If you buy one of the cheaper Panasonic G system cameras, then chances are you bought a Panasonic 14-42 mm II kit lens with it. The price difference between camera and camera + kit lens is so small that it's almost a sin not to take the offer. Kit lenses offer great value for the money. We previously tested the predecessor of this lens, as well as its alternatives like the Panasonic 14-42 mm PZ and Panasonic 12-32 mm. But we hadn't gotten to the Panasonic 12-42 mm II. The Panasonic 14-42 mm II is a beautiful, well-built, very light and compact lens with built-in MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer). How does the performance of this kit lens hold up to the kit lenses you get when you buy an SLR?
Panasonic Lumix G 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS II and Panasonic GX7
With a 3x zoom range, the Panasonic 14-42 mm II offers sufficient range (converted to full frame: 28-84 mm: from wide angle to short telephoto lens) to work without changing the lens. As long as you can get some distance from the subject, you can work nicely with this lens. If you shoot a lot indoors – or you have a preference for a somewhat more dramatic wide angle perspective – then the Panasonic 12-32 mm is an absolute must.
Construction and autofocus
If you compare the Panasonic 14-42 mm II with its predecessor, the first thing you notice is that Panasonic has managed to make this lens even smaller. It is significantly shorter, and has an even smaller lens diameter. This standard kit lens is available in black or silver; the previous version was manufactured in grey with black. The lens design has been completely redone compared to its predecessor and now contains, just like the Panasonic 14-42 mm PZ, only 9 lens elements, including 2 aspherical lenses, in 8 groups. Because the lens makes use of internal focusing, the front lens does not turn during focusing. AF was, in combination with the Panasonic GX7, lightning fast and accurate. In low-light, the AF speed is lower, but the AF accuracy remains unwaveringly high.
The built-in image stabilization appears to be very effective. At a focal length of 42 mm a picture made at a shutter speed at 1/50 sec without image stabilization was as sharp as a picture made with a shutter speed of 1/6 with image stabilization. That's actually a profit of 3 stops and thus amply compensates for the brightness of the lens. Use of the image stabilization when making pictures in the dark ensures that you can continue to use low ISO settings in low-light situations without worrying about movement in images.
With a small lens, you run the risk of vignetting. That goes much better than expected in this case. The Panasonic 14-42 mm II puts up a nice performances in terms of vignetting. At the shortest focal length and f/3.5, you will in some situations encounter visible vignetting. In all other situations, you will not. This kit lens gives nothing up on this point to much more expensive lenses.
Panasonic 14-42 mm II, 400 ISO, 25 mm, f/5.4, 1/60 Move your mouse over the image for a 100% enlargement
Across the entire range, the distortion in jpg files, or RAW files that you open in Lightroom or Photoshop, is beautiful corrected. Thus in practice with the Panasonic 14-42 mm II you will have no problems with distortion. If you use a different RAW converter, then in pictures made with a focal length below 20 mm, you will have to correct for barrel distortion.
The Panasonic 14-42 mm II includes multi-coated lens elements to prevent ghosts and flare. A flower-shaped lens hood is also included standard. These measures are sufficient to prevent flare in virtually all situations. In the practice shots (all made without using the lens hood) we only encountered a few very small ghosts (here we have a partial enlargement, otherwise you would not see the green spot) if we photographed straight into the sun. This kit lens gives nothing up on this point to much more expensive lenses.
The Panasonic 14-42 mm II gives you beautifully sharp pictures, reaching the highest center sharpness at f/5.6. Look at the partial enlargement of the water lilies shown above to get an impression. I think I would take all my pictures at this aperture. The sharpness in the corners lags a bit behind the sharpness in the center, which is not abnormal for a kit lens.
The Panasonic 12-32 mm scores just a bit better in our test for sharpness. Credit that to the wider field of view of the 12-32 mm, and you have a nice excuse to eventually step up to that super compact lens.
This kit lens is just as good as the 18-55 mm kit lens of an SLR camera.
Panasonic 14-42 mm II, 400 ISO, 25 mm, f/5.4,1/60 sec
In both jpg files and in RAW files you open in Lightroom or Photoshop, you will not be bothered by chromatic aberration. This is automatically corrected by the Panasonic camera and software. If you open a RAW file in another program, you can see purple and green edges at sharp contrast transitions in the corners, especially at 14 mm and full opening. The same applies to using this lens on an Olympus camera. If you do encounter chromatic aberration, then it's easy to correct software.
The Panasonic 14-42 mm II has a circular aperture, due to which the bokeh is round. The combination of short focal length with a somewhat less bright and – in comparison with a full-frame sensor – somewhat smaller sensor mean that the bokeh is less beautiful and more restless. However, if you compare the bokeh with the background blur of a compact camera, then it's huge progress. My choice would be to opt for f/5.6 and enjoy the incredible sharpness and associated focal depth of the Panasonic 14-42 mm II.
Conclusion Panasonic 14-42mm II test with 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.
Good image quality; sharp, little trouble from flare
Fast and accurate AF
Effective built-in image stabilization
Compact, light and sturdily built
In Lightroom and Photoshop, RAW files are automatically corrected for distortion
Very cheap with the purchase of a Panasonic camera
Visible vignetting at 14 mm and maximum aperture
This compact, lightweight kit lens is just as good as an 18-55 mm kit lens of an SLR camera. The additional cost of a camera with this kit lens is so low that it's a no-brainer to purchase this kit lens with a camera. The modest appearance is deceptive, because this lens delivers pictures with an image quality that will satisfy the requirements of many photographers.
If you already have a micro-43 camera and are considering purchasing a a lens separately, then there recently appeared – in my eyes – an even more attractive kit lens from Panasonic, which has a slightly higher image quality and is much smaller when the camera is not in use. As a result, your camera is much simpler to take along in a coat pocket. But for me personally, the wider field of view of 12 mm (equivalent to 24 mm on a full-frame sensor) is an even bigger plus for choosing this competitor of the Panasonic 14-42 mm II. Specifically, if you are close to a subject, 2 mm makes a big difference in focal point.
If you have no need for that, the Panasonic 14-42 mm II is an affordable, compact and lightweight traveling companion for your hobby.
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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