A few weeks ago, I was mulling on my dissatisfaction with my Glidecam footage. I’ve never quite gotten the feeling that I was “doing it right”. Footage was shaky and wobbled when I moved – nothing like the great stuff I saw in others’ demo reels. After some research I found that most people shoot Steadicam/Glidecam footage with wide lenses 24mm at the widest, and often times at 14mm on full frame. At the time, my widest lens (My Olympus 14-54mm) was a 28mm FF equivalent and not that wide. So I set my sights on a lens that I’d been lusting after for quite some time: Panasonic’s ultra-wide 7-14mm f4.
This lens has a lot to offer a videographer: A fixed aperture throughout the zoom range, excellent image quality and sharpness, almost no focus breathing, fast and silent autofocus, and very little flare. Indeed, the lens is perhaps too good, almost clinical – not ideal for every application. For my uses however, it is an attractive package indeed. And boy is it wide!
If you’ve never shot with an ultra-wide before, you really need to try one to believe what the shots look like. To my eyes, 7mm looks more like human field of vision than any other focal length. Granted, the stretching at the edges takes some getting used to, but it quickly becomes second-nature to avoid framing close objects at the edges. Keep your subject in a box in the middle 2/3s of the frame and, bam! magic happens.
Since I bought the lens, it has absolutely lived on my Glidecam, and – with a little added weight – suddenly I feel like my shots have the mojo I was looking for. I still have a long way to go to get things really smooth and wiggle-free, but the wider lens was a piece of the puzzle that would have held me back indefinitely, had I not made the leap.
A lot of people I’ve talked to have heard that the maximum aperture is F4, and been turned off, and indeed it does begin to struggle indoors during dimly-lit events, but I find that punching up the ISO has gotten me “good-enough” exposure in almost every situation. Do I wish it was F2.8? Of course. Am I glad it’s not F5.6 at any point in the zoom range? Most definitely. I don’t only use the lens at 7mm – often times I punch in to get a tighter shot, and I’m very happy that the exposure doesn’t change. The lens also seems reasonably parfocal when zooming – perhaps not perfectly so, but I couldn’t say, not having tested it specifically.
I’m no lens scientist, or even really an expert, but after a few weeks of using this lens on every shoot I do – I can safely recommend it as the best way I know of to fill the widest portion of your focal length tool-belt for the Micro Four Thirds system.
Here are a few still shots with the lens: