Review Panasonic 30 mm macro
The Panasonic Lumix G Macro 30 mm f/2.8 Asph Mega O.I.S. is designed for macrophotography with a Micro Four-Thirds (Olympus or Panasonic) camera. The minimal focal distance is just 10.5 cm, and that delivers a scale/enlargement factor of 1:1. The image on the micro-43 sensor is then the same size as the original. That is perhaps even more macro than you expect, since a scale of 1:1 on a micro-43 camera corresponds in terms of field of view ("what you see in the picture") with the field of view from a 60 mm macro lens on a camera with a full-format sensor.
Because there are already two good macro lenses for micro-43 (Olympus 60 mm f/2.8 macro and Panasonic Leica Elmarit 45 mm f/2.8 macro) for sale, the introduction of the Panasonic 30 mm macro surprised me. Two specialized macro lenses with the same mount would be more than enough. And for photographing insects, the Panasonic 30 mm macro is at a disadvantage with respect to the two other micro-43 macro lenses.
Panasonic 30 mm f/2.8 ASPH MEGA OIS LUMIX G MACRO?
The practice shots for this test were made by Carina of Cavafotografie,who in her free time acts as an ambassador for the Panasonic GX7.
Build and auto focus
The Panasonic 30 mm macro has an elegant appearance. Beautifully finished with a material that looks like black metal with a matte finish. There are no switches on the lens. You turn the image stabilization on and off in the camera menu. The AF step motor is not only accurate and silent, it is also fast: within half a second from infinity to the shortest focal length. The AF works with a refreshment rate of 240 images per second, which partly explains the success behind Panasonic's fast contrast AF. Another factor that contributes to the fast contrast AF of Panasonic is the unique "Depth by Defocus" technology of Panasonic, whereby a Panasonic camera uses bokeh information from a Panasonic lens in order to focus more quickly. But because we used an Olympus test camera we did not have this extra speed advantage. Even without DFD, the AF of the Panasonic 30 mm macro is fast. The focus ring for manual focusing is broad enough and turns smoothly. The Panasonic Lumix G Macro 30 mm f/2.8 lens includes nine elements in nine groups.
Vignetting and distortion
Noticeable in the lens design—for a macro lens—is the barrel-shaped distortion of a bit more than 1%. Because macro lenses are also used for making reproductions, the choice is often made in the design of a macro lens to minimize distortion. Panasonic has chosen to correct for distortion, and our Olympus camera does that very effectively. In jpg files, or RAW files that you open in SilkyPix, Lightroom or Photoshop, there is no sign of distortion visible.
Vignetting amounts at full aperture to a bit more than half a stop, both in the jpg files and in the RAW files. The Olympus test camera does not (yet?) apply any correction for this. Really, it doesn't make much difference, since it will only sporadically happen that you will recognize vignetting in shots made with the Panasonic 30 mm macro. And if that is the case, it's simple to correct with software.
Image stabilization/MEGA O.I.S.
For owners of a Panasonic camera, the built-in image stabilization ("MEGA O.I.S.") of the Panasonic 30 mm macro is an advantage compared with the Olympus 60 mm macro. Thanks to the MEGA O.I.S. image stabilization, vibration of the camera is compensated for, which makes photographing by hand in low light easier. The image stabilization does its job, but is less efficient than the in-body image stabilization of an Olympus camera. You also have more benefit from image stabilization when photographing subjects that are far away. For macro shots, the profit in sharpness from applying image stabilization is limited.
No lens is perfect, and the Panasonic 30 mm f/2.8 macro has its Achilles' heel. And that is flare. A multi-layer coating combats the creation of ghosting en flares and provides improved contrast and color faithfulness. But it is not sufficient—as far as flare is concerned—in all situations. With a bright light source that shines directly into the camera, or that is located just out of frame, and if you do not use the included sun cap, large purple areas can be produced. Ghosts are well suppressed; you see little of them in backlit shots.
If you look at the sharpness and contrast of the Panasonic 30 mm macro lens, then it's a pleasure. This micro-43 puts on a convincing performance with image quality, and not only with macro shots. If you use this lens as a standard lens—that is the way we carried out the Imatest—then you can choose any distance and aperture that you like with the sharpest possible shots as a result. Outstanding! Just like the other two, more expensive, micro-43 macro lenses (Olympus 60 mm f/2.8 macro and Panasonic Leica Elmarit 45 mm f/2.8 macro).
The MTF50 was tested by setting the image ratio of the test camera to 2:3, so that the measurement results for the Panasonic 30 mm macro can be directly compared with the measurement results of macro lenses on a camera with an APS-C or full-frame sensor. If you use the camera in de standard 4:3 ratio, the then resolution (the number of lines per image height) of the Panasonic 30 mm macro is even higher.
If you want to use the maximum focal depth, then the sharpness at f/16 is no longer optimal, due to diffraction, but it still delivers a beautiful picture
|Lateral chromatic aberration, visible with some lenses as blue and red edges at sharp contrast transitions in the extreme corners of the image, will not be seen with the Panasonic 30 mm macro. Here, too, this macro lens puts up results comparable to those of the Olympus 60 mm f/2.8 macro and the Panasonic Leica Elmarit 45 mm f/2.8 macro. |
Bokeh Panasonic 30 mm f/2.8 macro
|Panasonic 30 mm f/8, 1/160 sec, 200 ISO @ Panasonic GX7 |
Seven aperture blades, according to Panasonic, guarantee "a soft blur when you work with selective focus and focal depth techniques." The bokeh rings are beautifully round at full aperture, but it's clear to see from the first practice shot that the bokeh rings quickly take on the shape of the aperture as you stop down. This lens has a beautiful blur progression, but that is certainly not due to the 7 lamellae alone, since practically all lenses today have at least that many. And not every lens has a pleasant bokeh. An aspherical element in the Panasonic 30 mm macro keeps chromatic aberrations and distortions under control. Aspherical lens elements are often the source of ugly, onion-ring bokeh, but Panasonic has applied a unique production process that prevents onion-ring bokeh. The bokeh rings of bright light sources in the background in shots made with the Panasonic 30 mm macro do show an edge, but no onion rings.
Conclusion Panasonic 30 mm f/2.8 macro review with Olympus OM-D E-M1
Look in our list of reviewed lenses or in our list of micro-43 lenses that we have reviewed in order to compare the performance of this lens with that of other lenses.
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you store the files in the camera as jpg, where you have applied all available in-camera lens corrections. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".