on May 6, 2010
I recently purchased an E-P2 as a portable option to complement my DSLR setup. I've been very happy with its performance in most respects, however it has no flash and the kit lens is slow; this means that indoor usage results in painfully high ISO and noise that is impossible to clean. That lead me to purchase this lens, which is the fastest thing going for M4/3 currently.
First off, this thing is wonderfully compact. Much thinner than the M.Zuiko 14-42mm kit lens, although a bit bigger in diameter, and it makes the E-P2 even more low profile when it's mounted. It balances well on the E-P2 and it looks right at home to me, even though it lacks the signature PEN silver accents. It has a massive manual focus ring which is a pleasure to use (once you get the hang of the micromotor manual focus mechanism, which it shares with the 14-42).
Unlike the newer, smaller Panasonic Lumix 14mm f/2.5 pancake, this guy has some very large lens caps that make it more bulky than it should be. A lens this size begs to be slipped into a pocket, but the huge caps just get in the way; you might want to look for aftermarket replacements.
As for IQ... well, you can read the charts, but suffice it to say that this is a very good performer. Unlike the M.Zuiko kit lens, this guy is sharp wide open, with perhaps only minor improvements by stopping down. This lens can really show what M4/3 is capable of from an IQ perspective in a way that the kit zooms just can't.
Autofocus is at least as accurate as any other lens I've tried on this body, and low light AF accuracy especially is quite good (thanks, no doubt, to the large aperture). AF speed though is mediocre at best, and it's also a good bit louder than would be ideal. The aperture also makes a very noticeable clicking sound, which is a little obnoxious with the E-P2 (which constantly fiddles with the aperture when you're using live view). Neither focus noise nor aperture noise is a real issue for stills, but they might cause some problems if shooting video with the internal mic.
There is one issue with using this lens specific to Olympus bodies: they don't do the software distortion compensation that Panasonic bodies do with Panasonic lenses. This means that, on Olympus bodies only, light falloff is visible towards the corners when shooting wide open (it goes away by around f/4). In practice it's not much of a problem, and the corners aren't that big a deal in most shots anyway, but if you're a PEN shooter you should be aware of it and stop down accordingly if/when the corners do matter.
I should mention that I also own the Olympus 17mm f/2.8, which many would consider an alternative to this lens. If you're new to photography and you're considering owning only one, I highly recommend the Panasonic, whose aperture advantage and longer focal length combine to give you much better options for DOF control. I still enjoy the Olympus (and indeed, it's even *smaller* than this lens), but I think for most people in most situations this is a better choice.
Bottom line: if you own a m4/3 body without a flash and care at all about low light shooting, stop reading and buy this lens right now. For everybody else, you're presumably here for IQ, f/1.7's narrower DOF, and portability, and on all counts this lens delivers. It's a great all around performer and the cost, although high, is not totally unreasonable for something of this quality.
As a side note, if you're used to 50mm as "normal" from the film era, I think you'll find 20mm quite pleasant; I've shot a lot with my 28mm prime on APS-C, and the Panny 20mm here provides a similar FOV to that.
** Update, 5/21/2010 **
My initial thoughts on this lens have proven to be spot on. This little guy spends much, much more time on my camera than the kit lens; the faster aperture is a godsend, and the smaller size is wonderful for portability. Image quality is impeccable and the light falloff is almost never a problem in real world scenarios. If you only buy one lens for your M4/3 body, make it this one.
** Update, 8/7/2011 **
Panasonic has announced a µ4/3 native version of the Leica-branded Panasonic 25mm f/1.4, which should clock in at about twice the price of this lens. I own (and reviewed) the regular Four Thirds version of that lens, and early accounts imply that the µ4/3 version should be nearly the same optically as its full sized cousin.
The 25mm f/1.4 is certainly better, but not by much; only half a stop faster, barely any sharper, and still suffering from corner softness and vignetting wide open. The focal length is a more traditional normal, which (combined with the aperture advantage) makes it more suitable for isolating your subject, but... at twice the cost and twice the size? Those advantages seem difficult to justify.
As far as I'm concerned, the 20mm f/1.7 here remains the first lens you should buy for a µ4/3 body. It plays to the strengths of the system without breaking the bank.
** Update, 1/23/2013 **
I've finally taken the plunge and purchased both the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Panasonic Micro 4/3 25mm f/1.4 to go with it. I can now directly compare this lens to the native 25mm f/1.4.
