First Impressions / Summary
So far we've had only a limited opportunity to handle pre-production samples of the Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 ASPH OIS, but first impressions are certainly positive. Panasonic seems to have finally realized that expensive lenses need to feel expensive, and the 12-35mm, with its metal barrel and silky-smooth zoom action, gives the impression of being a genuinely high-end product. It certainly feels better-made than Panasonic's Leica-branded (and therefore pricey) 25mm F1.4 and 45mm F2.8 Macro primes, which have plastic lens barrels.
The 12-35mm handles well on the camera too. Autofocus is both exceptionally fast and near-silent in operation; during movie shooting it is, to all intents and purposes, inaudible. Panasonic's excellent implementation of 'focus-by-wire' manual focus is responsive and precise, and streets ahead of some of its rivals. It's also nice to see the retention of a physical OIS switch, a feature that's disappeared from many recent lenses.
It may seem odd for Panasonic to produce a sealed lens with no body to match, but it's worth remembering that Olympus recently released its weathersealed M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ zoom a few months in advance of the camera it's intended to complement, the OM-D E-M5. In this context, we have to note that the DMC-GH2 is nearing its second birthday, and appears ripe for replacement.
The 12-35mm F2.8 is tiny for a fast constant aperture zoom, but it's worth noting that this comes at the cost of depth of field control compared to similar lenses for larger formats. In terms of DOF and background blur, the lens behaves like a 16-45mm F3.5 lens for APS-C, or a 24-70mm F5.6 lens for full frame cameras. This isn't a bad thing per se; it's simply the compromise you make to gain the extra portability.
Of course it's too soon comment on image quality, with the lens still being at the pre-production stage, but Panasonic has allowed us to publish full-size image samples (with the usual caveat that they may not fully represent the final image quality). Overall though we're pleased to finally see a premium, fast zoom for mirrorless cameras - especially with the promise of a matching 35-100mm F2.8 telephoto zoom to come. It's another welcome step in the increasing maturity of the Micro Four Thirds system.
Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 ASPH OIS Preview Samples Gallery
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Note that the lens used for this gallery was pre-production, and so may not fully represent the final image quality.