Sometimes, the Micro Four Thirds system feels as if it has forgotten its original purpose — delivering solid images in a much smaller form factor. But the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 is exactly what a Micro Four Thirds lens should be — tiny in stature, big on image quality. The lens is so tiny; the lens cap is only a few millimeters larger than a half-dollar coin.
The Panasonic Lumix 42.5mm f1.7 OIS is a petite, affordable lens — so how does the image quality stand up? As a 2015 launch, how does the lens hold up to today’s lenses? I shot some portraits with the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 and found plenty of goodness packed inside this tiny package.
Table of Contents
The Big Picture
The Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 balances size with image quality. Sitting at a much smaller size and lower price than the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.2, the lens offers a solution for budget-conscious and space-conscious photographers. Despite weighing less than a third of a pound, the lens still offers a solid blend of sharpness and bokeh. With only a focus ring on the lens itself, the lens is also easy for beginners to just mount and shoot.
But, look too closely at the images, and some photographers will be annoyed with the chromatic aberration and the purple hues in highlights when working with extreme backlighting. In these scenarios, the autofocus also has a more challenging time locking on.
For the price and size, this lens is excellent. I’m giving the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 four out of five stars.
- This lens is so tiny that it’s cute.
- Weighs less than a third of a pound.
- Simple controls, plus stabilization.
- Autofocus is good in most scenarios.
- Lots of bokeh for the Micro Four Thirds format
- Images are sharp
- The streaky flare is really fun to play with.
- The lens sells for less than $400.
- There’s some chromatic aberration.
- The colors created with lens flare can be difficult to work with.
- There’s no weather sealing.
I tested the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 with the Panasonic GH6. Both the body and lens are on loan from Panasonic.
This isn’t Panasonic’s only 85mm equivalent lens. But what’s unique about this lens is the tiny size and that it still manages to fit in an f1.7 aperture, not too far from the much larger f1.2 variation of this optic.
The Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 is a refreshing reminder of why many photographers choose Micro Four Thirds in the first place: size. While some Micro Four Thirds bodies seem to have forgotten that the genre is about portability, this little lens has not. The lens only weighs less than a third of a pound, and the entire thing could easily fit inside a coffee cup. The filter size is just 37mm, making the lens cap only slightly larger than a half-dollar coin.
The lens’ small statue, however, leaves little room for controls. The first stop on our tour of the lens is the focus ring. It’s also the last stop on the tour because there is literally no other control on this lens. While I prefer lenses with an extra aperture ring, I’ll forgive the simplicity this time because the lens is so small. But photographers that love that aperture ring will want to consider the pricier Panasonic 42.5mm f1.2 instead.
The lens does ship with a plastic twist-on hood as well as a tiny lens cap.
The Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 lacks weather-sealing, which isn’t surprising considering this lens has been around since 2015. If you are looking for a portrait lens to take in the rain, this isn’t it.
But, for a $300 lens, it feels pretty sturdy. It’s a plastic lens (of course), but it doesn’t feel chintzy like some cheap kits feel. The lack of physical controls should also mean fewer pieces to break.
While the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 is starting to show some age, in most cases, the autofocus doesn’t lag much behind the latest lenses. Even photographing kids coming towards the camera on a bike, the lens managed to keep most shots in focus, a great hit rate for action.
For portraits, the lens did a pretty good job, even photographing active toddlers. A few occasional shots of fast motion or laughter missed the mark, but most portrait shots were sharp with this lens on the GH6.
Where the lens had the most trouble focusing was working in backlighting. This is an issue that I’ve come across before with other lenses. When backlighting reduces the contrast, the camera just has difficulty locking on. Sometimes the focus motor goes in and out before locking onto the target. I had the most misses with this lens with a backlit sun.
Ease of Use
With its minimalist, petite design, there’s no learning curve to using the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7. Just mount and start shooting. The only control on the lens itself is for using manual focus.
The lens even has built-in stabilization, a bit surprising for the price point. I was able to easily handhold the camera down to 1/5th of a second.
The Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 delivers solid image quality for a sub-$400 wide aperture lens. Despite the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor, there’s still plenty of bokeh. Panasonic also didn’t murder the flare with too many lens coatings, so there are some creative effects to be had here. However, there is some chromatic aberration and occasional color issues to contend with.
Lens choice is essential when working with Micro Four Thirds — and this lens delivers some beautifully soft backgrounds. Equivalent to an 85mm f3.4, the lens still offers plenty of background separation. Sure, it’s no full-frame f1.2, but it’s impressive for such a tiny lens.
Points of light are rendered to smooth balls at the center. The bokeh balls take on a more cat-eye shape at the edges, occasionally making the bokeh take on a slight swirl. I didn’t detect much onion ringing or soap bubbling either.
Color is where I had the most difficulty with this lens. In good light, the lens produced colors right on track with what I expected. But backlighting and flare introduce issues with some chromatic aberration and purple discoloration. The chromatic aberration is where I felt the lens started to show its age a bit, as more recent lenses tend to do a bit better job. The aberration isn’t terribly obvious when not pixel peeping, but it can create some purple tones in the highlights.
As much as I love lens flare, the lens flare did often wreak havoc on colors, leaving the highlights purple. This was annoying enough that I sometimes just wanted to convert to black and white because fixing all that purple is a nightmare.
I love a bit of lens flare — and the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 does deliver on that. Directed at the sun, I was able to capture some lovely streaky flare as well as some fun ghosting spots. The only thing I didn’t love about the flare was the color, as the flare tended to skew the image a bit too purple for my taste.
I didn’t have any complaints here — eyes in portraits had plenty of sharpness to them. Despite being a lower-priced option, I still found the images to have plenty of sharpness to them.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Who Should Buy It?
Micro Four Thirds photographers that want a portrait lens that’s tiny with both flare and bokeh yet affordably priced look closely at the Panasonic 42.5mm. The lens delivers impressive image quality considering most lenses that create this level of bokeh and sharpness are much larger and heavier.
Avoid this lens if you don’t want to contend with chromatic aberration and purple discoloration in post, or if you want a lens that can shoot in the rain and dust.
LensRentals lists the following tech specs for the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7:
- Angle of View: 29°
- Aperture: f/1.7-22
- Autofocus: Autofocus
- Brand: Panasonic
- Diameter: 2.17”
- Dimensions, Length: 1.97″
- Filter Size: 37.0mm (non-rotating front element)
- Filter Style: non-rotating front element
- Flare Resistance: Unknown
- Focal Length: 42.5-42.5
- Focusing System: Internal, stepping motor, non-rotating
- Groups/Elements: 8/10
- Hood Included: Yes
- Image Stabilization: Yes
- Item Type: Lens
- Lens Type: Normal Range and Telephoto
- Low Dispersion Elements: 0
- Max Aperture: 1.7
- Maximum Magnification: 0.2x
- Minimum Aperture: 22.0
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 1.02feet
- Mount: Micro 4/3rds
- Weather Resistant: No
- Weight: 0.29 lbs
- Zoom Method: NA
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