I can honestly say the 20mm f/1.7 holds up incredibly well. The biggest advantage of the 25mm is probably its autofocus performance, which is both much quieter and somewhat faster than the 20mm (primarily when "hunting," which is when the 20mm slows down). The minor aperture advantage of the 25mm is really not very significant (especially with the E-M5, which has impressive high ISO performance).
Oddly, perhaps, I still end up preferring the 20mm simply due to how much smaller it is. The 25mm is superior, but it's relatively large, which means I'm just less inclined to carry it with me. So if you're considering these two lenses for yourself, you really must decide how much you value portability. The 25mm f/1.4 is "better," but the size difference is real.
on October 18, 2009
If you own an E-P1, you absolutely owe it to yourself to get this lens right now. I used to own the 17mm and loved its size, but found the image quality lacking. There are plenty of detailed reviews of this 20mm lens out there so I'll spare the tech details.
I've had this for a little over a week and the performance is just amazing. Auto focus speed is very good, not super speedy, but definitely not slow. Images look sharp even wide open with lovely bokeh. It's not quite as nice as the Panasonic/Leica 25mm 1.4 for 4/3, but it is half the price and 1/4 of the size.
I have some good glass like the Olympus 50mm f2 and Olympus 14-52 mark II 2.8-3.5 via the adapter, but those will probably stay on my E-620 since this Panasonic 20mm fits the E-P1 like a glove.
It's amazing how this lens makes the E-P1 come alive like no other lens I've used on it before.
It's getting close to one year of full use and this lens is still unmatched for native micro four thirds. I now use it on an E-PL1 and it's still working it's magic. With the latest Olympus firmware update for the E-PL1 (available for E-P1 and EP2 as well) the autofocus speed of the 20mm is even faster! As my photographic skill have increased over the month, I've been able to get even better results.
on October 16, 2009
I originally bought the Panasonic Lumix GF1 with the 14-45mm kit lens, and then bought this 20mm pancake.
The pancake turns the GF1 into a really compact set, that I enjoy taking together anywhere. I keep the 20mm lens in the camera most of the times, and only when I know I'll need some telephoto I replace it by the 14-45mm lens.
I owned previously only point-and-shoot and superzooms, so I wanted to try some DSLR, but I was afraid I wouldn't take together because of the bulk. With the GF1 + this pancake lens I have a small camera that I don't mind carrying and that takes DSLR-quality photos.
It lacks OIS, but I don't really feel the need as this is a very fast lens. With the f/1.7 aperture, you can also create nice narrow depth-of-field effects, which are impossible on point-and-shoot cameras.
I just wanted it be a bit wider... notice that this pancake is actually a 40mm in a 35-mm equivalent focal length. Probably in the future Panasonic will release a wide pancake. They currently sell a wide zoom Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0 Micro Four Thirds Lens for Panasonic Digital SLR Cameras, but that's too expensive.
Panasonic has other few lenses, but I believe this pancake 20mm is what makes more sense to use with the GF1 to have a real compact set.
I found this camera bag Lowepro Apex 60 AW (Black) is the smallest to fit only the GF1 + the 20mm pancake lens, if you're trying to have a real portable set like me, and I also recommend to protect your lens with a filter like this HOYA 46mm UV Filter for Camera Use.
- fast f/1.7 lens, great for narrow depth-of-field pictures and low light shots
- fast autofocus
- very compact lens. It makes a lot of sense with the GF1 - as a compact set you'll carry with you all the time, as it fits your coat pocket.
- compact set = less obtrusive camera = more natural, candid photos
- well, it's not as flexible as a zoom lens. It's fixed 20mm (40mm equivalent). But the pros outweigh the cons, so you'll end up using it more than the larger zoom lens.
on August 25, 2010
It's very simple, if you have a micro Four Thirds camera, you want this lens. Doesn't matter if you have a Panasonic or Olympus camera, this is the best MFT lens you can buy, and easily the best deal. You can spend more, but you won't get better performance. Hopefully that will change, BTW. Or at least, the ease of making that pronouncement will change.
I have an Olympus E-PL1 with this lens, and unlike some of the older reviews, especially with E-P1 and E-P2, the autofocus is quite good with the latest firmware for the lens and camera. Since the PEN cameras have in-body image stabilization, like god intended, you get some seriously great, crisp shots with this lens.
