Feb 162011
 

The Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 Micro 4/3 Lens Review

By Steve Huff

More Micro 4/3! It seems like evey few weeks I have a new Micro 4/3 item in my hands! Just a few weeks ago I wrote about the SLR Magic Toy Lens for Micro 4/3, and I really enjoyed it. You can see that review here. Today I am writing about a lens I have shot for the last two weeks, the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 lens and I have been shooting it on an Olympus E-P2..yep, the classic E-P2 :) I call it a classic not because it is old and discontinued, but because I feel it has proven itself as a game changer in the world of small camera/high quality imagery. The E-P1 was good, but the E-P2 improved upon it with speed and the EVF addition. It’s a very cool camera with it’s sleek design, and super high fun factor. Yea, this is why I chose the E-P2 to shoot with the Panasonic 14mm for this review!

ISO 1600 on the E-P2 with the 14mm at 2.5, wide open. Gotta love it!

…Speaking of micro 4/3, Panasonic has recently come out with the new GF2 and I have had a chance to handle it and check it out. I HATE IT! The GF1, IMO was a much better camera. I hate to say it and be all negative but I have to speak the truth. FACT: The GF2 uses the same sensor as the GF1. No improvement in IQ. The handling of the GF2 stinks in comparison to the GF1 and yea, the Sony NEX-5 (which handles beautifully). If I were in the market for a Micro 4/3 body I have to say that lately, Olympus has been winning the game. The E-P2 and the E-Pl2 are both WINNERS (My E-PL2 review is here). Panasonic has some good ones as well. The G2 and GH2 are great but sorry to say they lost me with the GF2. Im looking forward to a newcomer to the Micro 4/3 arena soon which *should* put out an awesome body. Also, the rumored PRO E-P3 should be something to behold. Until then, in the M4/3 world Ill stick with the trusty E-P2 and the E-Pl2 with an occasional fling with the Panasonic G2 :) The Huff household has been overflowing with cool cameras lately! Ha ha.

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OK…what about the lens review Steve?

The Olympus E-P2 and 14 2.5 at 2.5 – ISO 200

OK…let me talk a bit about this lens as well as some other fine Panasonic lenses for micro 4/3. Panasonic, as many of you know, created one of the hottest selling and fabulous lenses for the micro 4/3 format. One of my favorite lenses ever, the Panasonic 20 1.7 lens is still today a bargain in the world of fast lenses that perform superbly. I say forget those huge bulky DSLRs like the Nikon D7000 and Canon 7D and pick yourself up a small, sexy, stylish and great performing E-P2/E-Pl2 and a Panasonic 20 1.7 lens. You will be amazed at what it can do! I wrote a  review of the 20mm lens HERE so check it out if you want to see what it did for me. I pit it against a Nikon D3s and 50 1.8 and the E-P2 and 20 1.7 won. Amazing.

The Olympus E-P2 and Panasonic 14mm 2.5 at f/2.5 – Gorgeous!

With the 20 1.7 being so good I was curious as to how some of the other Panasonic lenses would perform. When I tried them I was not disappointed! The 7-14 and 45 Macro both performed gorgeously! (My 45 review is here). I even tested out the 45-200 zoom, which was crazy cheap at $250 on the Panasonic G2 here. WOW, I loved it! Check out the review and look at the Gorilla shot. That was taken at 1/15th second at 200mm! For the money, this zoom was fantastic!

So after trying all of the Panasonic “must-try” lenses I had high expectations for this little 14mm pancake. After shooting with it for a couple of weeks I can proudly say that I LOVE IT!

One reason I love the 14mm 2.5 is because it gives all Micro 4/3 shooters a 28mm f/2.5 equivalent lens. A 28mm is a pretty popular focal length and having one this small with a semi fast speed at under $380 is pretty nice. I’m not much of a wide angle guy but 28 is nice to shoot with sometimes as it gives us “more” of the picture. A 28 can be great for environmental portraits and group shots as well. It’s also nice because it is very small and makes your M4/3 camera that much more “pocketable”.

Excuse the crappy picture, it was  taken with an Iphone as my battery was dead in the Ricoh :) You can see how small and thin the 14mm is here.

