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Wednesday, 07 November 2018


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While we are all looking for advice how to become better photographers and, yes, learn about useful gear we hadn'd thought we need, it's articles like this (and the one about those fog stripes) that make me come here every day, Mike.
Every day.

While you're at it, Panasonic, please, please . . . fix the distortion.

Dear Panosonic,

What Mike just said.

Thank you.


I own the first version of this lens and I love it. I love that it exists and that it's a good lens too. It's a major reason for me to own and use MFT cameras.

And sure, it doesn't exactly focus fast, but I don't really notice that so much. Hardly bothers me. What does bother me is that focus accuracy, and by extension I assume, the tendency to hunt for focus is pretty damn crappy in low light.

Another thing that I dislike is how the focus mechanism moves the whole lens assembly (is that the correct technical word?). It makes me worry that I'll accidentally block movement and that it'll damage the focus motor. Hasn't yet happened over six years, but the fear persists, despite my lens having taken a couple of tumbles that didn't hurt its performance at all.

I would like to see the above mentioned things rectified. It would have been nice to see the banding issues with this lens and the 16MP Sony sensors rectified as well, but I guess that problem becomes less and less relevant as time goes by and not rectifying it eventually made (well, contributed to) me buying a Panasonic camera. Turns out that the lens is even nicer on a Panasonic camera too.

That said, I'm a very potential customer for this Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 III ASPH.

Amen, brother. The first version of that lens has been welded onto my GX-1 since I bought it and, with a 35mm optical finder in the hot shoe, has been my go-to camera for shaphots ever since. This despite the fact that I also have a Leica Q. ... and while you’re at it, Panasonic, how about an updated GX-1? The GX-8 and -9 (great as they are) are much bigger machines and have lost the simplicity of the GX-1.

A Mk1 owner (acting on your recommendation, way back ...)

Sadly, I'm not confident that there is any way for them to significantly improve the AF speed without completely redesigning the lens and all its optics.

Like most pancake lenses, the 20mm/1.7 is a unit-focusing lens. That means that its all its optical elements move back and forth to focus. This is a lot like old manual focus Tessars and the like where the focusing helical just moves the entire optical assembly as a block.

This means that there is (in relative terms) a lot of mass to move back and forth. While it's only 90g, that's still a lot more than the single lens element that gets moved in a lot of the ultra-speedy AF modern lenses, even those big, fast zooms.

I'm not an optical engineer, but this style of lens design seems to be the norm for all moderately fast, normal-angle pancake lenses that have focal lengths close to the camera's flange distance.

Panasonic 20mm/f1.7 - slow AF
Samsung 30mm/f2 - slow AF
Fuji 27/f2.8 - slow AF
Canon 40mm/f2.8 - slow AF

That said, Panasonic might be able to get around it by giving it a much bigger, beefier AF motor and just overpowering the system. You could expect cost and size and weight to increase commensurately, but at least you could keep that wonderful, cherry optical design the same.

All this said, I love my 20mm/1.7. On my GX7, I don't even find the autofocus to be very slow. Have you tried using the "Quick AF" setting in the menus, and trying to focus by selecting a high-contrast edge with the touchscreen? By doing that, I find that the camera will have already confirmed focus by the time I'm able to press the shutter - fast enough for me!

Mike, that message to Panasonic was a teensy little bit too namby pamby. And it took FOREVER to get to the point. I hope they take it as a bit of humor, which is what I assume you intended. Hopefully they'll be willing to read ALL THE WAY to the end, let alone fix the problem with the lens!

If Panasonic makes this lens focus faster, weatherproof, and with optical image stabilization, it very likely will not be as small, light compact and "thin" as it is now. In fact, it may no longer be a "pancake". Faster AF motors, weather resistance, and optical image stabilization require bigger, heavier, bulkier lenses.

