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Panasonic Lumix S 18mm F/1.8 Lens Review

John Riley has been out taking photos with the Panasonic Lumix S 18mm f/1.8 which is a compact and lightweight wide-angle lens that fits nicely into the f/1.8 Panasonic lens line-up.


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Panasonic Lumix S 18mm F/1.8 Lens Review: Lumix S 18mm F/1.8
 

Panasonic has already introduced the 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm f/1.8 lenses, all very similar in size and offering a compact set of optics that are well balanced for videographers as well as stills photographers. These are now joined by the Panasonic Lumix S 18mm f/1.8, another compact lens to fit comfortably into the same lineup. Having the choice of a set of light and compact f/1.8 lenses as opposed to a set of heavy and bulky f/1.4 ones is quite an attractive proposition. However, the proof of the viability of this is in the handling and the performance, so let's see how we do as we couple the lens up with the 24MP full-frame Panasonic Lumix S5 camera body. 

 

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Panasonic Lumix S 18mm F/1.8 Handling and Features

Panasonic Lumix S 18mm F/1.8 Lens Review: Panasonic Lumix S 18mm F/1.8

The lens is simple in its construction, having just a manual focus ring and an AF/MF switch. It is clearly well made. Extensive use of plastics is indicated by the modest 340g weight, a welcome relief from the heavy bulk of so many current lenses. There is a provided petal lens hood that bayonets securely into position, with a nicely recessed release catch that is not liable to be accidentally activated. Within the bayonet fit for the hood is a conventional 67mm filter thread.

The lens body is a svelte 73.6mm in diameter and 82.0mm long. It is dust and splash resistant, and the instructions do quantify this up to a point as indicating that light rain could be OK, but heavy rain for prolonged periods would be unwise, or at least that is how I interpret the words as written. In any event, it is a very welcome and useful feature and it can be approached with reasonable caution.

The focusing ring is electronic and therefore utterly smooth in operation. The AF/MF switch is self-explanatory. Focusing is down to 0.18m, or 0.59 feet, for a maximum magnification of 0.20, or 1:5. This is usefully close and bodes well for close-up photography as well as sweeping vistas with powerful foreground details. Finally, the metal lens mount is secure and inspires confidence that it will remain so with its 5 screws on the lens mount and 6 on the camera mount.

Panasonic Lumix S 18mm F/1.8 Lens Review: Panasonic Lumix S 18mm F/1.8
 

The optical construction is 13 elements in 12 groups, including 1 UED (Ultra Extra Low Dispersion), 3 ED (Extra Low Dispersion) and 1 UHR (Ultra High Refractive Index). The diaphragm comprises 9 blades for enhanced bokeh.

There was a time when an 18mm f/4 lens was a revelation and a huge achievement, developed by Zeiss in the 1970s for the Contarex SLR film cameras. Now this has been pushed to the point where this 18mm f/1.8 is not only possible but achievable in a compact, affordable package that is within range of all photographers, not just those able to shell out huge sums of money. 18mm is wide but provided we get in close, then it is dramatic and offers wonderful opportunities for a wide range of subjects.

 

Panasonic Lumix S 18mm F/1.8 Lens Review: Panasonic Lumix S 18mm F/1.8
 

There has been a close attention to detail with this lens, both as an individual item and also as a part of the wider group of Panasonic Lumix f/1.8 prime lenses. All of these share a very similar centre of gravity, especially useful with a gimbal and changing lenses for videography, an identical control layout, a very similar size and weight and a constant filter size through the set. This is good planning and clearly, the designers have been very focused on delivering a consistent ergonomic experience.

Let's now look at the performance and see if it lives up to our expectations.      

 


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