I planned to do a Panasonic 8-18mm review as soon as it was announced. I contacted the PR guys and I had it just after the release date in Australia. I was quite excited because, on paper, it was a fantastic lens. But would it deliver as described on the specs?
Than an unexpected trip in Europe suddenly came up. I was obviously happy for the 5 weeks ahead of me but, at the same time, I was disappointed because I had to give the lens back without any proper test.
Table of Contents
And than the surprise came. Panasonic agreed to leave it to me for the all trip, together with the Panasonic 12-60 f/2.8-4.0 (another lens I wanted to review), a GH5 and a GX85. What could I say, the perfect travel photography and video set I could dream of.
This was a fantastic way to see how this gear works on a real trip, not just the usual 2-3 weeks review.
Panasonic 8-18mm f/2.8-4.0 review in pills
If you do not have time to read the full review you may be interested to a quick summary, just few pills to take as they are. I personally suggest to keep reading as more details are given through the lines, beside some photo examples.
Before going to the listing I jut would like to point out that I do not receive any compensation, either money or gear, from Panasonic or any other manufacturer for my reviews.
Also, for this Panasonic 8-18mm review, as for all of the other gear in the past, I do not go into analytical details. It’s a personal review based on my experience travelling with the gear and, in this case, on an extensive trip through 6 countries.
Now down to the essential facts
- this is a weatherproof lens, which means you can use it in dusty, humid, rainy and wet environments without any hesitation
- internal zooming, somehow necessary to have the lens weather sealed. But I will add more interesting stuff on this subject
- 315g weight, this is not a light lens however it is on par with the Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm and much lighter than the Olympus 7-14mm at 534g (the Oly lens has however a fixed aperture at f/2.8). I will spend some words later to compare these 3 lenses
- the lens is made of 15 elements in 10 groups which explain the dimension and weight. It is also ASPH (Aspherical), therefore the elements do not have only a spherical design (you can read here for more information about ASPH)
- this is an ultra-wide lens however you can mount any filter with a 67mm thread. It is quite unique in the market and an essential buying point if you are mainly a landscape photographer.
- as usual, you can use this lens on any MFT camera, either Olympus or Panasonic. The result should be the same, I used it on two Panasonic cameras (GH5 and GX85)
- you can read the full feature specs on the Panasonic website
Now let’s go down to more substance
Focal length and aperture
This ultra-wide lens covers a focal length of 8-18mm, or 16-36mm (35mm equivalent focal equivalent).
I love using this focal length range when travelling.
I use the 8mm for landscape photography when I have my subject in the foreground. Think of a waterscape with a rowboat in the foreground for example.
Also the 8mm becomes super handy for waterfalls photography, where quite often you have limited space.
I also find this focal length extremely effective in market and street photography. In one of my previous posts I suggested the 30 degrees rules as a great way to not attract the attention, but still be so close to your subject.
With the GH5 I had actually an easy time as I could speak with people in the market and make photos watching down to my flip monitor. I really hate to use the viewfinder in these occasions as it creates almost a wall between me and the subject, it creates a separation instead of a bond.
I go on 18mm when I want a close up on a person, a portrait without any line distortion. And obviously when I need a bit of a zoom.
This lens gives me the lot.
The aperture on the Panasonic 8-18mm is variable. This means that it works as f/2.8 when the lens is used on the ultra-wide side (8mm) however it becomes f/4.0 when used on the tele side (18mm).
I personally prefer a constant aperture lens however I fully understand that this comes with an higher price tag and, most important, with an higher weight too, as more glass is used (the 7-14mm Olympus has a fixed f/2.8 however is 220g heavier).
I love lenses with internal zooming and the 8-18mm is definitely one of my favorite now.
I would have to talk more extensively with the Panasonic guys however I guess that one of the main reason for internal zooming is the weather sealing.
To me it is so much less intrusive when I do street or market portraits. With the Panasonic 8-18mm I can quickly zoom in, or out, without any noise and camera movement.
I make a photo, I change the focal length and still my subject does not feel under an inquisitive zoom lens extension. Basically it’s like having a fixed focal length.
I made few videos as well and, again, I could operate it without any issue.
The silent zoom helped greatly when making video, in fact I believe overall this is a great lens for Vloggers and low budget movies.
I have shooted over 800 photo with this lens and in most cases I used a focal length of 8mm.
Have I over abuse this wide angle capability? Maybe a tiny bit but it was fun and I could not stop myself
I found this lens sharp in the center for every aperture I used.
As it usually happens the limits are to be found on the edges.
At f/2.8, as well as with the smallest apertures (f/16 and f/22), there is a minor softness at the corners. This is something not as noticeable though, unless in a pixel peeper mood.
I personally made most of my photos in the f/4-f/11 range and the images were sharp overall, very happy with the result.
I used f/2.8 in low light and when I wanted to have a narrower depth of field.
