I'm new to lenses, because currently I have the fixed lens Olympus XZ-1. I'm thinking of an upgrade, and I find the Panasonic GF3 very good. It has the option of two kit lenses: A pancake lens at 14mm f/2.5, or the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6.

I saw that the bigger (14-42mm) lens has a 3x zoom, which isn't anything special and the 14mm has F2.5 in comparison to F3.5 of the 12-42mm lens. Which should I choose? Are those the only differences, -1.0 of F and 3x zoom? The 14-42mm is way bigger, and if that's the only difference maybe I'll stick with the smaller 14mm lens.

Also I am thinking of getting Raynox DCR250 to take macro shots.

My main questions are:

  • Is the only difference the zoom and the maximum f-stop?
  • Which one is better to use with the Raynox to make macros?
  • Which one is better for landscape photography?
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to photo stack exchange. Essentially this question is asking which is better - a prime lens or a general purpose zoom. You probably can learn a great deal about reading this question about prime lenses: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1922/… \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 14:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also a lot of good, relevant questions and answers under the prime + zoom tags. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 1:07
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ There's an existing question about the GF3 kit lens and the Raynox adapter: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/18643/… \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 12:05

1 Answer 1


I will present the "quick and dirty" version of my answer, because I could talk on this topic for pages and pages. Essentially the 14mm f/2.5 "pancake" is a prime lens, which means it does not zoom, it has one fixed focal length. So instead of zooming in and out to frame your subject, you have to move your feet along with the camera! The fixed focal length usually comes with a few advantages such as:

  • Large apertures that zoom lenses do not have
  • Very high quality optics due to easier manufacturing of the single focal length
  • Size can be a huge advantage, and only primes can really get the "pancake" form factor

The other option you are looking at is a general purpose zoom lens. The 14-42mm is equivalent to 28-84mm angle of view in the 35mm format, which is handy to know when comparing it to something like your old Olympus XZ-1 6-24mm, which had a 28-112mm 35mm equivalent angle of view. So the easiest way for you to compare the lenses on the two cameras you are considering is probably the following when considering the field of view:

  • 14mm "pancake" = 28mm field of view
  • 14-42mm = 28-84mm field of view
  • 6-24mm = 28-112mm

Someone else will likely chime in and explain how I forgot a few important details when explaining focal length conversions and field of view, but this is the simplest way I can explain it to you that I hope will make sense to a beginner. What is important to understand, is the "field of view", in that, the pancake lens will look just like your current Olympus zoomed all the way out. And the 14-42mm standard zoom will look almost like the Olympus - but will not let you zoom in quite as far.

Other things to consider as you suggested, is the maximum aperture. This is how much light the lens will let into the camera, and is very important. The larger the better. f/2.5 is the maximum the pancake lens will allow, and f/3.5 is the maximum the standard zoom will allow. Your old camera had a maximum of f/1.8 which is larger then both of these Panasonic lenses. Both zoom lenses have variable maximum apertures, so as you zoom in the maximum aperture becomes smaller, which is not a great thing. The prime "pancake" lens has only one maximum aperture since it does not zoom, which is a good thing.

I hope this helps shed a bit of light on what to purchase. In the end the choice between a prime lens and a standard zoom is really up to you, the user. I would say that the majority of people end up with a standard zoom at first, and as a second lens they may choose a prime, but this may not be the correct choice for everyone.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the good explanation! But doesn't that makes the Olympus lens better than the 14-42mm of the Panasonic? Also my XZ-1 has minimum focus size of 1cm, and the 14-42mm is 30cm, as far as I know. Is that correct and can I do any macro with one of the kit lenses (14 or 14-42) with a Raynox lens, and if so, which one is better? \$\endgroup\$
    – blez
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 16:52
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You are on the right track, the Olympus does have a very nice lens, at least as far as the focal length range and aperture goes(I can't comment on the actual lens quality because I don't know). The two kit lenses for the GF3 do not seem to be quite as good. For the macro question, I would refer you to the following post: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/8303/… If you have more questions about doing macro on the GF3, I would suggest asking a brand new question after reading the above. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jan 23, 2012 at 17:03

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