Jan 182010
 

The Panasonic 20 1.7 Lens Review for Micro 4/3 – I am back again with another lens review and this time it is one that I have had some real fun shooting for the past 3+ weeks on a daily basis. This review should be simple, right? Possibly the simplest I have ever written. Why you ask? Well, mainly because this lens is just a 20 mm 1.7 prime lens with a fast aperture. Nothing fancy, no features, and what I am going to write about is my time shooting with it on a daily basis. I am also going to share the images I snapped along the way. No scientific testing to be found here besides a crop or two.

You will notice I shot this lens on the Olympus E-P2 and not the Panasonic GF1 which is where this lens is usually mounted. The Panasonic 20 1.7 comes in kit form with the Panny GF1 and damn, it sure is a hell of a kit lens. That is one of the areas where Panasonic has Olympus beat. The kit lens. Both their 20 1.7 and 14-45 beat Olympus’s 17 2.8 and 14-42 Kit lenses but it is pretty cool that you can mount the Panny lenses on the Oly bodies and vice versa.

When I saw this lens come in stock at B&H Photo a few weeks ago I snagged one before they sold out (and they sold out within a few hours). At $399 it seems like a screaming bargain (to me) but then again, that is probably because I am used to Leica prices where $399 will not even get you close to a lens. I actually had low expectations for the 20 1.7′s build quality but I had HIGH expectations for the image quality.

Olympus E-P2 – ISO 200 – 20 1.7 at F2.5

What I wasn’t prepared for was that the image quality of this little E-P2 and 20 1.7 would surpass a Nikon D3s with a Nikon 50 1.8 (more on this later). I guess that right there is proof that a lens can make all of the difference in the world. When the lens arrived from B&H I opened the box and was pleased to see a lens pouch was included. Not that I ever use them really, but it’s a nice touch.

When I held the lens it felt light and not even close to my Leica glass for build and luxury feel but hey, this was $399 not $3999 :) I mounted it to my wife’s E-P2 (which has somehow been “mine” since we bought it) and I shot a few frames of my cat. Ahhhhhhhhh. So much nicer than the kit zoom! The Olympus Kit Zoom is a good lens for what it is, but it is not a GREAT lens. Yes it is sharp, but it is slow (as in aperture) and it is slow to focus with its constant in/out hunt routine.

The Panasonic 20 1.7 lens and E-P2 camera sure is a handsome combo!

I am happy to say that the 20 1.7 mounted to the E-P2 is pretty snappy when you compare it to the kit zoom. It’s still no speed demon but it is perfectly acceptable and locks on fairly quick, even in low light. The image below of the dirty sneaker is not an action shot of course, but it is pretty impressive considering the specs of 1.7 and ISO 2500.

Yes, that is ISO 2500 on the E-P2 with only the in cam NR (yes, its a JPEG). Like the Leica M9, I found if you get the exposure just right (usually, its pure luck) then you can get great high ISO results. But usually this is not the norm with the m4/3 cams. This was focused as close as I could go and wide open in my dark living room. I had one lamp on in the room and that was it. Goes to show that this combo of the E-P2 and 20 1.7 can do low light.

The little brick like look is pretty cool and reminiscent of a rangefinder and small prime.

The one thing I really enjoyed about this lens and body combo is the size. I mean, here I am with a pretty small setup that is also a high quality kit. I realized this one day when I brought out this m4/3 conbo along with the Nikon D3s (see my review here) and at the end of the day the E-P2 images were, umm, dare I say…better? How can this be?? Just like I said in a previous D3s post, I blame it on the Nikon 50 1.8 which is kind of a dog of a lens up to F5.6. Once you stop down to that aperture its decent.

While I walked and braved the zero degree temps and wind I snapped this scene with the E-P2/20 1.7 combo at F2.8 and also the D3s with the 50 1.8 combo at 2.5. Since the 20 on the E-P2 equals a 40mm equivalent, the 50 on the full frame $5200 D3s was pretty close. I thought I had the E-p2 at 2.5 but my glove hit the wheel and knocked it to 2.8, so its not 100% fair really. Still, you can get an idea. After looking at both of these, I was a bit surprised:

Olympus E-P2 – 20 1.7 at F2.8 – ISO 200 (base ISO of E-P2) – RAW converted in ACR 5.6 w/defaults

below…Nikon D3s – 50 1.8 at 2.5 – ISO 200 (base ISO of D3s) – RAW converted in AVCR 5.6 w/defaults

Now, of course the D3s is a massive professional camera that puts the E-P2 to shame in almost every area but for IQ at base ISO the E-P2 and 20 1.7 did amazingly well.Yes, the D3s is full frame. Yes, I was using a $150 lens on the D3s. BUT the D3s/50 combo runs about $5350. The E-P2 combo runs about $1400. Look at these crops. Which looks better to you? I processed both in ACR 5.6. In any case, I know the D3s can do better, it has to. It must be the lens. Even the dynamic range in the E-P2 shot is fine and dandy. Looking at the snow they both look equal with MAYBE the E-P2 edging out the D3s.

As you can see from the crops the 20 1.7 is bitingly sharp at F2.5.

As I shot the lens more and more I was very surprised at how capable of a lens it really is. But let’s not get too crazy. One thing I did notice next to my Leica M9 setup is the lens does not give me that Leica quality  I love so much. Of course I do not and would never expect it to either. I do see some guys online trying to claim the m4/3 cameras are equal to the M9. That is BS hogwash right there. I am now a big fan and love the M4/3 cameras, plus I have been shooting the hell out of the E-P2 and 20 1.7 and yes, it’s insanely fun. But my M9 gives me those files that make my jaw drop sometimes, and it should for the insane amounts of money I have spent on it!