The minimum focus distance on this lens is tiny, the image quality is fantastic, and, well, there's the speed. Its 1.7 f-stop is the fastest thing in the MFT world, by quite a ways. The next closest is the similar, but shorter focal length, Olympus 17mm f2.8. That's a LOT slower than 1.7, as everyone is well aware, I'm sure. The Panasonic/Leica 45mm is also f2.8.
The speed therefore makes this lens much more versatile and useful than any other MFT lens on the market. With the aperture open, you get a very nice, soft bokeh that is gorgeous. The color repro with this lens is awesome, and I especially love that because I love to take pictures of flowers. The crisp, clear, faithfully reproduced colors of the flower subjects far surpasses the kit lens.
The lens is quite compact, but not as much as the Olympus 17mm, but that's OK because it's packing a larger set of glass, isn't it?
The focus performance must be mentioned. On the *highly* auto-focus challenged Olympus E-PL1 camera, this lens is a huge breath of fresh air, because it focuses faster and more precisely than the kit lens, which is downright awful, really. Because this lens is so fast, it's able to focus in lower light situations that the kit 14-42mm lens can only dream about, and that's a real life saver, believe me. Or perhaps I should say "shot saver", because I lost an extremely important, impossible to replace shot because the kit lens refused to focus and didn't warn me sufficiently. Actually it doesn't warn you at all, sigh.
People keep saying buy it if you can afford it. Am I missing something? It's cheaper than many of the other MFT lenses that I don't even have to try out to know can't match this one. The Panasonic 14-140 costs double this lens, and the 45mm Panasonic/Leica lens is a bunch more than double, and I don't even want it. f2.8 is just a wannabe compared to this lens. Enough said.
I recently went to the Concorso Italiano in Monterey, California, a car show dedicated to Italian marques like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa, etc. I started with the kit lens thinking I would need the zoom capability. It quickly came off and I didn't think about it again all day. The beauty of this lens and it's focal length is that I could shoot the cars standing very close to them. All the pro n00bs with their giant lenses had to stand way back, and as soon as you do that, crowds of people stream in front of your shot. With this lens, I was standing close enough to the cars that most people wouldn't walk in front of me. I was able to get in, get the shots I wanted, and get out of each shooting situation, all while the vest-wearing silly people with their huge lenses and official credentials just had to wait and wait. And the pictures came out a new kind of perfection.
Now that I'm covered myself in slobber, I'll end this review by saying I'm obviously very happy!
on July 22, 2011
A few months ago I decided to purchase the Panasonic Lumix 20mm 1.7 pancake lens. I had read the countless reviews about its image quality, depth of field and portable size. When I finally ordered the lens, I realized that this little lens outshines all of those reviews!
When I first unboxed the 20mm, I was surprised by how little it was...not just its pancake body, but it weighed almost nothing. How can a lens this small live up to all of those reviews? Well, I am about three months in and I haven't taken the lens off yet...and I don't plan to. Here's why:
1) Image quality: Are there better prime lenses out there? Maybe. Can you fit them in your pants pocket and have them cost under $400? I doubt it. For the money, the 20mm is the best lens I have ever owned. The addition of this lens to my GF1 has resulted in consistently sharper photos and far fewer deleted shots.
2) Shooting in low light: With aperture wide open at 1.7, this thing is amazing. I almost totally avoid using a flash with the 20mm. I can shoot indoors, in museums, at evening parties and never have to use my flash. In my opinion, this makes the lens worth the money in itself. At a BBQ on the 4th of July, my friend had his Olympus EP-1 and the kit 14-45 lens, while I brought by GF1 and the 20mm. We decided that we would run a little informal comparison of the two setups and compare notes. For the first few hours, we were both more than satisfied with what we were shooting. Decent shots all around, as expected. But then came dusk. This was clearly the 20mm's time to shine. My friend couldn't keep up and was resorting to flash, which left him less than satisfied with his shots. He could not capture any shots of the kids running around in the backyard with sparklers or the dads trying to shoot off bottle rockets...he was left with motion blurs or incorrect focus. The 20mm had no problem at all. When the light really started to go, I raised ISO to 400 and kept on going. What a great little lens.
3)Portability: For the past several years, whenever I am preparing for a vacation, I have to run through the same routine: which lenses do I bring? How many can I fit in my bag? How many lenses do I really want to lug around? It gets old. I made the switch to micro-four thirds for this very reason. I want to take great shots with a camera that is easy to transport, that is not too bulky, and doesn't feel like carrying a sack of potatoes at the end of a long day of touring. For me, the GF1 and the 20mm is the perfect package. After making this switch and accepting that with the 20mm the zoom was located in my feet (prime lenses have no zoom), I have never looked back.
