I've reviewed the Panasonic GF3 and now here's the review of the 14mm f/2.5 pancake lens. This has got to be the smallest, cheapest, best-value lens for the Micro Four Thirds system. Sure there are brighter ones, wider ones, and sharper ones, but this one takes the cake in size-price-image quality.
I really love pancake lenses. Panasonic's 20mm pancake is like permanently glued to my camera. Their 14mm pancake is even smaller, and it's incredibly light. It protrudes even less than many modern day zoom lenses on compact cameras. Slap it on your Micro Four Thirds camera and you can chuck the camera and lens combo into virtually any bag with no problems whatsoever, even tiny little girly handbags.
The lens goes for around US$300, but you can get it for cheaper on ebay. Even at full price, this is a great price for a wide-angle prime lens.
The 14mm is not a super bright lens. Its aperture is f/2.5, which is alright really, but a few stops away from the apertures you find on other prime lenses in the Micro Four Thirds stable of lenses.
14mm is a 28mm equivalent on a Micro Four Thirds body. Some photographers find this not to be ideal for a wide-angle lens, preferring the wider 24mm focal length. Coming from the 40mm equivalent focal length that I'm so used to shooting, 28mm seems like not much of a big deal -- something you can achieve by taking a few steps backward, so I can see their point.
All told, the Panasonic 14mm is a stop or two too slow and a few millimeters too long. Ideally, I would have preferred Olympus' 12mm f/2.0 lens. But that costs $500 more, so given the value proposition, there's little to complain about here.
Image Quality? Good!
Despite the optical corner cutting, the little 14mm lens manages to produce some quality images with minimal prodding. The proof is in the pudding, so here are some pictures.
|Shot this handheld and it still turned out okay.|
|This was one of those stop-the-car-and-roll-down-the-window pics. But after some cropping...|
|The grass is always greener on the other side.|
|Didn't expect to get much narrow depth of field from a lens so wide, but you can get some blur if you try hard enough.|
|The lens fares slightly better on the Olympus E-P3. You'll find lots of detail when shooting with this combo.|
Should you get one? Yes!
As you can see from the pics, image quality is quite good. I am wholly satisfied with the 14mm. That said, I'm not in love with this lens. In contrast, the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 is a lens that changed the way I look at photography, and it still provides surprising and stunning images to this day. It's an absolute joy to shoot with. The 14mm doesn't inspire the same love. It produces good, capable images, but it rarely amazes. Arguably, that's the job of the photographer, and that doesn't mean this is not a good lens. If you're looking for an affordable, small, solid performer of a wide-angle lens, this is it.