Excellent compact zoom, too good for a "kit lens"

Started 9 months ago | User reviews thread
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kenw
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Excellent compact zoom, too good for a "kit lens"
9 months ago

One of the things m43, and Panasonic specifically, got right was introducing the original G1 with the 14-45 "kit lens".  There really weren't any other lenses to chose at that time and so the first impressions of the whole format would rest on that lens.  It was, and still is, an excellent slow zoom that was widely regarded as one of the best kit lenses in any format (though by no means the best slow zoom in general, best with regards to reasonably priced and included with a camera).  I've used that lens a lot and stopped down a bit stands up to the much higher priced 12-35/2.8 and 12-40/2.8.

Fuji repeated this in their X series with the 18-55/2.8-4 which was also optically better than most expected and was faster than most as well.  A bit more dollar intensive though.  Same concept though, introduce your new camera system with a really compelling "kit lens".

And so now the GM1 has come along, a camera so ridiculously small that every single review site and blog that has wrote about it includes a phrase like "I knew it was small but I didn't understand how small until I held it in my hand".  It is a camera targeted to be used by enthusiasts not just an accessory for Japanese purses.  Since it is all about size, but also about performance, it doesn't seem any of the existing kit lenses in the m43 stable were a good fit.

Enter the 12-32.

It is an excellent zoom, every bit the match for the original 14-45 and it goes wider and is vanishingly small and light.  It includes OIS, a prerequisite for the GM1 and most Panasonic cameras.  It uses a collapsing design that is manually extended.  It is stupid small, just like the GM1.  It does feel a bit plasticy but uses a metal lens mount and seems to have solid construction even if a featherweight.

Focus is very fast, OIS seems typically effective.

The lens has no MF ring on it, on the GM1 you'll have to use a fiddly touch screen interface to focus but I suspect few will ever be interested in MF on such a lens.  You can of course lock focus using AF a variety of ways with different cameras including the GM1.

I've tested my copy against the Olympus 12/2 and the Panasonic 20/1.7.  Indeed, as any sane person would expect the primes have sharper corners at equivalent apertures.  That said, even at F/3.5 the 12-32 at 12mm has surprisingly good corners that until you look at the 100% do not detract at all from the image.  At the center the primes are just a bit sharper if viewed side by side at 200%.  There was nothing to complain about IQ wise at 12, 20 or 32 where I tested the lens at infinity focus.

I tested on a GM1 where lateral CA would be automatically corrected.  There was no apparent residual lateral CA.

As far as longitudinal CA this was exhibited in a minor way in purple fringing at the edges of the frame when shooting dark tree branches against a white cloudy sky.  I only tested this at 12mm and while preset it was not excessive.  For comparison though the 12/2 didn't show any purple fringe at all in this test while the 12-32 showed a little that was visible at 100% and if you looked for it detectable at 50%.  Again this was on the GM1 body, be forewarned that it is known some Olympus bodies (like the E-M5) have more UV response and it is quite possible they will show more of this fringe than when the lens is shot on the GM1.  I did not take the time to test that.

In short the 12-32 is an excellent companion to the GM1 which makes few compromises for its very small size and reasonable cost.  I'll be happy to use it as the default lens on my GM1 and since I prefer a slightly wider perspective for landscapes it may find more frequent use than my 14-45 as well.

I'm giving it five stars not because it is the very best in optical quality of any lens or even zoom lens, but because it is of exceptional quality for its size, weight and price.  It also performs its primary function of being small and light for the GM1 while having the optical quality an enthusiast would want with such a camera as the GM1.

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Ken W
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 kenw's gear list:kenw's gear list
Sony RX100 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS +29 more
kenw's score
5.0
Average community score
4.3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 Mega OIS
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