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Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Micro Four Thirds Zoom Lens Review

Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Micro Four Thirds Zoom Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Micro Four Thirds Zoom lens which normally comes bundled as a kit with Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds system cameras.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Micro Four Thirds Zoom Lens
Price : £150
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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification
H-FS014042E-Additional_WebImage__HiRes-Image--[2]((Europe))-1WebA1001001A10F28B53252D36011   H-FS014042E-HiRes-Image__Image--[1]((Europe))-1ZoomA1001001A10F28B52530J25860
This standard zoom lens from Panasonic normally comes bundled as a kit with their Micro Four Thirds system cameras, but if you were looking to replace one or purchase one for an Olympus camera it would cost around £170. It covers a range equivalent to a 28-84mm lens on a 35mm camera and sports internal focusing and Optical Image Stabilisation.

Olympus also offer two 14-42mm lenses. Both their lenses that cover this range have a collapsible design, making them more compact when not being used. The MkI Olympus 14-42mm optic costs around £230 but doesn't focus internally. The newer MkII version also costs around £230 and focuses internally.

Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens Handling and features

The lens barrel is constructed from high quality plastics with a matte finish and weighs only 165g. The lens mount is also plastic, as is typical with kit lenses like this. The size and low weight make it balance extremely well on the Panasonic Lumix G3 used for testing.

As focusing is performed internally the 52mm filter thread does not rotate during use, making this lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters. Focus speeds are quick and the manual focus ring offers just the right amount of resistance to make fine adjustments easy.

The minimum focus distance of 30cm makes this lens suitable for frame filling close ups at maximum zoom, and is also great for shooting in claustrophobic environments.

With a little care, the optical stabilisation system allows sharp shots to be taken just over half the time at 1/10sec, which is roughly three stops slower than the usual rule of thumb would dictate.

Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens Performance

At 14mm sharpness in the centre of the frame approaches outstanding levels at maximum aperture, although the clarity towards the edges falls short of good levels. Stopping the lens down a little improves quality across the frame with peak quality across the frame being achieved at f/5.6, where the sharpness in the centre is outstanding, and excellent towards the edges.

Zooming to 25mm improves the sharpness towards the edges at maximum aperture to good levels and the excellent centre sharpness is maintained. Peak quality across the frame is achieved at f/8 for this focal length where sharpness across the frame is excellent.

Overall clarity drops off a little at 42mm, especially at maximum aperture, although the sharpness is still good. Stopping the lens dow to f/8 results in excellent sharpness across the frame for this focal length.

Resolution at 14mm
Resolution at 14mm
  Resolution at 25mm
Resolution at 25mm
Resolution at 42mm
Resolution at 42mm
 

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Panasonic Lumix G3 using Imatest.

Levels of chromatic aberrations are kept within acceptable levels throughout the zoom range. At their worst they exceed half a pixel width at 42mm and f/11. Even this level will be low enough to pose few issues, even in large prints and harsh crops from the edges of the frame.

Chromatic aberration at 14mm
Chromatic aberration at 14mm
  Chromatic aberration at 25mm
Chromatic aberration at 25mm
Chromatic aberration at 42mm
Chromatic aberration at 42mm
 

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Panasonic Lumix G3 using Imatest.

As falloff and distortion are corrected by the camera's image processing engine when shooting JPEGs, falloff and distortion will only be easily visible when shooting in RAW format.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is reasonably well controlled. At 14mm the corners are 1.53 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved at f/5.6. At 42mm, the corners are only 0.9 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved at f/8.

Distortion levels are typical for a 3x zoom lens, with a moderate level of 1.31% barrel distortion being present at 14mm and 1.02% pincushion distortion at 42mm. Throughout the zoom range, the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make any curvature easy to correct in software afterwards.

Even when shooting directly into the light, this lens is quite resistant to flare, with the occasional green / blue spot appearing in images taken under extreme conditions. Contrast holds up well, even when shooting directly into the light. A petal shaped hood also helps to sheild the front element from extraneous light.

Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Micro Four Thirds Zoom Lens Sample Photos


Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens Verdict

Overall this optic performs well for one that is bundled as a kit lens and as it it priced lower than other alternatives when bought separately, it offers good value for money as a result.

The build quality is good and focusing fast so it should please most people who receive this with their Micro Four Thirds compatible camera.

The Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens is well built and is quick at focusing.

Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens Pros

Good optical quality
Decent build
Fast focusing
Effective optical image stabilisation system

Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens Cons

Not as compact as collapsible designs
Plastic lens mount

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Micro Four Thirds Zoom Lens Specifications

ManufacturerPanasonic
General
Lens Mounts
  • Panasonic Micro Four Thirds
Lens
Focal Length14mm - 42mm
Angle of View29 - 75
Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/5.6
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size52mm
35mm equivalent28mm - 84mm
Internal focusingYes
Focusing
Min Focus30cm
StabilisedYes
Construction
BladesNo Data
Elements12
Groups9
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens caps, Lens hood, Soft pouch
Dimensions
Weight165g
Height63.6mm

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