I will say that, in reality, the 20mm has made me a better photographer. Without a zoom I think more about my shot now before I take it. I think more about composition and balance in a shot. I find myself with far fewer deleted shots. Which is not to say that the 20mm is incapable of capturing those unexpected moments that often make the best photos. The 20mm is fast. Dead fast. It is more than capable of catching those amazing shots on the fly as well. I am thrilled with my Panasonic 20mm 1.7, and I am confident that you will be too.
on September 7, 2011
If you own a micro 4/3 camera, you need to own the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens, stat.
I could end my review here, because, well, nothing more needs to be said. If you need convincing, let me expound.
There is no other more versatile lens in the m4/3rds ecosystem which provides anywhere near the cost/performance value. Chromatic aberration is almost non-existent, even at full aperture (f1.7). If there's any vignetting, I haven't seen it. Distortion is kept to a minimum, but then again, this is a 20mm pancake. This lens is tack sharp and, on an Olympus e-pl2 (being that it has a very light AA screen), the resolution is astounding.
Did someone say colors?
I'm not sure how this is possible - may it's lens coatings, or just plain awesome glass - but the color this lens produces is leaps and bounds ahead of, for example, the Olympus kit lens (and that lens still produces awesome colors).
This lens is crazy small. But, to say that, doesn't mean much until you've looked at equivalent Canon or Nikon lens (APS or FF).
This lens can single-handedly carry the entire m4/3rds paradigm - it makes this concept "make sense". Someone might ask, "Why would you want a sensor half the size of full-frame". That's when you pull out this lens and show them pictures you took at a social gathering, on the street, at night, in weak lighting without a flash. Or, maybe a gallery of shots from a hiking trip or nature walk.
This lens requires no marketing - it sells itself through word of mouth. Honestly, if every photographer out there knew what this lens can do, they would pick-up it up with a cheap e-pl2 or GF2, post-haste.
Is everything perfect? No.
The aperture blades make clicky sounds during video.
The focus motor is a little noisy too (which can be heard on on quiet recordings).
The autofocus is slow compared to the newest Olympus lenses, for example.
Even with those faults, the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 lens reigns king.
on October 19, 2012
I read every review on this item before I ordered what for me was a pretty expensive camera accessory. I'm talking to folks who bought the Panasonic G3 as a step-up from a point and shoot:
Even if you're still shooting often in auto mode (and just learning the intracacies of f-stops, shutter speed and the rest), this is a great addition to your kit. It almost eliminates the need for flash, produces beautiful soft focus backgrounds and delivers image quality beyond what I thought my skill level would allow.
I'm finally getting pictures that stand up to what my more experienced photo-addict friends show me, and that success is inspiring me to get into what the manual mode of the G3 can really do.
As a plus, the camera and lens combination is quite small. It won't fit in your pocket but you'll hardly notice it hanging from your shoulder.
I haven't had the kit lens on my camera since I bought this one.
on October 15, 2012
I'm using this with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 16MP Live MOS Interchangeable Lens Camera with 3.0-Inch Tilting OLED Touchscreen (Silver) and I love it. I originally bought the OM-D with the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/2.8 Lens but was disappointed with the contrast in the 17mm lens, and I didn't initially know that Panasonic made a similar Micro 4/3 lens that's even better! For just a little more money this one is a no-brainer, because the lens is so much better. Slightly larger than the Oly 17mm but still "pocketable" and with the added benefit of going all the way to f/1.7. Images are sharp and contrast even close to wide open, f/2 is perfect and even f/1.7 will be amazing for 99% of the non-pixel-peeping population. It's more than satisfactory to take a nice shallow DOF photo of my son at f/1.7. And this is coming from a "working photographer" who generally uses a full frame 5D Mark III with L primes like the 85mm f/1.2 or 50mm f/1.2. Recommended purchase for any Micro 4/3 user!
When this lens came out 3 1/2 years ago I can see why people flocked to it. This lens paired with a Panasonic GF1 allowed you to put a camera in your jacket pocket that gave you near DSLR resolution. Since then Micro 4/3 cameras and lenses have experienced numerous improvements which in cases surpass the capabilities of this lens which hasn't been updated.
To start with, this lens has excellent sharpness. In that, I feel it deserves a couple of stars. I won't spend time talking about the sharpness because plenty of other reviews do that.
