Review Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 ASPH LUMIX G VARIO (Micro 43)
In 2009, Panasonic introduced the 7-14 mm. At the time, this lens was by far the most compact (8.3 cm long!) and light (300 grams!) interchangeable wide angle zoom lens. Compared to similar lenses for APS-C and full frame cameras, that is still true. For micro-43 cameras there's an even smaller and lighter Olympus 9-18 mm zoom lens for sale. The extreme zoom range of 7 mm – which is 14 mm converted to full frame – makes the Panasonic 7-14 mm still unique. We reviewed this lens previously on a Panasonic GH2. The spectacularly good image quality combined with the impressive view angle of this lens makes it an ideal companion for the Panasonic GX7 (landscape photography, architectural photography, street photography) or for the Panasonic GH3 (video). If you compare the pixel density on a micro-43 sensor with a full frame sensor, then a 16 Megapixel sensor matches a 60 megapixel sensor on a full frame camera. Is the Panasonic 7-14 mm able to exploit this high resolution?
Panasonic 7-14mm review @ Panasonic GX7
Panasonic 7-14 mm @ 7 mm f/5,6, 1/40 s
Street photography The Panasonic 7-14 mm has a two times zoom range, corresponding to 14 to 28 mm on full frame. It is therefore not the zoom range, but the wide view angle of the Panasonic 7-14 that impressive. This lens is, thanks to the spectacular view angle, very versatile and actually indispensable in every camera bag, whether it comes to the camera bag of a street photographer, landscape photographer or architectural photographer. The short focal length creates a huge depth of field, even if you shoot at maximum aperture. On the Panasonic 7-14 mm Flickr community, you can see that this lens is often successfully used to photograph people. It delivers fun pictures.
Panasonic 7-14 mm @ 7 mm f/8, 1/10 s
Construction and autofocus
The Panasonic 7-14 mm is well built. With the Panasonic GX7, it makes a light combination, which is nice in the hand. The drive of the auto focus by the Panasonic GX7 runs very fast, accurately and quietly. The zoom lens changes length as you zooms, but you only see that if you see the lens is pointing directly forward. Because the total length of the lens remains unchanged due to the fixed lens hood that is built around the lens. As with most true wide angle lenses, the Panasonic 7-14 mm has a convex front lens and can't have filters placed on the lens. Fortunately, the hard lens hood protects the front lens. The Panasonic 7-14 mm has no built-in image stabilization. With a wide angle lens, you'll soon miss this. In addition, both Olympus and Panasonic (especially the Panasonic GX7) cameras have built-in image stabilization.
Panasonic 7-14 mm @ Panasonic GH2, 7 mm f/6,3, 1/60 s
The vignetting of the Panasonic 7-14 mm is just over 1 stop at maximum aperture at all focal lengths. You'll see it in some shots in practice. Apart from the 7 mm focal length, the vignetting after only 1 aperture stop at all focal lengths in halved. At 7 mm, there are 2 stops needed to halve the amount vignetting. For a wide angle zoom lens, these are very good performances. Any visible vignetting can be well corrected by software.
The distortion – an aberration caused by lens flaws –at all focal lengths is remarkably low for a wide angle zoom lens. This is partly caused by the in-camera distortion correction, applied to jpg and RAW files (opened in Photoshop or Lightroom).
Hover your mouse over the image to compare the measurement results for distortion of a corrected jpg file with a non-corrected RAW file.
Bias is another matter, which is caused by the perspective from which you are shooting: if you use the Panasonic 7-14 mm to make a picture of a building in which the camera is a little bit skewed, then you get a strongly distorted image. It takes some practice before you're able to keep your camera perfectly straight, both vertically and horizontally, to keep the distortion of the Panasonic 7-14 mm low. At first, you'll make pictures in which you'll want to the correct horizontal and vertical distortion. At a focal length of 7 mm, you get shots with remarkably low distortion and a surprising perspective.
