My GF2 came with the Panasonic 14mm lens as part of the kit so I never realised how many street photographers haven’t tried this powerful little lens. Recently I’ve met more and more micro four thirds street shooters and I’m still shocked at how many of you haven’t tried the pocket rocket.
Put simply, the 14mm is the best value lens for micro four thirds. If you’re building a kit for street photography then the 14m is an important part of your toolkit.
Three lens kit
The 14mm Panasonic is part of a holy trinity of fast and cheap primes:
- Wide angle 28mm equivalent: Panasonic 14mm
- Same viewing angle as the eye 50mm equivalent: Panasonic 20mm
- Portrait lens 90mm equivalent: Olympus 45mm
You could argue that the 12mm Olympus or the 17mm Olympus have their place in a three lens kit. But the 14mm is equivalent to the common 28mm wide angle lens and it’s a stunner on the street. It balances cost and performance much better than the 12mm or 17mm.
The wide aperture allows you to shoot it in lots of situations. It’s not a perfect low-light lens like the 20mm, but it’s more than wide enough to work for any street situation. The f2.5 aperture is enough to get you out of the kit zoom lens comfort zone and to allow for more creative control of your aperture.
Field of view
The wide angle field of view forces you to get close to your subject or to deliberately stand back and capture the context scene. There is something about the 28mm wide angle that really replicates the feel of being there. This is great for street shooting.
Steve Huff loved the 14mm and found it visibally sharper than the 17mm Olympus. He also noted that you have to get close to your subject to start getting bokeh. This is true for most wide angle lenses, but once you’re close enough, the 14mm produces a creamy shallow depth of field.
The overall sharpness of the lens was a big part of making the GF2 really work for me. SLR Gear has a technical review. Suffice to say that the lens packs a lot of technical punch into a small space and a small price.
Creativity loves constraints
I have to admit that a day out shooting with the 14mm can feel pretty constraining. Craig Mod has a wonderfully visual 14mm Lumix review that was part of inspiring me to take up street photography. He talks about how prime lenses can act as positive creative constraints. Craig’s comment was that, “Creativity flourishes with the right boundaries.”
Real life shooting
Image quality is important but the real test of a lens for a street photographer is how it performs on the street. The all internal focusing means that it’s fast, robust and reliable. The 14mm pancake really frees up your micro four thirds camera because it’s so small and light. The slim pancake style of the lens is not to be underestimated.
14mm vs 20mm
The 20mm is widely considered to be the classic micro four thirds lens. If you could only have one lens then I agree that the 20mm would be it. If you compare them on image quality they are very close and the 20mm is slightly better. But the 14mm might be a better first prime lens to buy.
The 14mm is cheaper and smaller than the 20mm. Most importantly for a street shooter, the wide angle is a strong learning tool. If you’re building a kit then the 14mm will be a robust first step to build on. I’m naturally quite a shy person so being forced to fill the frame (by zooming with my feet) is a real adrenaline buzz.
I’ve now shot the 14mm on the GF2, G3, E-P3, and GX1. It’s a stunner on all of them. If you don’t have this lens then you have a wonderful couple of months ahead of you incorporating this pocket rocket into your life.