Even with that pro M9 rant I would also like to say that these m4/3 cameras really got me to thinking. I touched on it in my GF1 review at my old site (see that here). While they are not the same quality as my M9, they are not really that far behind in their ability to provide you with a great image. Yes, they look more digital. Yes, they give me more shadow noise at anything over 400 ISO. Yes, my M9 gives me better color, better depth and more WOW factor. BUT!! Do I need that? Not really. I shoot paid jobs a few times a year and I bet my clients would be just as happy with files from this little E-P2/20 1.7 combo. Most non-photo nuts do not notice the “bokeh” or sharpness like we do, ha ha.

Olympus E-P2 – Grainy Film Art Filter – ISO 1600 – F1.7

But it is not as easy as that for us camera addicted crazies. See, I do appreciate the extra quality my M9 gives me not only in its feel, build, and lenses but in the way I shoot with it. It’s a rangefinder and I love the viewfinder, the manual focus, and the feel of those lenses in my hand. The image quality is stellar. To me, it is worth that extra money to have something I can really enjoy shooting. The M9 is a camera I could be buried with. That does not take away the capabilities of this E-P2/20 1.7 kit though. For the money it is simply superb!

Here is another image I shot along with a crop. Just a plain old roll of paper towels but with a little processing to give it some depth…

and since it was so sharp, a crop from the RAW file:

LETS GET REAL

Let me be 100% honest here. I have been shooting the Nikon D300s and Canon 7D DSLR’s along with this E-P2/20 1.7 combo (and the D3s) and during this time the most fun I have had taking pictures was with the E-P2 and 20 1.7. The D3s, forget it! It’s for sports/action/wildlife guys and pros. While it is the best there is for that type of shooting, it snot the best solution for an everyday camera.

The D300s is great but I actually prefer the color from the E-P2/20 1.7! The Canon 7D… Well, it’s a nice DSLR no question and gives superior ISO, DR and color. But for all out fun when you go out for a day of shooting? I go with the E-P2 combo. If you do not need the fast FPS, improved high ISO or BULK the m4/3 cams are ideal.

One of the reasons why this m4/3 system is taking off, and also why many big DSLR shooters are selling their entire kits for a Leica M9 is all about weight and size. In the past, small cameras were, well, CRAP! They had excessive noise, bad color, and the images were flat and awful. Today we are just about at that point where we can buy a smaller camera and get big DSLR quality out of it. In the case of the Leica M9, we surpass that big DSLR quality and approach medium format.

Yes, the days of everyone and their neighbor owning a big DSLR may soon be over. We are finally getting smaller cameras with the quality of the big guys. All we need is some minor improvements and some better glass (for m4/3). Today we have the m4/3 cameras, the fabulous Leica X1 and M9 and even the new Samsung NX10 that is about to hit the streets. It’s awesome to have these choices, and for those who are like me and tired of lugging around 20 lbs of gear, well you now have quality choices!

Wide Open at F1.7

BOTTOM LINE. With this little Panasonic 20 1.7 lens you have a high quality lens THAT WILL NOT BREAK THE BANK. You can do low light, shallow depth of field, and get great results. I say this as a hobbyist, not a pro. For 90% of what I shoot if I had to choose between the E-P2 and 20 1.7, D300s or Canon 7D then it would be the E-P2. Throw in the Leica X1 and I would have to take the X1 as I feel the IQ of the X1 beats all of the mentioned DSLR’s and the E-P2/20 combo, and its even smaller and sleeker. But I think I am done with all of those big DSLR’s for good. I really have no need for 8FPS shooting or 999 focus points.

There still is and always be a market for a DSLR for those who need those capabilities but I am speaking to those who want a carry around camera. In the recent past we did not have much choice for quality and today we do! There I go..ranting again!

I got off track so let me get back ON! The Panasonic 20 1.7 lens is one of those “must own” lenses if you have a m4/3 camera like the E-P1, E-P2, GF1, GH1, etc. Its light, fairly quick, small, has a fast 1.7 maximum aperture and is sharp as you could ask for. At $399 it is a bargain in my opinion.

shallow DOF example – closest focus -E-P2, 20 1.7 at 1.7- ISO 800 – 4/3 format

So far all I have talked about is how great this lens is. Frankly, there is not much more to say. The proof is in the pics. Wide open your focus point is sharp and while you will get some bokeh you do not get crazy shallow depth of field like you would with a 50 or longer lens. The 20 1.7 is great for everyday use as 40mm is in between the two great classic focal lengths, the 35 and 50.

PROS AND CONS OF THE PANASONIC 20 1.7:

PROS:

  • Small and Light!
  • Fast aperture. Finally a fast lens for m4/3.
  • Sharp wide open and sharp stopped down. No issues.
  • In my real world shooting I did not notice any distortion in any of my shots.
  • Price is not CHEAP but its not expensive either for a small fast prime.
  • Works great on the E-P2 or GF series by Panasonic.
  • Comes with a nifty lens pouch!

CONS:

  • Build is not up there with the high quality lenses from Leica, Nikon or Canon.
  • Hard to find, always out of stock (at the time of this writing).
  • Makes noise while focusing so not good for video using AF.
  • On the E-P2 you hear the aperture clicking as it opens and closes while its on the camera (with camera on). Does not affect performance and the Leica X1 does this as well.
  • Would have been better of it were a 1.4 lens!

20 1.7 at 1.7 with Grainy Art Filter of the E-P2

So as I wrap up this review let me say that Panasonic is leading the race in quality lenses for the m4/3 system. Their top class 7-14, 45 Macro, 14-150 and even the “budget” 55-200 are great lenses. The Olympus lenses like the kit zoom and 17 2.8 are very good lenses but not “great lenses”. I can see myself buying the Panny lenses for “my wife’s” E-P2 in the future unless Olympus raises the stakes and puts out some higher quality lenses. I would like to see small & solid high performing primes in the future. If this happens, and the M4/3 sensors get better with their noise and overall quality then there may be a new revolution in the camera world. Its tough to beat the size and fun factor with these m4/3 kits.

