lens rental
Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 Gordon Laing, Feb 2013
 

Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 vs Lumix 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 PZ

Support me by
shopping below


 
To compare the real-life performance between the Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 and Lumix 14-42mm PZ lenses, I shot this landscape scene with both at every aperture setting using a Panasonic Lumix GX1 mounted on a tripod. Both lenses were tested here at 14mm, representing the long-end of the 7-14mm and the wide-end of the 14-42mm.

The GX1 was set to its base sensitivity of 160 ISO and the lenses were focused on the center of the composition using magnified Live View assistance.
  Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 results
1 Panasonic 7-14mm sharpness at 7mm
2 Panasonic 7-14mm sharpness at 10mm
3 Panasonic 7-14mm sharpness at 14mm
4 Panasonic 7-14mm vs Olympus 12mm
5 Panasonic 7-14mm vs 14-42mm PZ
6 Panasonic 7-14mm Sample images


Once again I shot the scene with both lenses using the GX1's RAW mode and processed the files in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) via Photoshop using the following settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts.

All lens corrections were disabled, so there's no additional software compensation for vignetting, geometric distortion or chromatic aberrations. Normally this would allow us to evaluate the uncorrected optical performance of the lenses alone, but with Micro Four Thirds lenses there are additional corrections stored as profiles within the firmware; these are automatically applied to JPEGs in-camera, and also by most RAW converters including ACR when opening the RAW file. You can't turn them off.

As such it's often hard to see exactly what's going on behind the scenes of Micro Four Thirds lenses without using an obscure RAW converter which ignores the profiles, so instead of trying to chase the pure optical performance of the lenses for the sake of it, I thought it would be much more useful to simply show how they will perform in normal use, at least on a Panasonic body anyway. In this instance the body and RAW processor are correcting the geometric distortions and chromatic aberrations automatically, but any vignetting will remain.

The motorized pancake zoom kick's off the comparison at 14mm f3.5 with a result that suffers from noticeable vignetting, but sports surprisingly respectable sharpness and detail for such a small lens. Closed a fraction to f4, some of the vignetting is reduced and we can compare it to the 7-14mm wide-open. The premium 7-14mm is also exhibiting some vignetting here but as we've seen on my earlier results, it doesn't perform at its best in the corners at 14mm. So we have the interesting and slightly surprising result that the 14-42mm Power Zoom is actually delivering slightly better quality in the corners when both are set to 14mm. At f5.6 with most of the vignetting eliminated from both lenses, the difference in detail becomes more apparent. It's subtle, but the 14-42mm is a tad crisper in the corners up to f5.6. By f8 though the results are essentially neck in neck and by f11 diffraction is blurring any differences.

Scroll down to the second table to see how the lenses compare in the middle, or skip straight to my Panasonic 7-14mm sample images or verdict.



Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 corner sharpness at 12mm
 
Panasonic Lumix 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 PZ corner sharpness at 14mm
Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 - f3.5 not available
Panasonic Lumix 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 corner crop at 14mm f3.5
     
Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 corner crop at 14mm f4
Panasonic Lumix 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 corner crop at 14mm f4
     
Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 corner crop at 14mm f5.6
Panasonic Lumix 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 corner crop at 14mm f5.6
     
Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 corner crop at 14mm f8
Panasonic Lumix 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 corner crop at 14mm f8
     
Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 corner crop at 12mm f11
Panasonic Lumix 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 corner crop at 14mm f11



Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm vs 14-42mm Power Zoom at 14mm

Moving onto the crops taken from the center of the images, the power zoom again kick's off the sequence at f3.5 with a respectable result that's full of detail. Closing the aperture to f4 slightly improves the look of the 14-42mm at 14mm, but at this point the 7-14mm joins in with a noticeably crisper result that contains finer details and higher contrast. This continues at f5.6 where the superiority of the 7-14mm is clear over the kit zoom.

If you've ever doubted the impact of diffraction in practice though, just look at the f8 and especially the f11 samples where any benefit of the 7-14mm is lost. This proves if you want to make the most of the potential sharpness of a higher-end lens, you'll need to shoot at apertures which avoid diffraction, which for the 7-14mm means ideally between f4 and f5.6. As for the 14-42mm Power Zoom, it delivers better performance than you might have expected for a kit lens, at least at 14mm anyway. Admittedly this is the weakest focal length for the 7-14mm in my tests, but the results from the kit lens remain respectable.

Right, that's the end of my optical results, so it's now time to either check out my Panasonic 7-14mm sample images or head straight to my verdict.


Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 center sharpness at 14mm
 
Panasonic Lumix 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 PZ center sharpness at 14mm
Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 - f3.5 not available
Panasonic Lumix 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 center crop at 14mm f3.5
     
Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 center crop at 14mm f4
Panasonic Lumix 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 center crop at 14mm f4
     
Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 center crop at 14mm f5.6
Panasonic Lumix 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 center crop at 14mm f5.6
     
Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 center crop at 14mm f8
Panasonic Lumix 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 center crop at 14mm f8
     
Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 center crop at 14mm f11
Panasonic Lumix 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 center crop at 14mm f11


Right, that's the end of my optical results, so it's now time to either check out my Panasonic 7-14mm sample images or head straight to my verdict.
If you found this review useful, please support me by shopping below!
 
Photographing the 4th Dimension: time
eBook by Jim M Goldstein
Price: $20 USD (PDF download)
More details!

A great-looking and highly informative eBook for anyone interested in long exposure photography. Whether you're into painting with light, capturing star-trails or creating timelapse video, author Jim M Goldstein has the answers. One of my favourite eBooks to date and one you'll want in your collection even if it's just to browse the great images.
     
All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

/ How we test / Best Cameras / Advertising / Camera reviews / Supporting Camera Labs