Panasonic 7-14mm; what do you think?

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  • crisotunity 12 Apr 2011 15:01:40 149 posts
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    I have found a very good, only slightly used Pana 7-14mm (m43) for £750.
    - any first hand impressions? The lens has reviewed very well, but damn it's expensive and it would be encouraging to hear some positive things from people who have used it on the field (I am not into photographing brick walls and cropping them 100%...)
    - is it seriously (ie, £300) better than the Olympus 9-18; again, very grateful if you have comments from real life experience rather than studio tests.
    - I'm going to Costa Rica in September and I have put some money aside for a second body to complement my GH2 (especially in the more challenging rainy conditions). I could get a (used) 40D and a (used) 70-300mm for the price of the 7-14. Has anyone used a GH1 or GH2 in difficult conditions (rain, safari, snow)? Can I get away with it?
  • henro_ben 12 Apr 2011 15:16:49 2,211 posts
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    Do you really need something that wide? 7-14mm would be the 35mm equivialent of 14-28mm, that's pretty damn wide. Unless you're seriously into landscapes I'd have thought the 9-18mm would be plenty wide enough?

    I've got a 40D & a GF1, and personally I'd trust the build quality & weather proofing on the 40D far more than the GF1.

    On the other hand a 40D with a 70-300mm lens is going to be much bigger and heavier to carry around than the GH2 you're used to.

    I'd also rate the 40D as an upgrade to a GH2 rather than a second body myself...
  • kalel 12 Apr 2011 15:18:57 86,417 posts
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    What kind of 35mm equivalent length is that on a GH1/2?

    I have no experience of that camera or lens, but you should know that ultra-wide lenses (assuming thatís what it is, as thatís what it sound like) are really highly specialised lenses and very difficult to use well. They are not really landscape lenses. Iíd borrow one or try one out if you can as they are great fun, but quite odd and not something youíd buy on a whim.

    Iíd have personally thought a smaller lighter camera would have been better for ďdifficult conditionsĒ for what itís worth.
  • henro_ben 12 Apr 2011 15:22:32 2,211 posts
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    kalel wrote:
    ...but you should know that ultra-wide lenses (assuming thatís what it is, as thatís what it sound like) are really highly specialised lenses and very difficult to use well. They are not really landscape lenses.

    Which is obviously why so many landscape photographers use them... ;-)
  • kalel 12 Apr 2011 15:25:22 86,417 posts
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    henro_ben wrote:
    kalel wrote:
    ...but you should know that ultra-wide lenses (assuming thatís what it is, as thatís what it sound like) are really highly specialised lenses and very difficult to use well. They are not really landscape lenses.

    Which is obviously why so many landscape photographers use them... ;-)

    The pros I've spoken to say they tend not to use them, as they are too wide and do funny things with lines, and also you tend not to be able to use filters with them for various reasons. It's not a hard and fast rule though i'm sure, but whenever I look at mags with landscape shots they rarely use ultrawides. If anything they seem to be mostly used for portraits.
  • crisotunity 12 Apr 2011 15:40:54 149 posts
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    @henro: because of the 50% cropped sensor, going really wide on m43 is a bit of a challenge and you have to pay a premium. I'm just not sure how much this premium should be (the 7-14 retails for around £1,050 over here, so £750 is a bargain by comparison). Thank you for your comments re the 40D: do you think £420 would be a fair price? I think that the GH2 is superb but the poor, poor battery life and lack of weather sealing make me want to turn to my comfort blanket (Canon).

    @kalel: I realise that Ultra-wides need re-learning composing skills. This is part of why I've always wanted one and I just bumped into this -relative- bargain.

    But -rationally- the 9-18 would be a more cost-effective compromise, especially while learning the ultra-wide techniques. Or I could blow the whole budget on the 7-14 and end up using cling film as a GH weather seal :-)
  • henro_ben 12 Apr 2011 15:41:23 2,211 posts
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    kalel wrote:

    The pros I've spoken to say they tend not to use them, as they are too wide and do funny things with lines, and also you tend not to be able to use filters with them for various reasons. It's not a hard and fast rule though i'm sure, but whenever I look at mags with landscape shots they rarely use ultrawides. If anything they seem to be mostly used for portraits.

    Anything wider than 25mm is classed as ultra wide on a full frame camera & anything wider than 15mm for a cropped sensor camera.

    They're used more often than you might think for landscapes.
  • henro_ben 12 Apr 2011 15:46:12 2,211 posts
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    crisotunity wrote:
    hank you for your comments re the 40D: do you think £420 would be a fair price? I think that the GH2 is superb but the poor, poor battery life and lack of weather sealing make me want to turn to my comfort blanket (Canon).


    I'd say £400 ish is a reasonable price for a lightly used 40D - do you get any extras with it? Spare battery etc...