The Panasonic 20 1.7 is a lens I can easily recommend. I do not see anyone not liking it. This may be old news as this lens has been out for a while and there are probably a million reviews out there for it already. I just wanted to throw my take in to the mix in a “real world” kind of way. After all, the lens was made to take photos not be analyzed in a lab :)

I hope you have enjoyed this review. If you want to buy this lens you can buy it through my links to B&H or Amazon but GOOD LUCK! It can be hard to find in stock. If you see it, and want it I would suggest snagging it! Here is the direct link to the Panasonic 20 1.7 at B&H Photo and Amazon.

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Here are a few more images from the E-P2 and 20 1.7 combo! I am all about real world experience and I take my time shooting the gear I review. Hope you enjoy the images. Click any image for a larger view and to see the shooting info :)


  96 Responses to “The Panasonic Lumix G 20 1.7 Lens Review”

  1. Hi Steve, great review of the lens and what you say about size/weight compared to the D3s and 7D is true. I find myself wanting something smaller for street photography than my 5D Mk II.

    One minor criticism though: many people do street photography and fun shots at night as well. You have no night shots here; meanwhile I’ve seen lots of great night shots that you’ve taken with other cameras. I really want to see what this lens can do in low light.

    The reason why I ask this is because sure the camera can be great for the fun type shots that you talk about and show but what about training? By training, what I mean is a spare for photographers to use to keep their mind photographically inclined and keep their skills fresh if you understand what I’m saying.

    That’s my only minor criticism. Thanks for this though.

  2. Hey Chris!

    Thanks for the comment and for reading this review. MANY of the shots in this review were very low indoor light at night and high ISO. They may not be outside but they were indeed low light. I added a couple of the B&W night shots but they do not really show anything special.

    This camera and lens will NOT replace a 5DII and a 50L for night shooting if you want clean results and it wont replace an M9 and Summilux lens either.

    But again, half of the shots here were low light. The shoe pic was VERY low light, ISO 2500 and 1.7. It doesn’t appear to be low light but it was shot at night in my living room with a table lamp 10 feet away.

    The pic of my lazy, dirty face dog in bed was at ISO 1600, wide open and VERY low light. That was in my bedroom with no light on and very little light coming in.

    The last shot was at night time, ISO 1600, F1.7 but it has the art filter applied. Anyway, thanks for reading!

    Steve

  3. great review Steve! i love this little lens too :) other than the build quality, the only complaint i have is that it does not have a manual aperture ring for me to turn with… but the output of the lens is just amazing

  4. That is the most impressive shot of a sneaker I’ve ever seen… Really.
    I’m absolutely convinced of the quality of this lens. But… what about the focal length? 35 mm is my favorite focal length landscape/context shooting. And I prefer to jump to 70-85 mm for portraits/details. The 40 mm Pana is, as you say, “in between the two great classic focal lengths, the 35 and 50.” But isn’t that a bit problematic? It is neither fish nor flesh. Neither a landscape lens nor a portrait lens. It falls in a “no man’s land” where some photographers may find difficult to work.
    I’m probably being over-conscious. Would you care to comment?

  5. [...] here to see the original:  The Pansonic Lumix G 20 1.7 Lens Review | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS Tags: camera-body, digital, image-capturing, images, lens, mainly-because, [...]

  6. Frank, yea, you gotta love a high ISO sneaker shot :) As for the focal length, I have ZERO issues if a lens is a 35 or 40. It’s really a matter of taking a step or two back for a 35 or a step or two forward for a 50. There is a 40mm lens for Leica mount that many people use and love from Voigtlander. To me, it’s a non issue. Thanks for the comments!

  7. An interesting series of camera comparisons here recently.

    IMO dslr’s are too much camera for many photographers who probably spend too much time pixel-peeping instead of learning to take better pictures. Proof of this is all of the mundane/boring images posted all over the internet, but that’s another story.

    And then you have those who because they have the latest Canikon dslr believer that they should be able to shoot as well as a pro (although they haven’t spent the time to learn how to shoot)

    M4/3 and future EVIL formats are probably all that most amateur/consumer shooters will ever need.

    Oh yes, the D3s with the 50/1.8 is probably like driving a Porsche with retreads. Not exactly a real world situation but still I see your point about the strength of the 20/1.7.

  8. Another great review Steve. I am very interested in the m4/3 market at the moment mainly for the amount of lenses that are compatible with them – I’m interested in the Leica M lenses and the old cine C-mount ones. I had pretty much settled on the Panasonic DMC-G1 as my body, mainly for it’s high quality viewfinder that’s built in, which I’ve read is much better than the GF1′s EVF, but I’ve never read a review on the quality of the EP-2′s EVF – could anyone tell me if it’s as good as the G1? I’d prefer the EP-2 if so, as I like the idea of the in-body IS and these pics you’ve posted with the 1.7 pancake are beautiful :)

  9. Great lens and thanks for the review..

    I’m in love with that combo !

  10. Alan, I agree 100%

    Overheat, thanks! I am also interested in those old C-Mount lenses. I have seen some interesting things with an E-P1/2/GF1 and those lenses. I shot with the G1 inside of B&H and liked it. The EVF was no better than the E-P2′s though and from what I remember, the E-P2′s EVF is slightly better. BUT I could be wrong a as I only shot with the G1 for a few minutes.

    At $639, the G1 is a deal with the lens included. Great choice.

    Cenk, Thanks!

  11. Wonderful review and terrific images, Steve. The 20 mm lens would be on my short list of 1, if I purchased a m4/3 system, but I have way too much invested in the M system to shoot this much…unless I sold my D-Lux4 and took this system as a carry everywhere…

    Hmmm….ideas…Love my D-Lux 4, though….

