Camera Lens Review: Panasonic 20 mm F 1.7 for Micro Four-Thirds Cameras

Panasonic 20mmWhen I bought my Olympus Pen-F camera two weeks ago, it was joining a collection of lenses that I’d purchased over the past two years for the Olympus OM-D E-M10. I have a 25mm f 1.8, a 45 mm f 1.8, and a 17mm f 2.8, as well as the kit lens (14-42mm) that came with the camera. While the 17mm Olympus lens is good, it’s pretty slow at f 2.8. I like that it’s a pancake lens – about an inch thick – which keeps this small camera compact. Other lenses, like the 25mm, are much thicker, and add a lot of volume and weight to the camera, but it’s nice to have one very slim lens to use when I’m just walking around with no intentions of shooting specific scenes.

When I started taking pictures some 40 years ago, I used an Olympus OM-10 with a 50mm lens. I like that focal length, but having something a bit wider is helpful. (Note that lenses for micro four-thirds cameras are half the equivalent focal length of 35mm cameras. This can be confusing, but it means my 25mm lens is equal to 50mm; the 17mm equals 34mm.) The 17mm Olympus lens I have is a bit too wide, and I saw that there’s a 20mm Panasonic lens; that’s equal to 40mm in the 35mm world. (I know, this is a drag to have to specify like that…)

Anyway, I thought I’d try out the Panasonic; while it’s not an Olympus lens, it is a micro four-thirds lens. This is a standard that Olympus and Panasonic developed together, so their lenses and bodies are compatible. (, Amazon UK)

Pen with lens

I’m not qualified to go into detail about the potential distortion of the lens or chromatic aberrations; suffice it to say that it’s a good, solid, compact lens, which offers the advantage of being fast; having a very wide aperture, at f 1.7. As you’ll read if you check any sites that do more technical reviews, it’s a bit slow to focus, and this can be a problem if you do street photography and need to focus quickly. In that case, you’re better off with, say, the Olympus 25mm (the 17mm isn’t that fast in focusing, or in aperture).

What this lens offers is excellent image quality in a small package; at about an inch thick, it won’t get in the way, and it won’t weigh you down. I’ve found it to be fast enough to focus on what I shoot, and it offers excellent depth of field at smaller apertures. If you want a small, light, unobtrusive lens for the Pen-F – or for any micro four-thirds camera – check this one out.