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100 in 100/IV, day 60: We test the world’s smallest, lightest mid-range zoom
Panasonic gives the kit lens a makeover and puts it on a diet. Now it’s looking small and sharp.
Let us consider the humble midrange zoom, or kit, lens. It covers a moderate wide-angle to equally moderate telephoto range, and offers a relatively slow maximum aperture of around f/3.5. It’s inexpensive and relatively small, and is often packaged with a DSLR. While it’s not all that exciting, it does cover a decent range for travel, snapshots and even portraits.
Now let’s look at the remix, courtesy of Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens system. The Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens may cover the same territory as other midrange zooms, but it does it in a much, much smaller package. In fact, it’s the smallest, lightest mid-range kit lens on the planet.
That’s thanks to the new camera design pioneered by the Panasonic Lumix G. The distance between the back of the lens and the sensor plane has been greatly reduced, which translates into smaller cameras and lenses. The 14-45 is the first of its breed, and it’s not bad at all.
Yes, it’s that small! See how tiny the lens is when held in my hand!
A true “kit” lens, the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH lens is currently only available the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 camera, but with increased sales of the core system I think it will get plenty of company within the next year or two. Its focal range covers the 35mm equivalent of a 28-90mm zoom, which is great for scenics to portraits. The focus ring, towards the forward end of the lens, is active when the camera is switched to manual focus, and is otherwise non-functional.
In the field
Images were quite sharp under both ideal and less than ideal conditions, with only minimal pillow distortion at the widest setting. More importantly, the built-in Mega O.I.S. is effective, and probably increases effective steadiness by 2 or more stops. That more than makes up for the lens’s smallish maximum aperture when shooting in low light.
Flare is well-controlled throughout thanks to the lens’s aspherical coating, and I saw no evidence of fringing even when inspecting 13MP images at 100%.
While Panasonic offers 14-140mm f/4-5.8 aspherical lens and 45-200mm f/4-5.6G tele zoom for the Micro Four Thirds system, I am awaiting an even wider array of focal lengths and options that will maximize the utility of this intriguing camera system. In the meantime, the Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH and is an excellent start.
Minimal distortion showed when the Panasonic 14-45mm lens was zoomed out to wide angle; 100% detail area shows fine detail with no apparent distortion.