Mount: Micro Four Thirds | Construction: 6 elements in 5 groups, 7 diaphragm blades | Closest focus distance: 18cm | Filter thread: 46mm | Autofocus: stepping motor | Dimensions: 56 x 21mm, 55g | Tested on: Panasonic GX7
So-called pancake lenses have been around for more than a century and, while they're available for some SLRs, they've become particularly popular for compact system cameras. The 'flat' design with an ultra-short lens barrel is very much in keeping with the design philosophy of slimline mirrorless cameras.
Even so, this Panasonic 14mm lens takes pancake design to the extreme. It's a mere 21mm in length and a real featherweight at just 55g. To put that into perspective, Canon's 24mm f/1.4 DSLR is about 12 times heavier.
As you'd expect in such a small and lightweight lens, the construction is quite simple and there are only six elements, which is about half as many as in most competing lenses. Build quality feels pretty good however, with a metal mounting plate and sturdy plastic barrel. By necessity, the focus ring is very narrow but the fly-by-wire manual focusing mechanism works well, as does the fairly fast and silent autofocus system.
The 2x crop factor of Micro Four Thirds cameras means that this Panasonic 14mm lens is actually equivalent to a 28mm in full-frame terms. And despite its simple construction, the Panasonic shows really good sharpness, both at the centre of the frame and into the corners, throughout the aperture range. There's not much vignetting, even when shooting wide-open, and barrel distortion well controlled too. Overall, it's a cracking little lens that's also great value.
Sharpness: The sharpness chart provides an indication of lens performance across the focal range (for zoom lenses) and at different lens apertures.
One of the sharpest lenses of its type, the tiny Panasonic pancake lens is particularly impressive at its widest aperture.
Fringing: Colour fringing is very well controlled, almost to the same degree as in the Nikon and Samyang lenses in the group. Lower scores are better.
Better than average, the Panasonic gives less barrel distortion than most other lenses on test, apart from the Canon and Pentax. Negative values indicate barrel distortion, positive values indicate pincushion distortion, and figures closes to zero are best.
Verdict: It's a tiny and incredibly lightweight lens but performance is really excellent when it comes to image quality.