I also have the Olympus 17mm lens which is pretty close in focal length to the 14mm. About the same size as well because both are considered “pancake” lenses. For those who do not know what a pancake lens is, basically it is a small, flat lens. Much like a pancake! Small and flat! These lenses are SO much nicer than fat bulky slow zooms and I really prefer prime lenses over zooms any day of the week.

I always enjoyed the Olympus 17mm but this 14mm is not only sharper and more contrasty it is a bit faster at 2.5 vs 2.8. Hmmm. The 14 would make for a nice standard lens on any M4/3 camera.

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Battle Of The Pancakes: The Panasonic 14mm vs the Olympus 17mm


I wanted to see these lenses side by side, how they would perform because if  the 14 did about the same as the 17 then me buying the 14mm would be a no no. Why would I want to shell out $380 for a lens like this when I have one that is just 3mm longer at 17mm? Hmmmm. So here is what I did…

I shot this image with both lenses to test the sharpness of each lens at a 2.8 aperture. Who won? Scroll down to see the 100% crops.

100% crops

Whoa! The Panasonic slaughtered the Olympus 17 here, and I even have one of  those snazzy special edition BLACK 17mms! Damn…now I have been sitting here asking myself if I should buy the 14 and sell my 17. I think a great combo to have for any M4/3 system would

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Full Size Downloads To Evaluate

Here are two images that you can click on to open the full size out of camera files (from RAW, ACR). The 1st one was shot at f2/5, the 2nd one at f/4.

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and one more at f/2.5

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IMO, the 14mm is great wide open but even better when stopped down. I find the color, sharpness and contrast to be fantastic. Wide open we have slightly soft corners but hey, even some Leica glass has soft corners on an M9 so for the cost of this lens it is performing at or above its price point!

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At The Renaissance Festival

As always, my “reviews” are more of a real world kind of thing. I don’t have some fancy room filled with tech tools to measure resolution or color accuracy. Nah, I believe in just shooting the heck out of the camera or lens and then evaluate it by looking at the images it has taken. What it was made for! I remember when I started my site two years ago! I was told by many of the pros and established sites that my site was ridiculous and would never be read by anyone serious about photography! I find it cool that here I am, two years later being read by thousands who are very serious about photography and passionate about learning more. Damn, it appears someone else even cloned my site!

This tells me  that people do want to read real world reviews and I am happy to see this idea spread wild across the internet and some review sites. Pretty cool!

Last weekend my girlfriend and I decided to go to the Arizona Renaissance Festival. We brought along my son and his girlfriend, so we made it a double date :) Man, my boy is growing up fast! Seems like yesterday I was snapping shots of him taking his first steps! Time does indeed fly. Anyway…

I decided to bring along a Leica M9 and 90 Summarit as well as the Olympus E-P2 and 14mm 2.5 lens. While there I was having great fun shooting the E-P2 with the 14. Not only was it light and thin, it also focused very fast. For the fans of video, the 14mm lens has silent focusing which helps it with video as well.

I found the lens performed as I expected it to but I also saw the limitation of the m4/3 format. Dynamic Range. When shooting in full Arizona sun it is pretty hard for any digital camera to hold onto those precious highlights! Other than that, the little combo of E-P2 and 14 did deliciously well. Check out some of the images below…

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and how about some Black & White?

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Overall I was pleasantly surprised with the results. I used the Olympus EVF on the E-P2 and had no issues composing the shots or getting quick grab shots. I can highly recommend the EVF for anyones shooting with an E-P2 or E-PL1/E-PL2. IMO, it is a must own for the camera!

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Bokeh. Does it exist with this lens?

I have had questions asking me if it is possible to get shallow depth of field blur with this lens. The answer to the question is…NOT REALLY. You CAN if you get real close to your subject and shoot at f/2.5, but even then you are not going to get that delicious and creamy result that you think of when you hear the term “Bokeh”. If you are after some shallow depth of field there are other choices for Micro 4/3 that will give it to you, one of them is the Panasonic 20 1.7. Being such a wide angle at 14mm, this lens offers depth of field with almost everything in focus. Get close and you will get some background blur though you will also get distortions, especially if going for a portrait.

