Lumix primes (14 and 20mm) which were causing chromatic aberrations that I didn't want to correct in every single JPG.
Now I have a kid and much prefer the 17mm Olympus f1.8 prime even though they're generally less sharp than the Lumix pancakes. It's much faster focusing, which pays off when you follow kids or dogs around. And it has a nice character for family pictures. For absolute sharpness across the frame I use the Olympus Pro lenses nowadays.

And the 25mm 1.8 is also a fantastic Olympus option with beautiful character, not as unique as the 20mm and bigger, but great even on older Olympus cams.

I cannot recommend the 14-42 EZ, every sample i've taken was laughably bad compared to the 12-32mm, not worth the money in my book. Hardly even better than the Old 14-42 ii R.
The smallest Olympus zoom I'd recommend is the 12-45 F4 Pro, not exactly small but you get prime level quality in daylight.
 
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Gromit

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I'm a die-hard fan of the P20-1.7 and if someone asks if they should purchase one, my standard reply is 'you mean you haven't already??' :)
 

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