Panasonic 100-400mm f/4-6.3 ASPH POWER OIS LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR

 
Lens Reviews / Panasonic Lenses i Lab tested
100-400mm $1,785
average price
image of Panasonic 100-400mm f/4-6.3 ASPH POWER OIS LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion

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SLRgear Review
June 22, 2016
by Andrew Alexander

Panasonic released the 100-400mm ƒ/4-6.3 ASPH POWER OIS LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR in April of 2016, offering an astounding 200-800mm equivalent field of view in a relatively small package.

The lens was designed specifically for the micro four-thirds lens mount. The lens uses a variable aperture, in that as you increase the focal length, the maximum aperture size decreases, however the minimum remains the same. The following table reflects the change in maximum aperture with focal length:

Focal Length 100mm 200mm 300mm 400mm
Largest aperture ƒ/4 ƒ/5.1 ƒ/5.7 ƒ/6.3
Smallest aperture ƒ/22

The lens takes 72mm filters, and ships with the DMW-H100400 hood. The lens is available now for around $1,800.

Sharpness
The Panasonic 100-400mm ƒ/4-6.3 offers exceptional results for sharpness, providing excellent sharpness when used at its wider focal length, and becoming less sharp as the lens is zoomed in towards 400mm.

Wide open at 100mm and ƒ/4, the lens provides almost tack-sharp images, marred only by the lightest of corner softness. Stopping down provides almost negligibly better sharpness in the corners, and by ƒ/8 it's about as sharp as the lens can offer. We see almost identical performance at the 200mm setting.

At 300mm and 400mm we begin to see results which are slightly less sharp: it's still very good, just not as tack sharp as you'll see at 100mm. Diffraction limiting begins to set in at ƒ/11, but you won't notice any impact on sharpness until ƒ/16.

Chromatic Aberration
Chromatic aberration is minimized quite well by the lens; the only place we note it at all is when the lens is used at 100mm, and stopped down quite significantly. Very light magenta fringing is visible in the corners, in areas of high contrast.

Shading (''Vignetting'')
There's a trace amount of corner shading when using the lens at the 100mm setting, and it's really only relevant when using the lens at the ƒ/4 aperture. At these settings, the corners are just under a half-stop darker than the center: at any other setting, corner shading is negligible.

Distortion
When you look at the distortion graph for this lens, you know that there must be some impressive post-processing under the hood here as there is absolutely no distortion to be seen here.

Autofocus Operation
The Panasonic 100-400mm ƒ/4-6.3 offers very fast autofocus results, motivated by an in-lens electrical motor that's very fast and very quiet. The lens took about a second to focus from minimum distance to infinity. Filters attached to the front element of the lens won't rotate, making life a little easier for polarizer users. Also, focusing produces very little noise, making it very useful during movie capture.

Macro
While the lens isn't specifically designed for macro, it's not bad for this purpose, providing a maximum magnification of 0.25x at 400mm, at a minimum close-focusing distance of 1.4m (just over 4 feet).

Build Quality and Handling
Compared to most Micro Four-Thirds lenses, the Panasonic 100-40mm ƒ/4-6.3 is a giant, heavy beast at almost seven inches long, and over two pounds in weight. Compared to 35mm equivalent lenses like the Canon 100-400mm it is significantly lighter and smaller, and with the micro four-thirds system, the lens offers twice the equivalent focal length.

The lens offers a clean design dominated mostly by its massive zoom ring. The optical design of the lens is very complicated: 20 elements in 13 groups with 1 Aspherical, 1 UED and 2 ED elements. Nine rounded aperture blades are used with the expectation of creating pleasing out-of-focus elements. The lens mount is metal, and the 72mm filter threads are plastic. The lens also offers full weather sealing.

The lens has several controls to speak of, other than the zoom and focus rings. Image Stabilization (''Power O.I.S.'') is controlled by one switch, turning it on or off; a second switch activates or deactivates a focus limiter, allowing either a full range of focus or limiting the range from 5 meters. Finally autofocus can be activated or deactivated with a third switch. The lens has no distance scale or depth-of-field markings. The lens does not feature an internal zoom design, meaning the lens extends as it is zoomed in -- in fact it will extend from seven inches to ten inches at 400mm.

The zoom ring is the (much) larger of the two, a thick rubber with raised rubber ridges. It is 1 1/2" wide and is mounted closer to the lens mount. While the lens doesn't have any problems with zoom creep, Panasonic has thoughtfully provided a zoom lock switch in the form of a third ring between the focus and zoom rings. The zoom action is nicely cammed, providing a smooth turn that has just the right level of firmness. It provides around 120 degrees of turning action to go from 100mm to 400mm.

The focus ring is composed of plastic with raised ribs, and is 5/8'' wide. The focus ring will turn forever in either direction, with no hard stops to indicate a focus limit. Thus it's hard for us to determine how many degrees of ''focus action'' are available in manual focus, though manual focus is handled well by the camera.

Panasonic has built Image Stabilization into the lens, useful for countering the effects of shaky hands holding the camera. Check out our IS Test tab for more detailed results.

The DMW-H100400 lens hood that ships with this lens is a (comparatively) long round hood which slips on to the end of the lens and attaches with a set screw to hold it in place. The hood is 2.5'' in length. The lens also includes a shorter built-in hood which can be slid in and out as required. Finally, the lens includes a built-in tripod mount, which can be rotated for both portrait and landscape orientations.

