June 11th, 2011, 11:55 PM
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F/4.0-5.6 OIS Lens Field Review
The Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4-5.6 OIS lens is currently one of two super telephoto lens produced specifically for the Micro Four Thirds system, the other being the Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 M.Zuiko Lens.
On a Micro 4/3 camera, the Panasonic lens gives the same angle of view as a 200-600mm lens on a 35mm format camera, providing an opportunity to get the reach sought after by wildlife photographers without the kind of bulk commonly associated with DSLR lenses for the same application.
Of note, the Panasonic 100-300mm lens is only 15% and 30% lighter than the current Canon and Nikon 70-300mm lenses respectively. Some may argue that these aren't the proper lenses for comparison since they don't provide the same angle of view. To get the same narrow angle of view with one of those lenses on APS-C, one would have to use a 1.4X teleconverter and in the process lose autofocus. However, I think it's worth pointing out that for a given actual focal length range, the Micro 4/3 lens isn't all that much lighter (or smaller).
Here's how it looks on my GH2:
Compared to other Panasonic Micro 4/3 lenses:
For a matched angle of view on APS-C, one has to pull out the bigger guns. Here's how the Canon 100-400mm lens (160-640mm "equivalent" angle of view) looks next to the Panasonic lens:
Angle of view doesn't necessarily translate into "reach" though. The reason Micro 4/3 cameras have the potential for greater "reach" than APS-C and 35mm format cameras for a given focal length is that the Micro 4/3 cameras tend to have higher pixel density. If a lens is sharp enough to outresolve the smaller pixels, this can translate into greater detail in the resulting capture. Canon wildlife photographers have long leveraged the greater pixel density offered by Canon APS-C cameras over Canon 35mm cameras for this exact purpose. A bit later in the review, we'll see how well the Panasonic lens is able to keep up with the GH2 sensor.
Brief observations from use
- Build quality is very good for a plastic lens.
- The zoom ring is smooth throughout the course of travel.
- Lens extends to nearly double length upon zooming to 300mm.
- Optical image stabilization seems effective
- Autofocus is silent and reasonably quick (tested on Panasonic GH2)
- Focus-by-wire manual focus ring is smooth and works well (automatically brings up magnified view)
- No color fringing was evident using my usual workflow (RAW files processed in Lightroom 3).
- At full telephoto, lens magnification is approximately 1:5 (0.2X)
Autofocus was accurate and locked well on static objects at all focal lengths. When attempting to lock on seagulls in flight, I had considerable difficulty at 300mm and greater success at the shorter end of the zoom range.
A focus limiter switch like the one on the Canon 100-400mm lens would have been very useful in preventing the lens from racking through the close focus range when attempting to lock on distant birds. I did manage to lock a couple of times with the zoom at 300mm. Keep in mind that these are both heavy crops:
I didn't do any scientific testing for this review. All the images shown were taken handheld with image stabilization engaged. Keep in mind that handshake blur, misfocus, and high ISO noise may have affected the results shown. I've tried to present a variety of image samples to give a sense of the lens sharpness and rendering.
At the wide end of its range, the Panasonic 100-300mm lens is an impressive performer.
Perhaps a touch of handshake on this one, but the level of detail is still very respectable:
At the middle range (~200mm), performance remains very good. Two samples:
Of course what most of you will want to know if how this lens performs at 300mm, so I'll show the most samples at that setting:
Without shooting charts, it seemed to me that the best performance at 300mm was ~ f/7-8. Here's a young rabbit who cooperated for testing:
Lots of detail-obscuring noise here at ISO 2500 and probably some handshake blur as well, but you can still see some nice detail:
I had a blast using the Panasonic 100-300mm. I don't have a great deal of experience or skill with wildlife photography, but this is a lens that made it really fun to get out and try my hand with some of the local birds and small animals.
It's a big lens compared to others in our system, but very easy to take along when compared to any APS-C or 35mm system autofocus lens with a similar angle of view. Compared to the Olympus M. Zuiko 75-300mm lens, the Panasonic is about 21% heavier, 35% less expensive (based on B&H pricing at the time of this writing), 1/2 stop faster, and relies on in-lens stabilization as opposed to body image stabilization.
The Panasonic lens performance overall exceeded my expectations, delivering sharp, contrasty images with pleasing out-of-focus blur rendition throughout the zoom range. Results were a bit less impressive at 300mm than at other focal lengths, although my technique may well have played a role, and rigorous testing from sites like SLR Gear and Photozone will eventually help to clarify the lens' potential. I do think there is room in our system for a critically sharp 300mm f/4 stabilized prime lens at roughly twice the size, weight, and cost of the Panasonic zoom.
The one disappointment I had with this lens was that it was hard to lock focus on birds in flight at the 300mm setting. Although my technique isn't the best, I have enough experience with other lenses and systems to know that, to a degree, this is a limitation of this particular camera-lens combination. Again, I think a focus limiter switch would have been helpful.
