src="http://www.mirrorlessons.com/wp-content/themes/mirrorlessons Panasonic Lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 Review - MirrorLessons - The Best Mirrorless Camera Reviews
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12-60mm f/3.5-5.6

Date: 20/07/2016 | By: Heather

Panasonic Lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 Review

pana-leica-12mm-productshots-1

Panasonic Lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 Review

During my time with the Panasonic Leica 12mm f/1.4, I was also testing out the capabilities of very different lens from Panasonic, the new Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Power O.I.S. Both had become available to review at the exactly the same time which worked out well since I had two Micro Four Thirds cameras on which to use them, the Lumix GX85 and OM-D E-M1.

The Lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 (24-120mm equivalent in 35mm terms) is a standard zoom that is available for purchase on its own or in a kit with the Lumix GX8. It is the only Micro Four Thirds lens to feature this precise focal range, with its closest rival being the 4.5-year-old M.Zuiko 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 whose zoom and aperture ranges aren’t as wide. Given its versatility, it should prove a popular zoom for travel and casual “everyday” outings where all you want is one lens to cover your photographic needs.

Want to find out more? Then let’s keep reading!

Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH Power O.I.S
  • Mount: micro four thirds
  • Focal length: 12-60mm
  • Focal length (equiv. 35mm): 24-120mm
  • Maximum aperture: 3.5
  • Minimum aperture: 22
  • Number of aperture blades: 7 circular aperture blades
  • Angle of view: 84.05°(Wide) to 20.44°(Tele)
  • Closest focusing distance: 0.20m / 0.66ft (Wide), 0.25m / 0.82ft (Tele)
  • Lens configuration: 11 elements in 9 groups
  • Special elements: 3 aspherical lenses, 1 ED lens
  • Lens surface coating: –
  • Maximum image magnification: 0.27x / 0.54x (35mm camera equivalent)
  • Optical Image Stabilizer: Dual I.S. compatible
  • Dimensions: φ66.0mm
  • Filter diamater: φ58mm
  • Weight: 210g (excluding lens cap, lens rear cap, lens hood)

Design and Ease of Use

The key features of the 12-60mm include: 11 elements in 9 groups with 3 aspherical lenses and 1 ED lens, seven aperture blades, a high-speed stepping motor, dust and splash resistance, and built-in optical stabilisation (Power O.I.S.).

pana-leica-12mm-productshots-1

At only 210 grams in weight and 71mm in length from tip to mount, it is a very good fit for any Micro Four Thirds camera, be it one of the more pocketable models like the GF7 or a high-end video product like the GH4.

By extending the zoom to 60mm, the lens almost doubles in length. Since the lens is so light and doesn’t weigh down a camera the size of the E-M1 or GX85, I didn’t find lens creep to be an issue.

pana-leica-12mm-productshots-3

Besides the markings referring to the main focal lengths, the barrel of the lens is rather sparsely populated. There are two adjacent ribbed rings – one for “fly-by-wire” focusing and the other to manually zoom – and a removable petal-shaped lens hood. It features a 58mm filter thread and a minimum focus distance of 20cm at the widest end and 25cm at the longest.

pana-leica-12mm-productshots-2

I would have loved to see an AF/MF switch on the side of the barrel but since it is more likely to be used with autofocus, the choice to exclude it makes sense.


Through the lens: Optical quality

Since I was testing this lens at exactly the same time as the Pana-Leica 12mm, I admit that I was more acutely aware of how differently primes and kit zooms perform than I would have been were I testing the 12-60mm as a standalone product. (Don’t worry, my plan isn’t to compare them – that would be unjust!)

For a kit zoom, I believe the 12-60mm performs admirably well at nearly all apertures and focal lengths and more than fulfils its role as an all-purpose lens for travel and everyday photography.

lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6
E-M1, 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 200 – Lumix 12-60mm at 60mm
lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6
E-M1, 1/125, f/5.6, ISO 200 – 12-60mm at 47mm

At the widest focal length of 12mm, sharpness reaches its peak at f/5.6 but f/3.5 and f/4 perform in such a similar manner that it is hard to tell the three values apart. f/8 and f/11 aren’t as sharp due to diffraction but are still very usable. You can turn to f/16 in a pinch while f/22 should be avoided if possible.

lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6
E-M1, 1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 200 – Lumix 12-60mm at 12mm
lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6
E-M1, 0.4s, f/22, ISO 200 – 12-60mm at 33mm (Diffraction is very evident at this aperture.)

As for the longest focal length of 60mm, the overall sharpness decreases a little compared to the widest focal length. The sharpest value appears to be f/8 but the differences between f/5.6 (the fastest aperture at 60mm) and f/8 are minute. Any value beyond f/11 isn’t recommended due to diffraction.

lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6
GX85, 1/640, f/5.6, ISO 200 – Lumix 12-60mm at 60mm

Regardless of the focal length, the corners tend to be softer than the centre, though the differences are more perceivable at the widest angles. At 60mm, sharpness across the frame appears much more even.

