Panasonic Lumix S 50mm F1.8 Review
Review Manufacturer: Panasonic
Price when reviewed
Panasonic has created a very attractive lens that delivers high-quality, detail-rich images at the fraction of the cost of the Lumix S Pro 50mm f/1.4. Given how capable the Lumix 50mm f/1.8 is, it’s hard to imagine that many people will be willing to pay 5x more and carry the extra weight of the f/1.4 optic to gain a 1/3EV increase in the aperture size.
Nice size and weight for full-frame Weather-resistant design Smaller, lighter and more affordable than the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 50mm f1.4
No stabilisation Chromatic aberration can be an issue
What is the Panasonic Lumix S 50mm F1.8?
Panasonic already has a 50mm lens for its S-series of full-frame mirrorless cameras but the Lumix S 50mm F1.8 reviewed here is less than a third of the weight and a fifth of the price of the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 50mm f1.4.
Panasonic has also given the Lumix S Pro 50mm f1.4 the same build, dimensions and filter size, and a very similar weight, to the existing Lumix S 85mm f/1.8. What’s more, the S 50mm f/1.8 and S 85mm f/1.8 are set to be joined by a 24mm f/1.8 and a 35mm f/1.8 built in the same way. This will mean that photographers and videographers can switch seamlessly between the four optics. That should be especially convenient for videographers using a gimbal as the rebalancing should be minimal.
Product type: Standard prime lens Mount: L-mount Format: Full-frame Focal length: 50mm Maximum aperture: f/1.8 Minimum aperture: f/22 Construction: 9 elements in 8 groups 3 aspherical, 1 ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) and 1 UHR (Ultra-High Refractive Index) lens elements Minimum focus distance: 0.45m / 1.48ft Maximum magnification: 0.14x Stabilisation: No Number of diaphragm blades: 9 Filter size: 67mm Weight: 300g Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 73.6 x 82mm
As it’s designed for use on Panasonic’s full-frame mirrorless cameras like the Lumix S1, Lumix S1R and Lumix S5, the Panasonic Lumix S 50mm f1.8 has the L-mount, which is also used by Leica and Sigma, Panasonic’s partners in the L-mount Alliance.
The Lumix S 50mm F1.8 is constructed from 9 elements in 8 groups with 3 aspherical lenses, one ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) element and one UHR (Ultra-High Refractive Index) element. The aspherical elements help to deliver high resolution across the image frame along with attractive bokeh, while the ED elements minimise chromatic aberration.
There’s also a 9-blade rounded aperture that’s designed to give out of focus areas, especially highlights, an attractive appearance. According to Panasonic, the Lumix S 50mm f/1.8 uses micro-step aperture control for smooth exposure adjustment – which is especially beneficial when recording video.
As there’s no stabilisation system built in the Lumix S 50mm F1.8, photographers and videographers must rely solely on the camera’s in-body image stabilisation system (IBIS).
Panasonic has sealed the Lumix S 50mm f/1.8 against dust and moisture.
Build and handling
At 82mm in length and 300g in weight, the Lumix S 50mm F1.8 makes a very nice pairing with Panasonic’s full-frame mirrorless cameras. I used it with the 47Mp Panasonic S1R.
Panasonic has kept the exterior of the Lumix S 50mm F1.8 pretty simple and there’s just a manual focus ring and a switch to select automatic or manual focusing.
The broad focusing ring sits within easy reach of your thumb and forefinger when you support the camera from underneath. And while the ring feels a bit stiffer than the focus rings on the best Nikon lenses that I’ve tested recently, you can rotate it with one finger. Nevertheless, it feels a bit more natural to use your thumb and forefinger and it enables more precise adjustment.
As a focus-by-wire lens, there are no discernible endpoints to the focusing ring’s rotation. However, as soon as the AF/MF switch is flicked to MF and the focus ring is rotated, a distance scale and magnified view appear in the viewfinder or screen to aid focusing.
I’ve been shooting with a close to final-production sample of the Lumix S 50mm f/1.8, so there’s a chance that the final image quality may vary from what I’ve experienced, but I’d be very happy if it stayed exactly the same.
The level of detail captured at the centre of the frame when the Lumix S 50mm f/1.8 is mounted on the Panasonic S1R, is very impressive. What’s astonishing, however, is how little detail is lost towards the edges of the frame – even when the aperture is wide-open.
Detail levels are also maintained well throughout the aperture range but it peaks at around f/5.6. Inevitably, there’s some sign of the impact of diffraction, but it’s not bad and I’d happily shoot at the minimum aperture of f/22 if necessary. Setting the in-camera Diffraction Compensation to ‘Auto’ helps sharpen up small-aperture shots a little, but I wouldn’t get flustered if it was turned off.
Also, even with the camera’s Vignette Compensation turned off, there’s only slight darkening of the corners of images shot at the maximum aperture. Closing the aperture to f/2.0 brightens up the corners and by f/2.8 the corner shading is negligible.
Nevertheless, if you shoot images of a plain wall or something similar and switch quickly between images shot at f/2.8 and f/4, you’ll notice a slight brightening of the corners in the f/4 photographs. In most real-world situations, however, the vignetting is likely to go unnoticed, and with the Vignetting Compesantion turned on in the camera’s menu, you won’t spot any.
I also couldn’t see any sign of curvilinear distortion, which means that straight lines stay straight.
After a spell of terrible weather, I was lucky to receive the Lumix S 50mm f/1.8 just as the sun came out. That meant I was able to check for flare outdoors – which is very well controlled – and examine lots of images of backlit subjects to search for chromatic aberration. The majority of my images show no sign of fringing, but a few with extreme backlighting show a hint of it and a couple show it quite clearly. However, I was able to eliminate the chromatic aberration very easily from the files using Adobe Camera Raw. There’s also a chance that this will be improved for the final production samples.
Crop to highlight the fringing
Panasonic S 50mm f1.8 Sample Images
These images were shot using a non-production sample of the Panasonic S 50mm f1.8 so image quality may vary from the final results.
While the Lumix S Pro 50mm f1.4 is Panasonic’s highest-quality 50mm optic for its S-series cameras, the Lumix S 50mm f/1.8 doesn’t feel compromised or ‘built to a price’. It delivers impressively good images with excellent sharpness across the frame and throughout the aperture range. There’s certainly no reason to avoid the largest or the smallest aperture settings.
Although I experienced some obvious chromatic aberration in a couple of quite extreme situations, it takes about 3 seconds to eliminate the fringing in Adobe Camera Raw.
Panasonic has promised two more f/1.8 lenses with the L-mount, a 24mm and a 35mm. If they match the performance of the Lumix S 50mm f/1.8, Panasonic will have a very attractive set of prime lenses on its hands.