It's amazing how badly companies other than Apple manage their launches.
Panasonic has provided very little about the only lenses of theirs about which anyone cares. I have no idea why, since, again these are the only lenses about which anyone cares!! One would think that Panasonic would want to keep their customers abreast of these lenses with a 24-hour live Twitter feed. But no. Instead, they just bumbled around, vaguely hinting that they still remembered that they manufactured cameras.
Panasonic released teaser pictures last year, then hinted about their apertures, showed demo units, had a few guys hang around trade shows with blank expressions on their faces, and then... went silent for months. Now, out of the blue, DSLR magazine has released a review of the lenses. We didn't know anything about them up until now. No launch, no official pages, no nothing. Just suddenly, a review.
Sigh. Ah well, at least Panasonic finally managed to get the damned lens out. The review is excellent. The lens is super-compact and appears to be quite sharp. Contrast, as near as I can tell, is good. This is, without a doubt, the first world-class lens that Panasonic has produced.
Just the pictures give you an idea of how well-built it is. It's shiny, metal, and compact, and just oh so beautiful. Obviously, you are paying for this quality. It will be, far and away, the most expensive Micro 4/3 lens produced, at well over $1,000, and actually in the mid-range of 4/3 lenses, with only a few Olympus lenses costing much more. Truly, to step up, one would have to spend more than twice as much on the Olympus 14-35mm f/2.0. I'm not sure that I care that much about one more stop of exposure.
Importantly for pixel-peepers, this lens actually appears to outperform the Olympus 12-60mm 4/3 lens, which has been an absolute darling for the last seven years. That's enormous news. Those of us who bought into Micro 4/3 have been crying for an equivalent to this lens for THREE YEARS. Praise Allah, Panasonic has finally provided!
If Panasonic's GH3 doesn't disappoint, they are comin' on home. f/2.8 isn't quite fast enough to be my all-the-time lens, I'd want at least f/2.0 for that, but f/2.8 is damned close. This is the first Micro 4/3 product to get me excited, basically, since the GF1, and is everything that I ever wanted the 14-45mm to be.
UPDATE: A few hours later, DPReview posted a preview of this very lens. Their short time with the lens gave them a positive impression, and they also mention this as the first truly serious lens that Panasonic has produced.
Their test photos reveal a good lens. There are a few points, especially at 12mm, where contrast appears a bit down at f/2.8, but this could be a fluke. I'd consider this to be a minor quibble, since everything else appears to be very high-performing.
Moreover, these photos were apparently taken straight from the camera. And while the E-M5 has excellent JPEGs, the real test of the lenses capabilities will come with RAW images.
This lens will likely not replace my 20mm as my go-to, Micro 4/3 lens, nor my 25mm Leica/Panny as my second-in-command, but it's the only zoom thus far that is acceptable for most lighting environments. Unless the GH3 is a massive disappointment, I will almost undoubtedly buy this lens.