  12. Hey Ashwin, just sent you an e-mail! Anyway, if I had your lens collection my M9 would NEVER EVER leave my side! Ha ha…

  13. thanks for the sweet review, very informnative as always. Now I am on my ass (can we write this here?). Here are the choices: 4000$ m8.2 withe either 3000$ cron or 1500$ rit (The f2.5). So for less than 6k you get back in time with sweet stuff or for 7k$ you get a very nice starter kit (lol). So here I am in the camera shop with the M8.2, the GF1 and the EP2. Can you imagine my face and the foam at the mouth. We mixmatched everything and the EP-2 focus seems slower than GF1, it has no flash but seems to have better JPEG management. Confused? I sure am, the 7-14, the 20 f1.7, the EP2 woulkd blow close to 3000$… Geewhiz 2500$ short of a Leica starter kit and definitely more than the X1 (I would wait for the x2 i saw your video on focus and it scares me). Sorry I realise I was using Canadian prices, shave 10%…lol. So came back home and bought nothing. One question, on the d-lux4 the lcd confuses me, the image is always underexposed on the computer compared to the lcd (always in low light). Is it the same with the GF1? This would be a reason for me to buy the EP2 if the LCD tells you the story like it is. Sorry for the long comment just wanted to share my level of confusion…

  14. Another great review, Steve.

    I am very impressed.

    Steve: was my choice (X1) the correct one?

    Thanks !

  15. [...] Lens reviewed by Steve (and X1 comparison) Hi ! What do you think about these pictures… The Pansonic Lumix G 20 1.7 Lens Review | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS …compared with these others? The Leica X1 Digital Camera Review | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS I'm trying [...]

  16. Francis: I had the GF1 before my LX3(/d-lux4) and to me it seemed that the LCD image was much brighter than the computer image. Nothing a bit of lightroom action won’t fix, but annoying nonetheless.

  17. EP-1 with the 20 is my default carry around camera these days, along with some M-mount primes. If I need a zoom, then the Panasonic 14-140 comes. The Olympus 17 and kit zoom get no action at all. I’m looking forward to Panasonic releasing new m4/3 lenses…

  18. Thanks for the review. Looks like a very impressive lens. The comparison to the Nikon is pretty amazing.

  19. Thanks for reading it Zlatko!

  20. Jose, the X1 has better IQ and better high ISO than the E-P2 AND the lens is a better lens on the X1 imo. It has that “look”. It may not be as fast of a lens but it can really deliver the IQ. Thx…

  21. [...] The Panasonic Lumix G 20 1.7 Lens Review by Steve Huff (tested on the E-P2) [...]

  22. Thank you for the review Steve. I’ve been seeing consistently great results with this lens, and hope they become widely available someday – maybe even a bit discounted ;-D

    Curious – have you compared the results you obtained with some of the Canon offerings attached to a 5D (mk 1 or 2)? I don’t have the 20mm (I couldn’t find one and wanted something immediately so picked up the 17mm/2.8), but I’d love to see a comparison between the Canon 50mm f/1.8 and the Panny. It’s a selfish reason – I picked up a 50/1.8 for next to nothing and was blown away with it’s capabilities. Plastic mount? At $100, I’lll pick up another one if it ever breaks!

    Thanks again, and keep us posted on your m43 stuff. I got an ep1 and my canon has been gathering dust for the past month.

  23. Hey Matt, I do not own any DSLR so I have no way of testing that lens on a 5D. I do have a 7D here I am testing along with a 50 1.8 and may be able to do something with that in the next day or two. Thanks for the comment!

  24. in addition to 20mm I think this

    Custom Leatherette kit

    http://aki-asahi.com/store/html/E-P1/leatherette/Type1/EP1.php

    makes your EP1/2 look very pro

    there is also awesome leather case

    http://aki-asahi.com/store/html/E-P2/case/EP1LeatherCase_e.php

    btw : I don’t advertise, just found something interesting for Olympus.

  25. I picked one up through your Amazon link. Thanks for a great review!

  26. Thanks Ed! I REALLY appreciate that!

  27. Steve,

    A fun review. It looks like a winning combination your EP2 and the Panny lens.

    I was a bit surprised that you bothered to take the time to shoot comparison shots with the D3x and the cheapo lens. Didn’t you have a better lens to use? Would have been more fun to see the comparison with a decent lens on the Nikon. The Nikon 50 1.4 D is cheaper than the Panasonic 20 1.7 but might have performed better than the Nikon 1.8.

    regards
    Guy

    regards
    Guy

  28. Thanks Guy! Btw, it was the D3s, not X :) That was the only lens I had on hand and I had both cameras out getting shots for each review. Since I had them I shot them both and was surprised at the result. I shot 4 or 5 others and all were the same result. Like I said, it had to be the lens, or the strong AA filter.

  29. >”Btw, it was the D3s, not X :)”

    Oops.

  30. Hey Steve, yet another great review. I’ve been thinking that the Pana 20mm would indeed be a priority purchase should I jump into the m4/3 world. I thought it was interesting that you threw in the D3s for fun; I’m no expert (but am a Nikon shooter), but I wonder if you might have gotten better results for the Nikon if you had processed the RAW files in View or Capture NX? I’ve always had mixed results when having Adobe crunch my NEF files. Your thoughts?

  31. Hubes, I may have gotten slightly better results with NX but nothing would have fixed the super soft corners. I do not have NX on my mac so did not try it. Thanks for the comment.

  32. [...] von DrVorzet Hi ! What do you think about these pictures… The Pansonic Lumix G 20 1.7 Lens Review | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS …compared with these others? The Leica X1 Digital Camera Review | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS I'm trying [...]

  33. [...] optisch schon gefallen, besonders die E-P2 und die am liebsten mit dem Lumix 1,7/20mm wie es hier von Steve Huff vorgestellt wurde. Das wäre auch meine zweite Wahl nach der X1. Leider ist sie (ich hatte nur die [...]

  34. I found you when someone responded to a question about the Leica X1. I really didn’t know much about this size camera until two days ago. I have now been at my computer looking at this and other sites. I have shot Nikon since the late 60′s and I was looking for something lighter. Do you know if magazine and book publishers would use work from one of these cameras? Is the quality there? As far as the X1, it looks better than what I own now, a D200. However, the fact that the features on both the Olympus and Panasonic look really good. It is interesting that the photos that get looked at most on my web site were ones that I took with a P&S Canon back in 1965. Proves that subject matter over rides quailty.

