Hands-on with the new Panasonic Lumix S 50mm F1.8

Panasonic’s new Lumix S 50mm F1.8 is a dust and splash-resistant lens for L-mount shooters, sporting a reasonably fast F1.8 maximum aperture. It’s the second of four budget-oriented, compact F1.8 primes (announced by Panasonic last September) to come to market, joining the Lumix S 85mm F1.8. All four of these primes are intended to share a similar design, weight, and footprint, while also appealing to both stills and video shooters alike.

Priced at $449 and available in July, the Lumix S 50mm F1.8 offers a lot of versatility at a reasonable price, whether you looking for a walk-around lens, something to shoot portraits with, or a combination of the two; you truly can’t go wrong with the 50mm focal length. Let’s take a closer look at this one.

View our Panasonic Lumix S 50mm F1.8 sample gallery

Size and weight

Weighing 300 g (10.6 oz) and 82 mm (3.2) in length, the Lumix S 50mm F1.8 is considerably lighter and smaller than Panasonic’s Lumix S Pro 50mm F1.4, which weighs 955 g (2.1 lbs) and is 130mm (5.12″) in length.

It also weighs less than the Sigma 35mm F2 DG DN (325 g / 0.72 lbs), another recently-launched sub-$1000 prime for L-mount (and Sony E-mount). The Panasonic is however 17mm longer than the Sigma, but also 1/3rd-stop faster.

Paired with the hefty Panasonic S1R, you hardly notice the Lumix S 50mm is there. But it feels perfectly at home attached to the more modestly sized/weighted Panasonic S5.

Build quality

Panasonic says the Lumix S 50mm is both dust and weather resistant and the rubber ring around the lens mount is proof of that. There’s also a handful of internal gaskets around the sizable focus ring and front element. We’re also told it has been tested to perform in conditions down to -10°C (14°F).

While the body of the lens appears to be some sort of polycarbonate, the mount itself is constructed of metal. The focus ring is finished in a grippy rubber material and is well-damped. It takes about a half-turn of the ring to throw focus from the minimum distance of 0.45 m (17.7) to infinity. Speaking of minimum focus, the maximum magnification for this lens is 0.14x.

For video shooters, focus breathing is impressively well-controlled. You can see a demonstration in our Lumix S 50mm F1.8 sample gallery, right here.

Optical construction and autofocus

The lens features a 9-bladed circular aperture, which, combined with highly polished internal elements, results in smooth, rounded bokeh, even when shooting at F1.8 And stopping the lens down a bit should also result in some decent-looking sunstars. The maximum aperture of this lens is F22.

Optical construction consists of nine elements in eight groups, including three aspherical elements, an ED (Extra Low Dispersion) element, and a UHR (Ultra High Refractive Index) element. All that fancy glass should translate to high-resolution output and well-suppressed chromatic aberration.

Focus is internal, meaning there’s no increase in length during an AF rack. And the focus is driven by a linear motor, which results in snappy, silent AF acquisition. This should be a boon for stills and video shooters alike.

Initial image quality impressions

Looking at our pre-production sample gallery, we’re definitely seeing good resolving power and center sharpness from this lens, even wide open. That said, there’s some cross-frame weirdness apparent in our shots taken at infinity (which we’re hoping is just a pre-production lens issue). You’ll notice longitudinal CA in a handful of the samples, but lateral CA appears well controlled. There’s also noticeable vignetting wide open, but it’s gone by F2.8 (and easy enough to correct).

Control points and accessories

Aside from the focus ring (there’s no aperture ring), the only other control point is an AF/MF switch located on the side of the lens barrel, which has a nice click response and shouldn’t be easily bumped by accident.

Like the Lumix S 85mm F1.8, (and presumably the forthcoming Lumix S 24mm and 35mm F1.8s) the Lumix S 50mm offers a 67mm front filter thread. A plastic lens hood ships with the unit and attaches bayonet style.

The wrap

And that wraps up our tour of the new Lumix S 50mm F1.8. In all, it looks to be an affordable and capable option for L-mount shooters and a welcome addition to Panasonic’s full-frame lens family. We shot with a pre-production model, but very much look forward to getting in a final production unit and putting it through its paces, soon.

Until then, be sure to take a look through our full sample gallery, brush up on the details of the Lumix S 85mm F1.8, and keep your eyes peeled for the final two Lumix S F1.8 primes to launch in the near future.

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