Top critical review
43 people found this helpful
A Classic Lens In Need Of An Update & Price Reduction
on March 7, 2013
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.