The 9 Best Panasonic Lenses
9. Lumix G II 100-300mm ƒ/4-5.6
- multi-coated lens elements
- circular aperture diaphragm
- focus ring is rather stubborn
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
8. Lumix G Leica 100-400mm ƒ/4.0-6.3
- built-in sliding hood
- integrated rotary tripod mount
- splash- and dust-proof body
|Rating||4.5 / 5.0|
7. Lumix G 14-140mm ƒ/3.5-5.6
- 10x total optical reach
- quick and accurate autofocus
- good travel option
|Rating||4.4 / 5.0|
6. Lumix G 12-60mm ƒ/3.5-5.6
- dustproof sealed body
- integrated image stabilization
- a little slow at the far end
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
5. GII 20mm ƒ/1.7
- durable metal body
- 1-year warranty
- poor autofocus speed
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
4. G 12-35mm ƒ/2.8
- sealed metal body
- dual image stabilization
- four aspherical elements
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
3. G II 35-100mm ƒ/2.8
- splash-proof body
- nano surface coating
- compatible with 5-axis stabilization
|Rating||5.0 / 5.0|
2. G 25mm ƒ/1.7
- quiet autofocus motor
- weighs just half a pound
- good low-light performance
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
1. Lumix G 42.5mm ƒ/1.7
- equivalent to 85mm
- optical image stabilization
- 31cm minimum focusing distance
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
The Micro Four-Thirds Sensor Explained
If you’ve ever shot anything on film, whether through a high-end SLR or a cheap, analog point-and-shoot, you’ve likely done so on 35mm film. From roughly the late 1960s to today, 35mm has been the dominant film format. Obviously, the digital revolution in photography has taken a big bite out of its prominence and production, but it’s worth nothing that the most sought-after DSLR cameras on the market use a sensor size — commonly referred to as full-frame — that matches the dimensions of 35mm film.
The dimensions of a digital sensor have more to do with your overall image quality than pretty much any other feature. Generally speaking, larger sensors perform better in low light conditions. Their individual pixels are correspondingly larger than those in a smaller sensor, so they can absorb more light information where little is available. Bigger sensors also exhibit greater dynamic range, allowing you to see more detail in areas of an image that a smaller sensor would leave underexposed or blown out. More sensor area can also pack more pixels together if the ability to blow up an image is important to you, and they do so without sacrificing much of their other performance bonuses.
The advantages of larger sensors become most apparent when comparing images from a DLSR and a cell phone or a point-and-shoot digital camera. The former have more detail, a dramatic sense of depth, and a professional appearance, while the latter often look like they were shot by somebody’s technologically illiterate grandparent.
The four-thirds sensor derives its name from both its size and its aspect ratio. It measures 4/3 of an inch (18mm) long, and maintains an aspect ratio of 4:3. A full frame sensor, by comparison, maintains a 3:2 aspect ratio with a length of 36mm. Clearly, full-frame has its advantages over the four-thirds format, but APS-C sensors, the closest thing on the market to full-frame, aren’t actually that much larger than a four-thirds sensor. That means you’re getting as close to professional quality as possible from a sensor with a tone of consumer-friendly features. By further comparison, most cell phones boast a 1/3-inch sensor, much smaller than four-thirds.
If you think the micro four-thirds sensor is any smaller than its four-thirds predecessor, you’d be mistaken, at least in the sense of it sensitive area. The four-thirds sensor design was deeper, as it allowed for the mirror necessary for SLRs and many DSLRs to relay an image to the viewfinder. The micro four-thirds format is just as long and just as wide as four-thirds, but it functions without a mirror, and take up far less depth.
Why Buy Branded Lenses
It’s not uncommon, given the variety of the industry’s cameras and lenses, to see photographers and filmmakers using one brand of lens on another brand of body. Some shooters make the jump from one brand body to the next, or from one size sensor to the next, and they don’t want to sacrifice the expensive lens collections they’ve developed.
The biggest problem here is one of matching specifications. For the majority of photographic history, lenses were hand-ground, which led to inconsistencies. Stanley Kubrik, who started as a still photographer before becoming a filmmaker, would order a dozen lenses from a company and test them all out, keeping only one or two of the units that performed to his exacting standards.
Today’s cameras and lenses are made with an incredible degree of precision, however, and while this saves consumers a lot of trouble picking from among lenses, it creates more problems for users trying to mix and match their gear. Despite this, cost and convenience often lead shooters to apply one brand’s lens to another brand’s camera.
This kind of behavior is particularly common in the micro four-thirds realm, since Panasonic and Olympus share the format and a lot of technology and specifications. Tossing an Olympus lens on a Panasonic body might be the only instance where mixing brands is actually a good idea. In all other cases, you’re courting disaster.
The reason for this danger lies in the tremendous precision of modern photographic equipment, and it’s related to our discussion of sensor size. If you try to put a Nikon lens that’s designed for a full-frame sensor on a Panasonic body, you’re going to run into several problems.
The first is that the mounts won’t match, though you could easily solve this problem with a good adapter. The next problem is one of crop factor. Due to the difference in sensor size, a 35mm full-frame lens will perform at an effective focal length of 70mm on a four-thirds sensor, making capturing wide angle shots tremendously difficult. Along those same lines, you’ll find your third problem, namely that you’re going to lose a lot of the light that the lens takes in as it fails to hit a sensor that's too small for its throw.
You could always go with third party lenses that are specifically designed for a Panasonic body and its sensor, but these will present you with the same problems that arise any time you try to save money on electronics by going with a cheaper, off-brand option. Off-brand lenses will generally be less durable, and will produce lower-quality images.
Rise Of The GH Series
Panasonic and Olympus have consistently produced some of the most technologically advanced, user-friendly, and high-quality consumer cameras to date. Their success in the mirrorless approach was a big inspiration for Sony to create their mirrorless alpha series.
Panasonic made a big splash in the professional market with their GH4, however. This micro four-thirds mirrorless DSLR had the ability to record in 4K before any other DSLR on the market. What’s even more impressive is that it could record that high-resolution video directly to the memory card. Even as other companies tried to catch up, they often required an outboard recorder to track 4K.
The company then came out with the GH5, which has taken a lot of what made the GH4 special, and has improved upon it, all built around their impressive sensor.