It may not be a cheap piece of glass, but it puts in an impressive performance
So what do you get for your money? Externally there is a bulbous front element that is protected by a fixed petal-type lens hood, over which a slide-on cap protects the lens when not in use. Internally there are four ED glass elements and two aspherical profiles. The zoom ring is located closest to the camera body, with the manual-focus ring beyond. Manual focusing is done electronically rather than manually and is aided by an enlarged viewfinder image (where available).
At the shortest focal-length setting, great care must be taken to keep the camera parallel to any objects that are to be correctly rendered without converging verticals, for example, but there is not a hint of geometrical distortion. A slightly odd noise (rather like the flexing of a bellows) came from the review lens at the widest end of the zoom but not the sort to set alarm bells ringing.
Technical testing reveals a well-matched set of curves that remain above 0.25 cycles-per-pixel from maximum aperture down to about f/13, suggesting that the lens is likely to perform very well in most picture-taking situations. Obviously the use of a pop-up flashgun would be ill-advised given the zoom’s bulky front end, but that ought to be a more-than-tolerable limitation.
It is worth noting that the zoom ring rotates clockwise (from behind the camera) to set longer focal-lengths and that this matches the rotation of the companion Lumix 14-45mm zoom. The alternative 14-42mm zoom from Olympus rotates counter-clockwise, which might prove rather unsettling if paired with the Lumix 7-14mm.
Despite being larger than other Micro Four Thirds lenses, the Lumix 7-14mm is a pleasure to use and allows some very dramatic compositions to be recorded. It is hardly an everyday lens, but it's an admirable beast in more ways than one.