The Panasonic 100-300mm is a great lens for any Micro 4/3 user looking to get some great shots at the zoo, on safari, or with any sort of local critters. Despite its autofocus limitations, I found this lens to be capable of good results for outdoor sports photography when light was plentiful. I also found it to be a great lens for photographing my kids, although the minimum focal length of 100mm meant that they could only be photographed at a significant distance, even for head and shoulders portraits.
In summary, the Panasonic 100-300mm is an excellent addition to our Micro 4/3 system and a great value (currently $521 at B&H Photo). Highly recommended.
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The following 25 members thank Amin Sabet for this post:
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June 12th, 2011, 02:13 AM
"although the minimum focus distance of 100mm ..." is about 4 inches, so I guess a typo here?
Ah ... "Minimum Focal Length" of 100mm, as OSidPhoto writes below, is obviously what was meant.
Last edited by sphexx; June 12th, 2011 at 06:17 AM.
Reason: correct error
June 12th, 2011, 04:27 AM
The following member thanks JohnMetsn for this post:
June 12th, 2011, 04:45 AM
Amin, I think you are referring to the "Minimum Focal Length" and not the "minimum focus distance" when you mentioned.....
"....although the minimum focus distance of 100mm ..."
June 12th, 2011, 05:06 AM
Thanks for the review and the effort put into it. Mine is my default lens, on the G1 unless something else is needed.
One question though is has Olympus stopped production of the 70-300 ?
The following member thanks greerd for this post:
June 12th, 2011, 06:11 AM
Thanks for the review, Amin. You have covered the basic points fairly well. The photos do demonstrate a significant level of captured detail and color contrast.
A while back, at the time of the launch of this lens, I was deeply inclined towards purchasing this lens. However, I was torn between the price tag of this lens and the benefit of the additional 100mm offered by this lens compared to the Lumix 45-200.
Having read different reviews, I was wondering if the 100mm additional focal length was truly worth the significant additional cost. Also, it appears that the weaker side of this lens in terms of its resolution, sharpness and overall quality is between the 200mm to 300mm length. Quite frankly, is someone is buying this lens, it would primarily be for the farther end of the lens rather then its 100-200mm lengths. In view of this, and the reviews, I decided not to go for it considering it to be an investment on the expensive side weighing against the returns one would get from it. I may be wrong, but this is how I evaluated this lens.
My primary objective behind considering this lens was to use it as a silent Auto Focus lens for video at times, but more so for birding where AF quite often is the differentiating factor whether you get "that" specific shot or not. However a slow or hunting AF at the longer end means one would possibly still miss "That" specific shot, bringing it at par with a manual focus lens of this focal length and beyond, with perhaps a comparable or better image quality.
Just my 2 cents.
- Panasonic GF1 X 2,
- 20mm f/1.7, 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6
- Olympus Digital 45mm f/1.8
- Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.2, 50mm f/1.4, 28mm f/2.8.
- Pentax M42 Super Takumar 200mm f/4, 85mm f/1.8, 55mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.4, 2X and 3X Teleconverters.
- M42 Russian MTO 1000mm f/10 Mirror and Jupiter 37A 135mm f/3.5
- Pentax Auto Bellows with Extension Tubes for Macro.
- ...and several Minolta/Alpha AF Lenses.
Visit my Flickr photostream at:
The following member thanks OSidPhoto for this post:
June 12th, 2011, 07:30 AM
Amin, thanks for the review. I generally agree with your points. I haven't done any real wildlife photography with it, but I've done some sports action shots with it and, paired with the GH2, it performed about as well as I could ever want or imagine from an m43 setup (which, as others have pointed out, are capable but far from the best available for action shots).
One thing you didn't touch on, and perhaps didn't experience, is that if you're focussed on a subject at a fair distance at or near the long end of the lens, and the background is some distance beyond the subject, the character of the bokeh on that background can be very granular and angular and funky - not smooth or creamy. Not having done a lot of shooting with loooong lenses, I don't know if this is unique to this lens or if that's the way bokeh will look under those specific circumstances, but its something to be aware of if you do a lot of this kind of shooting. BTW, the bokeh is just fine when the OOF background is not as distant from the subject - its only when there's a long distance from you TO the subject and a long distance from the subject to the OOF background. Here are a couple of obvious examples of what I'm talking about:
The following member thanks Ray Sachs for this post:
June 12th, 2011, 08:16 AM
June 12th, 2011, 08:22 AM
Good review, thanks for taking the time Amin.
It's going to make me break out my ancient 300mm again ...
Oly e-P1&17mmF2.8 e-600, e-410&40-150MkI, E-1&14-54MkI, Tokyo-Koki 300mm
Lumix G1&Yashinon45F1.7, e-pL1&Z9-185, e-P2&45mm. e-pL2&30mmF2.8 e-pM2&20mmF1.7
The following member thanks Ulfric M Douglas for this post:
June 12th, 2011, 08:32 AM
Ray, I've seen that kind of effect with this lens and also with the 70-300 for regular 4/3 and the Canon 100-400L. I'm guessing that it may be due to heat/atmospheric effects with superteles, because I can't think of another reason why sometimes the bokeh has that look while other times it does not.
Originally Posted by Ray S
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