[set_page_product product=”Lumix 14-140 f3.5-5.6″]
If you travel, go walkabouts, need small & lightweight solutions but generally don’t like changing lenses in the open air then a super zoom could well be the perfect solution for you.
So how well does this work?
Panasonic updated their Lumix 14-140 kit lens with faster aperture (f3.5 vs f4.0) and new body colouring.
While the majority of super zooms are famous for suffering significant loss of quality compared to shorter zooms, not to mention primes, I opted to include the new 14-140 kit lens when purchasing a new GH4 so I could try out this new version.
Sporting a 58mm filter size, this is not a small lens, but it’s not huge either, weighing just 265g and measuring just 80mm long at it’s shortest and 124mm at it’s maximum telephoto setting. A hood is also included.
Those using circular polarisers or grad ND filters will welcome the fact that the front element does not rotate when zooming or focusing.
Panasonic’s Power Optical Image Stabilisation system (Power O.I.S.) is also included on this updated version which helps keep hand help images sharp even at lower shutter speeds. I’ve managed sharp images at below 1/20 even at 140mm!
Just how much zoom is 10x (14 – 140)?
It’s often hard to visualise what 14mm vs 140mm looks like, so here’s two shots taken from exactly the position, the first at 14mm and the second at 140mm.
There are many prime lens supporters that will tell us to zoom with our feet, but in the examples above it’s hard for me to imagine doing that without a very long walk, and even then, standing on the ground nearer the wheel would completely change the perspective.
Sharpness at 14mm wide open (f3.5) is quite satisfactory, and while is does improve when stopped down to f5.6, diffraction increasingly limits sharpness at f11 and beyond.
Focusing is fast and silent throughout the range and I’ve not encountered any focus issues when used is sufficient light.
The Zoom Ring
The zoom ring is smooth and light throughout the range and I was pleased to find no problems with zoom creep at any focal length, so clearly the engineers at Panasonic got this one just right.
The Focus Ring
Not many people focus manually with a super zoom lens of convenience such as the 14-140, but in common with most other Lumix lenses it’s operation is silky smooth but lacks hard stops due to it’s focus by wire system.
Comparing to primes?
Quite often the choice walkabout lens is determined by either light weight or convenience, or both. For this reason many people choose just one or two small prime lenses while others prefer a super zoom. So how do they compare?
As a simple comparison I decided to shoot the same scene using both the tiny Olympus 45mm f1.8 prime and the Lumix 14-140. Below is a hand held shot, with the left side being the 14-140 and the right side being the Olympus 45mm f1.8 prime.
Given the fairly minimal difference, you really need to be pixel peeping to justify the prime over the super zoom. The advantage the prime has is slightly more contrast, but nothing that can’t be fixed in Lightroom or other post-processing software.
As you would expect from a 10x super zoom, chromatic aberrations are present throughout the range but are very well controlled (typically less than 1px) and easily corrected in raw converters. In the above example the hand rail and cleat have purple fringing but this is easily fixed in Lightroom.
Lumix 14-140 f3.5-5.6 ASPH – Sample Images – Click to view at 100%
Aperture vs Sharpness at Different focal Lengths
Let’s start of at 14mm and see how this lens performs. The 100% crop images below are taken from the red-box areas on the guide shot. As can be seen, this lens performs surprisingly well wide open (f3.5) with the sweet spot around 5.6 and degrading through diffraction from f11 onwards.
Now lets look at 46mm. As the widest aperture closed down as we zoom in, f4.9 is now the best we can do. Even so, it’s quite acceptable wide open, sharpening a little at f5.6. things start to really drop off from f11 onwards.
With the lens set @ 100mm (EXIF actually shows 97mm) the story is repeats all over again with f5.6-f8 being the sweet spot and dropping off from f11 onwards.
Lastly let’s look at 140mm. At 140mm the minimum aperture setting is f5.6 and again wide open this lens is quite acceptable, sharpening slightly at f8 before once again dropping off from f11 onwards.
The Perfect All-In-One Lens?
Given the fantastic zoom range and the impressive optical performance wide open or close to wide open why wouldn’t you just use the 14-140 for everything?
As always there must be compromises.
The slower maximum aperture of f3.5 @ 14mm and f5.6 at 140mm makes this lens more suitable for outdoor than indoor use where you’ll need to increase the ISO more quickly than a faster lens would require, or perhaps even use flash in really dark situations. The image stabilisation helps with slower shutter speeds for static subjects but can’t freeze motion like higher shutter speeds can with faster prime lenses. At longer focal lengths the OIS is a real benefit though.
If you’re mainly an outdoor shooter with the odd inside shot needed then it’s really hard to complain and this lens should serve you well.
The Lumix 14-140 f3.5-5.6 ASPH is a very well balanced, lightweight and surprisingly sharp throughout it’s entire zoom range. With it’s effective image stabilisation system and good build quality it’s easy to see why this lens garners an enthusiastic following.
It may not be the cheapest lens on the market, but can do the job of several other cheaper models without the hassle of changing lenses in open air, each time with the risk of dust on the sensor or being dropped as you fumble two lenses at once.
Having shot side by side tests with both primes and faster (f2.8) zooms I have no hesitation in using the 14-140 f3.5-5.6 ASPH when travelling, where memories are the primary reason for shooting and I really don’t want to be changing lenses all the time.