Review: Lumix 7-14 ASPH

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Lumix 7-14 ASPH Micro Four Thirds Lens

Lumix 7-14 ASPH Micro Four Thirds Lens

The Panasonic Lumix 7-14 provides one of the widest rectilinear fields of view available on any auto focus capable micro four thirds lens. Launched in 2009 with a relatively high price tag, it was the first Panasonic lens specifically aimed at the emerging micro four thirds system.

With an aperture made from 7 rounds blades with a range of f4 to f22 this ultra wide angle 7mm-14mm (14mm-28m equivalent) lens has 16 elements in 12 groups, 4 ED elements and 2 aspherical elements.  This lens pre-dates Panasonic’s use of Nano coatings to prevent flare, so care made need to be taken, especially when using it on non Panasonic bodies.

So, just how good is it?


Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f4 – Build Quality & Focusing
Like many ultra wide lenses on other systems, the 7-14 has a bulbous front element, making filter attachment difficult on the built in petal shaped hood.  The field of view ranges from 114˙ to 75˙ with a minimum focus distance of 0.25m.

Lumix 7-14mm

Lumix 7-14mm

Built from high quality plastic with a metal lens mount, the 7-14 feels solid and weighs around 300g.

The zoom ring is smooth but has a fairly heavy / stiff action, at least on my copy. The focus ring is equally smooth but rotates more freely, albeit without hard stops.

Although the lens mount is metal, it does not include weather sealing. How big a deal this is for you will depend on what conditions you typically shoot.

Focusing is fast and accurate at all focal lengths, though given the ultra wide angle and typically large depth of field this is hardly surprising. Focus speed may also depend on the body used. With an aperture of f4 some cameras may struggle to focus in low light, e.g. inside, but used with newer bodies this shouldn’t be a major problem.

Similar to Nikon’s 14-24, the large plastic front cap fits over the outside of the built in hood and includes a felt like soft lining in order to prevent scratching the hood during storage. However, being such a deep hood also means it’s harder to slip in to the pockets of tights jeans etc when walking about. Just something to be aware of.

All things considered, the built quality is satisfactory, though I’m personally I’m not a fan of the colour of the plastic section nearest the back and would much rather it had been black. I guess I’m just being picky here though.

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The Lumix Trio of Zooms – 7mm through to 100mm

Lumix 7-14 vs 35-100 vs 12-35

Lumix 7-14 vs 35-100 vs 12-35

Perhaps the most sought after trio of lenses for the Panasonic micro four thirds shooter is the 7-14 f4, 12-35 f2.8 and 35-100 f2.8 trio covering everything from 7mm to 100mm (14mm to 200mm full frame 35mm) in just three high quality lenses.

Lumix 7-14mm – Focal Length Comparison

If you’re currently shooting at longer focal lengths it can be hard to imagine just how wide 7mm can be. Here’s a sample shot at both 7mm and 14mm with a comparison of 35mm & 100mm below.

Lumix 7-14mm - 7mm vs 14mm

Lumix 7-14mm – 7mm vs 14mm

35mm vs 100mm

35mm vs 100mm

 Lumix 7-14mm Vignetting

As with all lenses there is some vignetting present when shooting wide open. Roll your mouse over the two shots below (phone & tablet users may need to tap the images) to show wide open (f4) and stopped down to f8 at both 7mm and 14mm.

Vignetting @ 7mm

Roll over to see the difference in vignetting

Vignetting @ 14mm

Lumix 7-14mm f4 Sharpness
For those coming from full frame 35mm equivalent systems it’s easy to think that ultra wide angles are relatively poor in terms of sharpness, especially wide open at the edges, and for the full frame 35mm systems this can often be very true. However, it’s one area that micro four thirds really scores because these lenses can be used wide open without hesitation.

Below is a comparison of sharpness in the centre and edge at both 7mm and 14mm.  Shooting wide open (f4) is quite acceptable, sharpening slightly at f5.6 and f8 and then dropping off again from f11 onwards as diffraction kicks in.

The red squares shows where the 100% crops are drawn from.

Lumix 7-14mm Sharpness

Lumix 7-14mm Sharpness

At 14mm diffraction really starts to limit sharpness at f16 and f22 and I see no reason to be shooting at those apertures.

Lumix 7-14mm Sharpness at 14mm

Lumix 7-14mm Sharpness at 14mm

Lumix 7-14mm Flare

Lumix 7-14mm Flare Scene Example

Lumix 7-14mm Flare Scene Example

Being a pre-nano coating lens the 7-14mm can suffer flare problems from light sources within the frame, not just the sun, but any light source or other reflective surfaces. It’s actually much worse on Olympus bodies, but can also be seen to a lesser extent on Panasonic bodies too.

Here is an example of a scene shot on an Olympus EM1 with the Lumix 7-14mm. The two lights in the ceiling are causing flares which would need to be cloned.  While not difficult on this shot due to the relatively plain surfaces, on a more detailed shot it could prove very difficult and time consuming to do.

Lumix 7-14mm Flare

Lumix 7-14mm Flare

Lumix 7-14mm on GH4

Lumix 7-14mm on Panasonic GH4

Lumix 7-14mm on Panasonic GH4

The combination of the Panasonic Lumix GH4 and Lumix 7-14mm ultra wide angle lens makes a very capable combination and is considerably smaller, lighter and even sharper than anything the full frame 35mm community has to offer at this sort of price. Combined with the Lumix 12-35 f2.8 and Lumix 35-100 f2.8 this would cover the entire focal length range used my the vast majority of photographers today.

Lumix 7-14mm Summary

While it’s easy to become distracted by potential flare problems this lens actually performs very well and if you’re looking for ultra wide angle options, especially on Panasonic bodies then this is one well worth considering.

The Good
• Constant aperture of f4 throughout the 7-14mm range
• Superb image quality at f8 and below.
• Built in hood protects the bulbous front element from knocks

The Bad
• No way to mount filters without fiddly third party solutions
• No weather sealing
• Relatively stiff zoom ring
• No optical stabilisation
• It’s an f4 rather than f2.8 lens

The Ugly
• The purple flare, especially on Olympus bodies, but also present to some extent on Panasonic bodies too

All in all I’d give this lens a 7 out of 10.  The optical qualities should demand a higher score, but the tendency to flare can be very problematic and you’re always on the lookout for it. The relatively slow f4 aperture lets it down a little too.

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Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Lumix G Vario 1:4 7-14 ASPH
Author Rating
4