  35. Great review as always!
    Quick question here though, im kinda split on getting ep2 or gf1, which one would you recommend?
    Thanks

  36. The EP-2 has in body IS, a higher resolution EVF and reportedly better low light performance, whereas the GF-1 has faster AF, a higher resolution LCD and a cheaper price tag, as well as the ability to come with the 20mm f1.7 as a kit. So really, it’s up to you and what features you require most.

  37. Another con is lack of continuous AF support with this lens, something that would be great with video (this is the case with the gf1)

  38. nice review. it’s very interesting that panasonic lenses can be monted on olympus camera. the pictures with the 20mm 1.7 panasonic look great. I would like to se olympus lowering a bit the noise in the image and to keep up with this trend they have :)

  39. Great reviews Steve. Just a note on the noise levels in video mode, when the 1.7 is mounted on the actual GF-1, it makes no sound at all. I was a little surprised by that because I hear so much about lens noise during video recording. Not that I’m complaining about not having it. LOL GF-1 has been one of the best cameras I’ve ever owned. Your review on it earlier was great as well. Keep it up.

  40. B&H out of stock
    Amazon – in stock as for the present moment

  41. Thankyou thankyou thankyou! This is the review I have been waiting for. Now all we have to do here in London is wait for the Oly E-P2 prices to get real. A few more months should see the early adopters satisfied and then some price reductions. But thankyou for a very useful and informative review of this combination, it was very helpful to read.

  42. Good review. I’ve been shooting professionally since 1992. My back and shoulders are ruined. I have to stretch every morning to prevent my back locking up. I’m only 40. It’s the big cameras that have done me in.

    I’m also an obsessive street photographer. http://paultreacy.com/nyc1 (for example) My current favorite workhorse camera / lens combo is my Nikon D200 with 24mm 2.8 AI prime. It’s a sweet combo yielding very sweet images.

    I’m about to shoot a documentary film and have decided to get myself the E-P2. The videos I see out of the thing are delicious. So this camera could easily take over as my main unit, both for filmmaking and for stills. I’m getting very excited about putting my various ancient Nikkor primes on it. My ever reliable, tough and steady D200 may well become my backup unit. Although, I may continue to carry it in case it’s needed as a defensive weapon.

    Another crucial advantage to the Olympus E-P2 for us London based street shooters, is that it’ll likely attract less attention from the cops who have taken to hassling us.

    Thanks for the review. I’ll report back as soon as I start shooting with my new kit.

    Paul Treacy
    http://photohumourist.com

  43. Hi Steve, great review, just bought myself a Pany GF1 with the pancake and looks to be a great outfit for street photography. Better than lugging to much kit.
    Terry

  44. Great Review Steve

    I recently made a full switch to m4/3 & sold all of my Nikon kit, which included a D300 & alot of glass that i collected over the years.

    Main reason being was weight, it was just to heavy sometimes lugging it all about even with just the body & one lens.

    I now own a G1 & GF1 with the 20mm F1.7 which is real easy to get hold of in the UK, also the 14-45mm & the 45-200mm & soon to add the 7-14mm.

    The quality of the Panasonic lenses are superb, both the 14-45mm & the 20mm are really sharp & better than “some lenses” from either Canon & Nikon that cost twice the price.

    Even the 45-200mm isn’t a bad lens upto 150mm it’s pretty sharp, but starts to drop off after that but still very usable and nothing abit of lightroom can’t sort out.

    What m4/3 brings is fun back into Photography, the not a day goes by now were i don’t bring my GF1 with me along with the 20mm & the little EVF should i ever need to use it, ie in strong sunlight were using the screen becomes impossible to see anything.

    I’ve shot more pictures with both the G1 & GF1 in the last 3 months than i did with the D300 in a year.

    Only downsides to m4/3 atm is using high ISO, which is slightly worse than my D300 at both 800 & 1600 ISO, also the slight lack of DOF because of the smaller sensor used,but tbh these really isn’t a problem for me, image quality is still up there with all current DSLR’s, with the advantage of being in a much smaller package.

    And no doudt as the Sensors, AF ect improve as they will over time, there will be little point for most owning a DSLR, all expect the pro’s.

    Plus all major companies such as Canon,Nikon,Sony will have their version of this small mirrorless camera on the market at some point in the future, Sony in the near future, to compete with Panasonic,Olympus & Samsung.

  45. Thanks much for another nice review.

    What are your thoughts and have you ever done a comparison between the dedicated m4/3 lenses (ie the 20mm F1.7) and Leica M lenses on the EP-2 or GF1? Is there a significant difference in image quality or would for instance the sensor on the EP-2 be a limiting factor?

    I’m still new to m4/3 and RF systems but I tried out an Elmarit 24mm on my EP-2 and images were not (significantly) better than the 20mm F1.7. But it may be just my poor technique.

    Cheers

  46. Hey Gerard, I found that the dedicated m4/3 lenses are the best bet for the cameras, but that is just my opinion. :)

  47. Steve: I was going back and forth on which EP-2 kit to go with–the 14-42mm or the 17mm. After reading your article, I decided to get the 14-42 kit and the Pan 20mm 1.7 lens after reading your article. I’d heard how great it was but your review clinched the deal. Thanks for providing such a thorough and thoughtful review.

  48. For those who might be interested, I just got a beautiful Olympus E-P2 with the Panasonic 20/1.7 lens. More info on my blog: exposingpixels.blogspot.com

  49. Great choice David! UPS delivered a black E-PL1 with the 17 just now and I have to say, the E-P2 feels so much nicer in my hand and I already can say I like the 20 1.7 better than the 17. The kit zoom and 20 is a perfect set!

  50. Steve: I’m primarily an M8 shooter, who recently picked up a used G1 and a new 20/1.7. I completely agree with your assessment. It’s a fantastic lens.

