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Panasonic Lumix S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 - Review 2020


The Panasonic Lumix S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 ($599.99), available for full-frame L-mount cameras, sets itself apart from other standard zoom lenses with a broad, wide angle of view. It opens up to 20mm, compared with the expected 24mm or 28mm, and adds utility and versatility for landscape photographers and vloggers alike. The lens is built well too, and should be your first choice if you’re looking for an affordable, lightweight zoom for your Leica, Panasonic, or Sigma mirrorless camera. That earns it our Editors’ Choice award.

Wider Than Most

The Lumix S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 is a relatively lightweight zoom, especially when you consider its 20mm starting point, a focal length that borders on ultra-wide. It measures 3.4 by 3.1 inches (HD), weighs just 12.4 ounces, and supports 67mm front filters.

Panasonic Lumix S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6

Panasonic uses polycarbonate for the barrel, both the outer portion and the inner section that telescopes as the zoom is adjusted. It’s a quality material, not a cheap plastic, and the build is bolstered by dust and splash protection. Panasonic also promises that it will work fine in temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

A hood is included, an accessory that’s especially useful for a wide lens—it blocks light coming in from askew angles, something that can lower contrast and induce flare. It also protects the front glass, so you’re unlikely to damage it if the camera bumps into something as it hangs from your side.

Sample Image

Lumix DC-S5, 20mm, f/5.5, 1/100-second, ISO 100

The exposed glass is protected with fluorine, in addition to standard anti-reflective materials. Fluorine repels grease and moisture, generally making it much easier to clean the glass.

On-lens controls are as basic as it gets. The zoom ring sits mid-barrel, finished in the same raised rubber ridges on (essentially) every modern lens. It turns comfortably, and moves from 20 to 60mm with a 90-degree twist.

A toggle on the side switches between manual and autofocus. It’s silent, and there’s no visible breathing as focus changes, both positives for video. Manual focus is available—the control ring has a similar finish to the zoom.

Sample Image

Lumix DC-S5, 28mm, f/4, 1/60-second, ISO 200

Macro focus is another strong point. Despite zooming to “just” 60mm, the lens can focus as close as 5.9 inches. Panasonic doesn’t advertise the lens as a macro, but its 1:2.3 life-size reproduction is good for close-up work.

In the Lab

I tested the Lumix S 20-60mm with the 24MP Panasonic S5 and software from Imatest. The combination nets sharp images for the most part, though I should note that these tests are on a 24MP camera, and results may not match what you get with a high-resolution body, like the 47MP Panasonic S1R and Leica SL2.

See How We Test Cameras and LensesSee How We Test Cameras and Lenses

At 20mm f/3.5, the pair delivers images with excellent center resolution, but some off-center softness. The average puts it in our good performance range (2,050 lines), but it does tick up as the aperture is set to narrower f-stops. We see about 2,300 lines, a very good result, from f/5.6 through f/16, and edges pick up at f/8 and f/11, the best settings for landscape shots. You can set the aperture to f/22—it cuts into resolution, but nets better-looking sunstars.

Sample Image

Lumix DC-S5, 20mm, f/22, 1/60-second, ISO 320

At the midpoint of the zoom, 40mm, the maximum aperture dips to f/4.8, but resolution improves, falling just outside of our excellent range (2,400 lines), and is a bit better (2,600 lines) at f/5.6 through f/11. Edge clarity isn’t a concern—at this focal length, edges are nearly as sharp as the center.

The story is the same at 60mm. The zoom resolves very good detail at f/5.6, and enters excellent territory at f/8 and f/11 (2,600 lines). Image quality holds up at f/16, and is decent, but a definite step back, at f/22 (2,080 lines).

Sample Image

Lumix DC-S5, 20mm, f/3.5, 1/200-second, ISO 100

The lens exhibits no visible distortion when working in JPG mode, but does show some when you work in Raw format. At 20mm, there’s heavy, complex mustache distortion, giving way to a modest pincushion effect at 40mm and 60mm. Adobe Lightroom includes profile corrections to compensate for the effect, so you’ll never notice it.

Beyond Standard Zoom

The Panasonic Lumix S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6 sets itself apart from most full-frame standard zoom lenses by virtue of its wide-angle coverage—at 20mm, it captures a broader view than a zoom that starts at 24mm or 28mm.

Sample Image

Lumix DC-S5, 20mm, f/3.5, 1/1,600-second, ISO 100

It makes the expected trade-offs to come in at a reasonable size and price. The aperture is a narrow, variable design, typical of starter zooms, and relies on in-body stabilization, a feature included in most, but not all, L-mount cameras.

The aperture is the big downside when compared with more expensive lenses—the f/3.5-5.6 range is fine for use outdoors and in decently lit interiors, but it doesn’t match the light-gathering or depth of field control of an f/2.8 zoom. L-mount owners can look to the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art, but it’s close to twice the price.

Panasonic Lumix S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6

Still, Panasonic didn’t cut corners with construction quality. The S 20-60mm doesn’t bear the S Pro designation of some higher-end options, but it’s well built, with dust, splash, and fluorine protection. It’s also usable in very cold temperatures, matching the capabilities of the S1 and S1R cameras.

The lens is a strong value at its full $600 asking price, good enough to earn our Editors’ Choice award. It’s an even better value if you get it along with an L-mount camera—it can be had for $300 when bought along with the Lumix DC-S5.

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