Panasonic G6 14-140mm kit - Part 4 - Shooting for real - the 14-140mm lens discussed at length.

All images Panasonic G6 14-140mm zoom lens


The day brightening up yesterday gave me the opportunity to use the Panasonic G6 + 14-140mm zoom in a real world situation. So how was it?

THE CAMERA AND SET-UP

Very much as expected. The OLED viewfinder was fine with my polarised sunglasses, focusing was fast and accurate and the only setting I managed to move by accident was that old Panasonic G favourite, the white balance button. Why do they put it there? Even though I've been without a m4/3 camera for a while, I've used these Panasonic bodies for so long that everything was familiar. 

I had it set up for pinpoint autofocus which is one of the features I really like.


As you can see above I focused on the orange flower and it locked on perfectly. This is unlike lots of AF systems that focus on the 'wrong thing'. In most cases an AF system would ignore this flower, even though I usually have the AF set up for centre spot only. The small AF crosshair for pinpoint focus however gets exactly what I want to be the point of the focus, dead on. 

I also used the electronic shutter for silent shooting, though there was nobody to disturb. However it is also quicker than the mechanical shutter and puts less vibration into the shot taking, so has other advantages.

OIS was switched on for all directions correction. Again it worked well. It was a bright sunny day, so I didn't need it much apart from one shot (see later) which was 1/50th. sec. at 140mm. This was pin sharp.

I had the camera in programme mode, which tends to keep the shutter speeds high and the apertures wide. But at the ISO setting of 160 I was using I was still getting between f/5.6 and f/8 most of the time, even at the wide-angle end of the zoom. With the depth of field possible with the focal lengths of the lens I had no problems getting what I wanted in terms of depth of focus. As expected, the whole outfit was light and very manageable. The new G6 grip is comfortable to use and there is an area on the back of the camera for my thumb, though the somewhat crowded back of the camera means I had to be quite precise with this.

The eye sensor works well, as with other Panasonic cameras. Switching between the screen and EVF is fast and responsive. It is in fact quicker than both my Fuji X-E1 and Nikon 1 V1's, both of which have the same thing. Panasonic have had this since the original G1 and know how to do it well. 

So overall it was pretty much what I'm used to. My few months without one of these cameras didn't seem to matter much. I felt quite comfortable with it very quickly.

THE LENS

Right. Well after I got home and looked at the images on my screen, I checked out some reviews of the lens to see whether anyone agreed with my impressions of it which I'll outline below. There aren't that many as yet but most seemed enthusiastic. One or two though were somewhat muted in their praise and one even went as far as to deliver the 'kiss of death,' concluding it was a useful lens for snapshooters but serious photographers would want something better as the results were somewhat 'ordinary'. Now I'm not sure what they were looking at here, and whether the reviewer has missed an appointment at their opticians, but this lens is far from 'ordinary'.

Panasonic have done the magic trick of producing a new version of this lens that is lighter, smaller, faster at the telephoto end (though not by much admittedly) cheaper and sharper than the previous model. Its also one of the best zoom lenses I've ever used and certainly the best 'superzoom'. Its seriously sharp, across the frame, edges and corners as well as the centre. One review said it had some significant CA, but with the CA removal box ticked in Photoshop ACR its invisible. I did actually check some files in Rawker, my dcraw mac software, which provides the closest I can get to a 'raw' raw file and there wasn't much there either.

Just to show what I mean, below are some samples at the longest end, 140mm, and also at that focal lengths widest aperture, f/5.6. This is the place where these kind of large range zooms fall down, as was certainly the case with the original 14-140mm.




As you can see, these 100% blowups are pretty impressive. The lens even manages some rather nice bokeh on the blackberry shot. The top shot with the couple on the canal boat is particularly interesting. I had just arrived at the location and saw this in the distance. I just zoomed the lens to full telephoto and pressed the shutter. Seeing that I'd taken it a 1/50th. sec. and wide open at full zoom, I more or less wrote it off. However, when I opened it up on my computer screen, not expecting much, I was very pleasantly surprised by just how sharp it is. With the second shot, the men and the cows, I took the shot without having a clue as to what they were doing there. It was only again after looking at the image on the screen that I saw the model planes and radio controller.

Now having owned a couple of the previous 14-140mm lenses I can testify that this a significant improvement on the performance of the older lens. There is also 'common wisdom' that this lens is at its poorest at the extremes. Well that might have true with the previous one, and it may even turn up in some MTF tests, but for real world shooting, I see no evidence of it. I shot several images at 14mm and again they were pin sharp. The two shots at the top of the post of the old narrow boats have a really lovely rendition of the texture of the peeling paintwork on the wood. 

Now the only time I've seen this quality in a superzoom lens before was from Panasonic before. With their Leica branded 14-150mm 4/3 lens. And though I don't have one anymore to compare, I'm not sure that even that was as good as this. If you had told me I was looking at the results of prime lenses here, I would have believed you. I also hate to say it, but I opened up a few Leica X Vario and Fuji X-E1 + 18-55mm images when I got home and my thoughts were that this Panasonic combination might just be the sharpest of the lot. Not something I was expecting certainly. I guess now I'll have to do some tests.

Well whatever the results of that, there is no doubt in my mind that this kit is a really superb oudoor / travel / location combination. The size, weight and convenience factors, the boxtickable features it gives me, and above all the quality of this incredibly useful superzoom means that after only one day, I can state this is the best tool for that kind of photography I've ever used. Its a pleasure to use, nothing so far annoys me (which is rare!) and the bottom line necessity of top class image quality is there as well.

Now lenses like the 14-140mm don't get a lot of column inches. It isn't a superfast prime for one, and of course lenses like this aren't sexy and aren't what 'serious photographers' use, or so the common opinion goes. But they are incredibly useful, avoid constantly changing lenses, which I dislike as much as the next photographer, and if they are up to scratch, let us concentrate on the important business of creating images. So as far as I'm concerned when something as good as this turns up, then I believe it should be shouted from the rooftops. I've also seen reports that the latest 14-42mm kit zoom is also pretty good, so it seems Panasoniic are doing some serious updating on the lenses that will probably get used the most on their cameras. I must say I am surprised at the quality of the 14-140mm and I was interested in getting it more for the sake of convenience than anything else. I liked the idea of the reduced size and weight and I thought that there might be some marginal improvements in quality, but the amount of that improvement is very welcome.

I would finish this off by saying that assessing any lens on the basis of studio tests isn't always the best idea. Lots of these test rigs involve two-dimensional targets, which has always struck me as a strange way to test something that is always used in a 3-dimensional world. It is the case that a lens that performs very well with test charts doesn't necessarily do so well with reality and vice-versa, so when I put some test shots together, and I'm sure you will want to see some now, I will be using three dimensional subjects. My Nephew also has the original 14-140mm so I'll see if I can borrow that at some point to do a serious comparison between the two, and I'll also try to put some raw files on Google Drive for you to have a look at. However, whatever the results of all that, I'm VERY impressed by the new model 14-140mm, together with the G6 its going to make a lot of what I do easier and less of a strain on my back and just for that its already a worthwhile purchase.


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