ARRIENDO panasonic lumix 14-42mm
image of Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH MEGA OIS LUMIX G VARIO
July 1, 2011
by Andrew Alexander
The Panasonic 14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 ASPH MEGA O.I.S. Lumix G Vario is an update to the original G1-system kit lens, slightly smaller and lighter, and with a 3mm reduction in its longest focal length. Actually introduced with the G2, we didn't have an opportunity to test it when we reviewed that camera, but received a copy of this lens with the new G3 body. The new design removes the exterior switch to control image stabilization, making it controlled completely from the body; as well, it employs the newer continuously variable aperture, used to great effect in movie mode.
The 14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 was designed exclusively for the micro four-thirds sensor size; it's not clear whether the lens could be mounted on other Panasonic models with an adapter, or even if you would want to. The lens offers focal lengths equivalent to 28-84mm, in 35mm film terms.
The 14-42mm isn't a ''constant'' lens, in that as you increase the focal length, the maximum aperture size decreases, though the minimum remains the same. The following table reflects the change in aperture with focal length:
Focal Length 14mm 18mm 25mm 36mm 42mm
Largest aperture ƒ/3.5 ƒ/4.1 ƒ/4.6 ƒ/5.3 ƒ/5.6
Smallest aperture ƒ/22
The lens takes 52mm filters, and ships with the H-FS014042 petal-shaped hood. The lens is available as part of a G3 camera kit.
The Panasonic 14-42mm produces decently-sharp images when used at its widest aperture - better in the wide angle than at telephoto - but stop down even just to ƒ/4 or ƒ/5.6 and images are very sharp indeed.
Used wide open at wide angle (14mm @ ƒ/3.5), there's a generous sweet spot of sharpness in the center, which is surrounded by light softness out to the edges. Interestingly, stopping down to ƒ/4 actually produces slightly worse sharpness - noticeable at the top of the frame - before becoming steadily sharper at ƒ/5.6 and tack-sharp at ƒ/8. Diffraction limiting sets in at ƒ/11, but you won't notice it until ƒ/16 or even ƒ/22.
Zooming in a bit into the mid-range (18-25mm), the lens shows some light softness when used wide open, particularly at the top of the frame; otherwise, there is some generous sharpness. Stopping down to ƒ/5.6, especially at 18mm, where it becomes tack-sharp, improves this performance. At ƒ/8, it's tack-sharp across the board, echoing the performance noted at the wide-angle setting, previously.
Used in the lens' telephoto range (36-42mm), the wide-aperture setting is above-average, but not excellent. To get any real sharpness you'll have to stop down to ƒ/8, where it's like someone flicked a switch and the sharpness turned on; results are almost tack-sharp across the frame. Again, this excellent performance continues all the way to ƒ/16, and then there's only light softness at ƒ/22.
Results for chromatic aberration testing were slightly higher than we'd prefer, mostly in the corners, but actually visible to some degree even in the centre. CA takes the form of magenta-blue fringing at edges of high contrast, and is more prominent when the lens is used in a wider aperture than a smaller one, so stopping down will minimize it to some degree (and provide you with sharp images, too).
It's worth noting that we're pretty sure the Panasonic G3 does some image post-processing to alleviate CA, shading and distortion.
The most significant corner shading is produced at the widest angle and widest aperture setting: when set to 14mm and ƒ/3.5, the extreme corners will be 3/4 of a stop darker than the center. Otherwise, it's not so bad; other focal lengths when used wide open produce about a half-stop differential. Stopping down reduces this shading considerably, until at ƒ/8, there is no shading to speak of.
We know there's some complicated post-processing under the hood of the G3 when we see its results for distortion; there hardly is any, especially between 18mm and 25mm. Otherwise, there is some very light barrel distortion at 14mm, and some very light pincushion distortion at 42mm.
The Panasonic 14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 is very quick to autofocus - the lens takes well under a second to slew through the entire range of focus. Small changes in focus are conducted extremely quickly, and there's very little noise when the lens focuses.
Macro performance is above average, with a 0.3x magnification rating and a minimum close-focusing distance of 30cm (around one foot).
Build Quality and Handling
The Panasonic 14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 lens is quite small and light, weighing in at just 165gm (just under six oz). This is 30gm lighter than the previous G-series kit lens, the 14-45mm. One must assume there is a bit more plastic in the lens to achieve this weight savings, as the lens uses the same optical formula as the previous 14-45mm lens - 12 elements in 9 groups, with a single aspherical element. The lens uses the same seven curved diaphragm blades to make up the aperture, but the metal body mount has been replaced with a plastic one. Where the 14-45mm lens used to have a switch on it to enable or disable the Mega O.I.S. image stabilization, this switch has been removed on the new 14-42mm lens, presumably because it was potentially confusing (Mega O.I.S. functions are controlled on the camera body). As well, there is no distance scale or depth-of-field scale on the lens; the only information is the focal length markings.
The focusing ring is plastic with raised ribs, just 1/4'' wide.