The biggest downside of this lens and the one I just can't get past considering the price is the AF. Compared to the newer lenses for Micro 4/3 this lens is slow, noisy, and has accuracy issues (at least my copy which I sent back did). Using this lens reminded me of putting a Nikon "D" lens on the camera after you've been using their "G" lenses. In comparison to even the "cheapo" 14-42mm kit lens the 20mm falls very short. The 20mm doesn't come close to the AF snappiness or silent focusing of the kit lens. Like the other person who gave this lens 3 stars, my copy had AF accuracy issues. Perhaps we both simply had bad copies, I'm not sure. When shooting I only use spot AF. Almost 20% of my shots were not in correct focus and I don't mean that I was focusing on a person's eye but their ear was in sharp focus. I mean an object 4-7 feet behind the subject and off to the side was in focus but not the subject. In many shots nothing in the frame was in focus. I don't believe it to be shutter shock in those images since the images had shutter speeds of 1/640-1/4000 and at 1/30 while on a tripod using the timer. No other Micro 4/3 lenses I've used have given me these poor AF results. Actually in the dozens of lens I've owned over the years and the dozens and dozens of more lens I've tested in various formats, I've never had such frequently bad AF results as I did with the 20mm.
As one would expect the Panasonic 20mm has a metal lens mount. I however didn't like the cheaper feel of the plastic composite lens barrel. It's the same inexpensive look as their 14-42mm lens. For $349 I expect more.
While the size of the Panasonic 20mm is great whether it's a design fault with the Panasonic GF3 or GF5 or that the 20mm needs to be updated to give it a smaller diameter, the 20mm when mounted on the GF3 or GF5 hangs below the body of the camera which makes it difficult to mount on a tripod. Considering the unused space in the diameter of the lens and narrow compactness of the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 it shouldn't be difficult for Panasonic to create a smaller version of this lens especially if they want to continue to make smaller bodies as I'm sure they will.
At $349, this lens is way overpriced. If this lens was $199 I could better accept the build quality, AF, and size of the lens. I've read many people justify the price by saying it's 1/2 the size of Nikon 50mm f/1.8 so it makes sense for it to be almost twice the price or a Nikon 20mm is $500 so the Panasonic 20mm is a deal at $349. You can only compare normal to normal in the respective format. I have a 150mm f/2.8 which is razor sharp and I it picked it up used for $175. Sounds like a deal if you are thinking it's for a 35mm camera but the this lens is for a large format 4x5 camera in which 150mm is normal. The Micro 4/3 sensor is 1/4 the size of 35mm so it makes sense for the lens to be smaller. You shouldn't be charged for it. The Panasonic 20mm is only 1/2" smaller than the Canon 50mm f/1.8 which sells for $125. The Panasonic GF5 body is 1/2 the size of the Nikon 3200 but it isn't twice the price.
Sadly for Micro 4/3 there just isn't a great option for a normal focal length prime lens which give you the entire package: build quality, excellent resolution, compact size, fast and silent AF, and at a reasonable price. Because of that people needing a normal focal length prime lens will still gravitate toward the Panasonic 20mm. It is probably the best option out there so long as your copy has more accurate AF than mine.
on December 11, 2009
The 20mm pancake lens is great for use on the GF1. It makes the camera into a near perfect street shooter, and it's also good for parties or social gatherings where your inconspicuous gear profile will allow you to snap a lot of candid shots. The f/1.7 allows for shooting in low light and produces some beautifully shallow depth of field. Images are are extremely sharp, and I've had no problems with flare after several weeks of usage. I'm perfectly happy with it as my only prime.
There are some minor things any prospective user should be aware of, but I don't feel any of this detracts from the essential quality of the lens. From what I've read, in its unmediated state the lens produces some barrel distortion, which Panasonic corrects in camera via software. You should also be aware that the lens is noisier than the kit zoom and takes slightly more time to acquire focus. From what I've read, this is due to the need to move around more glass while focusing. The implications of these last two minor downsides are 1.) that the use of continuous focus when shooting video will result in some annoying noise, and 2.) it's slightly less good for action shots and quick shooting scenarios, which is what may keep it from being a perfect street shooter. The former can be addressed by simply not using continuous focus when shooting video, and the latter can be addressed by using manual focus and hyperfocal zoning to shoot on the fly. True also, the lens has no image stabilization, but photographers have been capturing great shots for many, many years without image stabilization.