Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Panasonic's New 42.5mm Nocticron Priced and Dated... And It Is Bad.

Let's face it, everyone knew that the upcoming 42.5mm lens was going to be a disaster. Not a disaster in quality, but a disaster in price and availability. If Panasonic priced it well (under $1,000), they wouldn't have enough to fulfill demand for the next twenty-four months.

That was one possibility, but I never thought they would go that route. Panasonic is like the little kid that wants to play with the big kids, but doesn't quite get it. They don't realize that you need to have arms before you can swing the bat. As such, Panasonic, in their desire to be Canon or Nikon, has saddled their new lens with a truly absurd price.

Sixteen-hundred dollars. Sixteen-hundred. That makes it the most expensive piece of camera equipment that Panasonic makes, not counting pro-oriented gear.

As I mentioned in an earlier article about abandoning Micro 4/3, there are no excuses for these lens prices. In image terms, this lens is the equivalent of an 85mm f/2.4 lens on Full Frame. For less than one-quarter the price, one could buy the Canon 85mm f/1.8 and put it on a FF camera with three times the ISO performance at high-ISO and significantly better performance at low-ISO. Or go crazy! Splurge an extra $400 over the Panny and buy the Canon 85mm f/1.2 that will produce dreamscapes!

Or perhaps the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 for only $1,100. Or the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 for only $900.

And remember, the Panasonic is a crop lens. Meaning that to achieve similar results, one could buy the Canon 50mm f/1.2 and simply chop off the edges to achieve an 85mm field of view. This would cost the same, but the Canon lens has more glass in it. The Nikon 50mm f/1.2 only costs $1,200, though, so that would save you money.

As if to rub salt into Panasonic's self-inflicted wound, Fuji announced its own lens in the 85mm range, the 56mm f/1.2. It costs, shocker, $1,000. The Panasonic is the only lens among these that is stabilized, but when the most popular Micro 4/3 cameras are all sporting in-camera IS, this isn't much of a selling point, nor does it negate the price argument.

That is because the Panasonic lens is not on equal terms with these other lenses. It has less glass and less complex optics to achieve what it achieves. It is a cheaper lens. Panasonic asking the price that it is asking is pure greed.

It is especially greedy because I can all but guarantee that the distortion on the lens is off the bloody charts. Panasonic and Olympus have pioneered the act of producing crappy lenses, correcting in software, than trying to charge full price.

Maybe I'll be proven wrong. Maybe this lens will have amazing performance. Maybe it will be tack sharp wide-open, with minimal distortion. Maybe it will have beauitful bokeh and supreme resistance to flaring.

Or, more likely, it will follow what other Panasonic lenses do: provide good image quality for too much money. I was proven wrong by the Sigma 18-35mm, and I would love to be proven wrong again. I really, truly would. I'm sitting on a Panasonic GF1 that has seen very little action. I actively want to be proven wrong. I just doubt I will. And even if I were, the mere existence of the aforementioned Sigma 18-35mm lens makes any argument in favor of the Panasonic tenuous.

Perhaps Panasonic's decision would make a little more business sense if they had a lock on their lens system. The GH3 and GH2 are still very popular in videography circles, meaning that a fast lens would be valuable. But Panasonic has already been surpassed by Voitlander, Blackmagic, and SLRMagic. Panasonic does not have a monopoly and yet is trying to charge monopoly prices.

I'm sure that some executive somewhere at Panasonic is aware of these problems. I'm all but certain that their logic is to advertise inflated prices and then sell on discount. This keeps the impression of exclusivity and value. They did this with both of their X lenses. They are doing this in the hope that at some point in the future, their system will take off and they will then be able to actually charge these prices. This of course won't happen, but hope has that nasty habit of springing eternal.

Silent Spring, in Panasonic's case.

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