One of the reasons the 12-35 f/2.8 is a big, heavy, and "bulky" as it is, is because of the AF motor, OIS and weather sealing. All those extra parts and subassemblies have to go somewhere. Crossing over to Fujifilm X for a moment, one of the reasons that they did not add OIS to their pro standard zoom, the 16-55 f/2.8, is that it would have maade the lens even larger and heavier than it is now*, and it is not a particularly light and compact APS-C lens, already.

(* – The 16-55 f/2.8 is shown on the right on your X-T1, next to the light & compact 18-55. Would you or other folks want the 16-55 to be even bigger than it is now? Tough question; Fujifilm decided the answer was no.

So, its all going to come down to what you want most: small, light, compact and flat? Or, larger, bulkier, heavier and longer?

You'll have to decide...because there is no free lunch in engineering.

Happy you mentioned cost. Seems the "best" normal lenses are near $1000.00usd (or over). No need for another one of those.

Well said! The same goes for the fuji xf27mm ...

I wholeheartedly agree. It’s a wonderful lens hampered only by its slow AF response.

I LIVE this lens. It's on my trusty OLD GF1. They both work GREAT.... with the GF1 set on B&W high contrast (whatever the setting is... it has not been changed for years)

If not Panasonic, someone, make a weather resistant, small, optically excellent 35-40mm equivalent lens for Micro Four Thirds. Make a pair of lenses, a weather resistant 15mm 1.7 and a 20mm 1.7. It would be nice to have a 35mm 1.7 weather resistant lens also. Fuji has three excellent lenses like this and I keep a Fuji camera just to use those lenses.

Initially I did hesitate to write my comment to your very nicely written loveletter to Panasonic,- but we are mature persons, aren't we?
I will never understand, why people value this lens so much, are they so drunken of the (e)40mm focal length and its fast aperture?
I would be glad to value this lens as well, BUT I got so many pictures with this lens showing very unpleasant Bokeh, the more off-center the worst. The OOF areas very often show onion rings, double-lines, busy structures. Though not very heavy but far away from looking pleasant.
If you compare the quality (not quantity!)of its Bokeh with the wonderfull Panasonic 42.5 mm one, it's like day and night.

Try the Panasonic Leica 15mm - it encompasses everything great about the 20mm but in a faster-focusing package. Sure, its a little wider field of view and slightly larger lens, but it has character in spades and really sings on a GX8...

Here, here!!

+1 on that, Mike! I love my v.1 lens, would upgrade in a heartbeat for better AF. Such a sweet lens, just slow. Such a nice size, sad there are so few pancake lenses around (O.T., a la Mike, speaking of pancakes, I see Trader Joes is featuring cauliflower pancakes !!!)

Do lens makers they think pancakes lenses don't look like value, that we all need big suckers like Otus et al? Sort of like m43 and APS-C should be mini-priced because real men use FF?

I thought the reason it's slow is that too much of the glass has to move while it's focussing. So in order to speed up the AF, they'd have to redesign the glass.

A thousand times yes.
I want a 20mm, I went so far as to rent one, but just- no.

You tell em. I leave a Panny 14mm 2.5 on my E-P5 because? Because it focuses fast and is small like the 20. The problem? Hey it's a 28! Too wide for general purpose. Now if that 20 could focus as fast? I would be first in line.

I never noticed slow auto-focus on my Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 (first version). I got it out just now and tried it on my Panasonic GX85. It focused fast, on a variety of targets around my living room. Could focus speed be dependent on which body you use?

Dear Panasonic, please do as Mr Johnston asks for he knows about which he speaks. And I agree with him.I will buy one if when you release it. Promise.

While you're at it, please improve the reliability of geotracking on your iOS app. And add a Shortcut for toggling turning on the tracking.

Sold my 20 1 as it was soooooooooooo slow to focus even though it is almost a true normal, tiny and renders beautifully.

I use the Olympus 17/1.7 instead. It focuses well but I do miss that 20.

For me keep it small ...make it quick and I am in.