    Battery life is awesome with the 40D - although if you use live view a lot it'll run the battery down quicker. Remember that the 40D isn't fully weather sealed, although I've used mine in the rain & heavy spray near the sea and never had any problems... yet ;-)
  • kalel 12 Apr 2011 15:48:26 86,417 posts
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    henro_ben wrote:
    kalel wrote:

    The pros I've spoken to say they tend not to use them, as they are too wide and do funny things with lines, and also you tend not to be able to use filters with them for various reasons. It's not a hard and fast rule though i'm sure, but whenever I look at mags with landscape shots they rarely use ultrawides. If anything they seem to be mostly used for portraits.

    Anything wider than 25mm is classed as ultra wide on a full frame camera & anything wider than 15mm for a cropped sensor camera.

    They're used more often than you might think for landscapes.

    Iím sure they are frequently used for landscapes; thatís not really my point.

    The general perception is that wide = landscapes, but there does come a point where theyíre so wide they stop being as useful for them as you might think. As I say, I think if anything theyíre more commonly used for portraits, which goes totally against the perception most have.
  • crisotunity 12 Apr 2011 15:51:12 149 posts
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    Ultrawides for portraits are a no-no due to distortion.
    Landscapes must be framed very carefully, otherwise there is simply too much going on in the frame. I can see why gardens would make excellent objects (nice mix of clean lines and key features like fountains and flower-beds on which the eye can focus). Same for architecture and interiors.
  • crisotunity 12 Apr 2011 16:01:27 149 posts
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    @henro: £420 with no extras - just boxed and body-only. I need to find out how many actuations it's got. A friend of mine bought a D300 with 1,700 shutter actuations: I'd call that a "new camera"!
    The GH2 can do all the EVF/Live-View and video stuff (it is a joy to use), so the 40D would only have one role in life: play nice with (probably) a Canon 70-200 L (the cheap non-stabilised version) and track birds and monkeys in places where the GH2 might not be as strong (under heavy canopy or in the rain; or when the sodding battery dies).
    I will check out the hardware in the next couple of days, so I will try to take a rational decision soon.
  • kalel 12 Apr 2011 16:01:31 86,417 posts
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    crisotunity wrote:
    Ultrawides for portraits are a no-no due to distortion.
    Landscapes must be framed very carefully, otherwise there is simply too much going on in the frame. I can see why gardens would make excellent objects (nice mix of clean lines and key features like fountains and flower-beds on which the eye can focus). Same for architecture and interiors.

    Ultrawide portraits aren't a no no. Put your subject right in the middle and get in close, and you get a cool effect like this.

    They can work for any type of shot I think but it's so hard to get it right. The vast majority of ultrawide shots I've seen have either too little or too much going on in them, and that's doubly the case for landscapes. The easiest shot I think is some sort of corridor or something like that. That's always a nice easy win.

    Funnily enough my vow for this week was to get to grips a bit more with my 14mm. Got a pretty old one for a good price a while back, but never really made good friends with it.
  • henro_ben 12 Apr 2011 16:03:50 2,211 posts
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    kalel wrote:

    Iím sure they are frequently used for landscapes; thatís not really my point.

    The general perception is that wide = landscapes, but there does come a point where theyíre so wide they stop being as useful for them as you might think. As I say, I think if anything theyíre more commonly used for portraits, which goes totally against the perception most have.

    Umm... that is the point, surely.

    They're frequently used for landscapes - hence people tend to associate them with... landscapes!

    Just as 50 - 85mm tends to be assumed to be a portrait lenses and 300mm+ tends to be assumed to be wildlife/sports lenses, just because they're often used for those things.
  • kalel 12 Apr 2011 16:07:13 86,417 posts
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    Did you not read past the first sentence of my post?
  • henro_ben 12 Apr 2011 16:11:13 2,211 posts
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    kalel wrote:
    Did you not read past the first sentence of my post?

    Ummm... I'm having trouble grasping exactly what your point is to be honest.

    Your example of ultra wide angle portrait photography - isn't actually ultra wide angle by the way. The Olympus E5 is a 4/3rds camera - so 14mm would actually be 28mm would it not?

    Or have I missed something?
  • crisotunity 12 Apr 2011 16:17:19 149 posts
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    @henro: yes, kalel's example is a from a 28mm equivalent FOV. Certainly not an ultra-wide perspective. UW can be used in portraits, but will distort like hell - usually not a very flattering distortion.

  • kalel 12 Apr 2011 16:23:48 86,417 posts
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    henro_ben wrote:
    kalel wrote:
    Did you not read past the first sentence of my post?

    Ummm... I'm having trouble grasping exactly what your point is to be honest.

    Your example of ultra wide angle portrait photography - isn't actually ultra wide angle by the way. The Olympus E5 is a 4/3rds camera - so 14mm would actually be 28mm would it not?

    Or have I missed something?

    Sorry, for the confusion, Iíll try again.

    The general principle is that the wider the angle, the more picture you can get in, therefore wide-angle lenses are good for landscapes.

    There is therefore a perception that the main purpose of ultra-wide angle lenses are for landscapes. Some might even think they are the best lenses you can get for landscapes. This however is not the case due to aforementioned distortion, not to mention the difficulties youíll have with filters, which are an essential tool for most landscape photographers.

