The power zoom design makes using the PZ 14-42mm very much like working with a compact camera. Indeed, when used with the GF3 it gives the most compact-like user experience of any mirrorless ILC to date. In fact we'd go so far as to say that the GF3 itself suddenly makes far more sense when paired up with it; for example the flash shadowing problem we noted in our review of the camera, that's seen when shooting at the wide end of the conventional 14-42mm kit zoom, is eliminated with the much-smaller PZ lens.
The positioning of the zoom and focus levers works well when holding the camera in landscape format, but our initial impression is that they're a little more awkward to operate when shooting in portrait orientation (conventional zoom rings, of course, work equally well either way round). Naturally, this isn't a problem when shooting video.
The control levers are both multi-speed in operation, i.e. the speed of the zoom or focusing movement depends on how far you pull them away from their centered position. In other words, with a small movement of the lever the lens zooms or focuses slowly, and with a large movement, quickly. This is a sensible way for Panasonic to address the usual criticism of power zoom lenses that they make critical composition difficult, but we'll wait for a production sample of the lens before assessing how well it really works in practice.
During video recording, you can still zoom the lens but it's limited to its slowest speed. This both helps minimise operational noise (the motor is barely audible on your soundtrack), and makes movies more pleasant to watch, as rapid zooming rarely works well.
Videos of the PZ 14-42mm in operation
In the videos below, we demonstrate the lens's operation. This particular sample is a pre-production unit running non-finalised firmware (the camera displays V0.0) - Panasonic has asked us not to publish stills or movies recorded using the lens, but we can show videos illustrating how it works. From these you can get some idea of the speed of startup, the multi-speed zooming, and the operational noise (which is extremely low). Note that Panasonic says it's still working on optimizing the zoom operation.
|In this video the sequence of actions is: Power on, fast zoom in, fast zoom out, slow zoom in, slow zoom out, power off. Recorded using a Panasonic DMC-GH2 with Lumix G 14-45mm F3.5-5.6 lens, sound courtesy of the GH2's built-in mic (the cameras were about 60cm / 2 ft apart). If you turn the volume right up, you can just about make out the PZ lens's operational noise.|
|This video shows a similar sequence of events: Power on, autofocus, fast zoom in, fast zoom out, slow zoom in. Again recorded using the Panasonic GH2, this time with an adapted Olympus OM 50mm F3.5 macro; sound via inbuilt mic. (This video is purely to show the difference in speed between the fast and slow zoom speeds, no other conclusion can be drawn from it.)|