Today we're looking at the Panasonic S 20-60mm f3.5 - 5.6 zoom lens.
It was nasty hot when I went out for a walk and a lens test this past Sunday. I wanted the exercise and I was curious about how well a lens that was designed for full frame Panasonic L series cameras might work on my APS-C Leica CL. I've found that the best way to uncover the potential of a lens/camera combination is to... put the lens on the camera and take some photographs with it. What a revelation!
I set the lens for f5.6 and left it there for the majority of my time tromping around on the downtown sidewalks. Seemed like a reasonable parameter to me. The lens is made of some modern composite material so it's much lighter than bigger pro lenses. It's also slow (aperture-wise) in comparison to the f2.8 Pro Zooms everyone seems to crave. That helps make it much smaller, and it's much easier to rationalize putting on the front of a small camera like the Leica CL. On that camera it becomes the equivalent of a 30-90mm lens, as far as full frame angle of view is concerned.
The lens is totally electronically integrated with the CL; the camera applies the lens profile, the distortion correction, the exif info and all the rest. It's the same as using one of the Leica TL or SL lenses on the body but at a fraction of the cost. It also focuses very quickly and locks on accurately. At least it does in all the scenarios I encountered.
So, how is the quality?
Having been designed for full frame the lens sidesteps the usual gotchas people seem to find in zooms like this. There is no apparent vignetting and if you look at the foliage in the image below you can see that the corners are quite sharp and detailed. If anything I find the lens a bit flat or lower contrast. That's not to be considered a problem since it might be a helpful boost to dynamic range and it's also one of the easiest things to "fix" in post production. A tweak to the "clarity" slider in Lightroom is just the thing to make the lens come into its own for sharpness, apparent detail and a bit of snap.
In this image the lens is actually focused on the clouds at infinity but the depth of field covers the trees which are somewhere between 50 and 70 feet away. >
While it's not a low light, complex designed, high speed lens it does well in so many other ways that I would consider it a replacement for the Sigma 18-50mm f2.8 for those who prefer a longer reach at the long end and don't mind losing the ultra-wide angle capability at the short end. It's not much heavier and since the lens came packaged with thousands and thousands of S5 bodies there have been an endless supply of like new 20-60mm lenses which have been separated from their kits and sold on the used markets for about $300; or half the retail/selling price of the lens. It's benefit over the Sigma is the extra reach but also a much lower amount of vignetting.
Please consider looking at the images here in a web browser on a decent monitor so you can see what I'm trying to describe. My writing isn't always clear and there's always the off chance that a bit of hyperbole might have made it past the censors. See it for yourself.
These images were from a handheld camera. Neither the camera nor the lens feature image stabilization. The ambient temperature during the shooting period was around 103° which might be high enough to introduce some incidental electronic noise. The camera operator had already consumed 2.5 cups of full strength (but not overly strong) coffee prior to the production of the photographs on location.
Why so many lenses? (memory triggered by the Spidermen above....).
Since bloggers seem to enjoy telling sad stories about their past I'll try my hand as a blogger at one particularly horrific memory of my own (who else's would it be?). I collected comic books and started doing so at a young age. I was a sloppy curator. My mom told me over and over again to keep them off the floor of my room. I had the first ten editions of Spiderman. The Marvel comic series. From the 1960s. The very first Spiderman story was in "Amazing Stories" which subsequently became "The Amazing Spiderman." The copies I had were well read and not "mint" but they were intact and in very good shape. I was rebellious and left my comics strewn all over my room when I left for
When I came home for the break between semesters my comics were no where to be found. My mom had donated them to the Bexar County jail.
The current value of the first Spiderman comic, a single copy, as was recently sold at auction, is $3.6 million dollars. Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/09/arts/spider-man-comic-auction-record.html
Now, mine wasn't in "mint" condition. But I did have the first 122 comic books in the series, in sequence. I was devastated at the loss. I eventually got over it. But my only thought now is that the inmates at the jail got to use some very, very precious toilet paper. Makes Cottonelle look free.
I've gotten over the trauma and have long since forgiven my mom. But I can imagine that my compulsion to hoard my favorite cameras must have something to do with this early pre-adult experience of stinging financial loss. And the loss of a treasured collection of what I always considered to be the very best of modern art. Even today I sometimes ponder the thought that if I still had the comics I could sell off a few at a time and I would never have to fly commercial again...
I'll be sobbing over here in the corner from the memory of my tragic comic book disaster/loss. You just go ahead and look at the photos in their large form and see what you think about the lens. I'll be okay. I just need to find my handkerchief...