    However, I do accept that despite that, there probably are many landscape photographers who make good use of them (as do many make good use of 100mm+ lenses incidentally), however, what Iím saying is that is not strictly what they are for.

    As for my example, which I hastily tracked down and didn't realise wasn't as wide as I originally thought, I was just trying to demonstrate you can use them for portraits, and I think you still kinda get the idea. I have seen many similar shots taken with ultrawides which have a very cool effect.
  • henro_ben 12 Apr 2011 16:50:58 2,211 posts
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    kalel wrote:

    Sorry, for the confusion, Iíll try again.

    The general principle is that the wider the angle, the more picture you can get in, therefore wide-angle lenses are good for landscapes.

    There is therefore a perception that the main purpose of ultra-wide angle lenses are for landscapes. Some might even think they are the best lenses you can get for landscapes. This however is not the case due to aforementioned distortion, not to mention the difficulties youíll have with filters, which are an essential tool for most landscape photographers.

    However, I do accept that despite that, there probably are many landscape photographers who make good use of them (as do many make good use of 100mm+ lenses incidentally), however, what Iím saying is that is not strictly what they are for.

    As for my example, which I hastily tracked down and didn't realise wasn't as wide as I originally thought, I was just trying to demonstrate you can use them for portraits, and I think you still kinda get the idea. I have seen many similar shots taken with ultrawides which have a very cool effect.

    I still don't really understand what your point is though.

    You seem to be angry that because lots of people use an ultra wide angle lens to take landscape shots, people now think of them as the only lens for taking landscapes?

    With regards to using it as a portrait lens, yeah, sure you can get some very striking shots with them. For me however they remind me very much of the portraits taken using fish eye lenses that were popular a few years ago. Very strong, very striking, but ultimately quite a niche look.

    Ultimately you can use whatever lens you want for landscapes. Personally I like wide angle and ultra wide angle, they're a bitch to compose with and you have to get in close but I like the sense of scale and drama they can capture. Each to their own & all that though.

    With regards to filters - you should only have issues with a polarizer on ultra wides, everything else should be fine. Personally I don't find polarizers a huge amount of use for landscapes - polarized light isn't as much of an issue at dawn/dusk due to the angle of the sun.

    Edit - appologies if I've missed something blindingly obvious in your arguement - it's been a long day today!
  • kalel 12 Apr 2011 17:18:27 86,417 posts
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    Iím not angry about anything. Iím just saying itís an incorrect perception that ultra-wides are specifically for landscapes. Iím not denying you can use them, but equally you can use telephoto or whatever.

    I just think thereís a danger in getting one for landscapes and then discovering that it might not be quite you expected, but cristounity seems to know what heís dealing with. Just trying to be helpful, as I say, theyíre a specialist lens and hard ot use well.

    As for filters, a lot of them have bulbous lenses, which presents all sorts of issues. The Nikon 14-24mm (which is basically the only Nikon ultra-wide you can get) is like that, and doesnít have filter threads, and doesnít fit LEE or Cokin holders either. The only way you can use filters is my cutting up gels and sliding them in the back. So again, that lens is clearly not designed for landscape usage by that regard.
  • ram 12 Apr 2011 17:48:53 3,471 posts
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    What a strange conversation.

    That 7-14mm doesn't accept filters btw
  • crisotunity 12 Apr 2011 18:33:05 149 posts
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    @ram: yes, it has a built-in hood; which is good for protection, but it also means that any damage to the plastic will cost you a lot more to put right.
    It is a tempting lens at a wallet-busting price!
  • Tonka 12 Apr 2011 18:50:16 20,025 posts
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    Is it this one http://panasonic.net/avc/lumix/systemcamera/gms/lens/g_vario_7_14.html
    If so, BUY IT. It looks great!

    Buy it and take loads of pictures and show them to us.


    DO IT!

    If you can read this you really need to fiddle with your forum settings.

  • crisotunity 13 Apr 2011 15:13:11 149 posts
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    @Tonka: yes, that's the baby.
    I tried it, loved it and... chickened out.
    It is a truly luxury lens in good ways and bad: it is as pin sharp as everyone says at f4; demon-fast and accurate focusing on the GH2; beautiful construction (even more robust than the "old" 14-45, and totally unlike my sub-Duplo-quality 100-300); you even get very pretty bokeh.
    But it is a decidedly niche lens that has to be used with descretion, or else it's going to produce one visual cliche after another. For m43 users, it is definitely worth getting over the Olympus 9-18. I'll probably save up and treat myself to one for Christmas :-)
  • Deleted user 13 April 2011 18:02:58
    Expensive lens! It makes me feel less bad about eyeing the super sharp and super expensive Nikkor 24-70/2.8...
  • Jeepers 13 Apr 2011 18:35:15 13,173 posts
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    valli wrote:
    Expensive lens! It makes me feel less bad about eyeing the super sharp and super expensive Nikkor 24-70/2.8...

    :D

    I recently abandoned that dream and went with the 35mm and 85mm f/1.8. What it lacks in versatility it makes up in "cash still in pocket" girlfriend Brownie points.
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