Here is what happens when you shoot up close and set the lens to 2.5:

Not bad, especially for ISO 1600 on an E-P2. Up close, you can get shallow depth of field but then you also start getting distortions for being so close.

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when up close, the distortion of the wide angle starts to rear its nose :)

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How cool is this?

Check this out! I recently found out that the little RICOH OVF (Optical View Funder), the GV-2 will work wonderfully on the E-P2 or E-Pl2 with the 14mm lens. The OVF is a 28mm VF so it is a perfect match and looks Sexy as can be! You can buy the little OVF at popflash.com and it runs under $170 so it is not exactly cheap but it is much smaller than the Oly EVF. The build and quality is superb.

My Final Thoughts on the 14mm f/2.5 Lens

What can I say about this lens that hasn’t been said already? I’m so tempted to keep this lens for my micro 4/3 collection. B&H Photo sent it to me for review but one e-mail to them and they will charge my card for it and it’s mine! Hmmm, Im not fully decided yet but it’s not because it is a bad lens, it is only due to $$ concerns and the fact I already have the Oly 17mm (which is not as good as this 14mm)!

I really had fun with this lens and took loads of images with it.  I found it performed excellent every time it was slung around me on the E-P2. What else can I say besides I LOVE IT! Over 500 frames shot with it and I found no issues or problems so I really have nothing bad to say about it. Is it as good as a Leica lens? NO, but this is under $400, not $4000 :) If you want a wide angle prime that is lightweight, thin and not so expensive then this one should be on your short list without question.

You can buy this lens at B&H Photo or Amazon and its always under $380 or so. This lens makes a great companion to the 20 1.7! No complaints at all! They also sell the Olympus E-P2 all black kit that I used for the review :) Thanks for reading!

I will leave you with more images and a message about how you can help me continue on with this site! ENJOY!
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  68 Responses to “The Panasonic 14mm 2.5 Micro 4/3 Lens Review by Steve Huff”

  1. Excellent review Steve! I’m really surprised at how Panasonic was able to release top-notch micro 4/3 lenses, the 14 and the 20 primes are superb!

    Dave Tong
    http://www.davidleetong.com

  2. Always a good reviewer. I’m thinking of getting another lens for my E-PL1 and this just got into the shortlist =)

  3. Wonderful review! If I were a M4/3 user, I would definitely consider this lens!

    It would be wonder when Sony, Carl Zeiss and other companies make great E-mount lenses for the NEX-5! Can’t wait!

  4. Steve – Very useful info, especially liked seeing the close focus examples. Looks like you all had a great time. Nice you were able to capture the memories so well!

  5. Impressive for such a small compact lens. It seems that almost all of the Panasonic lens offering trump the Olympus glass in the micro 4/3’s arena. I bet the photos would even look better on a GH2!

  6. Nice lens it is! And a nice read before work starts :) Having your cousin as a model in pretty much all reviews is great heh :thumbs up: :)

  7. Love that shot comparing the oly 17mm and panny 14mm. No contest!!!!!

  8. Thanks for the review, Steve. This Panny 14mm seems to be a solid performer and makes a great pair with the 20mm. Also, I have a question because I feel like this is the second time here recently that I’ve seen you mention a “newcomer to the Micro 4/3,” although I just did a quick search of your site and I have yet to uncover the first mention. Anyway, I’m curious and I wonder if you can say more?

  9. Seems to be great lens ! Steve, have you ever try the 14-150mm from Olympus ? If yes, is it a good value ?

  10. It is interesting that you hated the GF2 (I own a GF1 & a bunch of Panny Glass and love it)…I couldn’t agree more. After reading the specks on the GF2 I was soooooooooo disappointed. I had no desire to even see one. Panasonic brought the next generation of the GF1 in the opposite direction (toward the point-and-shoot crowd) than what I was hoping for…and didn’t improve image quality at all. The GH2 is more like it..but I am a still-only guy and am not dropping a grand on a Micro 4/3 body…
    Since I am so invested in Panasonic lenses…I think I will just wait a little while…I think in the next year Panasonic will up-the-ante with with a more affordable, faster & more accurately focusing offering with some real sensor improvement…that is more affordable. Maybe the G3 will have what it takes.

