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Conclusion - Pros

  • Extraordinarily small for such a wide lens
  • Very good image quality
  • Extremely fast, practically silent autofocus with minimal 'breathing'
  • Impressively resistant to flare

Conclusion - Cons

  • Does not accept filters
  • Fairly strong lateral chromatic aberration at the widest settings when used on Olympus bodies
  • High price (much more expensive than Olympus 9-18mm F4-5.6)

Overall conclusion

The Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 is a remarkable lens - it may not be the widest angle zoom currently made (an honor held jointly by Sigma's 12-24mm for full frame and 8-16mm for APS-C), but its combination of ultra-wide view and compact size is unique. And for a lens that's so wide and so small, its image quality is very impressive indeed. Sharpness is high and pretty consistent across the frame without any great drop-off towards the corners, and resistance to flare is impressive. Distortion is extremely low thanks to the automatic software correction that's fully integrated into the Micro Four Thirds system, and while Olympus users will notice a fair bit of color fringing due to lateral chromatic aberration (particularly towards the wide end of the zoom), Panasonic users will again be spared seeing this in their images.

Build quality is typical Panasonic - reassuringly solid, but using plenty of high-quality plastics to help keep weight under control. Autofocus is fast and near-silent, and the lens exhibits hardly any change in angle of view on focusing (known as 'focus breathing'), which will be welcome to videographers. About the only real negative point of the design is that there's absolutely no facility to attach filters, due to the large domed front element. This is entirely normal for lenses this wide, but it does preclude the use of popular filters such as polarizers or neutral density gradients. (Of course it can be argued that this is no great loss, as polarizers won't always give good results at 7mm; the problem is you still can't use them at more moderately wide focal lengths such as 12mm where they would be more effective).

Of course the choice facing Micro Four Thirds owners is whether to buy this lens or the Olympus M ZD 9-18mm F4-5.6. The two are very close in terms of optical performance, so the decision comes down largely to one of specification and price. The Panasonic obviously covers a larger angle of view, and has a constant F4 maximum aperture; but the Olympus is rather smaller when retracted to its 'transport' position, can accept filters, and is considerably cheaper (about 60% of the price, depending upon market region). The Olympus's longer 18mm end also means there's less need to swap back and forwards with the kit zoom during everyday shooting. Overall the Panasonic offers more extreme capabilities, but the Olympus will probably be more practical for most users.

In summary then, the 7-14mm is an impressive piece of optical engineering. Its combination of ultra-wide view and compact size makes it unique, and wide angle fanatics will certainly be delighted by it. So if you're sure you want the widest lens possible for Micro Four Thirds, then it's a great choice. Indeed if it were still the only game in town we'd probably be recommending it almost unreservedly, but the Olympus 9-18mm now offers an excellent alternative at a much lower price.

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 ASPH
Category: Wideangle Lens
Optical Quality
Build Quality
Autofocus
Ergonomics and Handling
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Landscape or travel photographers looking for a highly portable ultrawide zooms
Not so good for
Budget-conscious buyers or habitual filter users
Overall score
78%
Panasonic has produced an ultra-wide zoom for Micro Four Thirds that is a technological tour de force. Compact and with excellent image quality, it's a superb lens if you can afford the high price.

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Samples Gallery

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Panasonic 7-14mm F4 review samples

24 images • Posted 28th May 2010 • View album
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