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.
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.