Panasonic LUMIX G 42.5mm f/1.7 ASPH. POWER O.I.S. Lens
Low light, portrait, semi-macro lens: all in one!
Each person tends to have a favorite focal length for general photography. While my “safest” choice to carry around is a 50mm (full frame equivalent) lens, I prefer images produced at 85mm.
This Panasonic 42.5 f1.7 for M43 cameras is one of the lenses available in that focal range for Micro Four Thirds, the others being Panasonic Leica 42.5 f1.2 Nocticron (currently priced aboved 1500$) and the similarly priced Olympus 45mm f1.8.
With the Pana-Leica being slightly out of budget for my pockets, my choice fell on the Panasonic for two reasons. The first one is the really close focusing capability (more on this later), and the second one can be summed up by one image:
This is an image comparison made from The Digital Picture. I’m not a pixel peeper, but this kind of difference goes well beyond pixel peeping.
A prime lens with a focal range of 85mm is ideal for head and shoulder portraits, and if you like to have some good subject isolation it will produce more interesting images than a 50mm lens.
It takes some working space to frame pictures properly, so if you’re in a tight space and can’t move around too much as it happened to me in my previous pic, an 85mm lens may feel a bit limiting indoors. Being able to take pictures of subjects that are at a good distance from you means that if you want to do some street photography but you don’t want to walk too close to other people, this kind of lens should do a fine job.
A fairly generous f1.7 aperture means that this lens is a great tool to have in the bag in low light situations. Being able to set the lens at f1.7 means that it’s possible to keep a fast shutter speed even during the night.
This shot of a pizza maker was taken at f1.7, ISO 1600 and 1/250th of a second. Many kit lenses with an aperture of f3.5 or f4 would have forced me to push ISO above 3200 or lower the shutter speed. The former would have hugely reduced the image quality of the pic, and the latter would have made it almost impossible to freeze the moment.
Build and handling
This lens is very well constructed. Panasonic used a lot of metal in the construction of this product, and while being very light (130g) it feels nice and solid. The focus ring is extremely smooth, and Panasonic is kind enough to include a lens hood. Unlike Olympus. Olympus doesn’t include a tiny piece of plastic that probably costs 0.05$ to make. Nope.
It takes 37mm filters and the minimum focusing distance is 31cm. That’s close. VERY close. I’ll able to demonstrate this in the next paragraph.
This lens is not a macro lens at all, but an 85mm equivalent focal length combined with a really close minimum focusing distance means that it’s possible to take extreme closeups of small objects or insect.
This is no substitute for a real macro lens, but this feature can sure be extremely useful, especially if you’re into food photography.
All these pics were shot hand held, comfortably sitting on my chair. My Canon 85mm f1.8 would have forced me to stand up and walk away from my table in order to take similar images.
Disclaimer: I think that the image quality of each lens should be judged based on what kind of lens it is. Prime lenses give up the versatility of zooms in favor of better optics, contrast, more pleasant bokeh (out of focus areas) and a larger aperture. Also, I focus on “real world” performance, so in this and future review you won’t find charts, scores and stuff like that.
This lens has a lot of contrast. It’s also very sharp, which is something I’d always expect from a prime lens, but the main reason why I like it is the amount of contrast. This is something that is clear to my eyes especially when I convert images to black and white. If you want a sharp lens with a nice “pop” effect thanks to the strong contrast, this lens won’t disappoint.
The Panasonic 42.5 f1.7 focuses fast and accurately. My only issues were caused by the camera body, which is something I’ll discuss in a later article.
This lens can be usually bought between 350$ and 400$ online, with the price getting down to 310$ (more or less) for the grey market version which only grants one year of warranty. This is in line with many other similar lenses from other manufacturers. This is a fairly specialized lens and not something that will stay on the camera for the majority of time, so “value is in the eye of the beholder”.
If you’re looking for this kind of portrait tight-walkaround lens, then this Panasonic 42.5 f1.7 offers outstanding value.
If I had to sell all my M43 and only keep two lenses (and a camera body, duh) they would be the Olympus 12-50 for it versatility, and the Panasonic 42.5 f1.7. I love everything aqbout this lens.
It’s extremely sharp and packs a lot of contrast.
Autofocus is fast and realiable.
It’s really tiny and lightweight.
The minimum close focusing distance opens a broad range of scenarios where this lens can be used. Prime lenses often score very low on versatility, but this one has a nice semi-macro trick that can come in handy a surprising amount of times.
An aperture of 1.7 is not class leading, but unless you have a ton of cash for the Pana-Leica f1.2 or a Voigtlander lens, it’s hard to complain about f1.7.
I can highly reccommend this lens. It performs amazingly well from any point of view, images look great and the close focusing ability adds an extra layer of versatility. It’s light and compact, and the asking price of roughly 350$ is absolutely reasonable.
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