Micro Four Thirds has long had an excellent wide angle zoom, but unfortunately it isn’t very heavily mentioned in forums or anywhere else. But the fact of the matter though is that Panasonic created a 7-14mm f4 zoom lens a while back: giving us the equivalent of 14-28mm at an f8 aperture in the full frame world. Featuring a constant F4 zoom, this is the lens that an architectural or landscape photographer will almost never have to stop down. This beast of a wide angle also sports 7 aperture blades, 16 elements in 12 groups, a minimum focus of just under 10 inches, and a fairly compact size for a lens of this type.
During our three week testing period, we weren’t really surprised by this lens’ performance. It was everything we thought it would be: stellar.
Pros and Cons
- Exceptional image quality
- Pretty compact size
- Fast focusing
- Built in lens hood
- This lens made the sensor on the Panasonic GH3 deliver colors that popped
- Distortion, but you have to just accept that with a lens like this
- Can’t attach a front filter to the lens; which means that video users will need to spring for a matte box
Specs taken from the B&H Photo listing of the product
|Dimensions (DxL)||Approx. 2.76 x 3.27″ (7.01 x 8.31 cm)|
|Weight||10.58 oz (300 g)|
If you spend lots of time with the Panasonic 7-14mm f4 lens, you’ll begin to realize that it isn’t much larger than a camera body like the GH3. It is a wide angle zoom with a constant aperture though–and perhaps that is part of the reason why it is the size that it is. If the aperture range changed, it would be much smaller.
This lens features a fixed lens hood, zoom markers for nearly every focal length, and a focusing ring. The latter is towards the front and very small.
When looking at this lens, I realized that Panasonic skipped the 11mm mark. And I began to wonder why. Then I realized that every other focal length is the equivalent of a very famous and often used field of view. With that said, I’ve almost never heard of a 22mm lens, but I’ve sure heard of 20mm and 24mm.
Along the body of the lens, you’ll also feel some very nice texture that helps with gripping it.
This lens also doesn’t feature any switches on it at all. To control manual focus, you’ll need to set it up within the camera. This lens also doesn’t incorporate OIS, so there is even less of a reason to have another switch.
The front element will come out very slightly during focusing, but it won’t ever go back the range of the lens hood. As you can see here though, it can still be subjected to precipitation if it is held at the right angle.
The 7-14mm f4 feels quite solid in the hand. It isn’t heavy, and it doesn’t really feel as plasticky as the 12-35mm f2.8 and 35-100mm f2.8–and perhaps this also has to do with the textured feel. But make no mistake, those lenses are weather sealed and this one isn’t.
Ease of Use
This lens is pretty darn simple to use. Just point it at your subject, autofocus, and shoot. It’s that simple. When it comes to manually focusing, you’ll be delighted to know that mostly everything will be in focus anyway due to the nature of the field of view and the focal lengths.
We were positively delighted by just how fast this lens autofocused on the GH3–and it even did a pretty darn good job on the Olympus OMD EM5. Granted, nearly everything is always in focus with this lens. This feature makes it perfect for the landscape and architecture shooter. If I were vacationing in Europe, this is perhaps the only lens that I’d want to shoot with as I can have the ultra wide angle perspective for buildings and the wide angle perspective at the other end of the lens for street photography.
Panasonic’s 7-14mm f4 is sharp from corner to corner, deals with distortion relatively well, has some awesome color rendition, is super sharp, and is overall just a kick ass lens.
But don’t expect the bokeh to be all that awesome.
With some of Panasonic’s other zoom lenses, we didn’t feel that the color rendition was very exceptional. But this lens renders some excellent colors no matter what the mode may be. In practice, this means that the beautiful emerald green landscapes of Ireland will look every bit as punchy and vibrant as they did when you were first there.
When I attached this lens to the GH3, I immediately thought of Fujifilm Velvia due to just how awesome the color rendition was. And for the record, this goes for the standard and the vivid color modes–but even on the muted mode it will still be even more punchy than the rest.
Fringing occurs in areas of high contrast–and for the record we saw very little. If you’re wondering about overall color fringing, you really have to go in and pixel peep for it all over the image. It’s tough to find with this lens and on a calibrated monitor, we didn’t think too much of any that we saw. But once again, it was extremely rare to find it.
Bokeh? Well, there isn’t very much with this lens. Imagine yourself looking through a piece of glass with vaseline over it–except that only a certain section is sharp. The rest is the bokeh. If anything, think of it as almost like the tilt-shift effect in Instagram but significantly more organic.
We found sharpness to not be an issue throughout the entire frame. And with that said, we also found almost no reason to ever stop down. Changing the aperture to f5.6 improves this lens’ sharpness but a smidgen that isn’t even worth mentioning. In fact, the only reason why we ever stopped down was because of flash usage.
Get close up to your subject and you’ll obviously start to see distortion. However, the distortion is understandably worse in the corners of the image frame when focusing up close. If your subject is further out, you’ve got nothing to worry about.
Extra Image Samples
The Panasonic 7-14mm f4 lens may just become your next go-to lens for everything if your the type of shooter that it appeals to. It is wonderful for landscapes, cityscapes, and wide scenes at the shorter end of the lens. But when you zoom it, it becomes one of two classical street photography focal lengths. And you really can’t go wrong.
We’re smitten with this lens. It’s sharp, contrasty, has wonderful color rendition, focuses quickly, feels well built and is highly portable. The only thing that it is missing is weather-sealing, but that doesn’t really break our hearts too much.
If you need a wide angle zoom for your Micro Four Thirds camera, this is the one to spring for. And there is no turning back.
Recommended Cameras and Accessories
Olympus OMD EM5: Though it doesn’t focus as fast with this lens as its Panasonic cousin, you don’t really have to worry about that unless you’re just going to try to use it for street photography. For architecture and landscapes, you know that your subjects aren’t moving at a frantic pace unless you’re capturing the apocalypse. See our review.
Olympus EPL5: During my time with this lens, I felt that this camera more than any other would benefit the most from this lens on the Olympus side. Together, they would be an excellent street photography combo. See our review.
Panasonic GX1: This camera’s super solid build quality when combined with these focal lengths will give the documentary photographer a portable street shooter.
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