  11. It would be nice to see some shots using the GF1…:-)

  12. I really like how sharp this lens is, and the files are wonderfully contrasty.

  13. I just get it !! From Adorama this time, because your friends from B&H don;t ship to Hotels ! and i order from them more than 50.000 u$S in the last 10 years !

    Greg

  14. OK, so the 14 and 20 by Panasonic are great lenses. Question is, which body to use, GF1 or EP? Recommendations are welcome.

  15. Thanks for the great review. Have been debating about whether to pick this one up or not for my GH2 (already have the 20). You might have pushed me over!

  16. Gf1, i;m very happy with it ! the good thing about this format i you will be able to change body brands in the future !

    Greg

  17. Thanks for the review, would it be possible to make a side by side show with this lens and ricoh a12 28mm?

  18. I know native Panasonic m4/3 cameras do in-camera lens corrections, even to RAW files.

    while you gain in-body IS with Olympus m4/3 bodies, don’t you lose the lens corrections with Panasonic lenses? Can someone please confirm?

  19. panasonic has set a bar olympus has yet to meet,for awhile now it seems,

    i own 2 ep1s and 2 gf1s and my 201.7 is my ,hands down . best m43 lens [af that is ]

  20. Hi Steve,

    First off, great website. Thank you VERY MUCH for mantaining such great website w/ such valuable information. I’ve been following your website for over a year now. I even bought the Panasonic GF1 (w/ the 14-45 lens) because of your review (I almost brought the ‘bricks’ but glad I went w/ the M4/3). I’m looking to buy the pancake lens (14mm 2.5 / the 20mm 1.7), but having a very tough time deciding while one to use. The 14-45 lens that came w/ the kit is great, but for outdoors only IMO (I am an amateur photographer to be honest). I tried using it for indoor and had tons of problems w/ the aperature (just not enough). That’s why I’m shopping for a pancake lens for it (indoor use, and of course some outdoor too!), but again, having trouble deciding which one to buy. Any recommendations?
    thx

    • Thanks for the kind words! If you do not own the 20, I would go for that one first. GREAT lens and the best M4/3 option for indoor/low light. Set it to 1.7 and fire away! GREAT lens!

  21. Hi Steve,
    Very good job you do here.
    If I buy this 14 mm lens, would you think that it’s necessary to have the 20 mm? Or is it some sort of “over-buying”? My other lens is the 45-200mm.
    Regards

    • Well, they are close focal lengths. The 14 is wide, the 20 is not so wide (28 vs 40) – both are fantastic. Id get the 14 and the new 25 Summilux if I was starting fresh. Or if you have the funds, the Oly 12 and the 25 Lux.

      • Both (12 and 25) are much bigger lenses, and twice the price (twice and a half for the 12)…
        I need the equivalent 28 (14) and can’t afford the 12. Do I need the 20mm? In fact, it would be 20 or not 20 at all… (14, 20 and 45-200, or 14 and 45-200)

      • They aren’t close at all. A 28mm lens has a drastically different perspective than a 40mm.

  22. […] are some good points raised here: The Panasonic 14mm 2.5 Micro 4/3 Lens Review by Steve Huff | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS __________________ Don "Be kind… everyone you meet in life is fighting battles you […]

  23. Thanks for this wonderful photography website. I love the fact that it is not another technical / hardware website, and i enjoyed most of your writing.
    I would like to seek you view and advice between the Lux 25mm and Pan 20mm? Did you have a chance to play with them and do some comparison? Not the ultra technical test benches kind, but more a user experience kind of comparison. Which is easier to produce nice result for a beginner?
    You mentioned in one earlier post that if you were to start afresh you will go with the 14 and 25. Any particular reason for choosing the 25 over the 20?
    Hope to hear you opinion. Thanks.

    • The 25 has been getting rave after rave review. Its the newer lens and also has some Leica “design” behind it. It is also faster and a 50mm equivalent. Im expecting the 25 any day now.