    I will say that my old Leica and Olympus OM lenses of 50mm and longer do *very* well on the G1. So does the 35/1.4 ASPH, which is almost as incredible on the G1 as a “70″ as it is on the M8 as a “47.” The G1 with the 20, plus a 50mm lens and adapter in the pocket, makes a very nice kit for times when I don’t want to lug the Leica kit or a DSLR, Micro 4/3 has finally fulfilled the promise of 4/3: Smaller and lighter gear that is *truly* good enough for most purposes.

  51. I like your pic~!It’s so beautiful!!:D
    Can i copy some of pics??And I want to use it as my background on my computer!3Q

  52. Hi,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your site. I couldn’t agree more to the comments made.

    My LUMIX GF1 (white ivory, with the pancake lens) arrived just 10 days ago, and I am absolutely happy with it. I agree in full with your comments regarding the pancake lens. It is certainly in the forefront of glass in kits. It is maybe a bit unfair to compare with LEITZ lenses, but it fares very well indeed also in comparison with them, given that their lenses (and cameras) play in a different league /price range.

    Just one more thing: the GF1 is a very versatile camera with the possibility to use other manufactures’ lenses, i.e. with adapters you can add a variety of glass.

    I have purchased an adapter from NOVOFLEX ( http://www.novoflex.com ) for mft/nik (Nikon lenses) and I am very pleased with the results and also with the handling of the adapter. (adapters exist for a number of camera brands)

    Among the adapters existing It is the most expensive one (~165 € = 220 US$) but certainly the very best quality in terms of material, tolerance and ergonomic handling I have ever seen and worked with. It is well worth the money, given that most of the Nikon lens range can be used with excellent results.

    Certainly with the firmware upgrade (1.1) which lets you magnify more easily the screen viewer it is easy to focus with Nikon and other non-autofocus glass.

    Kind regards, Edmund

  53. [...] reviews the Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH and writes; “The Panasonic 20 1.7 is a lens I can easily recommend. I do not see anyone not [...]

  54. [...] reviews the Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH and writes; “The Panasonic 20 1.7 is a lens I can easily recommend. I do not see anyone not [...]

  55. You should get your D3s sensor calibrated.

  56. Hey Steve,

    What is the close focus of the 20/1.7? And also – I am thinking of maybe owning at least one digital camera – and have been thinking about M4/3 and using my best of breed nikkors (28 2.8 AIS, 50 1.8 AIS MK3, 85 1.4 AFD) on it. Is manual focus with the EVF close enough to the ease of the split prism and ground glass (1978 one for f2.0 and faster lenses) or will I get out of focus shots with the EVF when I shoot at 1.4-2.0 – as I do with the contemporary K focus screen that came with my FM3a.

    Or if buying digital to be a small secondary thing to use instead of the FM3a and GA645i when I am lazy – should I just get the AF prime then and be a total consumer sucker? ;-)

  57. Hey Richard, I would just get the 20 1.7 with it. Great lens, and you wouldn’t have to worry about OOF shots, which WILL happen when using those Nikons. The closest focus on the 20 1.7 is a really nice 0.2 meters. Thanks

    Steve

  58. OK – seems that is the decision then. Now I need to find the extra bucks for one of the Luigi cases to go with it. I may have to sell my 85 1.4 to fund it. But I have realized that when I had so many lenses – all my shots ended up between 28-50 and that is what I am comfortable with for my style. So 35mm with 0.2m (that is almost as insane as the 17-35 close focus) focus seems perfect.

    So….EP2 or GF1…. which is lightest? Already leaning GF1 for AF speed…..

  59. Found this lens yesterday in a shop when I bought an Olympus E-LP1. The dealer gave me a good price on the combo. I’m mostly on a page with you with regards to image quality, but I couldn’t help but notice that that applies to JPEG produced in-camera or RAW files as ARC shows them. I use Capture One, and there you can see quite a bit of barrel distortion. Sure, the lens correction panel will take care of that. But still, modern times we’re living in, aren’t they? Seeing the real qualities of the lens depends on the RAW converter you’re using.

  60. [...] is the EP2 w/Panasonic 20mm 1.7 pancake, can’t say much more about this than Steve Huff. ( See Steve’s Review Here ) Also check out ( Craig Mod’s Review GF1 w/Pancake Lens [...]

  61. Steve, this is a terrific article, and your experience with the handling and enjoyment of the ep-x ecoes my experience, particularly in relation to my big d3′s. I am astounded by the images I can produce with this little digicam, and it’s a joy to be able to use my 35mm and 75mm Summilux lenses on a digital body (I just can’t justify an M9 at the moment). This review has made my mind up to ditch the 17mm pancake, and spring for the 20mm Pany lens, and I’m looking forward to the release of the Voigtlander 0.95/25mm!

    PS. I just love the “No Swimming” pic, congrats.

  62. I’m all set up with my Olympus E-PL1 now. Using my old Nikkor primes on it. Works like a treat. I’m using it now more than my pro Nikon cameras as it’s just so damn good. It’s also a brilliant filmmakers camera. I’ve just completed some testing with it for a documentary film I’m making. Rather than use the SEMA-1 mic system, which is excellent by the way, I’d rather use the electronic viewfinder and so I’ve decided to gather audio separately and sync together in post. The VF-2 is such a gem to use for filming. Such a shame Olympus couldn’t blend the two devices together, the mic and the viewfinder. Perhaps that’ll come soon.

    In any case, it’s handy getting into the habit of gathering the audio separately anyway so that an audio recorder can be clipped onto a subject’s belt with a small lav mic on a lapel in an interview situation, for example.

    I’m entirely happy to continue to use iMovie 09 for my pro work as it yields the results I need at the quality I need as I cannot yet afford FCP. In order to sync the audio to the movie file, I simple pull both files into garage band and sync there saving the resulting file at full quality (it simply adds the extra audio and leaves the original video file untouched. Then I bring the new file into the iMovie project all ready synched perfectly.

