Lumix 20mm f/1.7

Respecting the Lumix 20mm f/1.7

Several months before I purchased my Lumix GH2, I eagerly handed over a pile of money for a 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens. Buying a lens before you have a compatible camera is torturous. Opening the box is a cruel tease. I cracked the factory seal, whiffed the intoxicating scent of virgin hardware, freed the gloriously diminutive little lens from its protective wrappings, removed the caps and stared. Moments later I packed it all back together, and stashed it away in my gear locker. Pretty dull stuff when there’s no camera to attach.

I bought this equipment out of sequence because I’m an obsessive gear researcher. There’s no way I could make a major equipment purchase without exhaustively investigating every option. After dedicating hours, days, weeks and months to determine that the GH2 was my best choice for a camera body, I began researching which lenses to use. It didn’t take much effort to determine that the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 was a common favorite among GH1 users. At the time, the GH2 had recently been announced, and it wasn’t yet commercially available. I was ready to spend, so I bought the cart before the horse was born.

The decision to purchase several months prematurely proved to be wise. It wasn’t long after I got the GH2 that the price of the 20mm f/1.7 unexpectedly shot up $100. The price increase has remained ever since. While that was a happy victory, it was followed by a painful burn. The other lens for the GH2 that stood out as a crowd favorite was the Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95. At the time, I couldn’t convince myself to shell out $899 for it, and suddenly its price shot up to $1200. It was a turbulent introduction to lens lust.

The GH2 was my first advanced digital camera, and likewise, the 20mm f/1.7 was my first nice lens. I really loved how compact they were. When united, they became the world’s greatest pocket cam (well, a baggy cargo pant pocket anyhow). As an inexperienced shooter and a lover of my tiny camera system, I decided not to buy a filter for the lens. I felt that the filter would add a tiny bit of length to the front of the lens, and that I preferred to keep everything as small as possible. However, in the not so distant back of my mind, I knew I was being an idiot.

B+W UV Haze Filter

Sure, not using a filter saved a micro-inch of space, but every time I used my camera I was quietly bothered by the absence of protection for this lovely lens. I tried to convince myself that shooting without a filter was a more pure form of digital photography. Ultimately, I was unconvinced. I lived in fear that I would clumsily damage the front element of the 20mm f/1.7. My decision not to buy a filter was the wrong one, so recently I finally did something about it.

Filters are pretty simple things. You can get clear ones, but it’s more beneficial to use a haze filter, which is most commonly known as a UV filter. Back when film cameras rulled the land, ultraviolet light was a common problem. For some scientific reason—which I will not be explaining here (however, I may discuss bacon)—ultraviolet light would appear as a haze in images taken with film cameras. UV filters were used nearly universally for this very reason.

In the digital world, UV haze isn’t as much of an issue, however, UV filters are still nearly universally used. The main reason people screw them on is to protect the front element of their lens. UV filters can do other things, such as reduce the blueish vibe that can sometimes result from shooting outdoors in direct sunlight. There are many different levels of haze available on UV filters. Some of the more extreme ones help you capture better images in challenging environments, such as shooting in a landscape blanketed with snow and sunlight. After a couple hours of research, I decided to get the 46mm B+W 010M UV-HAZE filter. Many Lumix 20mm f/1.7 owners had great success with it, so I dropped the $35 on this small circle of German glass.

GH2, 20mm f/1.7 and haze filter

Please note that I intentionally didn’t buy the cheapest option, nor did I go with the easiest one. When I first decided to get a filter, I figured the Lumix 46mm MC Protector Filter would be the best bet. It was inexpensive, and made by the same company that made the lens. How could I go wrong? However, my research proved that a higher-quality filter was worth every cent. Companies that take filters seriously strive to offer glass that’s free of imperfections and impurities, and they use stronger brass rings. B+W seemed to offer the best quality at the best value. You can pay a lot more, and a lot less. B+W was the winner for me.

Since I had gone through the trouble of researching and buying a nice new UV filter, I decided it would be a great time to bust out my old lens cleaning equipment and give the 20mm f/1.7 a nice little bath. However, when I started digging through my gear closet (which is presently in a rather disheveled state), I failed to locate my lens pen, lens cloths and tissues. Thankfully, I did unearth my Giottos Rocket Air Blaster, and was able to give the elements some hearty pumps of H2O. However, I’ll need to do more digging to find the rest of my lens cleaning kit. And dig I will. It’s a mantra now. Free of impurities. Free of imperfection. Bacon.

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Sam

Writer, musician, photo taker and video maker. When not writing somewhat longish articles for this blog, I write incredibly short things on Twitter: @SamMallery

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