Yes. I so agree with you. The point about weathersealed lenses is very important to me. I work in the rain and mist whenever I can. I think this should also apply to 25mm f1.4 too. This same advice should be headed by Olympus too. For me the system is about small, light, rugged and weathersealed. Celebrating the compact nature with upgrading thier beautiful small lenses would be appreciated by me.

Make that two votes. Every time I go to use it, I remember how slow it is, and how good it could be. Sigh.


Are you tech-savvy enough (I'm not) to tell us what kinds of things Panasonic would have to do to the lens to make it focus faster? If there would be any tradeoff at all in image quality, I wouldn't replace the copy I've got. I had a 1st-gen version (used on a G1), sold it, regretted it, and bought a 2nd-gen version to use on my GM5. It is indeed slow to focus in low light, but it always gets there eventually, and I love everything about the resulting images.


I was just thinking the same thing, although with far fewer words. \;~)>

Also, less banding. I've only run into it a couple of times pulling up deep shadows at high ISO, but it would be nice to have none.

I have one. Like the portability and sharpness but hate the focus speed. I found out that I can speed up tiny little of the focus speed by locking the exposure first but not always work.

Yes. If pana can improve the focus speed yet maintain the size and optic quality, it would be super super pancake.

I liked the convenience of the Oly 12-40 Pro on my OMD M-5, but you, You, YOU kept writing about how 40mm fit your sensibilities so well. So, I picked up the Lumix 20mm 1.7 and gave it a go. It took some getting used to, but now it lives on one body. Even if the other body has the 12-40, I try the 20 first. The focus is slow, but I don't care. It slows me down; gives me a chance to frame what's in front of me. I can see why anybody would want faster focusing, but I won't be upgrading to a MKIII.

I can relate, as I owned the first version, and sold it as soon as I acquired the faster-focusing Olympus 17mm f/1.8.

One thing that really struck me from your photo: one part of the cosmetic redesign of the version II is that they made the plastic surrounding the lens elements very glossy and reflective. This has the effect of making the small front lens element look larger, something that may help attract buyers who usually look for large hunks of glass in zoom lens, but I have to suspect could add some undesirable flare in some situations! The optical performance of the lens may have been compromised slightly due to its cosmetic redesign.

The problem with focus speed is that the lens is designed the old way, with the whole lens barrel moving when focusing. The barrel is relatively heavy so focusing is slow.
Faster focusing requires internal focusing, but this would require an optical redesign.

My copy of the lens has another problem: I often mount a lens hood. The hood adds weight to the moving part and it looks like the focusing motor does not like it: I sometimes get completely out of focus images, even for landscapes that require focusing at infinity.
I mainly shoot landscapes so focusing speed is not a problem, having out of focus images is another matter.

A manual focus clutch like the Olympus 17mm has would be a great option for a v3 20mm. The Panasonic definitely has more magic rendering than the Olympus. When "coat pocket size" was the norm for M43 bodies, the Pany 20's form factor made it the perfect compliment to a GM1 or E-PM1. If you're carrying a GM5 or EM1.whatever, the 20 isn't that much smaller than the Panasonic 15 or Oly 17. The Oly 17's usability (both autofocus speed and manual/zone focus) makes it the better walk around lens for me. MF clutches are like drugs...one hit and you'll be hooked for life!

After the extended loan of v1 to my traveling niece turned into a gift, I thought I wasn’t going to buy a new one since the autofocus was so slow. But I missed it so much, that I did. I recently even bought a Panasonic GX9 for that lens, since it behaves somewhat better on that camera than on my Pen-F. The GX9 with 20 mark II is my favorite go everywhere setup. Better autofocus would still be very welcome though!

Well written and even “Weller” said. You are a funny man and even funnier writer. Keep up the great and greater work. Mike.