    Seems to me this is the main reason pros avoid iMovie not realizing that using the entire iLife suite of programs is where the power lies.

    When combing all the programs together you get much of the functionality of the substantially more expensive Final Cut Pro.

    Anyway, the Olympus Pen cameras are entirely magic and I’m quite certain, when handled properly, with the best glass, are capable of broadcast quality filmmaking.

    Now I just need another couple of units. Perhaps a couple of E-P2s.

  63. Ok. I’ve got the 20 1.7 and am learning to use it.
    Who has an opinion about which telephoto zoom to buy for my E-P2?

  64. subscribe

  65. Hi. Did you use the EVF2 on the E-P2 when doing this review – at all please? I ask because I wondered how compatible the panasonic lens is with the Olympus EVF2 viewfinder. Does the viewfinder go in ‘stages’ – eg 17mm, 20mm, 35mm, 50mm – or does it just do everything in between and up to what focal length please. Am assuming the EvF2 actually works with Panasonic lenses!

    • Hi Elaine, the EVF will work with ANY lens. It is an electronic viewfinder so if you use a zoom lens it will even work. Its a great EVF that works fantastic. HIghly recommend it if you shoot an Oly E-P camera.

  66. So here you have it. I bought this combo after reading this review. Had to buy the kit E-P2 wit EFV and 14-42 and in addition the Pany 20mm. Did not unpack the 14-42 but in stead screwed the Pany on the body. First impression is great. Well I am a lucky man because I even own a Leica X1 but the slow focus starts to bother me. Even thought of trading in the Leica but it gives such great images I coudn’t do that. So the E-P2 will be my point and shoot, vacation, day out and so on and the Leica when I have time.

  67. Had a great deal of luck, and bought an EP1 from a dealer’s stock, and the 20mm Pany: Very very happy with the product, on which I also use some “old glass” fixed focus from my OM1: a 50mm =>100 and a 135mm=>270. I tried the EP2 with the EVF, but since an eye operation I wear continuous focus specs, and a viewfinder is just something I don’t use anymore. It’s great to have the f3,5 on a 270, stabilized in the body. Much much lighter than SLRs, and producing astounding pics.

  68. [...] Lives in the continental United States (sorry, but this will involve a lot of shipping) We are not looking for exhaustive technical reviews. Some technical information is expected, but primarily we want hands-on user reviews with lots of sample photos that give our readers the real-world perspective of what's it's like to use the gear. Here are some examples of such reviews from other sites:The Pansonic Lumix G 20 1.7 Lens Review | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS [...]

  69. Way cool. I came to read a review of the Panasonic 20mm 1.7 and came away convinced that in reality, I can dump my DSLRs and do anything they can, and most likely even better with a M43!!! Still not sure about the P20mm though.

    I put a coke can on my Hasselblad and my 2000 era Olympus 3mp P&S can trump it!

  70. Hi Steve,
    I am reading this review long after its was originally written. Possibly the best review (fit for human consumption :)) I have read while trying to understand the m4t camera and lens combination. I recently bought EP 3 after a long research but was almost questioning my decision after using it with kit lens 14-42. Somehow I was expecting bit more. I have been using Canon G9 all these years and quality from EP3 wasn’t too great. After reading your review I have made my decision to go with 20 (there is still some hope).

    I was worried of using Panny on Oly assuming it would lose out on many things that only come with close integration of hardware and software. From your review it seems like a non issue.

    Now I just need one answer… which lens to go for tele. I have reviewed Oly 40-150 and reviews are not exceptionally great. Should I just wait for Olympus to come up with something worthwhile or buy a panasonic (14-150).

    Also which av filter would be best for PAnny 20 and Oly 14-42.

    Thanks again!

  71. Mr Huff….
    I commend you for your objective approach in providing an excellent assessment. I stumbled upon your site when I Googled for reviews on this lens. I purchased an EP2 last December with the 17mm 2.8 and then in August the 14 – 150mm before our trip to Ireland. I took 2000 + pictures during our 2 week trip and used the latter lens exclusively & very pleased with its overall performance. But, I have been interested in the Panny prime lens 40mm 1.7 and your review has convinced me to purchase it. I agree with your comment about lugging around a DSLR & this is why I chose to go with the EP2 not to mention the excellent optics of Zuiko lenses, even though critics would not agree with my assessment of my 14 – 150mm and the 17mm 2.8. But, I know the 20mm Panny is better optically than the 17mm Zuiko. Photography has been a hobby of mine since the early 70′s & I’ve enjoyed the digital revolution even though my Nikons F2 & 8008S have provided wonderful memories of our son as well as trips we’ve taken. My first SLR was the Pentax SP500 which I still own. But, ask me the last time I’ve purchased a roll of film after being introduced to the digital world about 7 years ago with my Canon G5. I’m sharing this with you so you’ll know this reader (retired ) is serious about photography and is constantly reading reviews on cameras & lenses. Your site is now included in my list of frequently visited sites & I look forward in reading more of your reviews. If this review of the Panny is representative of your typical approach in making an assessment of a lens, again I commend you for a job being well done. Thank-you. Dan

  72. [...] 8-( Thanks for reading this, if you are not sure how good the 20mm lens is, then this may help: Review Oh and I am happy to answer any questions. thanks Mick aka [...]

  73. Steve:

    You need to calibrate your Nikon 50mm lens with the D3S. it was out of focus. Your comparison is misleading…

    I spent lots of time to do the same initially as I found my Nikon D90 was so bad comparing with my E-P2. Then I downloaded the Nikon test sheet to test my lens and camera found my camera wiht lens are way off focus (about 10mm off). However, the D90 has no “fine tune” feature, but all > D300 body has such feature let you offset and fine tune to calibrate lenses and store in the camera. I did for my D300 camera and focus is fine now. You have to keep in mind that DSLR has a mirror so focus image is on side sensor instead of on image sensor directly. So you do need calibrated your DSLR camera once a while.

