on January 2, 2012
I originally purchased this lens to use with my EPL-1 camera and I enjoyed great results with it. I now use it with my Lumix GH2, which is probably the best M4/3 camera currently available.
This is a PRIME lens, which means that it has a fixed focal length (i.e. not a zoom lens). The benefits of a prime lens in general are that they tend to be smaller, faster and sharper. The 20mm Lumix lens has a great character, and is able to capture beautiful photographs. It has a knack for capturing the "essence" of a scene. Yes, it is one of those subjective things that's hard to explain but easy to see.
This 20MM lens on a M4/3 camera yields an equivalent focal length of 40MM on a standard 35mm camera. In the 35mm film days, a 50MM lens was usually the "standard", because it would give a natural viewing range similar to the way your eyes see a scene. At 20mm, this lens has fairly wide coverage compared to the 25mm, but not to the point where you get the distortion as you would with a wide-angle lens.
You will be able to take beautiful pictures of subjects that are close to medium distances away. It's not really that good for panoramic photos, but it is awesome for closeups. You CAN take portraits with it but you will get better results using the newer 25MM lumix lens for that purpose. This lens is super-sharp in the center and the blur radiates outward; the 25mm is also sharp but the sharpness seems to be spread over more of the frame and not concentrated in the center.
This is a "fast" lens meaning it is "bright", or able to take pictures in low light without the need for a flash. Its f1.7 is fairly typical for a prime lens, and it has a nice background-blur effect that causes the subject to pop. The lower the f number, the more the aperture in the lens can open, meaning the more light it lets in...but it reduces the depth of field (the range at which something is in focus).
You CAN use this as your go-to lens and be perfectly happy with it, but if you are into photography enough to buy this type of camera system then you should consider putting together a kit of lenses to give yourself more flexibility. Having more than one prime lens will let you expand your creative possibilities and yield nicer results with specific types of pictures.
Types of pictures this lens is good for:
- Street photography
- General use (i.e. family photos)
Not good for:
- Landscape / Panorama
- Far-away subjects
- Objects in motion
- If you use manual focus, this lens can yield some great video.
- Video with auto focus will have noise from the motor quite audible in the footage.
I would say that this is a must-have lens for anyone who has a M4/3 camera. The Lumix 14-140 HD lens which I also have is a great all-around lens so long as you are not in a dim situation. If you're trying to save money and want a lens that can be the solution to most situations, consider that one. It's great and I really like it. Even though the 14-140mm lens will not beat the 20mm lens for close ups, it can do just about everything else...plus it excels as a video lens.
on November 18, 2009
I bought this to supplement the 14-45 Lens which also does very well on my "Lumix G" system cameras. I've been using the 20 for a month with great satisfaction. I work commercially with Canon L glass, but, many times out of intrigue, shoot off hours with a number of other systems and therefore have a pretty good idea of their respective strengths and what constitutes good value in the balance of image quality and portability. This lens is a high performer and nicely fulfills its design intentions within the micro 4/3 category.
on October 20, 2009
The best attributes of this lens are its tiny size, low weight (100g), and excellent low light performance. Its image quality is excellent and at f1.7 it's currently the fastest native m43rds lens that money can buy, with both auto-aperture and auto-focus.
The worst attribute of this lens is its noisy auto-focus motor. In my experience, the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0 Micro Four Thirds Lens for Panasonic Digital SLR Cameras and the Panasonic 14-140mm f4.0-5.6 HD (the GH1 kit lens) are both essentially silent when auto-focusing and they rarely hunt. This 20mm f1.7 lens is acoustically noisy, really too noisy to be used for movies unless you are going to record audio separately, and the autofocus hunts frequently *while taking movies*.
So all in all I'd say it is a great lens for still photos but not ideal for movies. Ultimately I recommend it for GH1 owners because at f1.7 it will allow you to take better pictures and movies in low light environments than is possible with the much slower f4.0-5.6 GH1 kit lens.
Update! This lens is cheaper and smaller than the Panasonic 25mm f1.4, but the 25mm is better than this lens every other way. If you want greater image quality or need silent continuous autofocus for movies, I'd recommend that you get the 25mm f1.4 instead.
on September 2, 2010
If you bought, like me, a Micro Four Thirds camera (mine is a Panasonic G1) with a zoom lens, you have two options: just keep using the zoom lens alone, or buy this 20 mm prime lens as an addition.
