Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH, the "Perfect Normal" Lens

Four years ago Panasonic presents their large (F1.7) aperture "pancake" 20mm (40mm equivalent) lens as the kit lens for the Lumix DMC-GF1 camera.

Shortly after, M43 photographers discovered the "beauties" of this compact prime lens...

The 40mm-equivalent may at first appear unusual, but some discovered that; with a focal length equal to the M43 sensor's diagonal; this compact optics is in fact a 'perfect normal' lens!

This means the 20mm will produce images free of the 'perspective distortion' associated with wide angle or telephoto lenses!

Shortly after launch, this "pancake" lens became a celebrity when photo blogger Steve Huff claimed that the lowly kit lens is sharper than a Nikon 50/1.8 on a D3S!

Suddenly, this small wonder was so hot, it was hard to come by!

Even for a compact size, Panasonic managed to implement a 7 elements in 5 groups (2 aspherical lens) design.

The lens also incorporated a 7 diaphragm blades / Circular aperture diaphragm to produce a pleasing bokeh.

This lens however, do not come with POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer).
The Lumix 20/1.7 "pancake" besides the even smaller Lumix 12-32 kit zoom for the GM1. It is obvious how far lens miniaturisation has gone!  The much smaller and lighter 12-32 command a 24-64mm (eqv) range, this kind of optics was an impossible optical dream four years ago!

The 20/1.7 look oversized for the ultra compact Lumix GM1!

But how good is this NZD 545.00 pancake?  I took it out for a spin last sunny Saturday  :)

Colour from this 20mm pancake is exceptional, the renditions of different hues are accurate and clean. Contrast is high, and shadow detail is good.  I cannot see any chromatic aberration, the Lumix GM1 would have corrected; in house.

Strong backlight did not seem to bother this large aperture prime, I cannot detect any flare; even though I do not have a lens hood! The last time I noticed these kind of backlight performances was with my Leica glass!

A "grab shot" with the pancake still attached to the GM1. A longer focal length would made a better composition.

Next round, our Rose Garden to test the large aperture setting of this lens...

The two pictures above were shot with the GM1, top; with the 20/1.7 at F2 and bottom, with the GM1 kit zoom set at 20mm but the aperture was a tiny 4.5... take a look at the smooth and pleasing out of focus bokeh only a large aperture lens can provide!

A large aperture lens can easily isolate your subject from a messy background!

All the shots above were taken with the 20/1.7 on my OM-D E-M5 which have the huge advantage of it's incredible 5 axes image stabilizer!

Famous Last Words...

I really like this pancake!  I like it's creamy bokeh, it's accurate colour rendition; it's sharpness even when wide open.

I am not so fond of it's rather slow auto focus, but this is a 4 year old lens... and the lack of built-in image stabiliser.

I can live with this lens :)

Food For Thought...

This large aperture pancake will make a great food snapping lens! The shallow depth-of-field is perfect for such indulgence ;)

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