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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.

Thoughts on the New iPad Pro

I certainly didn’t need a new iPad. I had a 9.7″ iPad Pro I bought last March, which I liked very much. But hearing about the new model made me interested. While 9.7 inches is a good size for an iPad, having almost another inch in diagonal makes a big difference. Personally, I don’t think I could use the 12.9″ iPad; that one is just too big. But I’m finding that the new 10.5″ model is really the Goldilocks size. (I never believed the rumor is that Apple would have three large-sized iPads; I always felt that the 10.5″ model would replace the 9.7″.)

Apple has managed to deliver an iPad with a larger screen but which is barely bigger than the previous model. It is visibly taller, but it is hardly wider than the iPad form factor that we have been used to for several years. With thinner bezels, the actual display size is notably larger. 

Apple has highlighted how much brighter this display is; it’s true, but I don’t use my iPad outside, so I don’t think I will really notice the difference very much. However, as many people who have used the new iPad in the past week have pointed out, the difference in the refresh rate — 120 Hz, compared to 60 Hz — makes everything feel faster. Operations that felt a bit sluggish before — especially scrolling in Safari — are now buttery smooth. The faster processor is also noticeable: everything seems faster on this iPad, but, to be fair, I have never been too concerned about the speed of most things I do on an iPad.

Colors are also much more vibrant. My previous iPad did have True Tone, but the colors on this new one seem a lot more lively. I have been browsing a lot of a Photos on 500px, and this iPad makes these photos look a lot better than on the previous model.

Do you need a new iPad? If you haven’t updated in a couple of generations, and you use your iPad a lot, I would recommend it. You won’t be disappointed by the excellent display on this new device. And with iOS 11 around the corner, this new iPad will be able to take full advantage of its new features.

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Writings about Macs, music, and more by Kirk McElhearn