Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH Review
The Panasonic 20mm F1.7 pancake does rather well in our studio tests. Distortion is being corrected in software, as is lateral chromatic aberration when used on Panasonic camera bodies (although not on the Olympus E-P1), and this is reflected in the results for these tests. Compared to the Olympus M Zuiko Digital 17mm F2.8, the Panasonic simply shines - it's much sharper (to the extent of being better at F1.7 than the Olympus is at F2.8), and has lower CA (even before software correction), less falloff and lower distortion (both 'native' and corrected). Overall very impressive results for a lens this small.
|Sharpness||Sharpness results are extremely good; the lens is very sharp in the center even wide open, and while the corners are somewhat soft at F1.7, they sharpen up rapidly on stopping down. Optimum results are obtained between F2.8 and F6.3; stopping down further sees sharpness progressively fall due to diffraction (mercifully Panasonic doesn't provide apertures smaller than F16).
Comparison of results obtained using the Panasonic G1 and Olympus E-P1 show slightly better results on the former - the gradual attenuation of MTFs by the E-P1 at higher frequencies indicates a slightly stronger low-pass filter.
|Chromatic Aberration||When used on Panasonic bodies, lateral chromatic aberration is corrected in software and is effectively removed. However this isn't the case using the Olympus EP-1, and on this camera fringing is visible (although not hugely objectionable).|
|Falloff||We consider falloff to start becoming a potential problem when the corner illumination falls to more than 1 stop below the center. We measure 1.7 stops falloff wide open, which disappears on stopping down to around F2.8 - this is unlikely to be noticeable in normal use.|
|Distortion||Distortion is being corrected in software, with absolutely neutral results returned on both the G1 and E-P1.|
Software correction of distortion
As expected, the 20mm F1.7 pancake takes advantage of the Micro Four Thirds system's ability to correct geometric distortion in software. For most users this is completely transparent - the camera corrects both the viewfinder image 'on the fly', and the JPEG files it records. Also, both the software supplied with the camera (Olympus Master or SilkyPix) and industry-standard alternatives such as Adobe Camera Raw convert raw files correctly too. However users who like to experiment with more obscure raw developers which are unable to apply the requisite corrections will find themselves with distorted images.
To investigate the lens's 'native' distortion prior to correction, we shot our standard test in raw and converted the image using dcraw, which doesn't apply any corrections. The comparison below illustrates the transformation from the barrel-distorted raw image to the properly-corrected final version. Notably the 20mm has lower native distortion than the other MFT lenses we've tested so far, so the corrections required aren't as extreme. In context many superzoom lenses for DSLRs show more barrel distortion than this, albeit at wideangle settings.
|Uncorrected (+ 2.6%)||Corrected (+ 0.0%)|
Specific image quality issues
As always, our studio tests are backed up by taking hundreds of photographs with the lens across a range of subjects, and examining them in detail. This allows us to confirm our studio observations, and identify any other issues which don't show up in the tests. The 20mm F1.7 produces near-flawless results in everyday shooting, with no problems worth mentioning.
The 20mm F1.7, despite its fast maximum aperture, excels in its handling of flare. It's possible to shoot directly into the sun with little ill-effect, and during extended use in bright late summer sun we saw little evidence for any images being adversely affected by flare, no matter how hard we tried to stress the lens.
The examples below show this - even with the sun directly in the frame, the lens shows few flare effects at all (just a small patch of reduced contrast diametrically opposite the sun). Shooting directly towards the sun on a very bright day, and there's little evidence of any significant image degradation from flare (although the E-P1 has, left to its own devices, somewhat overexposed the shot). Normally we're concerned when a lens isn't supplied with a hood, but in this case it doesn't seem to be a major cause for complaint.
|E-P1, 1/2000 sec F16||E-P1, 1/160 sec F8, strong backlight|
Background blur ('bokeh')
One genuinely desirable, but difficult to measure aspect of a lens's performance is the ability to deliver smoothly blurred out-of-focus regions when trying to isolate a subject from the background, generally when using a long focal length and large aperture. The F1.7 aperture allows quite a useful degree of control over depth of field and blurring of backgrounds - and the rendition of those backgrounds is very pleasant for a fast 'normal' prime too. The examples below illustrate this - in the closeup shot, the transition to the out-of-focus regions is handled perfectly smoothly. Distant backgrounds are equally rendered in a fairly neutral fashion.
|DMC-G1, 1/100 sec F1.7, ISO 100||50% crop, top right corner|
|DMC-G1, 1/320 sec F1.7, ISO 100||50% crop, bottom left corner|
These samples also demonstrate that, while the 20mm F1.7 gives a fair degree of background blur (and will undoubtedly delight users coming from compacts with near-infinite depth of field), it struggles to match SLR systems. This is because background blur and depth of field are fundamentally dependant upon the size of the entrance pupil (the apparent size of the aperture as seen through the front element), which is about 11.8mm compared to 27.8mm for a 50mm F1.8. Ultimately the 20mm F1.7 gives similar results in this regard to a 27mm F2.2 lens on APS-C, or a 40mm F3.5 on full frame (of course it still does better than more directly comparable lenses such as the Olympus 17mm F2.8 pancake, or the 24mm F2.8 of the Sigma DP2).
Lateral chromatic aberration is automatically corrected when the lens is used on Panasonic bodies, but Olympus E-P1 owners won't get this benefit, regardless of whether they use out-of-camera jpegs or raw conversions (at least from Olympus Master or Adobe Camera Raw / Lightroom. This isn't necessarily a disaster - the 20mm F1.7 doesn't show particularly objectionable levels of fringing anyway.
