Top critical review
Nice body...a Dog of a lens
on May 10, 2013
The Panasonic GF series blends great features in a (very, for an interchangeable lens camera) compact body, an almost perfect solution for a "travel" camera. While not offering advanced features such as an external hotshoe for add-on flash devices, the touchscreen interface was surprisingly capable with many personalization and creative choices. I found the body solid and well made, with a nice texture that assisted handling, and its small body size was a great boon for space-constricted packing.
When the Panasonic 14-42-X PZ ("X Series, Power Zoom") lens was announced it seemed like the perfect marriage: the smallest 4/3 body matched up with the (now) smallest 'standard' range zoom lens. It promised to be just what I wanted.
Construction-wise, everything matched my dreamy expectations. Both the lens and body worked wonderfully and the lens retracted to an amazingly compact package! I found the lens construction to be very high, with a metal lens mount and well-damped zoom and focus toggle switches. The lens extends no slower, probably faster, than a compact camera's motorized zoom lens, so no real loss in functional speed if you have that reference in mind.
But the MASSIVE letdown is lens quality. The 14-42-X lens suffers from what is being described as "shutter blur" - very similar to "mirror slap", the activation of the shutter mechanism causes a vibration in the body that is transmitted to the lens which causes blurry results. The lens is fine in its short range of focal lengths, say 14 to 30mm. But once you get past that point WATCH OUT - any shutter speed from 1/15 to 1/160 of a second, hand-held or on a tripod, with or without the OIS active stabilization system activated, your pictures will come out a blurry, mushy MESS. It was a MASSIVE disappointment! Short testing at home, upon delivery, fails to create enough variance of subjects and conditions to truly show this failure but once out in the field - on its first assignment - the resulting pictures at the long end of the zoom's focal range are simply horrible.
It broke my heart - this size and technical specifications of the camera were *exactly* what I was looking for - but, in the end, it simply had to go back. It is said that the 14-42-X PZ works very well with any of the mFourThird cameras with electronic shutter options - the GF6, for example - where you can deactivate the mechanical shutter and use the exclusive electronic-mode 'shutter' (scan capture) so that the lens never experiences the physical shock of a mechanism's movement. Also, if you are using this lens for video expect good results - the shutter mechanism stays open during the entire filming, so no shock.
Otherwise and quite regretfully, this particular combination of body and lens is to be avoided like the PLAGUE. You may get a good sample of the lens, one not affected by the shutter shock issue, but I tried 2 different kits and had the same problem; other users on the web seem to imply a maybe 1 in 10 (?) possibility of getting a good one. Maybe even less. Going back and forth in returns in the hope of trying to find a system that actually takes good pictures just isn't worth the trouble.