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Design

The Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 ASPH is a compact lens with a reassuring heft and density. The design is dominated by the large integrated hood at the front, which is made from thick black plastic and feels solid enough to protect the front element from knocks. Behind it sit the ridged plastic focus ring and the broader zoom ring, which has a more tactile rubberized grip. The barrel section adjacent to the mount is finished in Panasonic's familiar steel gray color, and overall the build quality feels a notch above Olympus's featherweight 9-18mm.

The zoom and focusing action all takes place within the confines of the barrel, so the lens doesn't change in length at all. The front element moves backward within the hood on zooming to 14mm, which means that it gets maximum protection from stray light.

On the camera

The 7-14mm is particularly well-matched to Panasonic's 'faux-SLR' bodies such as the G10 pictured here. But it still handles perfectly well on the smaller rangefinder-style cameras such as the GF1 (above right) and Olympus's Pen series. It's not as portable as its most obvious alternative, the Olympus M ZD 9-18mm F4-5.6, but it's scarcely a backbreaking load either. In use the lens handles well, with the zoom ring falling naturally to hand and the manual focus ring easy to spin with a fingertip on the rare occasions you need it.

It's worth pointing out that this lens isn't terribly compatible with the on-board flash of any of the Micro Four Thirds camera bodies; most of these only cover an angle of view equivalent to using an 14mm lens. At wider angles, the flash will give uneven frame coverage with darkening towards the corners, coupled with shadowing from the lens itself. This is absolutely normal for a wideangle zoom; if you really want to use this lens with flash you'll need to invest in a suitable external unit.

Orientation sensing on Panasonic G series cameras

One design quirk of the Panasonic G series is that the lens's image stabilization sensors are used to detect the camera's orientation, and mark images for rotation accordingly (as opposed to a conventional sensor mounted in the body). Obviously this can't work with lenses which don't have an OIS unit, such as the 7-14mm. This means that Panasonic owners will find all of their portrait-format pictures shot with this lens resolutely displaying the wrong way round.

Autofocus

Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds zooms generally exhibit hugely impressive autofocus performance (placing the Lumix G system right at the head of its class in this regard), and the 7-14mm doesn't disappoint. Focus is near-silent and exceptionally fast - indeed noticeably faster even than the M ZD 9-18mm F4-5.6, which is Olympus's fastest focusing lens to date.

Change in angle of view on focusing ('focus breathing')

The 7-14mm shows practically no perceptible change in its angle of view on focusing. This, coupled with its extremely quiet autofocus, means it will probably be a better choice for movie recording than the Olympus M ZD 9-18mm F4-5.6, which gives quite pronounced angle changes on focus.

'Focus-by-wire' manual focus

Like all Micro Four Thirds lenses the 7-14mm employs a focus-by-wire manual focus system, which drives the focusing group indirectly via the lens's autofocus motor. As a consequence, the feel of the manual focus ring never changes, regardless of whether the camera is set to auto or manual focus, or the focus has reached the limits of its travel (either close or infinity), and this lack of tactile feedback can be a little disconcerting in some situations. Fortunately this isn't the kind of lens you're likely to have to focus manually all that often.

Lens body elements

The lens features the Micro Four Thirds mount, currently compatible with cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. Communication with the camera is all-electronic, via the gold-plated contacts.
Due to the dome-shaped front element, there's no filter thread, so habitual users of polarizers and in particular neutral density gradients may find themselves disappointed and scrabbling around for home-made attachment options. Instead there's the non-removable hood protecting that vulnerable objective.
To protect that front element when the lens isn't in use, you get this deep push-on cap that slides over the hood and is held in place by friction.
The rubberized grip on the zoom ring is 13mm wide. It rotates about 50 degrees clockwise between the 7 and 14mm positions, with 8, 9, 10, and 12mm markings in between.

The zoom action involves the front element moving back and forwards inside the hood - so there's no change in physical length from 7 - 14mm.

The ridged grip on the focus ring is just 7mm wide. Its action is smooth if a little loose, but it gives no tactile feedback at all during operation due to the 'focus-by-wire' design.

Reported aperture vs focal length

Apertures from F4 to F22 can be selected at all focal lengths.

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