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The 14-42mm zoom is the mainstay kit lens for micro four thirds cameras. So far, so boring. But this one is different. It's tiny, little more than an inch in length, and overall about the size of Panasonic's 20mm f/1.7. That lens is small for what it is. To pack a 3x zoom into the same space seems like a miracle. It achieves it by eliminating manual zoom and focusing rings, replacing them with a lever for each function and a tiny internal electric motor to do the donkey work. The lens opens out on switching on the camera, doubling in length.
While Olympus do have a similarly retracting zoom, it does not approach this one in terms of compactness. Expect to pay from £300-£360 for the X lens which will fit Olympus and Panasonic Micro four thirds cameras. The question is, does the diminutive size justify the loss of traditional manual control rings?
From extreme wide-angle to extreme tele takes 3.5 seconds and sweeps smoothly through the range. There is no focal length indication on the lens or (on the Panasonic Lumix GH2 I tested on, at least) the camera. The image stabilisation works as expected but has no on/off switch on the lens so must be disabled (for tripod use for example) from the camera menu. It does not work at all on Olympus cameras. The auto-focus and zooming are practically speaking, silent. You can just hear some noise with an ear close to the lens. On movies, you can just hear the motor noise with the onboard camera mic sensitivity set to maximum and maximum volume on playback. The normal background noise of even the quietest room would mask it.
Standard 14-42mm Lens, and X Lens Side by Side
It has a nano surface coating for flare reduction – important because you cannot fit a hood to this lens. You can fit a filter to the lens, however and this might be a good idea given the proximity of the front element to the leading face of the lens.
Best performance came in at around f/8. Focusing speed and accuracy are excellent, even in low light conditions. It is difficult to judge distortion and chromatic aberrations since these are effectively taken care of in software on Panasonic's own cameras. Be aware, however, that if you use the lens on an Olympus camera, CA will show at wide apertures and angles and you will need to remove it manually.
Minimum focus is a useful 0.2m / 8 inches, close enough for flowers for example but not for insects. The powered manual focussing works well but manual focussing is never ideal with small sensor cameras and focusing by switch cannot do anything about that. Whatever, it is no more difficult than using a focusing ring and for movies – especially off tripod - is actually better.
The anti-flare nano coating of this lens seems to work very well, as you can see from my example pictures shot directly into the sun. The flare has an appearance of almost being suppressed. Although I'd prefer to be able to fit a lens hood, it doesn't seem necessary with the nano coating.
The inbuilt OIS stabilisation is effective, I found that 1/20sec exposures were quite reliably shake free even at the lenses 42mm longest setting. Additional sample photos from this lens can be viewed in the equipment database.
Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 Other sample images
Waterloo Station (Into Sun) - 1/1000 sec | f/5.6 | 14.0 mm | ISO 160
Waterloo Station (OIS in action) - 1/15 sec | f/5.6 | 14.0 mm | ISO 160
National Theatre and shard (Zoom) 1/800 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 160
National Theatre and shard (Wide) 1/400 sec | f/5.6 | 14.0 mm | ISO 160
Bicycle bell - 1/320 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 160
Car boot - 1/250 sec | f/5.6 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200
Car boot - 1/2000 sec | f/5.6 | 19.0 mm | ISO 200
Candid on train - 1/20 sec | f/5.6 | 42.0 mm | ISO 800
Value for MoneyThis Panasonic X lens is unique, being a pancake zoom, so it is hard to pin down value for money. It costs about twice as much its bulkier (relatively) Panasonic kit lens stable-mate and about 30% more than its less compact but still small Olympus 14-42mm rival. Thus it is not cheap, especially since it offers little or nothing more optically than its competitors. For the extra money, though, it offers a solid feel and look in spite of its light weight.
It is expensive and I'd have liked the optical performance to be better than the standard Panasonic kit version. Pancake lenses always seem to involve some performance hit compared to their standard size counterparts, however.
If you value compactness above all but must have a zoom standard lens or you want ultra-smooth zooming movies from your CSC, you have (literally) no other choice than this one and I would therefore have to recommend it.
If you don't need the compactness and movies are not on your priority list, the standard kit lens would do just as well and save you a lot of money.
|The Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 14-42mm lens is compact and a must have if you want ultra-smooth zooming in movies.|
Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ProsDiminutive size
Power Zoom good for movies
Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ConsExpensive
Optically no better than kit lens
Cannot fit lens hood
No OIS switch
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
User Review by David Thorpe (Lemmy)
Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 Specifications
|Focal Length||14mm - 42mm|
|Angle of View||29° - 75°|
|Max Aperture||f/3.5 - f/5.6|
|35mm equivalent||28mm - 84mm|
|Box Contents||Lens cap, Reap Cap, Lens Pouch|