Panasonic Designs Ultra Compact Kit Zoom - How Do You Feel About Collapsible Lenses?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Amin Sabet, Aug 28, 2011.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    One of the knocks on Sony NEX is that the lenses are too large for the bodies. Much of this talk seems to come from those who haven't handled the NEX cameras. As the following images show, the first two Sony lenses are comparable in size to lenses from the smaller Micro Four Thirds format:

    However, the latest primes announced by Sony are drawing some criticism for their size. Here is a scaled comparison of the new Sony primes compared to selected Micro Four Thirds primes:

    Once again, some of the criticism is unjustified. Even with the Zeiss 24/1.8 or Sony E 50/1.8 OSS, NEX bodies will handle well and present a more compact alternative to all but the very smallest of DSLR systems (eg, Pentax K-r with 40/2.8 pancake). However, there are those who will buy into NEX looking for the most compact possible system and find the NEX lineup wanting for smaller lenses.

    Are such people out of luck? Does the larger APS-C sensor require significantly larger lenses than Micro 4/3 does? To an extent, the answer is "Yes". A smaller format permits the use of smaller lenses. However, as Samsung and Fuji have recently shown with their 30mm f/2 lenses, it is possible to design very good "pancake" lenses for APS-C. Likely Sony will respond to market demand and create such lenses in the future.

    Panasonic has presented another option by introducing the incredibly small Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS. As shown below, the new Panasonic kit lens is a pancake zoom with a collapsible construction that automatically extends when the camera powers on. Collapsed, it is the same size as the 20mm pancake lens shown in the scaled comparison above.

    Collapsible lenses are nothing new. Shown below is a old Ernst Leitz Wetzlar Summitar f=5cm 1:2 lens shown in collapsed state:

    Photo by s58y. Used under Creative Commons license.

    Indeed, the majority of "point-and-shoot" cameras have collapsible lenses, and several large sensor digital compacts, notably the Sigma DP1, Sigma DP2, and Leica X1, have also implemented a design very similar to the Panasonic. Among compact system cameras (CSCs), the collapsible Olympus mZD 14-42mm kit zoom (all versions) and Olympus mZD 9-18mm ultrawide zoom preceded the new Panasonic zoom. However, Panasonic is the first to bring out an extremely small collapsible zoom lens with automated extension for an interchangeable lens camera and managed at the same time to incorporate optical image stabilization.

    The Leica design above reminds us that there is nothing limiting the application of collapsible design to slow kit zoom lenses. Sony's next fast prime could incorporate such a design. Of course the main limitation for collapsible lens design is that the lens is extended (and therefore not as compact) during use as it is during storage. In addition, the time needed for the lens to extend in use could potentially impact one's readiness to get the shot, and there are theoretical concerns about lens long-term durability with automated collapsible designs.

    Collapsible lenses aren't for everyone, but they are sure to be part of the future of the Sony NEX system. They offer one route by which Sony can match some very small lenses to its very small bodies.​
  2. JJJPhoto

    JJJPhoto TalkEmount Regular

    Aug 8, 2011
    No thanks. I hate electronic zoom. I suppose it's fine for people who want a point and shoot with better image quality (which is the market I think Panasonic is going after with the GF3 and this new collapsible kit lens) but I suspect most serious photographers will pass on these new electronic zoom lenses.
  3. JJJPhoto

    JJJPhoto TalkEmount Regular

    Aug 8, 2011
    I will also add that the premium metal look of the NEX lenses is one of the things I find attractive about the NEX system. Cheap plastic lenses aren't as appealing ... Unless the cheap plastic lenses still have amazing image quality AND are dirt cheap.
  4. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    I'm talking about the combination of collapsible and electronic extension/retraction, not the zoom itself. For example, if there were a 50mm f/1.8 OSS lens that collapsed down to 1/3 the length of the current Sony 50/1.8, extended automatically during power on, retracted automatically on power off, and matched the optical performance of the current non-collapsible design, which would you prefer?
  5. JJJPhoto

    JJJPhoto TalkEmount Regular

    Aug 8, 2011
    If I'm "forced" to have a collapsible lens I think I'd still prefer a manual collapsible lens like the Olympus 14-42mm kit lens. Electronic extension/retraction is just something else to break. I had an old Nikon coolpix that worked great until the lens motor/gears stopped working and one of my coworkers went through three Canon G7 cameras because the collapsible/retracting lenses kept failing.

    I'll take an "old fashioned" lens any day. ;)
  6. idoblu

    idoblu TalkEmount Regular

    Aug 16, 2011
    Is it technically feasible to build smaller lenses for the Nex system or is there a constrain because of the sensor size or sensor distance? Im thinking if the X100 can do it, why cant the Nex?
    Also maybe Sony should design their lenses to not look like little cylindrical barrels. Not sure if that would help to give to give it a smaller impression.
  7. Armanius

    Armanius TalkEmount Regular

    Aug 8, 2011
    Houston Texas USA
    Samsung has some seriously thin primes for its mirror less system with APS-C. So does Pentax. I don't see why Sony would be unable to come up with thinner primes, even without the collapsible design. However, I certainly don't mind collapsible lenses as long as they are reliable and do not affect the image quality or auto focus speed (differentiated from the extend/retract speed if it is motorized).
  8. olli

    olli TalkEmount Veteran

    Aug 16, 2011
    Washington DC
    Real Name:
    I've never really understood the focus on lens size. The only issue for me is do they handle well enough on the body and on the basis of the kit zoom I see no reason why any lens of roughly this size or smaller wouldn't. I would need to try out the 55-210 to see how it handles but if it also handles well enough the size would be irrelevant.

    Also, if pancakes and collapsible lenses are more complex optically to make then I would prefer Sony to go with simplicity in order to maximise quality.
  9. Golem

    Golem TalkEmount Rookie

    Oct 21, 2015
    I do not like nor trust collapsible lenses,
    including those wobbly old Leica lenses.