Kit lenses - are they any good? - Part 2 - m4/3 primes and zooms

Panasonic G3 Leica 25mm f/1.4 Panasonic Olympus14-42mm Nikon 24mm f/2.8
Panasonic G3 Leica 25mm f/1.4 Panasonic Olympus14-42mm Nikon 24mm f/2.8

This is a comparison between three kit zooms, one AF prime and one MF adapted lens on a Panasonic G3 at 25mm and ISO 160.

The lenses are the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4, Nikon 24mm f/2.8D, Panasonic 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6, Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 (Original version) and an Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 (Latest E-P3 version)

You can download the file below  here.

Some points worth noting.

All images were shot on a tripod, shot raw and processed identically using Photoshop Adobe Camera Raw.

The new E-P3 version of the 14-42mm seems to have a different idea of what 25mm is. All images were shot from exactly the same place and were set exactly to 25mm. The exif data for the lens indicates that it was at 25mm, but as you can see its slightly different to all the others.

There is some slight vignetting at wide apertures on the Panasonic zoom, and the latest Olympus zoom exhibits some moire here and there. 

Also 25mm on each of the zooms has a different aperture value. The original Olympus gives f/4.4, while the newer one shows f/4.3. The Panasonic zoom is at f/4.6 at the same focal length.


I was surprised at how similar, and how good they all were. There's no real standout performance, though I do believe the 25mm Leica prime is slightly sharper than the rest. The Nikon was darker throughout and looked the softest of all to me, however it had the most accurate colour. I could see virtually no difference between the zooms, and the original Olympus 14-42mm still holds up very well. 

If you want a fast lens, then obviously the zooms are not suitable. An f/4.3 standard lens is pretty slow. At the other end f/22 was probably the worst of all the apertures for all the lenses but even then, wasn't that bad.

To be honest I would have no problem using any of these lenses for what I do, and all of them would produce high quality images, using the G3 sensor and processing. Assuming I didn't want a wider aperture and was shooting outdoors with my usual settings of f/8 or f/11 I would be hard pressed to to tell the difference between them. Does it show that these "kit lenses" are actually quite good? Well I think it probably does. It is probably the case that there are other factors that contribute to the apparent sharpness of the lens. How steady the camera is and the shutter speed is very important. When used on a secure tripod, the zooms turn in good results even wide open.

Have a look for yourself and see what you think.