Panasonic Lumix 14-140 f3.5 to f5.6 Lens Field Review
Yesterday I found myself at Scotney Castle in Kent, which is managed by the National Trust. It’s one of my favourite Trust properties, I particularly love the main house which despite its size and apparent grandeur has a wonderfully ‘lived in’ feel. Photography is permitted here, indoors and out (for personal non-commercial use). The grounds are fantastic for testing the kind of lens which is geared towards travel photographers, namely the Panasonic 14-140 f3.5 to f5.6 Lens. Being a Micro 4/3 lens this will give an ‘equivalent’ focal range of 28 to 280, in a very small and lightweight form factor. The lens was teamed with my Olympus EM1 camera.
When we arrived the sky was a horrible blank whitish grey and the rain was absolutely teeming down, as it continued to do until 3 PM. One of the problems of shooting in those conditions is the fact that the sky will often be utterly featureless. Storm clouds can be great at adding interest or mood, but a blank white sky is generally unattractive. We can’t always plan when we’ll have a few hours off, any more than we can plan our time to coincide with a good weather forecast.
The Panasonic 14-140 f3.5-5.6 lens is commonly described as a wide to tele super zoom and as such is something of a one lens solution to most situations, enabling the photographer to travel with the minimum of kit and avoid frequent lens changes. To maintain the small and very compact size the lens does have a variable maximum aperture and standard build quality, which is actually very good. It is an upgrade to its previous incarnation which is bigger and heavier.
Having tried super zoom lenses from mainstream manufacturers I’ve never been impressed by their performance, there are often compromises in sharpness or colour, or contrast. I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised by the Panasonic 14-140 f3.5-5.6 lens. It’s sharper than expected and CA is well controlled. When it first arrived I was a little taken aback because it’s a bit noisier than most of my other Micro 4/3 lenses (I don’t use the on-lens stabilisation when it’s on the EM1 camera, but the noise is still present when this is switched off). Having asked around it appears this is quite normal and nothing to worry about. In fact after one outing I didn’t even notice the noise again.
I’m very pleased with it, and it really is a convenient lens for recreational photography given the focal range it covers. Don’t expect it to have the biting sharpness and dazzling colour of its professional cousins (such as the Pana 35-100) but nevertheless it is a very useful thing to have in the bag. At close to intermediate distances centre sharpness is exceptional. At longer distances to infinity centre sharpness is still good. Edge sharpness is weakest at the wider focal lengths and the far extremity. This tends to be a feature of super zoom lenses (so far the only truly exceptional super zoom I’ve encountered is the Sony 18-135 which was released in 2017. This lens is razor sharp at pretty much every setting). Autofocus is fast and accurate, as with most lenses it’s slightly less accurate as distance increases. Overall I would give this lens 4/5, which is a terrific score for a super zoom. Is it better than the standard Micro 4/3 kit lenses which generally ship with the cameras? Yes, it beats most of them (and most of them are good). It has significantly more reach of course. But obviously it’s much more expensive.