Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 Asph. POWER O.I.S. lens
For its coverage, portability and performance, this well-built, all-weather lens is ideal for travellers and makes a worthwhile alternative to the standard 14-42mm kit lenses offered with M4/3 cameras.
As a general-purpose lens it covers a wide range of subjects, from landscapes to portraits and its superior stabilisation makes it suitable for movie recording.
With enough magnification to produce for impressive close-up shots at the 60mm focal length, it also produces decent bokeh in most situations.
Finally, it can be used on both Panasonic and Olympus camera bodies, although autofocusing is handled better on the former, and its price tag is within the reach of most keen photographers.
Announced at the CP+ show in February, Panasonic’s Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 Asph. POWER O.I.S. lens is a cut above the standard kit lens. Covering a wider angle of view and with a slightly longer telephoto extension, it is equivalent to a 24-120mm lens on a 35mm camera. It’s also dust- and splash-proof, which makes it a good match with Panasonic’s higher-end Lumix cameras, including the new G85 model we used for our performance tests.
Angled view of the Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 Asph.POWER O.I.S. lens. (Source: Panasonic.)
Relatively small and light (210 grams) this lens is well built from metal and plastic components plus a solid metal mount. The optical design is relatively complex and includes 11 elements in nine groups, among them three aspherical lenses and one ED lens element, as shown in the diagram below. Multi-coated lens elements minimise ghosting and flare.
The optical design of the lens showing the positions of the exotic elements. (Source: Panasonic.)
Seven diaphragm blades close to a circular aperture for smooth bokeh in out-of-focus areas when shooting with wide aperture settings. Dual I.S. (Image Stabilisation) compatibility makes it easy to keep the camera steady for hand-held still shots and movie recordings.
Autofocusing is driven by an internal stepping motor that is fast and quiet. All adjustments are internal and the system is compatible with the sensor drive at up to 240 fps to take maximum advantage of cameras with high-speed AF technology. It is also fast enough for 4K video recording where precise focusing is required.
The lens is supplied with the usual front and end caps, a petal-shaped hood (SYA0066) and a soft carrying pouch (VFC4430).
Who’s it For?
For its coverage, portability and performance, this well-built, all-weather lens is ideal for travellers and makes a worthwhile alternative to the standard 14-42mm kit lenses offered with M4/3 cameras. As a general-purpose lens it covers a wide range of subjects, from landscapes to portraits and its superior stabilisation makes it suitable for movie recording.
With enough magnification to produce for impressive close-up shots at the 60mm focal length, it also produces decent bokeh in most situations. Finally, it can be used on both Panasonic and Olympus camera bodies, although autofocusing is handled better on the former, and its price tag is within the reach of most keen photographers.
Build and Ergonomics
The Lumix G 12-60mm is a well-built lens made by combining metal and plastic components. The lens mount is solid metal, as is most of the outer barrel, but the inner barrel is made from plastic, as are the focusing and zoom rings. Zooming and focusing actions are both very smooth.
The inner barrel extends by 35 mm as you zoom from the 12mm to the 60mm position. But the front element does not rotate, allowing angle critical filters to be used without requiring re-adjustment.
The focusing ring is roughly 10 mm wide and has a finely-ridged grip band. It’s located just aft of the front edge of the outer barrel and turns freely through 360 degrees and doesn’t rotate at all in AF mode, like most M4/3 lenses. Manual focusing is ‘by wire’, which means the AF drive is engaged when you turn the focusing ring.
The zoom ring is 24 mm wide and located just behind the focusing ring. The leading 20 mm of this ring carries similar ridging to the focusing ring, although it’s a much wider band. The trailing edge is smooth and has six focal length settings stamped on it, covering 12mm, 18mm, 25mm, 40mm, 50mm and 60mm.
These line up against a white line on the non-moving section of the lens barrel, which is cylindrical for about 13 mm before pinching inwards to the lens mount. There are no switches on this section of the barrel so all stabilisation adjustments must be made in the camera’s menu.
The supplied lens hood is easy to fit and remove. It reverses over the lens for transport and storage. The lens also comes with front and end caps.
