Panasonic 7-14mm f/4

I took the opportunity to rent the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 ultra-wide zoom the other day. I thought it would be interesting to experiment with such a lens, but didn't anticipate having as much fun as I did. I knew going in that I'd have to think quite a bit about framing shots since the perspective is so different, and anticipated needing to get right up to objects. I didn't plan on using it to get wide panoramas; my goal was to concentrate on different angles.

The lens itself isn't that much larger than my kit lens, although the front element is pretty prominent. Because of the 2x crop factor, the equivalent on full frame is 14-28mm.

After picking up the lens I headed to Seattle Center, figuring there would be lots of opportunities for different perspectives.

 Experience Music Project and the Space Needle

Experience Music Project and the Space Needle

This was one my early shots, and I was all but leaning against the building. I figured I would be taking a lot of shots pointing up, and this one was no exception. While I thought I got a lot of shots which worked well, I found that the ones which didn't were lacking things to balance the photo. For example, I couldn't get a good shot of the Space Needle by itself, even at different angles. However, when I had something else in the shot (either in the foreground or balancing the rest of the frame) the result wasn't nearly as boring.

While pointing up felt like the most natural way to get the most of the lens, I did try some other compositions.

 Concession cart

Concession cart

This shot also gives a good idea of how much the perspective changes with an ultra wide lens; this is a normal concession cart, but the other wheel looks very far away. I also ended up boosting the yellow a bit to enhance the contrast with the blue tones of the sign and sky.

 Red Tubes, 7-14mm

Red Tubes, 7-14mm

This shot (cropped to be framed the same as the shot below) shows that the lens does exhibit some flare. It also shows sun star which isn't very defined. Compare this with a similar shot with my kit lens:

 Red Tubes, 14-42

Red Tubes, 14-42

The flare is under better control (even with a filter on the lens); the most obvious is around the sun. The sun star is much more interesting, too.

All the pictures above are in portrait orientation, which reflects the bulk of the shots. I did get some in landscape mode:

 Pacific Science Center

Pacific Science Center

One thing I would do differently on this shot is make sure that I'm level so the columns on the left and building on the right are vertical, which would mean not pointing down. I do like the position of the far dish, so I would need to play with positions to preserve that; if I were lower to keep roughly the same position of the front dish, the back dish would be lower in the frame. I do have a version which has less distortion but there wasn't enough gap between the near and far dishes. Of course, it would have been better to play with framing at the time, but there are so many factors to keep in mind I was happy to reflect on the results after the fact to know better for next time.

An ultra wide lens is also unusual in that you have to be careful that your feet don't show up in the image. I took several pictures with the camera almost at the ground and pointing up, and had to resort to some mild contortion to not get my head into the shot; it would probably not be too difficult to get both feet and head in the same shot!

This lens was pretty challenging to use, but because of that, it also ended up being really fun. Would I want to buy the lens? Yes, but it's very pricey, so it wouldn't be any time soon; I could rent the lens several times for the purchase price, even used. Olympus offers a similar lens, a 9-18mm. It's quite a bit smaller and exhibits a bit more CA (Panasonic lenses correct much of the CA in software), but it's still 2/3 the price of the Panasonic. Since it's such a specialty lens, it seems to make more sense to rent it when I know I'll want to use an ultra wide lens.