Panasonic 14-42X impressions

14 42x 20

Thanks to UPS and their inability to deliver to a place they’d previously delivered without difficulty (home), I picked up my new lens (and the camera it came with) three days later than I’d hoped.  The Panasonic Lumix X 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 is a fairly typical kit zoom lens for micro 4/3 cameras with one special feature – when not in use, it collapses down to the size of a small ‘pancake’ prime lens.  I got it for the simple simple reason that when attached to my Olympus E-PM1 body, the whole kit is small enough to fit comfortable in a jacket pocket (the Olympus kit zoom is around twice as thick).

In order to achieve this wonder in miniaturization, Panasonic designed the lens as a power zoom.  There is no zoom ring.  Instead, there is a small rocker-style switch on the lens barrel, which you push up or down to zoom in or out.  When camera is on, the lens automatically extends to its full size (still quite small).  It also features an optical stabilization mechanism, but that can’t be used on Olympus cameras.

The build quality of the lens is pretty good – high quality plastics and whatnot.

The optics are more of a mixed bag.  At 14mm the lens is reasonably sharp, and it’s even better at 25mm.  But at 42mm it displays a major oddity, with many (most?) shots displaying what appears to be motion blur (doubled details).  This is odd because it happens almost regardless of shutter speed.  You don’t really see it until you go past 50% magnification, but that means it’s basically turning a 12MP camera into a 3MP one.

I did some research after the lens arrived, and it looks like this issue is fairly common.  A pity, as the lens is otherwise ideal for mountaineering and other occasions where it’s not good to have a camera dangling from your neck.  So despite the difficulties in obtaining it, I’ll be sending the Panasonic 14-42X back for a refund.  I hope they fix the blurring problem soon, as in other respects it’s a very handy lens.

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