    Best regards,

    Joe

    PS: good word, keep on

  74. Thanks for such a thoughtful review and analysis. It’s a couple of years later but I guess unlike camera bodies lenses can resist instant obsoleteness.
    I’ve ordered an OM-D for my switch to the 4/3 world and think this lens would be the perfect companion to have on it as a compact shoot anything lens. Any thoughts or knowledge of things that have changed in the lens world to make you think a second thought is in order for this lens camera combo?
    Thanks in advance for any insight.

  75. Steve,

    Any comments on how the 20 fairs AF wise on the new OM-D? I’m looking at building a MFT kit (I’m tired of waiting on sony lenses for my NEX). I’ve got the 12, 14, 20 and 45 in my sights. The 45 is a given, the rest of the equation is either the 14 and 20 for 2 smaller lenses to travel with or to combine them into just the 12mm. One of my biggest concerns is AF speed, my second being size. So if the Panasonics do well on the OM-D I’ll go that route, but if they’re not I’ll go with the larger 12mm and call it a day. Any help is greatly appreciated. Any for reference I’m using this setup to shoot my kits around the house, so it’ll be low light (3200 f/2 and 1/90th).

    Thank You!
    Ben Jacobsen

  76. Yet another fantastic review Steve, the run-of-the-mill lens reviews with charts and data are just so boring compared to your exciting, real world review.

  77. A great review of a great lens, can’t wait to be able to afford it – to pair it with my G2 marvel!

  78. Hello Steve, I love the filmstrips (the cat & you in your car). How did you do that? Is there any software available for this style? Thanks for your excellent reviews. Greetings from Leica-Land Germany. Gabriel

  79. Hi Steve,
    Good review and makes me interested in Pana 20mm. I currently use E-PL3, do you think it will give similar result to your E-P2? I am afraid that even if I add up the Pana 20mm f1.7 but the result is not as good.

    Also, do you think Pana 20mm f1.7 IQ is much better than 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 MSC II R (kit from E-PL3)? At the moment I’m not happy with the result of my combo especially in low light. I don’t think the quality is as good as the EOS 450D that I had.

    Anyway, I’m a newbie and use DSLR only to make sure that the photos that I took have the chance to be as good as it can. The M43 is very good for me in a way since I don’t have to bring the bulk and still have some chance for good picture rather than using the point and shoot.

    • It should do just as well on the E-PL3 as it uses the same sensor and tech as the E-P2, so you should be all good. The 20 is MUCH better than the kit zoom and opens up a whole new world for IQ and lower light shooting.

      • Hi Steve,

        Thanks for your comment…. Your advises is valuable as I don’t have many experiences on this.
        I think I’m going to put budget for the lens for next month and should be very happy with the combo…

        Thanks again

  80. Hello Steve
    Very happy here in the Netherlands with your no-nonsense reviews. Thank you very much, after reading this I’m gonna order this lens, regretfully can’t buy from Amazon and the like because we don’t have those here so this is a small contribution to show my appreciation.
    Now I have to check out your reviews of the Leica thingies, thanks again for keeping us busy. Regards, Jack Burgstra

  81. Love your reviews!

    Will the panasonic 20mm lense work with the Olymus OM-D electonic viewfinder?

    • Sure, ANY lens you attach to the camera, even a Leica lens with an adapter will work with the viewfinder. The EVF sees through whatever lens is attached.

  82. It’s exactly the camera I have (and a Panasonic G5) and am trying to decide between the 20 and 14 mm. Both are really good per your reviews. I am going to use this as my pocket-able camera. I am only buying one pancake lens to keep on the E-P2, for outdoor and indoor shooting. Right now it has the Panasonic kit lens and the Panny uses the 45-150 mm . Sold two of my Canon lenses already, my D60 and the remaining three Canon lenses are in process of being sold. These plus spare a battery each is my “go to Europe for a year” kit. All this can be packed almost as easily as the 60D and 18-135 mm lens and makes it easy to carry just what you need for a day’s outing. I’m loving m43 for size and weight, and as others say, for the fun, I appreciate your review format, no charts and graphs and obscure measurements, I get enough of that working in an Engineering department. Thank you.

  83. [...] A newly designed 20 1.7 Lens from Panasonic is on the way! This lens is a legend in the Micro 4/3 world and the new version is set to hit very soon. I am a huge fan of the original 20 1.7. Check out this comparison I did quite a few years ago between this lens on a PEN and the Nikon D3s w… [...]

  84. Just so some may know… there are several reviews online regarding the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 and f/1.8. The f/1.8 is actually the sharper of the two lenses wide open and has other advantages. Here’s part of a great review on this lens (http://photographylife.com/reviews/nikon-50mm-f1-8g/5) – so it’s either the sensor needs calibration on the D3s or the Oly/Pano 20mm f/1.7 combo really is magically superior. I’m actually considering this combo for my wife. Steve your posts have been most informative. I have been wavering between the Fuji X-M1, one of the Sony NEX cameras and the EP-5. I haven’t made up my mind as yet but I’m leaning in the direction of the EP-5. I like the Fuji’s but they all seem about $150 – $200 too much for what you are getting (esp. the X-M1). I like the fast focus of the Olympus cameras and their superior Swiss watch like construction. RAW conversion still seems to be an issue with the Fuji’s as well.

  85. Great stuff Steve I just bought a gh2 of a guy in Queensland
    And I’m buying his 2 lenses lumix 20mm x1.7 / 14×140
    Your photos hav me exited but I want to make some videos
    For my music. Cheers. Nic Leon. MySpace.com/theluvdogs

  86. “it snot the best solution for an everyday camera.”
    funniest typo ever.

  87. Hi Steve! I’m looking for a good light lens (preferably pancake) for my lumix gx7 for the concerts. I usually take pictures from first 5 rows on pitch, so I’m mostly on arena concerts. Do you have any suggestions?

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