Panasonic has again succeeded in making attractively priced kit lenses with good image quality for their G-series cameras. I first think about the professional Panasonic 12-35 mm f/2.8. The Panasonic 14-140 mm, with its fast and quiet AF, is also nearly indispensable for amateur photographers and videographers who do not want to change lenses, or as little as possible. And the inexpensive and super-compact Panasonic 12-32 mm is an absolute must for starters and amateurs. These zoom lenses are sold as a kit in combination with Panasonic cameras and in that case offer a great deal more value for the money. All three of these kit lenses are equipped with built-in image stabilization, and they offer high image quality for the price. “What else could you wish for in new micro-43 lenses?” you might think. How about an inexpensive kit lens with a broader zoom range (a field of view that corresponds with 24-120 mm on full-frame) that is extra-well sealed against dust and splashwater? Such a lens was not yet available for micro-43 cameras. The Panasonic Lumix 12-60 mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH POWER OIS has it all. With that, the lens selection for micro-43 cameras is practically just as complete (although I’m still missing a tilt-shift) as the lens selection for SLR cameras.
Panasonic Lumix G 12-60 mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH POWER OIS list price: 450 euros.
5x Zoomrange of the Panasonic 12-60 mm
Many standard zooms on cameras with an APS-C sensor (and a crop factor of about 1.5x) have an 18 mm focal length, so that the field of view (“what you see in the picture”) corresponds with about 28 mm (full-frame equivalent). An important distinguishing characteristic of most Panasonic kit lenses is the 24 mm (full-frame equivalent) field of view, thanks to the shortest 12 mm focal length and the 2x crop factor. That difference is significant, since with these Panasonic kit lenses you get a great deal more on the photo. A 24 mm (full-frame equivalent) field of view is ideal for photographing in small spaces or for creating broad overviews. The unique thing about the Panasonic 12-60 mm kit lens, if we don’t consider the real 14-140 mm superzooms, is the longest focal length. A focal length of 60 mm on a micro-43 camera corresponds as far as field of view is concerned with 80 mm on a camera with an APS-C sensor (and a crop of ~1.5x) or a 120 mm on a camera with a full-frame sensor. That is a great focal length for a close-up or for a portrait. There are practically no zoom lenses in this zoom range, regardless of whether it is SLR or micro-43, that also have image stabilization and are extra-well sealed against dust and splashwater.
Build and auto focus
With a weight of just a bit more than 2 ounces, the Panasonic 12-60 mm falls between the Panasonic 12-32 mm (70 grams!) and the 12-35 mm (3 ounces). A length of 7 cm and a filter size of 58 mm are modest. This lens is extra-well sealed against dust and splashwater. The lens design consists of 11 elements in 9 groups, and the aperture has 7 rounded blades. For those who like to focus manually, the focus ring on the Panasonic 12-60 mm (the narrow ring at the front) is a plus relative to the 12-32 mm. There are no buttons on the lens. You switch between AF and manual focusing or turn the image stabilization on/off on the camera. This zoom lens does not have a fixed length like the 12-35 mm f/2.8. When you zoom in, the zoom lens becomes 3 cm longer. A flower-shaped lens hood is included. AF (tested on a Panasonic GX80) appears not only to be very quiet, but also lightning fast (from infinity to one and half meters in 50 ms is matched by no other brand) and very accurate (repeatability below 5%). Individually, those are already really top performances, but that speed, silence and accuracy are combined in one lens is really very exceptional in the price class of under 1000 euros.
Panasonic Lumix G 12-60 mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH POWER OIS @ 60 mm f/11
The shortest focal distance amounts to 20 cm (wide angle) to 25 cm (telephoto), and the image scale is about 0.27, which due to the crop factor corresponds with a magnification of 0.54 full-frame equivalent.
You will not be bothered by vignetting, whether you use jpg files directly out of the camera or RAW files converted in Silkypix, Lightroom or Photoshop. With micro-43 cameras, jpg files are already corrected in the camera for any vignetting. RAW that you open in Lightroom or Photoshop also show practically no visible vignetting, because RAW files are corrected for lens errors upon being opened in Lightroom or Photoshop. When we open the RAW files outside Lightroom, it appeared that the uncorrected RAW files showed little vignetting, and not because of a lens correction. That is good news for the signal-to-noise ratio in the corners, since that decreases when heavy correction for vignetting is done. Only at full aperture is vignetting visible (mouseover the picture below).
Distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration
In the jpg shots that are stored in the camera, and in the RAW files that you open with Lightroom, Photoshop or SilkyPix, the distortion is negligible. If you open the RAW files with another RAW converter (mouseover the illustration below), then we see the usual distortion.
Panasonic Lumix G 12-60 mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH POWER OIS @ 60 mm f/11
Internal reflections caused by bright backlighting lead to flare and/or ghosts. The Panasonic 12-60 mm lens is equipped with multi-coating in order to prevent internal reflections as much as possible. All lenses have that, and it is not always a guarantee that you will not be bothered by ghosts or flare. During the practice test, we did not see any ghosts or reduced contrast as a result of internal reflections. The shot above was taken directly into the setting sun (the white area behind the clouds). Even so, there are no internal reflections, and there is little flare around the sun.
