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Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. Lens Review

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the ultra compact Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. Lens.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Panasonic Lumix G VARIO 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. MEGA OIS
Price : £300
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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Lumix G VARIO 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. MEGA OIS

This standard zoom lens for Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system cameras may not seem like anything special when looking at the on-paper specification, but it collapses down to a minuscule 24mm long. The lens is available as a kit option with some of Panasonic's current MFT bodies, or can be purchased separately for around £300. The zoom range offers a field of view equivalent to a 24-64mm lens used on a 35mm camera. In this review we'll investigate whether this miniature lens compromises in any way.

Panasonic Lumix G VARIO 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Handling and Features

Panasonic Lumix 12 32mm (3)
The lens barrel is constructed from high quality plastics, with a glossy finish and the bayonet is metal. It weighs only 70g and only protrudes from the lens mount by 24mm when collapsed. The lens is extended ready for use by simply turning the narrow zoom ring clockwise. There is no button to lock the lens in its retracted position. The small size of this lens should make it perfect for use with even the most compact Micro Four Thirds bodies and it also feels right at home on the Panasonic Lumix G3 used for testing.

Panasonic Lumix GM1 with lens
As focusing is performed internally the 37mm filter thread does not rotate, which makes this lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters. There is no manual focus ring, which means you're out of luck if you like to focus the lens yourself. However, this may be a compromise many can live with given the compact dimensions of this optic. The minimum focus distance is 20cm between 12mm and 20mm, but raises to 30cm at longer focal lengths, which makes this lens suitable for shooting in tight spaces at short focal lengths. The difference in minimum focusing can take a little getting used to, especially if the lens is zoomed to alter the composition at close distances.

Panasonic 12 32mm Vs Olympus 14 42mm EZ Lens (2)

The optical stabiliser is activated from the in-camera menu on Panasonic cameras. With care, the stabilisation system allows sharp shots to be taken just over half the time at 1/8sec at 32mm, which is three stops slower than the usual rule of thumb would allow.

Panasonic Lumix 12 32mm (4)

Panasonic Lumix G VARIO 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Performance

At 12mm sharpness in the centre of the frame is already outstanding, and the clarity towards the edges of the frame is not far behind. Stopping down is of little benefit as far as sharpness is concerned, anyway. There is a very slight improvement at f/4, but it is such a slight difference, it will be difficult to spot.

Zooming to 18mm results in a slight reduction in sharpness, although excellent levels are still achieved at maximum aperture. Clarity raises to outstanding levels in the centre with the aperture stopped down to f/5.6.

Finally, at 32mm peak performance is realised at maximum aperture. Here sharpness is outstanding in the centre of the frame and falls just short of excellent levels towards the edges.

MTF@12mm
MTF@12mm
MTF@18mm
MTF@18mm
MTF@32mm
MTF@32mm

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.

Chromatic aberrations are pretty well controlled throughout most of the zoom range. Unfortunately they are not so well controlled at 12mm when shooting at the faster end of the aperture range. Here fringing exceeds 1.5 pixel widths, which may become visible along high contrast edges if images are printed at large sizes, or harsh crops are taken from the edges of the frame.

CA@12mm
CA@12mm
CA@18mm
CA@18mm
CA@32mm
CA@32mm

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.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is fairly typical for a standard zoom lens, and shouldn't pose too many issues. At 12mm and f/3.5 the corners are 1.47 stops darker than the centre of the image and stopping down to f/5.6 results in visually uniform images. At 32mm, and f/5.6 falloff is reduced and the corners are only 0.846 stops darker than the image centre and stopping down to f/8 results in visually uniform illumination.

Distortion is extremely well controlled with only 0.973% barrel distortion at 12mm being replaced with only 0.276% pincushion distortion at 32mm. This low level of distortion should rarely require correction, but if it does, the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame throughout the zoom range, which should make applying corrections in image editing software afterwards, relatively straightforward.

No hood is supplied with this lens, probably because there is nowhere to attach it, also it would add to the bulk of the lens. Shooting into the light is no problem for this optic and it proved itself resistant to flare during testing.

Panasonic Lumix G VARIO 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. Sample Photos


Value For Money

Priced at £300 at launch, this lens represents pretty good value for money, especially when the excellent performance and diminutive size are taken into account.

The closest equivalent available is Panasonic's motorised 14-42mm X lens, which sports a powered zoom mechanism and collapsible design, although it is noticeably larger and heavier than this lens. Still, the price of this lens has dropped to around £265.

Panasonic Lumix G VARIO 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Verdict

This is one of those times when a lens manufacturer just gets everything right. This optic is sharp, lightweight, compact, nice to use and not overly priced. Some people may find the lack of a manual focus ring is not for them, but even so, it's difficult to not be impressed by this little lens.


 
  The Panasonic G Vario 12-32mm is an impressive lens that is sharp, lightweight, compact and nice to use.
 

Panasonic G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Pros

Excellent sharpness in the centre throughout the zoom range
Extremely compact
Good build quality
Light weight
Optical stabilisation
Good value

Panasonic G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Cons

High CA at 12mm
No manual focus ring

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

Panasonic Lumix G VARIO 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. Specifications

ManufacturerPanasonic
General
Lens Mounts
  • Panasonic Micro Four Thirds
  • Olympus Micro Four Thirds
Lens
Focal Length12mm - 32mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/5.6
Min Aperturef/16
Filter Size37mm
35mm equivalent24mm - 64mm
Internal focusingYes
Focusing
Min Focus20cm
StabilisedYes
Construction
Blades7
Elements8
Groups7
Box Contents
Box ContentsFront and Rear Lens caps
Dimensions
Weight70g
Height24mm

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Comments


StrayCat e2
10 14.9k 2 Canada
4 Oct 2014 7:54PM
How is the focusing speed of this lens Gary?

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joshwa e2
4 603 United Kingdom
6 Oct 2014 10:17AM
Hi Straycat, we tested the focus speed of this lens with the GM1 in our GM1 review:
http://www.ephotozine.com/article/panasonic-lumix-gm1-full-review-23197

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