How do I get a decent zoom lens for my Micro 4/3 camera?

I recently bought my first “real” camera, an older Lumix GF-1 with a pancake 14mm/2.5 lens. (I love it, here’s some samples.) I wanted to try a zoom lens, so I bought a second-hand 14–42/3.5–5.6. Obviously it’s awfully slow compared to the pancake, I can mostly forget about indoor shots without flash or high ISO, especially on the long end (5.6).

What surprised me was the great gap between a cheap, slow zoom and something faster. I got my zoom for about $100, but it looks like all other cheaper zooms are also around 3.5–5.6 and the first better one is a constant 2.8 zoom with one extra zero in the price,$1000. Is there really nothing in between? (This is even more surprising for me given that even my older compact camera, Lumix FX10, had f/2.5–5.0.)

Does stabilization make a big difference, compensating at least partially for the big aperture numbers? Or does it make sense to buy an adaptor to 4/3 and look for a lens there?

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You are doing the exact same move I did almost a year ago, but I bought the 20mm pancake lens.

I wanted zoom all the way, all my life I shot with a zoom lens so it was my wish to acquire the GF1 with the 14-42. But some friends kept telling me how the 20mm was awesome and forget the zoom, so since I was making a move to a more serious gear, I took sometime to read, read, read and look at samples from the 20mm, in the end I bought it.

What has been my problem since? Shooting wild life! Does it really matters, not that much, seriously, spending some good money just to have the ability to shoot some birds it's simply not worth it. After almost a year of using a prime lens, I am extremely happy with it, it's fast, it takes awesome pics, and it's very portable, if I am not planning to go out and take some photo gear, I can just take the camera with the lens. Sometimes do I wish I had that zoom? Yes, but seriously, it's not that big of a deal. I can work it out, walk a bit further or back.

As to the mater of talking about a zoom lens, well to the realm of Panasonic lens you are right the gap is huge, the 12-35 f/2.8, besides new, has a higher build quality, which makes its very pricey, the same lens with the build quality of the old 14-42 would be a nice addition for those with not so deep pockets. So your solutions pass through looking at Olympus lens (thing that I actually never did so I can't give you any insight), or work with your prime. If you worry about shooting indoors, why do you need a zoom lens?

Image stabilization, well this really varies from user to user since a person might be more shaky than another but since the GF1 has no viewfinder one typically shots only with two hands holding the camera and there is no 3rd point to hold the camera (usually face), this brings less stability, so it helps, but since I have no zoom lens I can't give a real input on this subject. I don't think you need an adaptor there are a lot of lenses for m43.

So answering to your title question? Don't get, use the 14mm prime lens and work your creativity out, if you really really need the zoom, attach the 14-42 and shoot!

p.s.- nice pics :P

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I am very happy with the prime and it’s perfect for most of my shots. But sometimes I just can’t get closer to the subject, like on the street or on a concert. I’m not hoping to make perfect pictures from a dark rock concert, but I was hoping for some nice zoomed details on a decently lit classical concert, for example. –  zoul Jul 13 '12 at 10:25
Well the GF1 does not have the best noise performance on higher ISO's, so cropping the image afterwards might turn out be noneffective in concerts, definitively, but I do it with street pics quite often and with good results. The only thing that I might miss is a better DOF, which is lost the moment this pancake primes need to focus a bit further. But here you would need the f/2.8 zoom lens. Well in the end I really do understand your question/frustration on the subject, but I hope/believe that this year we'll see more lenses coming to m43 system. –  nuno_cruz Jul 13 '12 at 10:36
I guess we got spoilt by the fast & cheap primes. If the gap is really that big, I’ll do what you suggest – stick with the prime and maybe save for a good zoom glass (if it’s worth it, given the number of shots I need it for). Thanks! –  zoul Jul 14 '12 at 7:45