  24. I enjoyed your reviews and articles very much and I bought PEN E-P3 weeks ago basically because of your recommendation.
    Now I own Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 from my old GF1 and Oly 45mm f/1.8 for my E-P3.
    Had read your reviews already but still having trouble choosing between Pan 14mm f/2.5 and Oly 12mm f/2.
    I know that Oly 12mm might be the superior one. However the prices difference between these 2 lens is $478 which is quite big to make you think twice.
    I need your opinion about which one to go will be a better move in a long term? Thanks!

  25. The Pan is an enough good lens for M4/3 relax !

    Greg

  26. […] Re: WTSell: Lens – Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS or 14 mm ASPH Micro Just think you might be interested to read the following reviews about the 14mm pancake lens : 43 Rumors | Blog | Double Panasonic 14mm review The Panasonic 14mm 2.5 Micro 4/3 Lens Review by Steve Huff | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS […]

  27. Thanks for the review and your great website.
    I recently got the 14mm for the GX1 and like it except that there’s a LOT of chromatic aberration. When I take pictures of trees against a cloudy sky half the branches are purple! It’s very noticeable. Do you have any idea whether this is to be expected or if it means something is going wrong?
    Thanks!

    • I do not think I experienced this during my time with the lens but most lenses do this, even the $11k Leica Noctilux. It’s a digital thing but some lenses control it well as it is usually the fast lenses that suffer from this. Maybe someone else can chime in because I do not remember having an issue with the one I tested.

  28. Thanks for the reply.
    Now that I’m looking for it to compare with the 14mm i notice purple and green fringes a bit with the Panasonic 20 mm and Olympus 9-18 but it’s so much more noticeable with the 14 that I wondered if it’s possible that this sort of thing varies from copy to copy of a lens or if it’s most likely just the way they’d all perform.

  29. Arizona? nice!

  30. great review. But i was wondering about these 14mm wide angles. Could it be used as an all purpose lens? I was thinking about purchasing either the Gf2 w/14mm, or the Nex c3 w/ 16mm. I want a compact camera for my kids photos , family events, etc. And in that case, would a 14 42 or 18 55 be more suitable for those situations or would 14mm be usable. Thanks!

    • Sure, but you will have a 28mm equivalent, which is considered a wide angle. Up to you and your style. I could use it as a daily lens, sure.

      • Thanks! But could you live with a wide angle as your only all purpose everyday lens? People speak of fringing, vignetting etc…i want a compact camera to take good pictures of my family. I’ve used a dslr before (Pentax K-X) but its too bulky. My hope is that the wide angle can be used all the time. But as unknowledgeable as I am about lenses, i’m not clear whether i could live with just a wide angle? Or do i need both?

  31. Hi,
    I just got an E-PM1 + 14mm f2.5 combo, and I love everything about it, except for one thing: the aperture blade rattle. Does yours do that?
    It annoys me enough to consider sending the E-PM1 back..

    • It is not the E-PM1 doing that it is the Lens. The 25 1.4 has this rattle on all Olympus bodies so it is not E-PM1 specific. Did it on my E-P3 as well.

    • Yes, many Panasonic lenses rattle like there’s no tomorrow on Olympus camera’s. Strange, since both companies are supposed to work together and some of the Panasonic lenses are very expensive.

  32. This lens is very cheap in China. You can get a brand new one for U$120.

  33. Was looking at buying one of these as they’re ridiculously cheap on E-Bay right now. Good to see you gave it high marks. I also see you enjoyed some OSF. I work at one here in Seattle =o]

  34. Wow! I LOVE the idea of using the Ricoh viewfinder with a 28mm lens (14mm I mean) on the Olympus EP cameras. Halves the cost of a viewfinder, and it’s optical as well. I’ve tended to use a 28mm as a standard for years anyway. Also this lens is much cheaper than the 20mm panasonic lens (in Uk anyway) which is currently going for about £300!!!! (oh I wish I had bought one when they were £200!!!) whereas the 14mm is going for just under £200.

