Panasonic Lumix 14-45 f3.5-5.6

The Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS was introduced in September, 2008, in the early days of Micro-Four-Thirds. It was Panasonic’s first kit lens; and until the introduction of Panasonic’s 12-35 f2.8 professional standard zoom, you could have made an argument that this modest, slow, variable aperture zoom was the best standard zoom lens in the early days of MFT. Certainly, in terms of sheer numerical specs (i.e., test charts), this was probably true. In terms of edge to edge sharpness, the Lumix 14-45 featured the most consistently good performance throughout its entire focal range of any of the early MFT kit lenses. Even to this day, it remains one of the best options (again, in terms of numerical specs) on the budget side of the ledger, rivaled only by Panasonic’s 12-32 pancake zoom and the same company’s second iteration of 14-42 kit lens.

Let’s take a quick look at the resolution of this lens, starting with what it can do at 14mm in “real world” performance. Here’s the first sample image, shot at f8:

Eureka AU12-925

And the center crop:

Eureka AU12-925-3

And the edge crop:

Eureka AU12-925-2

This is very decent performance in all respects for a lens of this class. Let’s look at another 14mm image, this time shot at f6.3:

NC Autumn AU12-97

Center crop:

NC Autumn AU12-97-2

Corner crop:

NC Autumn AU12-97-3

Again, decent performance. As usual with nearly all standard zoom lenses, and particularly consumer grade kit lenses, the center is sharper than edges and corners.

Let’s have a quick look at a 20mm image, shot at f7.1:

Capitol Reef SP13-7-3

Center crop:

Capitol Reef SP13-7

Corner crop:

Capitol Reef SP13-7-2

We can clearly see a loss of resolution in the far corner. But again, this is typical for lenses of this class. And the fact that it remains pretty sharp throughout most of the frame is actually fairly impressive.

Now for an image shot at 25mm, f7.1:

Northcoast Misc WI12-888

Center crop:

Northcoast Misc WI12-888-2

Edge crop:

Northcoast Misc WI12-888-3

If it looks a little sharper at this focal range, this has more to do with the fact that the subject is closer to the lens and the details are larger. But it does show pretty good performance.

Let’s look at in image at 35mm, f7.1, this time shot from much further away:

Klamath AU12-176-2

Center crop:

Klamath AU12-176-3

Corner crop:

Klamath AU12-176-4

Here the corner performance may not look so good, but keep mind the smallness of the detail. Actually, for this distance, this is very respectable performance.

Now let’s take a look at an image shot at 45mm:

Red Canyon SP13-6-2

Center crop:

Red Canyon SP13-6-3

Edge crop:

Red Canyon SP13-6-4

Corner crop:

Red Canyon SP13-6-5

Really decent performance all way around, with only the far corner losing resolution.

What about wide open performance? I have very few examples of shots taken wide open with this lens, as I’m just not that sort of shooter. But here’s an image I found shot at 19mm, f4.3:

Dunes SP13-80

Center crop:

Dunes SP13-80-2

Edge crop:

Dunes SP13-80-3

Performance here is really quite good — nothing to complain about at all. And the handful of other images I’ve looked at shot at or near wide open testify that the lens performs reasonably well wide open.

The Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH OIS is a decent enough performer, considering that it’s little more than a consumer grade kit lens. It’s outstanding feature is its consistency throughout its entire zoom range. Unlike many consumer grade kit lenses, the Lumix 14-45 is not better in middle of the zoom than it is at either end. It’s reasonably sharp from the center to near the edges, where it begins to lose resolution, at all focal lengths. At 100% magnification, corners are “soft.” Those seeking better edge to edge performance need to acquire a professional standard zoom lens, like the Olympus M. Zuiko 12-40 f2.8.

If I could be permitted a slight criticism of the Lumix 14-45, it has to with the contrast and color rendition of the lens. While the lens’ typical color and contrast is actually quite decent, I don’t regard what I call the “tonality” of the lens to be quite as good as the Lumix 12-32 or any of the Olympus consumer grade zooms.

The lens features Panasonic’s OIS stabilization system. Having shot this lens exclusively on Olympus cameras, I have rarely used the OIS. Nonetheless, I can definitely say that the 5 axis image stabilization in the OM-D EM-5 is flat out superior to Panasonic’s OIS. The stabilization in earlier Olympus cameras is about on par with the OIS.

My top recommendation for inexpensive consumer grade zoom lenses for M43 remains the Panasonic Lumix 12-32 f3.5-5.6 or the Olympus M. Zuiko 12-50 f3.5-6.3. Although the Panasonic 14-45 may feature slightly sharper edges toward the wide end of the lens than these two rival standard zooms, the differences are really quite minimal (see my review of the Olympus 12-50 for more details). But the Lumix 12-32 is more compact and features better contrast and color. The Olympus 12-50, meanwhile, offers longer range, weather sealing, a macro setting, and a more accurate rendering of colors.

Here are some more images taken with Lumix 14-45, all taken between f6.3 and f8. These shots are processed in Lightroom, sometimes extensively (brief hint: I tend to process extensively when I’m not entirely satisfied with the performance of the lens, particularly in regards to color rendition!). Let’s begin with some 14mm shots:

Pany Test-11

NC Autumn AU12-81

Samoa Dunes AU12-8

Colorado NM SP13-54

Trinidad AU12-102

At 16mm:

NC Autumn AU12-91

At 17mm:

Eureka AU12-578

At 18mm:

Carson Mansion WI12-1

Northcoast Misc WI12-892

At 19mm:

Klamath AU12-194

Dunes SP13-79

At 20mm:

Northcoast Misc WI12-828

Humboldt Bay SP13-9

At 23mm:

Pany Test-21

At 25mm:

NC Autumn AU12-174

Klamath AU12-96

Dunes SP13-74

At 31mm:

Klamath AU12-135

At 34mm:

Colorado NM SP13-47-Edit

Humboldt Bay SP13-11

At 35mm:

Mesa Verde SP13-59-Edit

At 36mm:

Klamath AU12-108

At 38mm:

Northcoast Misc WI12-870

Mesa Verde SP13-85-Edit

At 41mm:

Trinidad AU12-78

At 45mm:

Dunes SP13-115

Northcoast Misc.  WI12-718