The pancake

Panasonic GH1 with 20mm f1.7 pancake

Key: R20091117-185431

An interesting development occurred today, not entirely unplanned.  A brown box awaited me after work with an early Xmas present from the Amazon Santa–the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 pancake m4/3s lens.  I have been hankering for this lens since it was announced and several very positive reviews followed.

The main reason for my interest is that it might finally make the GH1 a contender for a carry-everywhere camera.  You can see in comparison with the Ricoh GX100 below and with the standard kit 14-140mm zoom below that.

Panasonic GH1 next to Ricoh GX100

Key: R20091117-185154

Panasonic GH1 vs. Ricoh GX100

Key: R20091107-161024

As you can see, with the 20mm pancake the camera is still a lot larger than the very svelte Ricoh.  But it becomes a camera that can go into a fairly small camera bag rather than the medium camera or messenger bag that I need for it with the 14-140 attached. More importantly, the dynamic of the camera changes significantly in heft–the 14-140 is a good chunk of glass and the weight pulls the front down so that you must grip the camera fairly firmly by the grip.  The pancake, on the other hand, weighs almost nothing by comparison, and the camera neither pulls forward or backward, but only down to the left, as is natural when gripping by the right. The whole package now feels quite comfortable hanging around my neck or slung over my shoulder.

With the pancake attached the camera appears to say “I’m only a semi-serious camera” and is therefore a bit more discrete when shooting candidly. At least that’s my fervent hope.  I imagine with the GF1 that it becomes an even smaller package, but I would miss the great viewfinder and articulating screen.

Then there is the f1.7 aperture. I’m not so interested in this for the narrow depth of field possibilities as I am for the low-light capability. Just metering around indoors tonight I can see a much more reasonable set of shutter speeds for available light picturing (the kit zoom starts at f4.0). Not only that, but manual focus with this bright lens appears to be much easier. Surprisingly, but consistent with published reviews, AF is a touch slower with this lens than the kit zoom, but still quite good.  It is also audibly noisier. I wouldn’t have expected that.

Of course, there is the unavoidable fact that, as a fixed lens, I will have to zoom with my feet. On this camera the 20mm focal length actually becomes a 40mm equivalent in 35mm terms, which for this sensor is a “normal” lens. I quite like the FOV, and it will be interesting to explore the old adage about sticking a normal lens on your camera and only shooting with that for a while, to obtain an almost unconcious working knowledge of its way of seeing.  In any case, I expect that a high percentage of the photos posted on this blog in the coming months will be taken with this lens.

I’ll have some examples taken with the lens up soon, along with some commentary on it’s use and performance.


4 thoughts on “The pancake

  1. I imagine Santa appreciates these early delivery opportunities as they take some of the load off his delivery schedule in late December. 😉

    Looking forward to seeing some shots with this lens.

  2. The GF1 combo with this lens has me thinking about leaving the DSLR world. I might wait for one more iteration to see if I’ll get 1080P video and a mic input. I’m getting mixed results trying to determine sensor differences between the GH1 and the GF1. The effective pixel count seems to be the same, but the GH1 seems to have more total pixels. I’m always very impressed with the quality of pictures you post with the GH1 and I wouldn’t consider the GF1 if it wasn’t as good. Based on DPReviews comparisions, it seems like it might essentially be the same sensor. Problem is, if I wait, will I fall victim to the megapixel race and get a camera with reduced sensisity??

    I currently have a bunch of zooms for my DSLR, but I walk around with a 50mm f1.8. I can’t seem to go back to f5.6 in the low light either. I think you’ll like the limitations of not being able to zoom. Zooming has made me a little lazy:)

    I’m glad that you have a least one more camera so that you can take a picture of your two main cameras for comparison. That’s very Jeschke of you Eric!

    • Scott,
      The GH1 has a multi-aspect sensor, meaning that it has a slightly higher pixel count than the GF1’s. These extra pixels are used to insure the same FOV whether you choose 16:9, 2:3 or 4:3 aspect ratio. It’s a pretty cool feature. Also, the GH1 sensor is generally regarded as having slightly better noise characteristics (i.e. about a stop less noise) than the GF1 and G1 (which share the same sensor). The GH1 also has a stereo mic, external mic in, and of course the viewfinder and articulating LCD. It does 1080p in 24FPS.

      I would recommend test driving one before you take the plunge, coming from DSLR land. Trent got one, or so I hear, if you catch up with him, ask him about it.

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