The greatest positive surprise was about the line distortion, very low if not existing at all. Considering the wide angle of 8mm (or 16mm equivalent) I would not hesitate to suggest this lens for interior photography.
How much of this distortion is controlled through the glass and how much is corrected through the cameras firmware is still a question mark. I will investigate with the Panasonic guys. Either way the distortion is really small.
I used this lens to make a photo of an incredible new building in Melbourne (it is a new hospital). The wide angle allowed me to capture all the beautiful lines of this architectural beauty.
From time to time, I experienced some flare when making photos facing the sun.
Flare is always annoying however you can see it straight away on the LCD, or the EVF, before shooting. This helps as you can recompose to avoid the flare or move the flare in an area of the photo that you can easily correct in post with a spot removal (the sky is the easiest option).
For travel photography I do not see the flare as a deal breaker, however I do not shoot a lot into the sun as well.
With such a wide angle (8mm or 16mm equivalent) and aperture (f/2.8) I had to shoot some stars.
To calculate the shutter speed I used the famous 500 rule which gives me enough light reflected from the stars without any trail.
If you wonder about this rule that’s how it works:
Shutter speed = 500 / 16mm (equivalent focal length) = 31.25sec (I used 30sec and 40sec as the GH5 does not allow any value betweeen)
Aperture = the widest available in the lens (f/2.8 with this lens)
ISO = 800-1600 range (based on your max aperture value)
With the ISO value, I suggest to start at 800 (if using f/2.8) and increase to see the change. The highest ISO will introduce more noise however your photo will be brighter too. Practice and knowledge of your gear will make you perfect 🙂
I was in a town in the North of Greece called Komotini. Plenty of light pollution however I did not have any mean of transportation. I ended up near the darkest place in the area, the cemetery.
I had some mixed results.
Some of the shots were great, especially considering the light pollution. I had a few however with some flare coming from artificial lights next to me.
Personally, I do not see this as an issue. I do star photography only in very remote areas and I paint my subject in the foreground with a torch. Therefore light flare is not going to be a problem but it’s something to keep in mind.
Images done with the Panasonic 8-18mm on flickr
On these reviews I have to post images in mid resolution otherwise the post would take to long to load.
I have stored however the photos made with the Panasonic 8-18mm in high resolution on Flickr
You may check them and zoom in for more details here (unfortunately I had to reduce the resolution as few photos were downloaded for unauthorised commercial usage 🙁 )
Panasonic 8-18mm vs Olympus 7-14mm vs Panasonic 7-14mm
I start saying that they are all fantastic lenses. There is no best one. There is none I would suggest without knowing what kind of photography you usually do.
There are two main differences: Focal length range and the possible widest aperture across the range.
The max wide-angle focal length on the new Panasonic lens is 8mm instead of 7mm on the other two lenses. Does it make a big difference for travel photography? I do not think so, unless you do a lot of interior photography during your travel (churches, cathedrals, stations, etc) or as your job.
On the other side I prefer to have 18mm instead of 14mm especially for portrait photography at the markets or in the street.
If I have to give up somewhere I prefer to do it on the wide-angle side.
For my travelling my choice goes on the 8-18mm focal range
Now about the aperture.
It’s easy to answer this one. Having a fixed aperture of f/2.8 across the full focal range is my choice. And in this respect the Oly wins as the two Panasonic lenses have a variable aperture of f/2.8-4.0.
In saying that if landscape is the biggest part of your photography then a max aperture of f/2.8 or f/4.0 would not make that much of a difference.
Now about the cost. The financial side can sometime drive the choice, however in this case it does not as they all have a similar price. Amazon is offering an international version(no warranty) of the Panasonic 7-14mm at a 40% discount, which can help to take a decision (just keep in mind the no warranty)
The weight of the Olympus 7-14mm lens is much higher (534g) when compared with the two Panasonic (just over 300g). This can be important if you plan to do some trekking with it.
Lastly one of the most important thing that differentiate the Panasonic Lumix 8-18mm from the other two lenses. You can mount filters with a 67mm thread. This can be extremely important if you are into landscape photography, which is a good part of travel photography.
With all of above in mind I would personally go for the Panasonic 8-18mm for my travel photography.
My final thoughts
I am adding this lens to the best lenses for travel photography as it has all I like and need for an ultra wide lens.
Price and weight are competitive too , you may check the latest price here (with a special deal if you are in Australia).
If you are planning a trip and you are thinking about a zoom lens then you should check the Panasonic Lumix 12-60mm (24-120mm equivalent). This is the perfect companion on any kind of trips unless you are going for a safari and the 100-400mm would be a fantastic choice.
More photos with the Panasonic Leica 8-18mm
Ethics statement: The Panasonic Lumix 8-18mm lens was loaned to us by Panasonic Australia. We were not asked to write about it and, most important, we were not provided any sort of compensation. All the opinions are mine, based on many years of travel photography. In the post there are affiliate links. If you buy through these link, we will receive a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. This is how we run this website and you can support it. Thank you!