Review Panasonic 12-35 mm (m43)

The Panasonic 12-35 mm 2.8 is finally for sale starting from June 2012. In the last years Panasonic has been showing mock-ups of a fast  Panasonic 12-35 mm lens. A few months ago it became clear that it would be 2.8, which led to disappointed reactions by people who hoped for an even faster micro-43 lens. On the other hand, there was a large group of people that’s very interested in this fast and compact micro-43 lens. The Panasonic 12-35 mm price tag clearly indicates Panasonic this must be a high quality lens. But is it? We were very eager to find out.


FOV Panasonic 12-35 @ 35 mm
The Panasonic 12-35 mm 2.8 offers the same field of view as a 24-70 mm 2.8 lens on a camera with a full frame sensor.

Construction and autofocus

 
The Panasonic 12-35 mm 2.8 has a gray metal color and is built well, as we are used by Panasonic. De lens mount is made of metal and the lens is sealed against dust and splash water by a rubber ring. The Panasonic 12-35 mm 2.8 weighs only 305 grams. Similar lenses for full frame camera’s (Sony 24-70 mm en Canon 24-70 mm) weigh almost a kilogram.
Autofocus is fast, silent and accurate. Since the micro-43 system uses the sensor signal to focus, you will not experience any back focus or front focus. 
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Image stabilization Panasonic 12-35 mm

 
The Panasonic 12-35 mm 2.8 offers built in image stabilization (“POWER O.I.S. “), which can be turned on or off via a switch on the lens. The POWER O.I.S. of the Panasonic 12-35 mm corrects effectively both small, fast and large, slow movements. You can turn the POWER O.I.S. of the Panasonic 12-35 mm on or off via the switch, but you have to choose between two different image stabilization types in a camera menu (1 mode for panning and a two directional image stabilization mode).
Using a fast wide angle zoom in combination with image stabilization opens photographic opportunities which previously only could be realized using a tripod. Here you see a (sharp) night image, shot hand held at a focal length of 12 mm, aperture 2.8 and a shutter speed of 1/8 second @ 3200 ISO.
Move your mouse over the image to admire the useful dynamic range of current micro-43 camera’s (like the Panasonic GX1 or the Olympus OM-D E-M5). Until recently, if you edited a 3200 ISO image in a similar way,you would see serious noise and banding. Not anymore.

When you combine the Panasonic 12-35 mm with the Panasonic GX1, and you  don’t use the optional LVF2, you will be using a wobbly construction to make your pictures, with your arms stretched out to look at the LCD screen.
Then even at a shutter speed of 1/100 th of a second you will not reach the full resolution potential of this lens.
We tested the vibration reduction by making images with the Panasonic 12-35 mm @ 35 mm in combination with the Panasonic GX1, with our arms stretched out without seeking extra support. The image stabilization is able to regain 2 stops at short shutter speeds (< 1/25 sec). At longer shutter speeds (up to 1/5 sec) the image stabilization still regained 1 stop.
I bet that if you use the optional LVF2 viewfinder and give the camera some extra support by resting your arms on your body, you will always get sharper images.

 

Vignetting Panasonic 12-35mm

 
At a focal length of 12 mm or 35 mm you might encounter slight vignetting, but at all the other focal lengths you vignetting is less than 0.5 stops, even at aperture 2.8. Starting at aperture 4 vignetting is 1/3 stop at all focal lengths. A very good performance for a fast zoom lens.

Distortion Panasonic 12-35

 
Many wide angle zoom lenses show strong distortion. Not the Panasonic 12-35 mm. At a focal length of 35 mm pincushion distortion is (just) still  not visible. At the other focal lengths you will not see any distortion.

Play with depth of field

 

The smaller the sensor and or the aperture, the less blur remains in the background. The fast Panasonic 12-35 mm delivers creamy bokeh combined with razor sharp subjects on the foreground. This yields unique opportunities to play with depth of field.

 

 

 

Click on the image to see a 100% crop where you see the red rectangle now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on image to view larger version.

Bokeh

 

If you wish to obtain the best possible bokeh, you should use a camera with a full frame sensor. But the Panasonic 12-35 mm delivers beautiful creamy bokeh. As we saw with several Sony lenses which tested good for resolution in combination with the Sony A77 (APS-C), the beautifully round bokeh can show rings.

Click on image to view larger version.

Flare

 
When you dot use the included lens hood, you might encounter slight ghosting when there’s a strong light source near the corner of the image. When you do use the lens hood, you will observe ghosting only when you aim straight into a strong light source.

Resolution Panasonic 12-35mm

 
We analyze resolution of standard jpg files, straight out of the test camera. The center resolution performance of the Panasonic 12-35 mm is the best we have encountered with a micro-43 lens so far. It equals the resolution of the 24 megapixel Sony A-77 (APS-C) in combination with the Sony Zeiss 24-70 mm. Part way the resolution is equal to the resolution in the center. Even in the corners the resolution is high, although visibly less than the center resolution.

Chromatic aberration Panasonic 12-35 mm X

 
Chromatic aberration is well under control. In our field test images we didn’t see chromatic aberration at a 100% magnification. In the utmost corners we could see chromatic aberration at a 300% magnification.
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Conclusion Panasonic 12-35 mm review

Look in our list of reviewed lenses or in our list of reviewed micro-43 lenses to compare the performance of this lens with that of other lenses.

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”.
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Pros

  • High optical performance
  • Compact, light and well built
  • Built-in Image Stabilization
  • Sealed against splash water and dust

Cons

  • High price
The Panasonic 12-35 mm may have a high price, but given its quality you might call it a bargain. The Panasonic 12-35 mm is fast, well built, nice compact and delivers high optical performance. You can use it at any aperture: fully open it delivers crisp images with a for micro-43 spectacular creamy background. The subject of this Panasonic 12-35 mm review is one of the best (micro-43) lenses on sale at the moment.
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