Try Something New. Panasonic LUMIX S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 Review

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I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this; there’s something odd about the Panasonic LUMIX S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 lens. Designed for their full-frame L mount cameras, this lens is a wide to normal zoom. And I get the intent of that. You’re making the lens smaller, wider, and keeping the same aperture range. But it’s still odd. A zoom lens that went from 28-70mm would be far more useful. Admittedly, it’s a good lens. You can explore with it and shoot vast, wide scenes. You can even shoot portraits that are good enough at 60mm. But you’re never going to experience true telephoto. And that’s one of the reasons why you buy real cameras. All of the high-end phones these days have “telephoto” lenses, which are normal focal lengths. And you might be asking why I’m sitting here even bothering with this lens. Well, that’s because it’s a kit lens option.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Nice colors
  • Fast to focus
  • Fun to use
  • Weather sealed

Cons

  • Odd focal lengths, but I appreciate that they’re trying something new

Gear Used

We tested the Panasonic LUMIX S 20-60mm f3.5-5.6 with the Panasonic S5 and the S1.

Tech Specs

Specs have been summarized from the LensRentals listing. Rent it before you try it!

  • 11 elements in 9 groups
  • Weather sealing
  • 2 aspherical elements
  • 9 aperture blades
  • 3 ELD elements
  • 3 LD elements
  • Minimum focusing of half a foot
  • 0.8 lbs

Ergonomics

The Panasonic LUMIX S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 lens isn’t huge. It has a 67mm filter thread on the front. That should tell you it’s adequately sized. It’s just that the lens hood makes it look larger than it really is.

The lens has a few control rings. There is the zoom ring near the back and the focus ring near the front. The front focusing ring isn’t like some of the higher-end lenses. With those, it can be switched to manual easily. All you have to do is pull it back.

When zoomed in, the Panasonic LUMIX S 20-60mm f3.5-5.6 lens basically increases in size by 50%. That still keeps it very compact. And best of all, it stays balanced with the camera bodies. When this lens is mounted to the Panasonic S5, it becomes a package I want to bring everywhere with me.

On the side is the MF/AF switch. Thankfully, I never accidentally bumped into it.

Build Quality

Lucky for you, the Panasonic LUMIX S 20-60mm f3.5-5.6 is weather sealed. So when you buy the lens as a kit with the camera, you’ll get maximum build quality. That’s very refreshing. It’s nice to know you can take it out anywhere. In fact, we’ve taken this lens out into the rain, and it’s survived. But besides the weather sealing, the lens is nice and compact. The balance for the camera body is also quite good. At times, it feels like you’re holding a 35mm or a 50mm prime lens. But then you turn the zoom ring, and that changes. Still, it’s not awful at all.

Ease of Use

Overall, this is an autofocus lens first. You mount it, point, focus, and shoot. It’s that simple. There’s a very cool manual focus clutch that’s also useful. And I hope that experienced photographers will appreciate that. But I don’t think that most new shooters will begin to understand what to do with it.

Something else worth noting is that this lens is light. So when combined with the image stabilization in the Panasonic S5, it’s hard to get super blurry shots from camera shake.

Autofocus

None of these focal lengths are telephotos. With that said, the autofocus from this lens is pretty fast. The Panasonic S5 is probably the company’s fastest focusing camera. But it’s still just a bit behind Nikon with autofocus overall. So for an L mount lens, expect this one to be quick. Of course, that will also depend on what camera it’s on.

Image Quality

I think the image quality from the Panasonic LUMIX S 20-60mm f3.5-5.6 is sufficient for passionate photographers who are new to the game. It’s a kit lens. For many years, kit lenses were excellent. You could do serious gigs with them and make any pro photographer’s jaw drop. Modern kit lenses are a bit of a mixed bag. You can surely shoot professional-grade photos with them. But the higher end stuff blows the kit glass out of the water. The Panasonic LUMIX S 20-60mm f3.5-5.6 is no exception here.

Bokeh

The best bokeh from this lens comes at the telephoto end. In this case, it’s the normal focal length. It’s nothing to write home about, but it will suffice with the right colors in the scene. I think entry-level photographers will be satisfied, but the L mount has much better glass.

Chromatic Aberration

We couldn’t find any major issues with distortion or chromatic aberration with this lens. Anything we found is negligible and easily fixed in post-production. Once Capture One gets a profile for this lens, it will be even better.

Color Rendition

The colors from this lens are pretty standard. Even with Panasonic’s Vivid mode, they’re not anything spectacular, but not anything awful. Have fun with it, and use it in L Monochrome mode if you’re shooting on Panasonic cameras.

Sharpness

This lens is moderately sharp when speaking comparatively to other lenses. But overall, it’s still quite sharp. I didn’t test it on the S1R, so I can’t tell how sharp it is on higher resolution sensors. But on the 24 Megapixel sensors, it’s awe-inspiring. Still, I can’t help but look at all the other solid glass that the L mount offers and wonder why they don’t just use those lenses instead.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Weather sealing
  • Lightweight
  • Pretty compact

Dislikes

  • Odd focal length choice, but very effective in reality
  • I wish it went further into the telephoto end

You can probably tell by now that I don’t know how I feel about the Panasonic LUMIX S 20-60mm f3.5-5.6. It joins a bunch of others as being mild-mannered options. Of course, you have to expect this of a kit lens. But for the new photographer who grabs a Panasonic S5, they’ll be semi-satisfied. I strongly recommend getting this lens with a few others. Sigma has some affordable L mount lenses. Specifically, their primes are wonderful. Leica goes off into the higher end of things. Panasonic is a middle ground in some ways. But in other ways, they’re also incredibly high end. Either way, it’s unfair to compare the Panasonic LUMIX S 20-60mm f3.5-5.6 to those other lenses. At the same time, you can’t get over it when you know what’s possible. This lens is also right around $600 by itself. Honestly, I’m not sure I’d buy it, but that’s just me.

The Panasonic LUMIX S 20-60mm f3.5-5.6 gets three out of five stars. Want one? Check them out on Amazon for right around $600.