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Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN vs Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 ASPH

Michael Miller , Apr 19, 2012; 06:19 a.m.


Since I was interested in how the Sigma 19mm f/2.8 would fare against my Panasonic 20mm f1.7, I decided to do a quick comparison. It's not a scientific test by far, but often a quick test like this gives me a good idea if the performance of a lens is good enough for me. I tested the lenses at aperture f/2.8 on a 16 megapixel Panasonic G3 on a tripod using all manual settings. I chose f/2.8, because I feel a lens should be perfectly sharp and contrasty at that relatively small aperture.

I tried autofocus and manual focus. I photographed a bank note, a small furry puppet and a small bottle with tiny characters printed on the label. Lot's of fine detail. I used flash light and base ISO160. Also, I made some pictures of various things in the garden at a greater distance and using daylight.

Autofocus
The Sigma focusses noticeably faster the the Panasonic. Quick, smooth and silent. I wish the Panasonic would focus like that, then it would be perfect, but it doesn't. Touch shutter works like a charm with this Sigma lens. Also the Sigma has no fragile external moving parts, like the Panasonic. The large manual focus ring on the Sigma is very nice. Manual focussing is smooth and precise.

Sharpness
The Panasonic is sharper. The Sigma just fails to resolve as much detail. Close-up or further away, the Panasonic is noticeably better.

Field of view
Both have almost the same field of view. I didn't notice any significant difference.

Contrast
The Panasonic has more contrast. I prefer this look to the softer images of the Sigma.

Size and weight
The Panasonic is both smaller and lighter, but I would not mind the slightly greater length of the Sigma. The Sigma provides a better grip and the large manual focus ring is very nice. Manual focussing is smooth and precise.

Build quality
I think build quality is the same. Both are made of sturdy plastic and have a metal bajonet. The Sigma has no moving external parts, but you can feel the parts inside move when it's not in use. This is normal, and I wouldn't worry about it much. I can't say I particularly like this clunky noise though.

Extras
The Sigma comes with a nice plastic lens hood and a firm lens pouch with zipper.

My conclusion
Although the autofocus on the Sigma 19mm is like a dream (compared to the Panasonic 20mm) and the build quality is fine, I am put off by the in my eyes lower image quality of this lens. I prefer more detail and better contrast to autofocus speed. If only Panasonic could combine the new autofocus system with the optics of the 20mm f/1.7. No, you wouldn't get the 25mm f/1.4, because the field of view is different.

Responses

Ariel S , Apr 19, 2012; 02:25 p.m.

Cool, thanks for your assesment! There's not a chance in hell that Panasonic will update the 20mm anytime in the near future. As you admit, the 25mm exists. Yes, the FOV is a little different, but they are close enough that the two lenses perform essentially the same function. Both are exactly 2.5mm away from the diagonal length of the micro 4/3 sensor; both can be considered a normal lens. The angle of view going from a 25mm to 20mm is less than 9 degrees difference; that's smaller than the angle of view going from a 20mm to 17mm lens. Plus, the 20mm is sold out pretty much everywhere; they can't make enough of them. What's their incentive to update it then, if people seem to be speaking pretty positively about it with their bank accounts? Also, did you just look at center sharpness, or did you check the borders as well? I'm curious how the 19mm fares there, because while the 20mm is astounding in the center, it quickly falls off to sub-kit level performance as you move outwards.

Michael Miller , Apr 19, 2012; 05:44 p.m.

I only checked center or near center sharpness. If that is not the same or better then the Panasonic, I don't even care about the rest.

Michael Miller , Apr 21, 2012; 03:00 a.m.

By the way, I feel that compared to the 20mm the field of view of the 25mm f/1.4 is significantly different. You can really see it and feel it at all times. Also the 25mm has the annoying clicking aperture blades and soft corners. I find that unacceptable for a lens with such a high price tag. The 20mm is selling well, because there just isn't any real alternative. If Panasonic would make one using the same optical formula but with a modern autofocus system, it would be sold out everywhere too and the old 20mm would be dumped on the secondhand market.

Michael Miller , Apr 25, 2012; 09:28 a.m.

I also tested the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 and posted my conclusion here. If you don't like read: both Sigma lenses are nice, but optically they are no match for the 20mm f/1.7.

Tullio FF , Dec 06, 2012; 04:01 p.m.

At f2.8, you are comparing one lens at it's widest aperture vs. a lens that's stepped down a step. Even though you have both lenses at the same aperture, a more realistic comparison would be the Sigma at f2.8 vs. Lumix at f1.7. I've had the Lumix 20mm and although it's a sharp lens, IMO it tends to overexpose in high contrast situations. The 14mm is handles high contrast much better and from what I hear, the Sigma 19mm does a pretty decent job in that department as well.

Zhang Wei , Sep 12, 2013; 03:21 a.m.

The new Sigma 19mm, 30mm and 60mm f/2.8 Art lenses are here. I expect the optical performance to be about the same. However, the 60mm f/2.8 lens seems to do very well in tests on DxOMark. Actually, it's on par with the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro. That's a good lens! Things get even better when you look at the price. I think it's a strong rival for the more expensive Olympus 45mm f/1.8.

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