It's almost four years since Panasonic introduced the first mirrorless interchangeable lens camera in the shape of the Lumix DMC-G1, a most unrevolutionary-looking product that ushered in a brave new era of camera system design. In the intervening years we've seen a slew of cameras of this type as all of the major manufacturers (with the curious exception of Canon) have joined the fray. We've also seen a welcome resurgence of compact fast primes along with the development of clever collapsing zooms, as manufacturers have sought to capitalise on the inherent size advantage over SLR designs. But one type of lens highly valued by more-serious photographers has been conspicuous by its absence - the high quality, large aperture zoom. Panasonic has now addressed this with a lens it's labelling H-HS12035 - an optically-stabilized 12-35mm F2.8 in its premium 'X' range.

Unlike Panasonic's previous X lenses, the 12-35mm is not a powerzoom, instead featuring a conventional rotary zoom ring as favoured by stills photographers. It boasts metal-barreled construction, and in a first for Panasonic a degree of environmental sealing, with a rubber seal around the lens mount to prevent dust or water ingress into the camera. But perhaps most striking is its compact size; at less than 3" (75mm) in either diameter or length it's scarcely bigger than a typical 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 kit zoom for APS-C SLRs, and it weighs in at under 12oz (~300g).

Naturally the lens is designed with movie shooting in mind, with a linear stepper motor for near-silent autofocus, and Panasonic's video-optimised 'Power OIS' stabilization system. The optical system features elements crafted from Ultra Extra-Low Dispersion (UED) and Ultra High Refractive (UHR) glass, and uses Panasonic's Nano Surface Coating to minimize internal reflections and flare. The diaphragm uses 7 rounded blades to give a circular aperture for attractive rendition of out-of-focus backgrounds. On paper this all adds up to a tempting specification.

Being a Micro Four Thirds lens, the 12-35mm will work on Olympus cameras just as well as Panasonic's Lumix G models, and it looks like particularly interesting match to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 - one of our favourite cameras of the past year. Of course it's also likely to appeal to users of Panasonic's higher-end bodies, such as the DMC-GH2 and GX1.

Headline features

  • 24-70mm-equivalent focal length; constant F2.8 maximum aperture
  • 'Power OIS' optical image stabilization
  • Nano surface coating for suppression of flare and ghosting
  • 'HD' designation - near silent operation during video shooting
  • Micro Four Thirds mount for Panasonic and Olympus cameras

Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 ASPH Power OIS specifications

Product Code H-HS12035
Maximum format size Four Thirds
Focal length 12-35mm
35mm equivalent focal length 24-70mm
Diagonal angle of view 84° - 34°
Maximum aperture F2.8
Minimum aperture F22
Lens Construction • 14 elements in 9 groups
• 4 aspherical elements
• 1 UED element
• 1 UHR element
Number of diaphragm blades 7, rounded
Minimum focus • 0.25m / 0.82ft
Maximum magnification • Approx. 0.17x (0.34x 35mm-equivalent)
AF motor type • Linear Stepper Motor
Focus method Internal
Zoom method Extending front
Image stabilization • Power OIS
Filter thread • 58mm
• Does not rotate on focus
Supplied accessories* • Front and rear caps
• H-HS12035 Lens hood
• Lens storage bag
Weight 305g (10.8 oz)
Dimensions 67.6mm diameter x 73.8mm length
(2.7 x 2.9 in)
Lens Mount Micro Four Thirds

* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area