Review Panasonic 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH POWER OIS LUMIX G VARIO & Panasonic GX7 (Micro 43)
We get asked daily for the ideal combination of a compact camera for interchangeable lenses, including a lens with such a big focal length range, that you no longer have to swap lenses. What few realize is that correct for just this group of photographers a micro-43 camera with the Panasonic 14-140 mm f/3.5 is a perfect choice. In mid-2009 the first version of the Panasonic 14-140 mm zoom lens appeared, as one of the first lenses for the micro-43 system. The Panasonic 14-140 mm zoom lens combines a 10 times zoom range with a virtually silent autofocus and a built-in image stabilization. Since April 2013 there is now the Panasonic 14-140 mm f/3.5-5.6 – a smaller, stronger, better and yet cheaper version with built-in image stabilization, which is a fearce competitor for all-round zooms on SLR cameras with an APS-C sensor.
With an amazingly low weight of only 265 grams (almost half of its predecessor) the Panasonic 14-140 mm f/3.5 is ideal for a photographer/video lover who changes lens as little as possible, but prefers the freedom of a camera with interchangeable lenses. This Panasonic 14-140 mm mk2 is among other things sold as a kit lens in combination with the Panasonic GH3, the top model for enjoying video as a photographer. We reviewed this superzoom on the Panasonic GX7, the current top model for photography.
Panasonic 14-14 0mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH POWER OIS LUMIX G VARIO review @ Panasonic GX7
Panasonic 14-140 mm II FOV @ 140 mm, 200 ISO, f/7.1, 1/1000
The Panasonic 14-140 mm f/3.5-f/5.6 has an impressive zoom range, to speak in compact camera language: "10x optical zoom". The angle nearly matches the angle of view of an 18-200 mm zoom on a camera on an APS-C camera. Comparing the Panasonic 14-140 mm MK2 with a comparable 18-200 mm zoom lens, the Panasonic is about 25% shorter and 50% lighter. If you add in that advanced micro-43 cameras such as the Panasonic GX7 or Panasonic G6 are also smaller and about 25% lighter than similar SLR cameras with an APS-C sensor, then such a combination will be very attractive as a companion for a holiday.
Construction and autofocus
The Panasonic 14-140 mm f/3.5-5.6 (made in Japan) is easy to distinguish from the Panasonic 14-140 mm f/4-f/5.8. The old lens was matte-grey, the new one is glossy black and despite the higher brightness is smaller. The zoom ring and the focus ring of the old version are made of rubber, with the new model that's plastic. To realize as compact a design as possible, Panasonic has used several high-quality aspherical and ED glass elements, as you can see in the lens design, which we have taken over from the Panasonic site. Like most super zooms, this lens has no constant length. If you zoom out to 140 mm, then the Panasonic 14-140 mm f/3.5-f/5.6 is about twice as long. Also, in the extended position, the lens is much smaller than similar super zooms for APS-C cameras.
Focusing with the Panasonic 14-140 mm II in combination with the Panasonic GX7 is silent and very fast. Also in the dark the AF is accurate. On this point, the Panasonic 14-140 mm f/3.5 distinguishes itself positively from various vacation zooms on APS-C cameras. The phase detection systems of APS-C cameras is, with the use of less bright lenses, including all vacation zooms, slower and less accurate in the dark. The contrast detection of the Panasonic GX7 also offers in the dark fast and precise focus in combination with the Panasonic 14-140 mm super zoom. The drive of the autofocus is extra quiet thanks to the stepper motor, and so this lens is also suitable for video. It is nice that the image stabilization can be set on or off via a button on the lens.
Macro? Panasonic 14-140 mm mk2 @ 140 mm f/5.6, handheld, 1/800 s, 200 ISO. With a minimum distance of 30 cm – 20 cm less than its predecessor –you can get pretty close to your subject. For a true macro photographer it's probably still not close enough, but 99% of photographers will be content with a scale of 1:0.25 (similar to a scale of 1:0.5 for a lens on a camera with a full frame sensor).
Image stabilization Panasonic 14-140mm f/3.5
Because you don't have a mirror that flips up and down when taking a picture, you can still get pictures by hand without image stabilization, shooting at slower shutter speeds than with an SLR. If you still want to make sharp pictures in very low light, then the built-in image stabilization (an important difference from its predecessor) comes in handy. Thereby you can also take pictures in the dark, that have aren't ruined by motion blur.