You can see a full series of images taken at 12mm and 60mm at the main apertures here.

Distortion is very low and resistance to chromatic aberration is excellent. In fact, out of all my images, only one displayed visible purple fringing, which is the image of the two butterflies you see below. Very slight traces are visible along their eyes and antennae which I quickly removed in Lightroom.

lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6
E-M1, 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 200 – Lumix 12-60mm at 60mm
Before CA - 12-60mm
Before C.A. corrections
After CA - 12-60mm
After C.A. corrections

Vignetting is virtually non-existent as you can see from the images below.

I was also very impressed by the flare resistance of the lens. Despite the fact that it is nearly $1000 cheaper than the Pana-Leica 12mm, you can see in the comparative examples below that the 12-60mm controls flare much better than its high-end counterpart.

The worst example of flare I came across can be seen below. This example, shot into direct sunlight, reveals a couple of purple ghost flares but I was able to reduce their intensity by slightly adjusting my composition.

lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6
GX85, 1/640, f/8, ISO 200 – 12-60mm at 12mm
lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6
GX85, 1/500, f/8, ISO 200 – 12-60mm at 12mm

As for the bokeh, you’ll find that it is quite nervous at the wider angles even if you focus at the minimum focus distance. This is quite normal since we are dealing with a kit zoom with a fairly slow aperture range. When using the longer focal lengths and focusing close, the quality of the bokeh improves and can even appear quite pleasant with the right background.

panasonic 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6
E-M1, 1/3200, f/3.8, ISO 200 – 12-60mm at 17mm
panasonic 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6
GX85, 1/800, f/5, ISO 200 – 12-60mm at 28mm
panasonic 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6
E-M1, 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 200 – 12-60mm at 60mm

Autofocus, Manual Focus and Stabilisation

Like other Lumix lenses, it is difficult to fault the autofocus performance of the Lumix 12-60mm. In single AF, it is quick, accurate, silent and thus very discreet, especially when combined with the silent shutter of the GX85. The continuous autofocus is also effective for both stills and video, though I prefer to use the fly-by-wire focus ring for the latter as it is more precise.

The lens is also compatible with the Dual I.S. system of the GX8 and GX85. What this means is that the sensor and optical stabilisation work together to stabilise the image at slow shutter speeds.

We’ve tested the effectiveness of Dual I.S. numerous times with other lenses including the Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8 and Lumix 12-35mm f/2.8 (see our GX85 review for more information) and the performance of the 12-60mm is no different.

At the widest angles, it is possible to take in-focus shots down to 2 seconds with a few attempts if you are extremely steady, but realistically you wouldn’t want to use speeds slower than a half of a second. Obviously, the more you zoom in, the less the stabilisation will be able to compensate for your movements.


Conclusion

panasonic 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6
E-M1, 1/160, f/9, ISO 200 – 12-60mm at 17mm

As I mentioned above, the only competitor for the Lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 within the Micro Four Thirds range is the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3, and it benefits from a few advantages. First, it incorporates a sliding ring that lets you switch between the electronic and manual zoom mechanisms. Having an electronic zoom is useful for video because you can perform silent and smooth zooms without touching the focus ring. Second, it has two buttons on the barrel: one L-Fn button that stops the lens from autofocusing and a dedicated macro button. Finally, it is about $200 cheaper than the Lumix, but this is also due to the 4.5 year age gap between the two products.

panasonic 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6
E-M1, 1/200, f/11, ISO 200 – 12-60mm at 18mm

Still, with slightly more telephoto reach and a faster aperture range, the Lumix 12-60mm remains an appealing option for those in search of that one all-purpose standard zoom. As of today, there isn’t another kit lens with the same versatility and we can only hope that Panasonic will begin including it in other bundles besides just the GX8.

thumb-up What I like about the Lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6:

  • Stays faithful to the ethos of Micro Four Thirds with its light and compact build
  • Focal range is versatile for travel and general photography
  • Well-controlled distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration at all focal lengths and apertures
  • Flare resistance is excellent even in direct sunlight
  • Quick and silent autofocus in both S-AF and C-AF
  • Dust and splash resistance is an added bonus

thumb-down What I don’t like about the Lumix 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6:

  • The bokeh can be quite nervous. The only way to achieve an acceptable bokeh is to use the longest focal lengths and focus very close.
  • Price is a little high compared to the M.Zuiko 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 (about $200 more)



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About the author: Heather Broster

Heather Broster was born in Canada, has lived in Japan and Italy but currently calls Wales home. She is a full-time gear tester at MirrorLessons. You can follow her on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com/ Heather Broster

    It’s pretty similar, though Lumix lenses always perform a little better on Lumix bodies!