Panasonic 7-14 mm @ 7 mm f/5.6, 1/60 s
At maximum aperture, this lens has a nice bokeh if you take a picture from up close. As soon as you take a picture of a subject that is a few meters away from the camera, there is – thanks to the small sensor and the short focal length – no more bokeh, but a fully detailed background. In the image shown here, the red berries in the background have a nice background blur at aperture 4. At aperture 11, the background blur totally disappears if you shoot the same subject from this position again.
Hover your mouse over the image to see a comparison of the bokeh of the Panasonic 7-14 mm at aperture 4 and aperture 11.
The Panasonic 7-14 mm has a convex front lens, making it impossible, for example, to add a UV filter to protect the lens. The combination of a convex front lens and the 16 lens elements from which this lens is built, make the Panasonic 7-14 mm sensitive to internal reflections. In practice, the degree of flare and ghosting, probably thanks to the fixed lens hood, is less than expected.
What you do have to watch out for are raindrops. A tiny dried up rain drop on the front lens leaves an image that looks like flare/ghosting, but it will appear in each shot in exactly the same place. Careful brushing of the front lens with a soft cloth eliminates this "ghosting".
Despite the built-in lens hood, the Panasonic 7-14 mm is prone to ghosting caused by bright sunlight that hits the convex front lens at an acute angle. If you're used to working with a wide angle lens, this is no surprise, because almost all wide angle lenses have this problem.
We previously reviewed this lens on a Panasonic GH2. To be able to compare the measurement results from a micro-camera directly with lenses on (APS-C/full frame) cameras of other brands, we set the Panasonic GX7 on an aspect ratio of 2: 3. If you shoot in regular micro-43 format, then the resolution, expressed in lines per image height, is still slightly higher than the values that we report here. Thanks to modern sensor of the Panasonic GX7, the resolution in this test is even higher than in our previous review. Where sharpness is concerned, it's not necessary to stop down. The center sharpness of the Panasonic 7-14 mm is maximum at full aperture and to an aperture of 11 (in terms of depth of field corresponding to a camera with a full frame sensor aperture 22), and that's still very good. The sharpness in the outer corners is highest after 1 aperture stop (at 5.6) and in any case will be a little lower than the center sharpness. For a wide angle zoom lens, these are very good performances.
When you click with your mouse on the chart, you'll see the separation efficiency at different focal lengths.
Chromatic aberration is, thanks to in-camera correction, in practice completely absent. Even in uncorrected RAW files, the chromatic aberration remains low. That is exceptionally good for a wide angle lens.
Hover your mouse over the practice shot for a partial enlargement from the upper-left corner at 100% magnification, where no chromatic aberration can be seen.
Panasonic 7-14 mm @ 7 mm f/4, 1/100 s
Panasonic 7-14 mm @ 7 mm f/5, 1/40 s
Subjects that are photographed from up close with a wide angle lens appear much larger than in reality. That delivers creative images. Although I swear that this Buddha statue in Viet Nam had enormous feet all on its own
Conclusion Panasonic 7-14mm 4 ASPH LUMIX G VARIO review
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.
Zoom lens with extreme large optical angle.
Extreme good optical performances in terms of resolution, chromatic aberration and distortion
Very compact and still well built
Sensitive towards flare
Visible vignetting @ f/4
The Panasonic GX7 makes a great, high-quality and at the same time remarkably light and compact combination with the Panasonic 7-14 mm. This applies to the build quality, the hand-fit, and the image quality. If you compare a picture taken with the Panasonic GX7 + Panasonic 7-14 mm compares with pictures taken with a wide-angle lens on a full frame camera, then you’ll be amazed at the quality that micro-43 offers. Numbers of megapixels doesn’t say everything. This wide angle zoom lens at maximum aperture offers a higher picture quality than a lot of lenses on a camera with an APS-C or even a full frame sensor, tested on cameras with more pixels than the Panasonic GX7. And that while a wide angle zoom lens with a 14 mm focal length for a camera with a full frame sensor several times larger is at least three times as heavy and also more expensive than the Panasonic 7-14 mm. From the list of pros and cons, it appears that there is a shortage of superlatives for the Panasonic 7-14 mm. Despite the high price, the Panasonic 7-14 mm is highly recommended!
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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