Thanks to thebuilt-inimage stabilizationyou will shoot images at a focal lengthof 50mm(with a field of view equal to100mmona full frame sensor)anda shutter speed of1/6 sec, assharp imagesas shot atthe samefocal lengthwithout image stabilization and a shutter speed of1/50 second. That's an effective gain of three stops.
At the extreme focal lengths across the zoom range, 14 mm and 140 mm, vignetting is visible in the corners. Nevertheless, vignetting, less than 1 stop, is well controlled. In practice, you won't often see vignetting. If it does come up, then it's easy to correct with software.
Move your mouse over the graph to see the measured vignetting at 50 to 140 mm.
You don't have to worry about distortion with this super zoom; Panasonic has handled it well. Apart from clearly visible barrel distortion at 14 mm, the distortion is low over the entire zoom range. Panasonic applies correction to the distortion, both on the jpg files and – when using regular RAW converters like Lightroom or ACR – the RAW files.
Bokeh is not a point about that lenses walk around bragging about. Even so, the Panasonic 14-140 mm f/3.5-f/5.6 was surprising here in a positive sense. Compared to the previous version, the new version of the Panasonic 14-140 mm delivers, partly due to the greater brightness, a clearly more beautiful bokeh. If you're a lover of bokeh and you shoot with a micro-43 camera then the purchase of a bright lens with a fixed focal length like the Panasonic 20 mm f/1.7 or the Olympus 75 mm f/1.8, depending on your financial elbow room, is a good choice.
Click on the image to the right (2x) for a larger version to get an impression of the bokeh.
Despite a relatively complex design, with 14 lenses in 12 groups, we encountered no serious flare or ghosting during the practical test. That might be because during the short test period we had cloud cover, so we couldn't find any direct sunlight that might challenge this lens. The backlight test in the studio was no problem for this lens.
Resolution Panasonic 14-140mm f/3.5
To compare the measurement results from a micro-camera directly with lenses on 43 (APS-C/full frame) cameras of other brands, we set the Panasonic GX on an aspect ratio of 2: 3. If you shoot in the regular micro-43 format, then the resolution, expressed in lines per picture height, is still slightly higher than the values that we report here. The sharpness of this lens is significantly higher than that of its predecessor. The sharpness of the Panasonic 14-140 mm f/3.5-f/5.6 is every bit as good as the sharpness of vacation zooms on an SLR camera: If you compare pictures made with a Canon 650D SLR camera with a Canon 18-200 mm directly with pictures made with the Panasonic 14-140 mm II and, for example, a Panasonic GX7, you won't see any difference in sharpness. The difference in size and weight is considerable: the micro-43 combination is much more compact and lighter.
Click on the image to view the resolution at several focal lengths.
The longer the focal length, the less sharp the pictures are. That is a usual phenomenon with vacation zooms. And the difference in sharpness you will only notice if you directly compare the two extreme focal lengths. If you do not, then you probably won't even see it. The center sharpness is, as with all super zooms, higher in the center than in the corners.
Click on the image to compare the sharpness in the corners at 140 mm to the sharpness in the center.
The lateral chromatic aberration is compensated for nicely by Panasonic. Both jpg files from the camera and RAW files that you open files in Lightroom or Photoshop, you will in practice not encounter any purple or green edges at sharp contrast transitions in the corners of the image.
Conclusion Panasonic 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH POWER OIS LUMIX G VARIO review @ Panasonic GX7
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WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens when you save the files in the camera as jpg, including all in-camera lens corrections (distortion, chromatic aberration). This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens when the file is stored in the camera as a RAW file. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera. If you make use of Photoshop, Lightroom or SilkyPix for converting RAW files, then the RAW scores for chromatic aberration and distortion are the same as the jpg scores.
Large zoom range
Accurate and silent AF
Built-in image stabilization
Good image quality in terms of sharpness, little vignettering, chromatic aberration and distortion
Compact, light and yet well-biult Disadvantages
High distortion at 14 mm
Center sharpness is higher than the sharpness in the corners
Our Panasonic 14-140 mm f/3.5-f/5.6 test clearly shows that this lens is actually smaller, lighter and optically better than its predecessor. The silent and – also in the dark – accurate auto focus makes it a perfect holiday zoom that is both suitable for photography and video. If you compare the picture quality of this Panasonic 14-140 mm II with 18-200 mm zooms on an APS-C SLR camera, you will see no difference in picture quality. But the difference in size and weight of a micro-43 camera with Panasonic 14-140 mm f/3.5-f/5.6, no one will fail to notice. That is significant.
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.
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