Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II ASPH MEGA OIS LUMIX G Vario
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Lab Test Results
July 20, 2014
by Andrew Alexander
The Panasonic 14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 II ASPH MEGA O.I.S. Lumix G Vario is the third version of the G-system and GF-system kit lens, and slightly smaller and lighter than its predecessors. As with the previous design there is no exterior switch to control image stabilization, in fact there are no user controls at all on the lens other than the zoom and focus rings.
The 14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 II was designed exclusively for the Micro Four-Thirds sensor size; it will function properly on other Micro Four-Thirds cameras, such as those produced by Olympus. 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, however the minimum aperture remains at f/22. The following table reflects the change in aperture size with focal length:
The lens takes 46mm filters, and ships with a petal-shaped hood. The lens is available as part of a G6 and GF-6 camera kits.
The Panasonic 14-42mm II has definitely been improved from its pervious version - it produces almost tack-sharp images when used at its widest aperture - and stop down even just to ƒ/4 or ƒ/5.6 and images are absolutely sharp.
Used wide open at wide angle (14mm @ ƒ/3.5), there's only the slightest amount of corner softness in the extreme corners, a definite improvement over the previous version of the lens. Stopping down to ƒ/5.6 and produces tack-sharp results at the focal length. 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/8, is required for images to become tack-sharp.
Used in the lens' telephoto range (36-42mm), sharpness is excellent; you'll have to stop down to ƒ/8, for 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.
There's really only one combination of focal length and aperture that produces results for chromatic aberration which are slightly higher than we'd prefer, at the 14mm setting with an aperture set higher than ƒ/11. CA takes the form of magenta-blue fringing at edges of high contrast.
It's worth noting that we're pretty sure the Panasonic cameras do 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 these Panasonic cameras 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 II 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 0.34x magnification rating and a minimum close-focusing distance of 30cm (around one foot).
|Macro at 14mm|
|Macro at 42mm|
Build Quality and Handling
The Panasonic 14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 II lens represents the next iteration by Panasonic in reducing the size and weight of its kit lens: is quite small and light, weighing in at just 110gm (3.88 oz). This is around 50gm lighter than the previous G-series kit lens. Panasonic has achieved this reduction in weight by changing the design of the lens: it only uses 9 elements in 8 groups, including 2 aspherical lenses, where the previous kit lens used 12 elements in 9 groups. As well, the lens is physically smaller, at only 1.9" in depth instead of 2.4".
It's worth noting that the new lens is a bit more conservative when it comes to its variable aperture; while it's marked as a ƒ/3.5-5.6 lens, by 25mm you're already limited to ƒ/5.3 as the minimum aperture.
The lens uses the same seven curved diaphragm blades to make up the aperture, and the plastic body mount of the previous kit lens has returned to a metal mount in the version II lens. There is no distance scale or depth-of-field scale on the lens; the only information is the focal length markings.
Results for the Mega O.I.S. image stabilization system were very good, showing about three stops of hand-holding improvement. Check out our IS test tab above for more detailed results.
The focusing ring is plastic with raised ribs, just 1/4'' wide. The ring will rotate forever in either direction with no hard or soft stops. The zoom ring is also plastic with raised ribs, about 1/2'' wide. The zoom ring is smooth to turn, taking only two fingers to rotate, and offers around 75 degrees of turning action to run through the available range of focal lengths. There is some very small lens extension as the lens is zoomed in towards 42mm, about 1/4 inch. Zoom creep is not a factor with this lens.
The lens hood is a petal-shaped, bayonet-mounted design that nearly 2 inches long. The hood will reverse for storage on the lens.
Panasonic 14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 ASPH MEGA OIS LUMIX G VARIO ~$-
The previous version of the lens is just slightly less sharp, a little larger, and a little heavier than the version II lens; otherwise, it's quite similar.
Panasonic 14-45mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 ASPH MEGA O.I.S Lumix G VARIO ~$-
The "previous previous" kit lens isn't as sharp as the version 14-42mm II, but otherwise, it's a great kit lens - it's also just slightly longer on the telephoto end (45mm instead of 42mm).
Olympus 14-42mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 II M.Zuiko ~$300
Olympus' series of kit lens offers an innovative design which folds the lens back into itself to save space when not in use, making it quite small for storage. However, the Panasonic 14-42mm II is almost as small as the Olympus lens now in this configuration. Optically, they're quite similar, with the Panasonic lens being a little sharper.
Panasonic 14-50mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 ASPH MEGA OIS Leica D VARIO-ELMARIT ~$1,000
We haven't yet tested this lens, but if you'd like something a little faster (ƒ/2.8-3.5) and with a bit more robust build quality, this would be the lens for you; it also offers a bit more reach on the telephoto end.
Panasonic continues to improve its kit lens, somehow making it smaller, lighter, and sharper than the previous version. At the time of writing you can't buy it separately, so it's just worth saying that it makes an excellent starter lens for the G- or GF- series camera you buy it with.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II ASPH MEGA OIS LUMIX G Vario User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Thoppa (16 reviews)As sharp as any m43 zoom - better in some ways than my 12-35mm f/2.8. Very light. Very cheap. A no brainer.Plastic lens mount. Slow apertures. I prefer 12mm.
I thought I'd try this lens simply to see if it is as good as the tests. It is. I compared it to the 12-32, 12-35, 45-150 and 42.5 shooting flat detailed objects at 5 metres. The prime lens wins easily and this comes.... joint second with the 12-35 and a bit ahead of 12-32 and 45-150. And for under $100 ! This has to be the bargain lens for m43 shooters.reviewed May 16th, 2016 (purchased for $90)
7 out of 10 points and recommended by waterfoot (4 reviews)Small, light, inexpensive, stellar IR performerMicrocontrast a bit lacking
I agree with the previous reviews to a great extent, although I see larger differences when compared with the extaordinary Olympus 12-40 at any aperture, the Panasonic showing significantly less "bite" from lack of microcontrast. It's not a big deal but I thought I'd mention it.reviewed August 28th, 2015 (purchased for $80)
I bought the 14-42 to use as a lazy choice for my GM5 when I can't be bothered to carry multiple primes, and it's a decent enough performer. But I was pleasntly surprised when I tried it on my IR converted E-PL5, where it outperforms *all* my other lenses - even the Panasonic 14/2.5 which has a very solid IR performance.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Marriott (4 reviews)Small, light, sharp.Mine is a plastic mount, but it's no problem at such a light weight.
This lens will get no respect because it's a "kit" lens. Too bad. It is as excellent as reviewed here. You can get that last bit of quality and speed in another lens for sure, but you will pay far more and it will be decidedly heavier. Compared to my Pana/Leica 25 at 5.6, there's not a dimes worth of difference, just a tiny bit more micro contrast in the center. It is almost always on my GX7, and it never fails to delight me with its competence. They can be had on Ebay, new, (detached from GF6s) for a song. You will probably never find a better deal.reviewed July 23rd, 2014 (purchased for $119)
8 out of 10 points and recommended by lightknight (21 reviews)Light, sharp, cheap, good OIS. Unbelievable....? Speed
The performance of this lens is hard to believe. I have the Oly 12-40 F2.8 Pro. This lens is half the weight 20% of the cost and has 90% of its performance. Period.reviewed April 20th, 2014 (purchased for $200)
I bought this with the Panasonic GF6 as its kit lens. It converted me to M4/3 so I got an OMD M1. This lens is responsible!