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Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 Zoom Lens Review

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 Zoom Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Micro Four Thirds lens.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6
Price : £229
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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6

This 14-45mm lens from Panasonic covers an angle of view equivalent to a 28-90mm lens on a 35mm camera. Focusing is performed internally, it comes equipped with an Optical Image Stabilisation system and it costs around £230. Panasonic's 14-42mm kit lens that is now the standard lens to come bundled with their cameras is similarly specified, except it covers a range equivalent to a 28-84mm lens on a 35mm camera and has a plastic lens mount, unlike the metal one found on the 14-45mm lens.

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

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Handling and Features

The lens barrel is constructed from high quality plastics with a two-tone grey/black finish and weighs only 195g. The lens mount is metal, which is quite unusual for a lens supplied as a kit lens, as it originally was with the Lumix G1 and GF1 cameras. This lens has now been superseded by the newer 14-42mm lens as a kit option, but is still available separately. The small size of this lens means it balances very well on the Panasonic 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. The manual focus ring offers just the right amount of resistance to make fine adjustments easy and auto focus is performed reasonably quickly.

The minimum focus distance is 30cm, which makes this lens suitable for shooting in tight spaces, or for frame filling close ups at maximum zoom.

A switch located on the side of the lens barrel activates the Optical Image Stabiliser, rather than having to adjust the Stabiliser setting in the camera menu. With a little care, the optical stabilisation system allows sharp shots to be taken just over half the time at 1/8sec, which is roughly three and a half stops slower than the usual rule of thumb would dictate.

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Performance

At 14mm, sharpness in the cetre of the image area is outstanding from maximum aperture, with the clarity towards the edges being very good. Stopping the lens down a little improves sharpness slightly, but at this focal length clarity is limited by diffraction as it begins to fall as the lens is stopped down past f/4, which is normal for Micro Four Thirds Lenses at this focal length. Sharpness remains good across the frame until the lens is stopped down to f/11. The resolution at 25mm follows almost exactly the same pattern with outstanding sharpness in the centre at wide apertures and very good sharpness towards the edges.

At 45mm overall resolution drops as it does with most zoom lenses at maximum zoom. At f/5.6 sharpness in the centre is excellent, becoming excellent across the frame when this lens is stopped down to f/8.

Resolution @ 14mm
Resolution @ 14mm
  Resolution @ 25mm
Resolution @ 25mm
Resolution @ 45mm
Resolution @ 45mm
 

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 aberration levels are extremely low throughout the zoomm range. At their strongest they can cover up to half a pixel width towards the centre of the frame at f/22 and 45mm.

Chromatic Aberration @ 14mm
Chromatic Aberration @ 14mm
  Chromatic Aberration @ 25mm
Chromatic Aberration @ 25mm
Chromatic Aberration @ 45mm
Chromatic Aberration @ 45mm
 

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 is quite pronounced at 14mm. Here the corners are 1.7stops darker than the image centre at maximum aperture and visually uniform illumination is achieved at f/5.6. The level of vignetting drops as the lens is zoomed in to a very low level where the corners are only 0.784 stops darker than the image centre at 45mm. Visually uniform illumination is achieved at f/6.3 at this focal length.

Distortion is very well controlled with only 0.803% barrel distortion at 14mm and 0.453% at 45mm. This low distortion figure will also help to improve the clarity of JPEGs in camera around the edges of the frame, as less severe corrections will have to be applied.

Flare is rarely an issue with this lens, even when shooting directly into strong point sources of light, like the sun. Strong light sources just out of the frame also rarely cause flare and contrast levels hold up well.

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 Sample Photos


Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Verdict

Overall this lens puts in an excellent all-round performance producing sharp, contrasty images. Priced at £230, it is pretty good value as well.

Many look to this lens as a better quality alternative to the current 14-42mm lens and although it does turn in better sharpness across the frame, and lower distortion, the difference isn't massive. As the other lens is much cheaper when bought as a kit with the camera, that makes the decision between them much harder to make.

 
  The Panasonic 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens offers excellent performance at a very good price.

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Pros

Excellent sharpness across the frame
Low distortion
Good build quality
Resistant to flare
Dedicated OIS switch
Low distortion

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Cons

Falloff at 14mm may be noticeable if shooting Raw.
Not as compact as collapsible designs

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 Specifications

ManufacturerPanasonic
General
Lens Mounts
  • Panasonic Micro Four Thirds
Lens
Focal Length14mm - 45mm
Angle of View27 - 75
Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/5.6
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size52mm
35mm equivalent28mm - 90mm
Internal focusingYes
Focusing
Min Focus30cm
StabilisedYes
Construction
Blades7
Elements12
Groups9
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens hood, Lens Caps, Lens Pouch
Dimensions
Weight195g
Height60mm

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Comments


4 Nov 2011 8:47AM
I have this lens which came bundled with my Lumix GF1. I'm very pleased with it, the only disappointment is the 30cm minimum focus distance. It should be noted that this lens has a switch on the barrel for the image stabilisation. The newer 14 - 42 lens now bundled has stabilisation only switched via the menu.

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asulea 2 Romania
2 Dec 2012 7:02AM
I use this lens with Olympus OM-D EM-5 and the results is exccelent.Wink
14 Feb 2013 2:41AM
Hi all MFT enthusiasts! I'd like some insight on picking the best zoom Lens out of the 5 or 6 in this range. I've looked at the reviews and was going to buy the Pany 12-35 f2.8 but am having second thoughts after comparing all the Ephotozine results with other sites--plus $$$.

Of the lenses reviewed, the choice comes down to three: Pany 12-35mm for speed (DOF) and good IQ, Pany 14-45mm for price and excellent IQ, Oly 12-50mm Macro for diversity and good IQ. The 12-35 f2.8 seemed like a no brainer, but the IQ is less than expected... No chance for me to handle before buying, so I've got to rely on the forums and reviews for insight. Any deep and articulate thoughts would be appreciated, prefer not to read a bunch of one liners like "buy the 12-35, dude".

It would be nice to hear from people that have experience with the two Panasonics because I can borrow the Oly. Things like contrast and color are subjective but count. This is going on an Oly E-M5
Get the 14-45mm. It's better than the other kit lenses, and it's indistinguishable from the premium zooms if you don't mind shooting at f/5.6 or f/8. It beats me why Panasonic discontinued it.

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