The best kit lens.

Started May 19, 2018 | User reviews thread
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Holistic Photog Contributing Member • Posts: 719
The best kit lens.

I'll start by saying that I have this lens, the Olympus 14-42 and also the Canon 18-55 II IS for APS-C. I also had the Panny 14-42 mark I. And the Panny 12-60 beats the other three hands down. I believe this is the best kit lens in Micro Four Thirds, if not the best kit lens period. Of course, I can't state the latter definitively, as I obviously haven't tried everything.

Comparing this lens to the Olympus 14-42 in terms of IQ, one obvious thing jumps out at me immediately, and I don't have to pixel peep to see it. The color fidelity and saturation of this lens is just far better. Even looking at it on a 720p or 1080p monitor, the difference is obvious. And I got the same result on Panasonic and Olympus bodies. The reason why was not obvious to me at first. After digging into it further, I noticed that the O14-42 images simply looked more washed out and less contrasty. I did a side by side comparison and, indeed, the darker areas of the image were darker with the Panny and the whites were whiter. They just popped out more.

Now I do recall seeing threads before where lens contrast was brought up and people saying that it's all down to the instructions the lens gives to the body about how to process the jpeg. To eliminate the possibility of that argument, I mounted both lenses on the same body but blocked all of the electrical contacts for both lenses. So, the body had no idea what lens was mounted or that a lens was even mounted. The OOC jpeg settings were identical, the shutter speeds were identical, the focal lengths were very close, and the apertures were very close.

Again, the 12-60 just had obviously better contrast and better color fidelity and saturation. The colors just popped with this lens. And I believe this is to the point where it's actually not fully correctable in post. You may be able to play tricks with them in post, but the 12-60 just gives better results OOC. And this is part of the reason why I don't want to post samples. I prefer not to have people trying to match them up and tell me how I did everything wrong.

Regarding pure detail and resolution, honestly, I'm not sure there's that much difference between the Oly and Panny. The Panny may be a hair sharper, but this isn't going to make or break an image (unless perhaps you're a landscape shooter). But, to me, this is splitting hairs. The P12-60 just has better clarity and color rendering. I believe this will make or break an image.

At 12mm, this lens absolutely sparkles,  due to the sharpness, saturation, and the contrast.

The performance at 60mm is actually quite good with this lens, to the point where it surprised me. After looking at lenstip, I did not expect it to be this good. I compared it to both the 45-175 at 60mm and the Sigma 60mm. I did all three lenses at f/5.6, f/6.3, and f/7.1.

The 12-60 was better than the 45-175 at 60mm in the center, edges, and corners. I tried two copies of the 45-175 to be sure. I only have one copy of the 12-60 to try. And the 45-175 is probably actually my favorite lens at the tele end, where it's very sharp. So, this lens makes a very nice companion to that lens. They complement each other nicely.

The Sigma 60mm was sharper than the 12-60 at 60mm in the center, edges, and corners, obviously. But the 12-60 is still a very good performer, and better than I expected.

Regarding video, I tried this lens handheld, and there was no evidence of micro-jitter, as Vesku would call it. Very stable and very credible OIS for video work. I even tried it in Ex Tele mode (where you crop the central 2MP of the sensor for 1080p or 1MP for 720p to increase the focal length). Still no evidence of jitter. I tested the OIS alone walking at 12mm. It does an okay job of taking the edge off of your steps, but not as good as IBIS or dual IS.

Photographically, the OIS alone is worth about 3 stops in my hands. Your mileage may vary. I tested the lens for shutter shock in the typical danger zone shutter speeds on old shutter shock prone bodies. I found absolutely no evidence of shutter shock on any body at any shutter speed with this lens. I can safely say this lens is immune (or nearly immune) to shock on any and all bodies.

So, what is the weakness of this lens? It's the largest kit lens in the system, about the same size as the Oly 75mm, but it weighs substantially less. It has no optical or operational weaknesses that I can detect. It has very good optical properties. It goes out to 12mm. The performance at 12mm and 60mm are both very good. It has a credible OIS for stills and video work. It's dual IS 2 compatible. It's weather resistant. It's very well built with high quality plastics. It has smooth zoom and focus rings. There's are no wobbles or unwanted movements. And it look good as well.

In terms of functionality, this is the best kit lens in the system, easily. Maybe the best kit lens ever. The size is its only drawback. The 12-32 lens would be the obvious competitor if you want a much smaller lens that goes to 12mm. This lens is optically excellent as well, but the 12-60 is probably (just) a little better optically in the overlapping range. The 12-32 has no manual focus ring, no weather resistance, a lesser stabilizer, and only dual IS (not dual IS 2 capable). And, obviously, it has only half the max FL.

The Panny 14-42 II is also excellent and substantially smaller than the 12-60. But no 12mm, no weather resistance. Also a lesser stabilizer. And also only dual IS not dual IS 2 capable. And it only goes to 42mm.

So, with the 12-60 you get a lot of added extras for the size.  I mentioned that I have the Canon 18-55 II IS. The Canon lens is actually a little larger than the P12-60, yet it's only a 3X. The whole Canon package is actually much larger when it's mounted on a DSLR. The Panny is better optically in the overlapping range and it's a 5X zoom. It has a better stabilizer. And it's weather resistant. Simply stated, the P12-60 makes monkey meat out of the Canon.

I highly recommend this lens if you don't mind a slightly larger kit lens by MFT standards.

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Live long and prosper.

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH Power OIS
Zoom lens • Micro Four Thirds
Announced: Feb 24, 2016
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