The samples below show pretty much the worst case scenario - high contrast black/white transitions in the extreme corner of the frame. There's a narrow green / magenta fringe, with a yellow / blue one extending beyond that. The three processing methods (camera JPEG, Adobe Camera RAW and Olympus Master 2) all give identical results, both in terms of CA and distortion correction.
|Olympus E-P1, F4, JPEG||100% crop, bottom right of frame|
|100% crop, Adobe Camera Raw 5.5||100% crop, Olympus Master 2.2|
Longitudinal chromatic aberration can sometimes be seen when shooting at larger apertures. It takes the form of colour fringing around bright highlights, which is blue-magenta at in-focus high-contrast edges, and green in out-of-focus areas. Unlike lateral CA this fringing isn't removed automatically by Panasonic bodies. Overall, while it's there, we found it not to be a major concern in normal use (and had to look quite hard to find this example).
|Olympus E-P1, F2, JPEG||100% crop|
If you were disappointed by reports that the Sony a9 struggles with adapted Canon glass, you might be able to take some comfort from Metabones' latest update.
Blackmagic Design has dropped the prices of its Video Assist external monitor/recorders for a limited time. Prices of the SD card-based recorders will be reduced in all markets, while supplies last.
Instagram has started testing a new feature called 'favorites' that enables users to share photos with only certain people. Only a small number of users have access to the feature at this time, though it may roll out to everyone in the future.
Lensbaby has announced the Velvet 85 F1.8 for interchangeable lens cameras. The lens is available in Canon, Nikon, Sony E, Sony A, Pentax K, Samsung NX, Fuji X and Micro 4/3 mounts.
It's the end of an era. Parent company Micron has announced that they are discontinuing the Lexar retail brand. This includes 'memory cards, USB flash drives, readers, and storage drives.'
Youthful trainspotter turned adult photographer, John Sanderson has traveled across the United States, documenting the country's railroads. But you won't find any trains in his pictures.
Sony's new CMOS sensor is backside-illuminated and offers an all-pixel global reset function which should drastically reduce rolling shutter effect when panning.
Shoulderpod has converted its offerings into a lego-like modular system by offering all individual parts of existing products separately, allowing users to build exactly the rig they need for a specific project or simply replace a damaged part.
Photographer Felix AAA has spent the past ten years touring the world with a variety of musicians, capturing behind the scenes shots and portraits. He talks about some of his favorite images on the FujiFilm Blog.
A roll of film discovered in an Argus C2 from an Oregon Goodwill turned out to contain some incredible images – and has been re-united with the original owner's family.
Nikon's 28mm F1.4E ED appears to roundly complete the company's updated lineup of fast, professional prime lenses. We've already seen some initial images from a Nikon ambassador, but we've worked through a gallery of our own, with a lens of our own over the past week. Take a look.
Google is holding a competition that could see your Pixel photos gracing millions of screens.
Nikon's 100th birthday party continues worldwide as a distributor in Italy organized a one-of-a-kind feat: assembling the world's largest 'human camera' from over a thousand volunteers.
Ricoh has dropped the price of its Theta SC 360 spherical camera by to $199, a reduction of roughly $50. The camera features two 12MP sensors and can record Full HD video in addition to stills.
Photojournalist Pete Souza served as the presidential photographer for both Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. In an interview with fellow photographer Marcia Nighswander, he discusses several of his most noteworthy images.
Photographer Michael Wolf has been documenting the crowded conditions of Tokyo's subway trains since the 1990s. The photos have gone viral regularly in the years since he started the project, and he just published the final edition in the series.
The just-launched OnePlus 5 is getting a minor update that should improve camera function.
A Belgian camera shop is showing off an extremely rare, limited 'Rex Edition' Nikon D500. The cosmetic alterations were provided by a customer's German Shepherd Rex, who got ahold of the camera within a day of its purchase.
Adobe says that many of its users have been relying on SkyBox for VR editing and it therefore made sense to make the plug-ins available to all subscribers through Creative Cloud.
The Pictar grip provides a number of customizable physical controls for your iPhone camera, but at its price point we would like to see better materials and build quality.
Peak Design's 'consider every detail' approach shines in the Everyday Backpack. While expensive, it's one of the best options out there for a photographer who needs to pack a lot of stuff in addition to gear.
If you're thinking of using Canon's sports glass on the Sony a9, think again. The ultra-fast camera slows way down when you attach off-brand glass.
The Polish town of Katowice is not famed as an area of beauty, but as all photographers know, that doesn't mean that beauty can't be found if you look in the right places. Mariusz Pietranek used a drone to look down on the colorful sedimentation tanks at an ironworks.
New York Times video journalist Ben Solomon spent a harrowing three weeks accompanying Iraqi Major Sajjad al-Hour as he and his men fought to retake Mosul from I.S. forces.
The 3D VR camera launched through a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 goes on sale beginning June 26.
Noctilucent clouds, a crescent moon and Venus were visible in the pre-dawn sky over Budapest yesterday. Photographer György Soponyai captured NASA's astronomy picture of the day.
Squirming pets won't sit still for photos? A Kickstarter campaign is looking to help.
Find out how Chris Burkard shifted from editorial photography to his true passions: landscapes, conservation and, of course, surfing.
The updated EyeEm app scans your camera roll and picks images that are composed particularly well, have the best quality, or highest chance of selling on EyeEm Market.
It's three years old but still a solid option for a Micro Four Thirds shooter looking for a high-quality, fast, wide-angle prime. Take a look at how we got along with it.