I totally agree Mike - I have the Mk1 20mm that I bought with my GF1 and is now pretty much permanently attached to my gx80/85. It's a lovely, compact and crisp lens but the AF is a bit lethargic. However it still worked well enough - even in video - for me to make this film featuring one of street art friends ... (shot close to wide open with back-button AF, with a variable ND to control exposure) https://vimeo.com/272940371

This would have been one of my staple lenses...but on an e-m1 there would be no way to shoot subjects that moved. Even still subjects the lens took forever to focus on. It just felt like there was a delay in operation. Shame since it is one of the best m43 lenses in terms of look. And perfect size. It makes no sense. Panasonic’s other lenses don’t even respond like that. I’ve always wondered why the 20 was so dreadfully slow.

I understand it's even slower on Olympus cameras. The AF speed is the only reason I haven't bought this lens. While there upgrading to version III, might as well add the focus clutch mechanism similar to the Olympus 17 f1.8.

The panasonic 20 is one of my favorite lenses. It has taken up a position of permanence on my GX7 (my other m43 lenses take turns on my GX8) and that combination is probably responsible for well over 50% of all the photos that I shoot. The slow (and sometimes uncertain) focusing is usually not an issue for me and the weatherproofing is also less important for me (since the GX7 is not weather sealed), but if they do update the lens...

Please add a (small, metal) fixed lens hood, with a more substantial cap to fit over it. (I know that this might make using filters more difficult, but whatevs).

And while we're wishing - how about updating the PL 25 to the more robust form of the more recent PL lenses (and make it weather proof). As with the P20, no need to update the optics.

These, and a big red, india-rubber ball are all I want for the holidays.

I am under the impression that you might afraid that if they redesign the 20mm they'll come out with a 16 lens element, f/0.95, ED APO ASPH lens with its own tripod collar.

I have both of the Panasonic pancake lenses: 14mm and 20mm. Why can't Panasonic get their similarly priced and sized 20mm to focus as quickly as their 14mm? And why can't Panasonic get their 14mm to take as pretty of pictures as their 20mm? The 14mm is OK, but it's not magic like the 20mm.

Because I favor a sharp, compact, moderately fast lens with a field of view that approximates the human eye, I bought a Lumix 20mm f/1.7 Mark II lens, which has been very pleasing, for my two GX8 cameras, but I have rarely used it. Instead I generally use my Panasonic Leica 12-60 zoom lens which is sharp, weatherproof, dust proof, acceptably compact, and focuses quickly and accurately. Now, after reading your letter and the comments, I think I’ll use the 20mm lens more often, especially for walking about, because a GX8 fitted with the 20mm is pocketable, though just barely, unlike the PL zoom. Both lenses yield fine images. For me a great benefit of the Micro Four Thirds System is the compactness, lightweight, and high quality of the lenses in my kit, including the Panasonic Leica 100-400.

I used this Panny lens for a couple of years with my OMD-EM5 and EM10 bodies and finally gave it up due to the significant purple fringing it produces. Went to the Olympus 17 1.8 and that is now by far the best normal lens I've ever owned - small, fast focusing, great colors, better focusing in low light, and no purple fringing.

I love the lens. I bought the 12-32 mm Panny but never use it because I am always disappointed by the IQ in comparison to the 20mm. It's the default lens on my GX7.

I full heartedly agree. Even though with modern Lumix cameras Panasonic 20mm pancake focuses faster than with originally bought GF1, the faster focusing mechanism will make it even more useful. Nonetheless, 20mm is still my default on-camera lens.

I am enjoying 20mm since GF1. Recently I come by version 2 for such a good price that I took it home too. Honestly speaking, I have no issues with its focusing speed nor I am missing it is not being weatherproof. I have linked one of favourite photos I took with it last year in Berlin.

I did a terrace (open-air) portrait shoot in low (weak, late evening) light two days back. Delhi is currently having poor visibility due to smoke coming in from adjoining states (agricultural stubble burning), dust, etc.
Yet despite all this, my 20mm focused instantly every time, keeping up flawlessly with the 45mm f1.8 working in tandem with it on my Epl5. I was shooting at ISO 200, 1/250th shutter speed and aperture f2.2 or f2.5 handheld, with a twin flash rig.
It is hard for me to understand why many say this lens focuses slowly.

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