Well my Panasonic Lumix 14mm f/2.5 finally showed up. It took a fast plane ride from Hong Kong to US customs in New York where upon it sat for 3 painful weeks before customs decided to wave it through. As with the Sigma initially, not a whole lot of use yet (though the sigma has been getting a some use here and there as I am sure the Pany 14mm will). I was rather prepared for how small the lens was going to be, but still…it is just so tiny and cute.
Up front something I have noticed that is a down side with my wife’s E-PL1, the focus boxes are too large for this lens. I never really noticed with my wife’s 14-42mm at 14mm, or else it is just that I tended not to shoot things all that close and always at wider apertures (it doesn’t go to f/2.5 pretty obviously), but I’ve been getting a lot of focusing misses when trying to focus on smallish objects close up (within about 3-4ft). The camera locks on the background instead of the object. I’ve noticed this a couple of times with the sigma and the kit lens, but I’d say with the Pany 14mm it does it at least half the time if trying to focus on close up objects that take up less in the frame than the focus box (by at least 75%, bigger than that and it locks focus on the correct object pretty much 100% of the time, otherwise it is about 50% success rate).
I’d imagine on later Olympus and Panasonic cameras where you can make the focus box sizes smaller that this would be a non-issue or a much more limited issue, but it is something I have noticed and is annoying. That negative aside, there really aren’t much in the way of negatives with the lens that I have noticed. The lens seems more or less pretty sharp across the frame. The center is very sharp even wide open and gets a little sharper stopped down a stop or two. At the edges things seem a little soft, but perfectly usable wide open and nice and sharp once you stop down about a stop to f/3.5 or f/4. There is a reasonably amount of CA around the edges at all apertures (or at least up through f/5.6, I haven’t shot much stopped down further than that). I also just recently got Light room 4.1 RC and the new CA correction removes it easily, without a trace and without negatively impacting image quality. If you don’t have a way to correct for it, it isn’t really that terrible, but it is present with some green-yellow fringing and some purple-cyan fringing present on high contrast edges in the corners.
f/2.5, 1/30s, ISO200 (Obligatory cat picture)
The lens can focus pretty closely, .59ft according to the front of the lens, which I don’t doubt. At closer distances, say within about 3-4ft you can get some decent DoF effects with the lens shot wide open. Much further than that and the DoF is sufficient even wide open at that most everything is in focus, or in focus enough not to be “well blurred”. The Bokeh that is present is decent to my eye. Nothing harsh, but nothing beautiful either.
f/4, 1/1000s, ISO200
Close to the minimum focus distance of the lens. No macro lens, but you can still get decent reproduction sizes.
100% crop, pretty sharp and also when shot close (just like almost every lens for every format short of smart phone camera sensors) shallow DoF.
f/3.5, 1/50s, ISO400 (Contrived food picture, PS for kids, yogart sticks thrown in the freezer are great treats)
There isn’t much else to say at this point. In the couple of hours and maybe 80 or so pictures I have taken with the lens I’ve decided I like it. Its small, weighs pretty much nothing, focuses very quickly and quietly (not as quiet as the sigma, but just about as fast and the aperture “rattlesnaking” in changing light is a little quieter than the Sigma 30mm lens), is very sharp in the center from wide open, acceptably sharp in the corners from wide open and very good stopped down a stop or more, has some CA, but nothing overly distracting and easy to correct. I haven’t checked distortion, but at least with OoC JPEGs from the E-PL1 there wasn’t any real distortion noticeable to my eyes at least (I don’t have a very discerning eye mind you), though I have heard the distortion is pretty bad if uncorrected with RAWs.
f/2.5, 1/5s, ISO200
One other big plus is that the lens was cheap. About $170 shipped from Hong Kong. Since ordering it I’ve noticed one or two US sellers also selling the lens for a similar price new. Panasonic has done a lot of people a nice favor of selling the GF3 with the 14mm for super cheap, so some Ebay dealers are making a nice little profit by breaking up the kit and selling the GF3 body on its own and the 14mm f/2.5 on it’s own. I can’t complain as it allowed me to get the lens for only a little over half the price of what it is regularly new. Now if Panasonic would just sell the GF5 with 20mm pancake for cheap so Ebay dealers can get in to the same racket of breaking up kits and selling the 20mm f/1.7 for cheap.
f/4.5, 1/1000s, ISO200 (before anyone jumps on this one, the mailbox side panel there isn’t straight, that isn’t camera distortion showing. As I mentioned, on the E-PL1, at least with the recent firmware, seems to control distortion well for out of camera JPEGs)
I think that more or less sums up everything I have to say about the Pany 14mm for now. Again, some day I’ll do a detailed write-up of the lens, better/more test pictures, etc. It’ll have to wait for the E-M5 to show up and to have a little more spare time to actually figure out what I am going to use as a test target. Speaking of, as I am sure most people have realized by now, the OM-D E-M5 is taking forever and a day to ship, especially for those who ordered body only kits. I just have to keep trying to be patient (which is very hard for me) and hopefully in just the next week or two I’ll have my new camera.
f/2.5, 1/20s, ISO200