Sharpness Panasonic Lumix G 12-60 mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH POWER OIS
At all focal lengths, the highest center sharpness is reached after stopping down 1 stop. The sharpness in the corners increases further if you choose a smaller aperture, but then the center sharpness starts to slowly decrease as a result of diffraction. At 12 mm and 14 mm, the difference between center sharpness and corner sharpness is most noticeable, in particular because the center sharpness is the highest there. The longer the focal length, the more the sharpness decreases. Even so, the sharpness in jpg files at 60mm is still over 2000 lines per picture height.
We then analyzed both jpg files (standard image style) and unsharpened RAW shots made with the Panasonic GX80 in Imatest. The MTF50 was tested by setting the image ratio of the test camera to 2:3, so that the measurement results are directly comparable with the measurement results from lenses on a camera with an APS-C or full-frame sensor. If you use the camera in the standard ratio of 4:3, the number of lines per picture height is higher.
Panasonic Lumix G 12-60 mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH POWER OIS @ 60 mm f/11
Megapixels or Resolution?
We prefer to test lenses with a sensor with the highest possible resolution. It might seem strange that we have used the Panasonic GX80 with a 16-megapixel sensor for this test, because there are also micro-43 cameras with 20 megapixels. But numbers of pixels on the sensor is not always the same as resolution. The Panasonic GX80 has no anti-aliasing filter, which results in higher sharpness in comparison with sensors to which an anti-aliasing filter is applied. By way of illustration, we compared a picture taken with the Panasonic 12-60 mm 18 mm @ f/8 on the Panasonic GX80 (16 megapixels) with the same shot made with an SLR camera @ 24 mm f/8. Both pictures are made with a tripod, with the auto release.
In order to make a comparison possible, we first made the number of pixels in both jpg files the same. The shot from the Panasonic is enlarged in Photoshop to 6000 pixels wide, without further sharpening. Below you see a partial enlargement of the red frame (move your mouse over the image). What most stands out to me is not so much a difference in resolution, but a difference in color. The Panasonic file gives itself away with better rendering in the highlights, because the camera was set to Intelligent Dynamic: Automatic.
Now the same two shots again, but with the EXIF information. It might not seem at first glance to be fair to compare a 16-megapixel camera with a zoom lens at f/5.6 with an SLR camera with a 24-megapixel sensor and a lens with a fixed focal point at f/8. But this 12-60 mm kit lens just makes a beautiful picture.
Image stabilization (tested on the Panasonic GX80)
On the screen of the Panasonic GX80, the message "Dual IS" appears, as an indication that the image stabilization of lens and camera are combined into 5-axis image stabilization. I took 10 pictures with and 10 pictures without image stabilization, and measured the resolution of those with the help of Imatest. The first thing that stands out is that even at a short shutter time of 1/200 sec, we benefitted from the image stabilization. The second thing was that a shot taken with a shutter time of 1/200 sec without image stabilization has the same sharpness as a shot taken at 1/6 sec with image stabilization. That is really very good. If you use this zoom lens on an older Panasonic camera, then the image stabilization will be good for about 2 stops less.
With lenses that have a focal length below 85 mm, you need high brightness (f/1.8) in order to achieve a really soft background blur. The seven rounded aperture blades on the Panasonic 12-60 mm do blur the background at the longest focal length, but if the background is not far away from the subject, then it is still clearly recognizable. If you want to play with bokeh using a micro-43 camera, then a Panasonic 42.5 mm f/1.2 or an Olympus 75 mm f/1.8 are more obvious choices.
Conclusion Review Panasonic Lumix G 12-60 mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH POWER OIS
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save 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".
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Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens if the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera. If you make use of Photoshop, Lightroom or SilkyPix for the conversion of RAW files, then the RAW scores are the same as the jpg scores.
Big zoom range
Built-in image stabilization (that works together with the in-body image stabilization of the Panasonic GX80)
Lightning-fast and extremely accurate AF
Extra-well sealed against dust and splashwater
Less bright than the Panasonic 12-35 mm f/2.8 or Olympus 12-40 mm f/2.8 PRO
Less compact and more expensive than the Panasonic 12-32 mm
Panasonic Lumix 12-60 mm is a perfect partner for a GX8 or GX80 and is not a bad choice on a Panasonic GH4 or an Olympus camera.
The Panasonic 12-60 mm complements the other Panasonic standard zooms. Anyone who wants to have a compact and inexpensive kit lens has a great choice with the Panasonic 12-32 mm. This mini zoom lens has built-in image stabilization and good build and image quality. The Panasonic 12-35 mm f/2.8 is better in terms of build and image quality. This zoom lens is not only extra-well sealed against dust and splashwater, it is also brighter. Unfortunately, the brightness also increases the price. For photographers who would rather have a big larger zoom range (analogous to photographing with a 24-105 or 24-120 zoom on a camera with a full-frame sensor), the Panasonic 12-60 mm presents itself as a great option, that in terms of price and performance falls between the other two zoom lenses. Just like the other two Panasonic standard zooms, this lens is equipped with built-in image stabilization, which on our Panasonic GX80 test camera even collaborates with the image stabilization in the camera body. Just like the Panasonic 12-35 mm, this standard zoom is extra-well sealed against dust and splashwater. The build quality is close to that of the Panasonic 12-35 mm f/2.8, but the brightness is not as high. In exchange, you get more compact dimensions and an extremely attractive price tag. The Panasonic 12-60 mm is and affordable and robust kit lens that will appeal to a large group of users.
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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