When you first pick up the PZ 14-42mm, you'll probably do a quick double-take; it's so tiny it feels like it must surely be a prime. Mounting it on a camera and turning it on reveals its secret - the lens rapidly extends to almost twice its retracted length for shooting. It's actually at its longest at 14mm (shown above), but changes only slightly in length on zooming.
The lens also feels well-constructed for its size and weight (although Panasonic has never quite mastered the art of making its Micro Four Thirds lenses look or feel like 'premium' products). The outer barrel is made of high quality plastic, and the inner extending section is metal; it exhibits practically no 'play' even at full extension, which is pretty impressive. The two switches on the side of the barrel that control the zoom and manual focus are also high quality plastic; note though that there's no physical OIS switch (instead this is controlled via the camera's menu system). However the lens's upmarket leanings are confirmed by the metal mount.
Compared to other collapsing kit zooms
The composite image below illustrates the difference in size between the Panasonic PZ 14-42mm powerzoom and the other kit zooms for Micro Four Thirds, plus Samsung's collapsible 20-50mm for its NX system. All the lenses are retracted to their shortest length for carrying; clearly the motorized design allows the pancake zoom to be far more compact than any similarly-speced lens.
|Left to right, top row then bottom:
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS
Samsung NX 20-50mm F3.5-5.6 ED
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS
Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 II