While the 14-45 mm zoom that came with my camera is good enough, the 20 mm prime extends the capabilities of the camera very substantially. Swap the lenses, and it's basically a whole new camera.
With the 20 mm, if there's enough light to read, there's enough light to take pictures. I rarely use the flash with this lens, in most cases I've no need for it, which is exactly what I intended. Taking pictures of kids playing in the living room, without flash? No problem.
I use the 14-45 mm zoom outdoors in daylight (between sunrise and sunset). I use the 20 mm prime in all other situations (indoors at all times, or outdoors after sunset). This is a great combination. Highly recommended.
on July 26, 2010
Ok, I didn't even know about this format m 4/3 a few months ago. I have been shooting with one brand of SLR and then DSLR for the past 45 years and I didn't want to shoot files that were any less in in quality than what I had been using in the past. Well, the files printed out as 8x10 from the GF1 using the 20mm f/1.7 lens are just as good as taken with my $1,800 pro lens. This whole outfit weighs less than that $1,800 lens. Now you can't use this type of rig for a wedding or sports, but almost everything else. The only thing that you lose is the weight of a large DSLR. Some people coming from non pro glass might think that this is an expensive lens, but if your coming from a pro camera using pro glass, this is an inexpensive lens. But what ever your feelings about the cost, this is a real pro lens. Very sharp, and light as a feather.
I am very tempted to give this lens a 4-star review, because, compared to comparable "normal" lenses from companies like Canon (which I haven't used much) and Nikon (which I've used extensively) this item (and it's recent replacement, the "II" model) seems a bit pricey. But the lens performs so well, and is such a great match for a µ43 camera, that I just have to go ahead and give it 5.
I opted for the older model because it gets more love from reviewers out there than the newer "II" replacement. I compared it to the only lens I have that operates in the same focal length, my Olympus 14-42 II kit lens, and I tested on my Olympus OM-D EM-5 in relatively close focusing. That's not where the lens is probably at its best, but is, in my situation, the best way to test. Because of that combination by the way, I don't have automatic correction of Chromatic aberration (purple fringing), but I will start by saying that in normal use, I found it to be a non-issue. I can see it in over-exposures for sure, but it's really not visible in final use for me, so I don't even have to correct it.
*It's bigger than I suspect it needs to be. I think the newer version of thislens (not as well-regarded, but probably excellent) is a bit smaller around.
*It's focus makes more noise than any of the other µ43 lenses I've used or handled. Maybe that's only my sample. I would NOT use this for video. Since I don't plan to, it's not an issue. But if you do video, and don't have an external microphone, you might need to skip this lens. But then, when I DO shoot video, the totally silent kit lens works great, and you can bump up the ISO on modern bodies to shoot video, so again, it's not really an issue.
*It hunts for focus a bit, actually. But when I use the touch screen on the Oly to select focus it's very fast. I wouldn't use this, or most µ43 cameras and lenses, for sports or action anyway.
*It is called a "pancake" but is not small enough to make either of my µ43 bodies "pocketable. ALMOST, but not quite.
But it's still 5 stars... because.
*Even though I think it could be smaller, it's still tiny enough to stick in your pocket to have "just in case". This lens plus one of my camera bodies is so compact and carryable it feels like cheating.
*Wide open it's totally usable, very good in the center, and still pretty good at the edges. It's the most usable wide open lens I think I've ever tested.
*by f2.8 it's almost as sharp as it's gonna get, all over the frame. There is no photo that you can take with a µ43 camera that won't print at its best between about f2.8 and f5.6 or f8.
*At f4 and f5.6, compared with the kit lens, this lens totally DEMOLISHES the kit lens. It is at it's best, and the kit lens is at it's wider settings.
*at f5.6 and f8 it seems to be as sharp as any lens I've ever used on a small format (35mm and below) camera. Even thought the kit lens is very well behaved at f8 and f11, this lens is still clearly sharper.
*If you use a panasonic camera that doesn't have on-board in-body IS, know that this lens doesn't have it. My Olympus has built-in IS, so I'm good to go.
*The bokeh is really wonderful from wide open to f2.8 or so.
*f8 the tiniest bit of diffraction sets in because of the format (NOT because of the lens), at f11 it's an issue if you're going to print above 8 x 10 I think, and at f16 it will clearly be an issue in most photos. This lens does NOT go beyond f16. Good thing. f22 on µ43 is not pretty at all. My kit lens goes to f22. It's really useless there, too.