    So now I’m getting near an affordable solution: the 14mm lens at £198, the ricoh vf at £105 and a second-hand e-p2 body, or a new EPL1 (they are going for £280). £580 as opposed to £1,000 for an E-P3 EVF2 and panasonic 20mm

  35. I am sure that most people have made up their mind by the time they get to the comments but I have recently fallen back in love with this lens when I decided to make it the only lens I would shoot for14 days. So small and light and it is about half the price of when Steve originally reviewed the lens.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickneeds/7464034660/sizes/n/in/photostream/

    • Mr. Nabruneau, the linked image looks awful. There’s some heavy digital grain from compression or editing and details are lost. Not a very good example if you ask me. Why post this?

  36. Hi Steve

    As you can get most of the “Olys” with a kit lens which includes 14mm(28mm) I would like to see a “Crazy Comporision” from :-)

    Best regards
    Wolfgang

  37. Steve, I am very new to photography and have just purchased the Panasonic GX1 with the 14-42 lens kit. What are your thoughts on getting the 14mm Pancake that you reviewed here along with my 14-42?

  38. Hi Steve

    Any intend on crazy comparision between Oly EP2 with 14mm f2.5 vs Ricoh GR vs Nikon A? Of course EP2 has great disadvantage on sensor size. In day to day shooting, would the EP2 combo still stand on its own in terms of IQ? Would be great to hear / see your view. I am considering the14mm f2.5, 17mm f2.8, 17mm f1.8 or even the 12mm f2 for the aging EP2. Worth to stick to EP2 with one of these lens or move to either GR or A?

    Thanks
    Lee

    • I do not own an EP2 or even a EP3 so I have no way to do that comparison. IMO, the EP5 or OM-D E-M5 would be the one to go for over either the A or the GR. Thanks

      Steve

  39. […] a “fixed focal guy” so I started with the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 and Oly 45mm f/1.8. Both lens are really good. The 45mm is just amazing … After reading you […]

  40. This article was really helpful to me. So if I go to Amazon from here it helps you keep this site up?

  41. hi, i currently a gf6 user, with me right now ,a lens kit Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm/F3.5-5.6 , so how would this 14 mm make any better than the lens kit?
    so which one is better the 20 mm or the 14 mm

  42. So I’m debating whether I really need a prime lens at this focal length in my bag. Along with my Olympus E-PL5, I already have a Panasonic 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens as well as the Panasonic Leica Summilux 25mm f1.4 and Olympus 45mm f1.8 primes. I also have the Oly 45-150mm f4-5.6 telephoto. Would this 14mm f2.5 lens make a real difference in my photos, or would I just be buying it to ‘fill out my kit?’

    I shoot a lot with the 25mm, and I don’t feel like I’m missing much. And if I want a 14mm focal length, I can just pop on the kit lens, and it’s decent. If I really want a wider shot, then I can always jump into Panorama Mode, right?

    • I think the only thing will improve is the overall size of your camera, as you probably know stop down the kit lens will give a very good image out of it, some time better then some cheap prime. So with size matter to you this will be a good lens for you, but getting better image then the lens you have which all great lenses, I don’t think will have big improvement. That only what I though, I’m sorry I you agree/like my opinion.

  43. This is a great lens, I’m considering to buy this, used lens on ebay the price is good. I do some research on internet many review said this is a rubbish lens is soft and so on. But i this in the real world situation it would really show the softness unless you always look at it at 100% crop or compare to those super sharp lens with the price of 10 times more then this. Thats why i like this review, it show the real world situation, how we will use this lens after read this and buy it. Daily use will be more then good enough. BTW i like the 28mm view just like the Ricoh GRD4 i had before. I sold it and sold my D700 with almost all my nikon lens except my 35mm f2 and 50 1.8d for my FM2. Then I bought my Panasonic GX7. Great camera with 20 1.7 version 2. Great walk around camera and lens but i miss my 28mm view. Also i like the 35mm view like the olympus 17 2.8 but the weakness of this lens is the focusing speed i don’t like, I love 35mm because my fuji x100 that I sold, also because of the focusing speed. I think the 20 1.7 is close enough for my use. Keep going!! I like your review!!! LIKE B&W

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