Alternatives

At the time of writing the Panasonic 100-400mm ƒ/4-6.3 lens is a fairly unique optic, and there aren't that many alternatives to consider for it.

Panasonic 100-300mm ƒ/4-5.6 ASPH MEGA OIS LUMIX G VARIO ~$600
We haven't yet reviewed this lens, but it offers a slightly smaller, less telephoto option for significantly less cost.

Conclusion
It may be expensive, but it's amazing to consider just what you're getting for the price: one of the lightest ways to get an image-stabilized 800mm image. If you were already thinking about this lens, then looking at these test results should be more than enough to convince you.

Product Photos

Sample Photos

The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.

As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.

Panasonic 100-400mm f/4-6.3 ASPH POWER OIS LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR User Reviews

9.2/10 average of 5 reviews Build Quality 9.0/10 Image Quality 9.6/10
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    * quite short at 100mm * excellent image quality * excellent mechanics * excellent tripod coupling * not so expensive: little more money than a Nocticron but much more versatil * luminosity ok. (in my analogous times I had to take my photos with a 60
    none

    Best lens I ever bought in my life. No more comments!
    Note: the "stiff" zooming is caused by the customer's mistake: the lens is supplied with its zoom-lock-ring put into the "lock"-position. Please, unlock, turning it to the left (anti-clockwise). Otherwise it will remain stiff, until you destroy the mechanics of this lens. So be careful with it, to enjoy!

    Yours truly Toivo

    reviewed July 8th, 2016 (purchased for $1,825)
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    Image quality
    Zoom stiffness

    I can't argue with the review of image quality, but it is very hard to turn the zoom ring, especially in comparison to the ease of the Olympus 40-150 2.8., and it hasn't gotten any easier after using it a few months. It's so hard, in fact, that it makes me want to not use the lens

    reviewed July 2nd, 2016 (purchased for $1,800)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)

    Just a couple of additions:

    The focus ring on my 100-400mm is IMO aluminum. Cold metal anyway, not warm plastic.

    After I got it I set up a simple comparison test shooting the AF resolution target in the center of the frame with three lenses: 14-140 MK II, 100-300, and 100-400. I tested at 100, 140, and 300. Results were surprisingly close and, more surprise, the 12-140 seemed to be slightly softer than the other two.

    I'll be taking the 100-400 to Tanzania this month for a 3 week chase of the Great Migration. I'm really looking forward to seeing how it performs. That said, I will probably sell it when I return. It's so big and heavy that, with a GX8, it really destroys my M43 objective of small and light. Plus the 400mm end is not one that I use on a regular basis.

    reviewed July 1st, 2016 (purchased for $1,500)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    High contrast, like my old LeicaR 250 mm Fast silent auto focus Close range into 1.3m
    the prize but it´s depend of what you compare to as a Leica unit it´s cheep and its a Leica unit

    My focus are at first for Video productions, and there you need to use Zoom lenses to make frame ready for production before you start recording.

    This is ny first video test with the optic.
    https://vimeo.com/163139993

    This lens give the same picture quality as my old Leica R 250 mm
    but add
    - images stabilization, - zoom 100- 400 -silent autofocus - and with lower wight
    -and rain protected.
    We can name it progress

    reviewed July 1st, 2016 (purchased for $1,700)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (1 reviews)
    - Super small & lightweight compared to SLR equivelent lenses - Lightening Fast AF - Sharp Res with excellent Leica color sat - Quick zoom action to go from 100 to 400
    Zoom ring a bit stiff when making small adjustments (i.e. changing from 200 to 250mm)

    Just got my Panny Leica 100-400 the other day and was eager to try it out against my aging, heavy Canon 100-400 (orig mk 1 version). With the Panny on a Panasonic G7, and the Canon on a Canon 70D, looking at both on a table, the Canon only appeared to look about 30% bigger. But holding them in hand is a whole different story! The Canon weighs close to 5 lbs whereas the Panasonic is only 3 lbs. Much easier to carry around all day and handhold. I expected to have to sacrifice image resolution and AF speed by moving to a smaller MFT sensor from a DSLR, but I've yet to find either the case. While both cameras have a stated 7 fps max speed, the Panasonic seems to lock focus and shoot about twice as fast as the older Canon system (totally unscientific-- just my impressions thus far). Image sharpness seems much sharper with the Pan 100-400, and I'm liking its bokeh much better than the Canon as well. While default color out of the Pan G7 seemed a tad less saturated than the Canon 70D, shadow noise was surprisingly less noticeable. The only (minor) complaint with this new lens is the zoom ring. While I love the short/fast travel to get it zoomed from 100 to 400, love that it doesn't "creep" like the Canon when tilted downward, and love the simple one-handed zoom lock function (vs. 2-handed with the Canon), to make a micro zoom adjustment on the Panasonic is more difficult and a bit "jerky." If your shooting style is to make lots of little zoom changes (i.e. 200 to 250, or 400 to 300), rather than just 400 to 100, you may be annoyed with this lens. I'm a max/min shooter, so for me, this is not a big a deal. All in all, the Panny 100-400 with a fast AF Panny G7 is certainly a no-brainer upgrade over my old Canon 70D and 100-400 mk 1. I'm thrilled!

    reviewed July 1st, 2016 (purchased for $1,798)