  • greg57

    Thanks for your review. Is its AF speed on the EM1 on par with… say, the AF with the 12-40? Is it snappy? Or slower than with the GX-85?

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com/ Heather Broster

    If I ever have them at the same time, I’ll definitely compare them!

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com/ Heather Broster

    It happens a lot at f/22 (not just this lens). I don’t usually go above f/11 for this reason! :)

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com/ Heather Broster

    I’d have to compare them side-by-side to know for sure but my guess is that the IQ is comparable. :)

  • Stephen Johnston

    Thanks for another good review. Could you compare the image quality of this 12-60 versus the Olympus 12-50 (which I have)?

  • Robert

    HI Heather,

    Thanks for these excellent reviews and info, your site focuses perfectly on the mirrorless products.

    I would also be very interested in a comparison between Pana’s 12-60 and 14-140. Due to the benefits of the “dual IS”, I believe that the 14-140 is the real competitor. Especially for video it would be interesting to see a test.

    Thanks in advance :-)

  • Marco Colombo

    Hi Heater, i own the double and little Lumix kit 12-32 3,5/5,6 + 35-100 4/5,6, that is quite good for travel, but sometimes the 12-32 that i use most the time is little short.
    In your opinion about the IQ can i consider the Lumix 12-60 equivalent or my current kit is better?

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com/ Heather Broster

    I would say that its performance is closer to that of the 14-42 but without having the three side-by-side, it is difficult to say. The real advantage of the 12-60 is the extra range in comparison to the 14-42. As for pure optical quality, there is no question that the 12-35 is superior to both these products.

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com/ Heather Broster

    Unfortunately I didn’t have the two lenses at the same time, so it is hard to say. I do recall the 14-140 II having a nicer bokeh but I think sharpness is about the same.

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com/ Heather Broster

    I agree that the 12-40 is a little large for the Pen F but the IQ is unbeatable – certainly in another category compared to the 12-60. However, as you said, you can always turn to the 17 and 25 if you need that extra quality, shallow depth of field or low-light performance.
    I should also mention that the 12-40 is a good semi-macro alternative. You can focus very close and achieve a lovely bokeh. So, if you do a lot of close-up photography, it might be preferable.
    Just to give you an idea of how the 12-40 looks on a smaller body, I’ve attached a photo of it on the GX85, which is a bit smaller than the Pen F.

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com/ Heather Broster

    The image of the waterfall was taken at f/22 which is very soft due to diffraction. I posted it to show why I consider it an unusable aperture.

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com/ Heather Broster

    If this is a topic that really interests people, I can try and get both in at the same time!

  • Turbofrog

    It’s 0.4s, so I’m wondering if it might actually be a handheld shot. Still, it looks like the focus is off.

  • AllgoodinNYC

    Hi Heather, I appreciate your reviews and love the butterflies pictures!

    As a general purpose lens or for travel photography which one would you recommend between:
    1) the new Panasonic 12-60 3.5-5.6 and
    2) the Olympus 12-40 2.8 ?

    I afraid that with the small PEN-F camera I use the 12-40 might be a little bit bulky and can defeat the purpose of the M4/3; ie the Fujifilm 18-55 for example as a general purpose lens is smaller lighter and XT-2 sensor better.

    Also I already have fast 17mm and 25mm primes if small aperture is needed.
    Besides, I don’t think the 40-60mm range is a big deal to me as most of my pictures are made between 12-35mm.

    I don’t really know how to choose. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on that :)

  • Taylor

    I’m also interested in comparison between these two lenses in general and especially for video.

  • brian taylor

    This is helpful. I had been wondering where the 12-60 stands, optically, between the 14-42 ASPH kit lens I’m using and the 12-35 f2.8. Centre sharpness looks pretty good (?), so the ‘nervous’ bokeh seems to be its key limitation. Since I’ve found the bokeh on the quite highly rated 14-42 better than expected, I’m not sure whether, apart from the increased range and weather proofing, this would be a step up?

  • BigBiskrem

    Hello Heater. Between 14 and 60, how it compares with the 14-140 II ?

  • jimkahnw

    I have the 12-60 that I use on my OMD EM1. I’m a Nikon refugee and used a Nikkor 16-85 almost exclusively. This is my favorite zoom range. I have to concur with Heather’s evaluation of the lens; I’m surprised how good it is. Though I wonder why the waterfall image seems so soft–did she miss the focus, a little shake, was the IS not turned off? Four-thirds users should be aware that Nikon has a 16-80 f/2.8-4 that it pairs with the new D500. I wonder if Olympus will build a pro-series lens in this range. I would buy one.

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