Yes, there is nirvana. If you have following my site you would know that I have been very excited about two new lenses from Panasonic. One of them has been introduced and it is just now becoming available in the US. Amazon had a dealer that discounted the lens so out came my debit card and a little over a thousand dollars later I ordered it. Two days later it arrived! I have a brand spanking new wonder lens: the Panasonic Lumix X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 ASPH Power O.I.S. It has not been left off of the camera.
The New Normal
This is the most expensive lens in many many years that I have bought including when I had Canon L lenses. I did not buy the Canon L EF 24-70 f2.8 because it did not have image stabilization (O.I.S.). The L EF 24-105 f4 IS did so I used it a lot. It lived on my Canon 60D. The lens cost less than this beauty. Like both of the Canon's, this lens has weather sealing and is made to a higher standard than their regular lenses. Panasonic choose to brand the lens with their upscale X designation. Unlike the Canons, this lens is much smaller and lighter. It will become one of the lenses that I always carry with me and is left on the camera.
In another review at Admiring Light where he was loaned the lens, the reviewer really liked the lens and gave it high praise but said he likes prime lenses more so he would not buy it. I bought it. Being a video guy who likes to take stills, this lens fills a big gap for me. I have wanted a F2.8, O.I.S. wide lens for shooting video. O.I.S. really combats the shakes and helps eliminate rolling shutter. Being a zoom is a plus, or should I say variable prime. I wanted that on my Canon but never really found it. I liked the EFS 17-55 F2.8 IS but it was large, heavy, not ruggedized or weather sealed. My search is over.
What we have here is a small, lightweight, fast, ruggedized O.I.S. lens. On the my GH2 the lens seems to belong there. It is in diameter about the same as my Lumix 14-140 variable aperture zoom. The weight is about the same too. It fits nicely into my hands and the plastic zoom barrel extends when it is zoomed to 35mm with that magical F2.8 aperture. The main barrel seems like metal. The zoom fells very smooth. Smooth enough to shoot during movies. The lens seems a little big on my Olympus EM-5 but behaves wonderfully with very fast AutoFocus. The lens's balance is very good on both cameras.
Autofocus is fast and silent on both cameras. The manual focus ring feels like metal and is very responsive in manual mode. It takes some turning to change focus so I feel rack focusing while be easy. It is not fast like the cheaper lenses. Also if you zoom in and focus the lens seems to keep the focus as you zoom out.
What can we say, this lens is very sharp. Sharp in the center and sharp in the corners. There is a small amount of chromatic aberration in the corners on the wider end of the lens. Also there is the ability to separate your subject from the background because of the fast F2.8 aperture.
One Stable Lens
With the GH2 I leave the O.I.S. on as this one of the reasons I bought the lens. It is Panasonic's new Power O.I.S. which is very effective while hand holding the camera. I like that Panasonic has put the O.I.S. switch on the barrel of the lens as I turn it on and off quite often. It turn it off on the EM-5 as that camera has internal image stabilization which is quit effective. They fight each other if both are turned on and it is easier to turn off the lens than going into the menus and turning off the camera's.
There is a clicking sound from the aperture even at the full F2.8 on the GH2 when not shooting movies but it goes away when shooting. Whew, what a relief. On the EM-5 there very little sound from the aperture. On my 14-140 the aperture changes while zooming and the video see variances of light as the zoom takes pace even when the lens is stopped down a aperture stop that is smaller than the smallest aperture on the telephoto side. This is why I wanted a constant aperture lens. If there is any change it is slight and is nothing to worry about.
It's A Keeper
I have to say it has ben worth the wait. This lens will get a lot of use by me. Panasonic pulled out all the stops one this one. It is as good as we thought it might be. What more could you ask for? Some are saying the price is to high, but this is a “luxury” lens like the one from the other guys. Their's is much bigger, heavier and expensive. What we got for that expense is a lens that bring MicroFourThirds into the big leagues with it professionalism.
What I have not mentioned is that Panasonic has more magic up their sleeves. When they showed the prototype of this lens they also showed a 35-100mm F2.8. O.I.S. I can't wait. That will be the ideal interview lens. It is to introduced at Photokina this year in Germany.
Here is a video review of the lens actually on a camera shooting video on my GH2.