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Panasonic LUMIX S 18mm F1.8 Released – Interview with Watanabe-san about S Line Lenses

September 7th, 2022 Jump to Comment Section

Panasonic has just unveiled its latest lens, the LUMIX S 18mm f/1.8 prime lens. We took the opportunity to talk to Shinji Watanabe-san, Product Planner for the Imaging Business at Panasonic, about the LUMIX S range of fast primes and zooms.

The Panasonic LUMIX S 18mm f/1.8 lens is the widest lens in the S series so far. Nevertheless, it offers a high speed of f/1.8, which is, of course, appreciated by photographers and filmmakers alike. But how are these S-series lenses actually manufactured, and what can be expected in the future?

For these questions, we met with Panasonic’s Watanabe-san, who was happy to answer all of them. In the interview above, you can learn a bit about Panasonic’s philosophy and the process behind the development and manufacturing of the S-series lenses.

Panasonic LUMIX 18mm
All five LUMIX S Line primes. Image credit: CineD

Panasonic LUMIX S 18mm f/1.8

The new LUMIX S 18mm f/1.8 is the fifth prime lens of the S line (not including the LUMIX S PRO 50mm f/1.4). All these lenses share a fast f/1.8 aperture, a similar body design (and therefore a similar size and weight) and the same 67mm front filter thread. Furthermore, they all sport a similar look and feel which is important to mix and match these lenses, especially when they are used for filming.

LUMIX 18mm
Panasonic LUMIX S 18mm f/1.8 on a LUMIX S5 camera. Image credit: CineD

As Watanabe-san states, developing such an S line prime lens actually takes around 1.5 years. During this relatively long period, members of the product development team visit photographers and filmmakers around the world to learn about their priorities and requirements for developing new lenses.

LUMIX 18mm
Image credit: Panasonic

This seems rather cumbersome but, as it seems, the process leads to well-suited lenses the target customers actually need rather than just delivering random focal lengths. Also, important are various aspects of each focal length in terms of performance while still maintaining a unified size and weight across the whole line for easy interchanging multiple lenses on any given job.

LUMIX S
Image credit: CineD

Furthermore, the look and feel of the whole range of S line lenses should match, so it indeed results in a uniform line rather than individual lenses.

As Watanabe-san puts it:

It can be said that this series was made possible by the unprecedented concept of unifying the various lenses without compromising the performance of each individual lens, and it is the advanced optical technology that makes this possible.

Features of S Line prime lenses

Each of the fast f/1.8 S line prime lenses sport a linear motor for autofocus operation, which guarantees high-performance while maintaining low-noise operation at the same time. Furthermore, on the mechanical side, high-precision surface treatment is applied to reduce the friction between the guide shaft and the sliding lens frame, and the highly responsive linear motor performance is fully demonstrated.

prime lens
Shinji Watanabe-san with the new LUMIX S 18mm f/1.8. Image credit: CineD

As per the long development time of these lenses, being future-proof is key and so Panasonic made sure to deliver 8K resolution with these S line prime lenses. In a nutshell, the company wants you to use your lenses longer than the actual camera body and be able to use these lenses with camera bodies in the future as well.

Lens breathing and lens coating

According to Watanabe-san, the key to suppressing lens breathing is the arrangement of the focus lens during the optical design process. This is because the angle of the light rays passing through the focus lens has a large effect on the amount of breathing.

Of course, a lens with minimum lens breathing is rather essential for filmmakers, while it is not as much important for stills photographers.

LUMIX S 18mm
Image credit: CineD

A completely uncoated lens won’t give you much joy, or at least you’ll get a pretty niche specialty lens when shopping for such a lens. the applied lens coating not only defines the look and feel of a lens, its character so to speak, but also helps dramatically in reducing all kinds of nasty side effects such as ghosting, flares, washed out colors and other effects.

At Panasonic, the image quality engineering team for the camera body and the optical design team for the lens work together to maximize image quality but also to maintain a matching visual output across the whole line of lenses (and cameras).

LUMIX S vs. LUMIX S PRO

While most LUMIX S line lenses do not bear the PRO suffix, some do. And as the name suggests, the PRO variants deliver a bit more performance than their non-Pro counterparts. The LUMIX S PRO 50mm F1.4 for example sports a faster f/1.4 aperture.

S Line
Image credit: Panasonic

According to Watanabe-san, Panasonic always tries to strike the best balance possible between performance, size and weight and of course price.

Link: Panasonic LUMIX S website

What do you think? Are you a LUMIX user and have experience with these S line lenses? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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