*This is important for many photographers. If you do not really print but only view on-screen and on the internet, the ONLY reason you buy this lens is because you need low light performance. Even the cheapest lenses are good enough for on-screen viewing.
*I would estimate that if you shoot either this or a kit lens between wide open and f8, all 4x6 and 5x7 photos will look exactly the same.
I'm delighted with this lens and will probably leave it on my camera most of the time.
on June 10, 2010
I agree with the glowing reviews here and I'll add that I haven't taken this lens off my Olympus PL-1 since I switched it with the PL-1's kit lens two months ago. It shoots gorgeous, professional-quality pics with nice depth in a variety of lighting situations and makes the camera so lightweight. I used to own a used, bulky, older DSLR that I didn't use very often due to its heft, and I traded it in for the PL-1 and this lens. So glad that I did!
on January 19, 2011
One of the nicest features of the Micro Four/Thirds systems from Olympus and Panasonic is the wide choice of really sharp lenses that fit both makes. This lens receives excellent reviews as a very sharp, fast (F 1.7) and compact lens and it deserves those good reviews. I thought that both center and corner sharpness was very ggod.
Over the past 40 years, I've used everything from very small film cameras through 11"x14" view cameras and a variety of digital SLRs, and this is one of the sharpest lenses that I have ever used, along with the Olympus 50mm F 2 and 35mm F 3.5 macro lenses (used with an Olympus MMF-2 adapter on M4/3 cameras).
This lens is a near-perfect optic for a compact camera like the Olympus E-PL1 that inherently sharp because of its weak anti-aliasing filter. The Panasonic 20mm F 1/7 lens is definitely sharper than the Olympus 17mm pancake lens and works very well on both Olympus and Panasonic M4/3 cameras.
on October 7, 2011
I have limited experience as a photographer--more like a "camera operator," but I have years of experience in post processing of school portraits.
I simply would like echo what a few reviewers have mentioned: the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 is not ideal for portraiture. That is, anything tighter than a bust crop. Shots taken within 2 feet of the subject could result in facial distortion, which becomes more significant as you get closer. This "balloning" effect is not flattering; noses, foreheads and chins may appear larger than they are. Of course, you could just step back, take a wider shot, and crop. Sure, but doing so would reduce the resolution, resulting in a softer image. Stepping back could also reduce the blurred background effect or "bokeh," which arguably is what separates portraits from snapshots.
The 80-90mm range on a 35mm film camera is said to be ideal for portrait, as it allows for distance while maintaining a shallow a DOF that is all too important for bokeh. For the micro four thirds system, that translates to 40-45mm, and the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital Ed 45mm f/1.8 comes to mind.
Where the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 shines is in environmental portraits, which is when the subject's environment is framed in the shot. For example, a child on a playground, a couple on the beach, street photography, stuff like that.
on September 19, 2010
This lens is fantastic and highly recommended.
The first thing you'll notice is how unbelievably small and light it is. You'll place this on your m4/3's camera and probably think "Damn! My camera can almost fit in my pocket now!". Seriously, it's that unobtrusive and tiny that it manages to open possibilities you didn't even think were possible. For example I purchased a camera counterbalance (steady-cam) from England (a Hague). The stock lens kit for the GH1 (40-140mm AF lens) is about twice the size/weight of the 20mm lens. As a result the stock kit WOULD NOT balance on the steady-cam no matter how you tried to work it. I figured I was stuck with a $150 piece of metal. NOT SO WITH THIS LENS!!!! It worked perfectly with my steady-cam due to it's light weight and balancing. Such a relief since I didn't want to deal with the hassle of an overseas refund.
The other thing I must mention which is even more important to most people is it's clarity. When you take photos with this lens you'll wonder how you got by without it. Granted the stock kit for the GH1 is very good, but this lens puts it to shame with such sharpness and clarity. After taking your first few photos you'll think some of your pictures are 3D since things seem to jump off the frame! I swear that I've never seen such amazing pictures from such a small lens.
Is there any downside to this lens? Not really. The price is a few hundred but compared to other lens in its class (especially with such a low F stop) it's quite inexpensive. This is not a zoom lens and even though I've read that it doesn't incorporate auto-focus, my GH1 seems to auto-focus with it just fine. When it comes to video though I do this manually since sporadic searching makes video unusable.
There's nothing left to say here - Panasonic did their homework and produced an epic lens at an affordable price. Just buy it, you won't be disappointed.