Our Imatest tests showed the review lens to be an impressive performer, with both centre and edge resolution matching ““ and often exceeding ““ resolution expectations for the 16-megapixel sensors in the G85 camera we used for our tests. Edge and corner softening we much less than we’re accustomed to seeing, particularly at wider lens apertures.
Resolution peaked between one and three click-stops (1/3EV to 1EV) down from the maximum aperture for most focal length settings. Diffraction began to take effect from about f/9 onwards, with a significant drop in resolution between f/11 and f/22, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results below.
Lateral chromatic aberration remained mainly within the negligible band for all aperture and focal length settings, as shown in the graph of our test results below. The red line represents the boundary between negligible and low CA.
We found no evidence of coloured fringing in test shots taken with any focal length setting, which isn’t surprising since recent Panasonic cameras automatically correct this aberration in JPEG files. Similar corrections are provided for vignetting (corner darkening) and rectilinear distortion so we had to examine raw files from the camera to see the inherent levels of both aberrations.
We found noticeable corner darkening at the widest aperture settings at all focal lengths when raw files were examined. Fortunately, stopping down a couple of f-stops eliminated the problem. Rectilinear distortion was remarkably low for a zoom lens, with slight barrel distortion at the 12mm focal length and barely visible pincushion distortion at 60mm. In between, distortion was largely negligible.
The inner focus drive and stepping motor system worked well with the camera’s high-speed, high-precision contrast AF system for both photo and video recording. Autofocusing remained fast in a wide range of lighting conditions and did not slow noticeably in low light levels, although we noticed occasional hesitation with low-contrast subjects.
The Dual I.S. 2 stabiliser was also effective in dim lighting but it only works on Panasonic cameras. If you use this lens on an Olympus body, you’re reliant on the sensor shift stabiliser, which works well but doesn’t provide such a high degree of shake compensation.
The minimum focusing distance of 20 cm makes this lens largely unsuitable for shooting close-ups with shorter focal lengths. However, the 60mm focal length, which focuses to within 25 cm, can be used to photograph larger flowers, although care is required to avoid distracting elements in the backgrounds.
When there were bright highlights behind the subject, out-of-focus areas were often choppy and outlining was common. With smoother, tonally similar backgrounds, shots could be taken with acceptable bokeh at f/5.6 with the 60mm setting.
The review lens was remarkable resistant to ghosting and flare, thanks in part to an effective lens hood. But even when a bright light source was within the image frame, flare was minimal and strongly backlit scenes retained most of their natural tonal range.
Picture angle: 84.05 to 20.44 degrees
Minimum aperture: f/22
Lens construction: 11 elements in 9 groups (including 3 aspherical lenses and one ED lens element)
Lens mounts: Micro Four Thirds
Diaphragm Blades: 7 (circular aperture)
Focus drive: Internal focusing with stepping motor drive
Stabilisation: Optical (POWER O.I.S.)
Minimum focus: 20 cm (wide) / 25 cm (tele)
Maximum magnification: 0.27x (= 0.54x in 35mm format)
Filter size: 58 mm
Splash/dust proof: Yes
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 66 x 71 mm
Weight: 210 grams
Standard Accessories: Lens front and end caps, lens hood, lens storage bag
Distributor: Panasonic Australia, Ph. 132 600; www.panasonic.com.au
Based on JPEG files from the Lumix G85 camera.
Vignetting at 12mm, f/3.5.
Vignetting at 25mm, f/4.5.
Vignetting at 40mm, f/5.5.
Vignetting at 60mm, f/5.6.
Rectilinear distortion at 12mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 25mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 40mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 60mm.
12mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/7.1.
60mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/9.
2x digital zoom at 60mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/9.
4x digital zoom at 60mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/9.
Extra tele converter setting at 60mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1000 second at f/9.
Contre-jour lighting at 12mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/8.
Contre-jour lighting at 60mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/10.
Strong backlighting; 60mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/2000 second at f/11.
Close-up at 60mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/800 second at f/5.6.
60mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/10.
50mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/640 second at f/9.
60mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/5.6. Note the ‘hard’ edges on the circular highlights.
60mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/40 second at f/5.6.
Additional image samples can be found with our review of the Lumix G85 camera.
RRP: AU$699; US$499
- Build: 8.8
- Handling: 9.0
- Image quality: 9.0
- Versatility: 9.0