Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 POWER OIS LEICA DG ELMARIT

 
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200mm $2,999
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: Hands-On & Gallery Images added

 

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 DG First Impressions

Taking the brightest MFT long prime out with the GH5

by Dave Pardue | Posted: 11/13/2017

I love shooting sports and wildlife, but I vastly prefer shooting handheld to being tied to a tripod. I like to shirk and jive and move whenever I need, and most of all, I like to roam, and a 400mm eq. f/2.8 lens on a full frame DSLR is not at all conducive to this. Tripods are imperative for that type shooting, but when capturing things that move I like to be moving too, and that's one of the reasons I spent so much time with the Olympus 300mm f/4 when it hit the scene in 2016. Now, Panasonic has made its big entry into the long prime sports and wildlife lens segment, and I couldn't wait to give it a shot.

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
The Panasonic Leica DG 200mm f/2.8 OIS on the Panasonic GH5

As is clearly obvious right off the bat, this model is a shorter, yet brighter, offering at 400mm eq. in 35mm terms at f/2.8, where the Olympus model is 600mm eq. and f/4. The Olympus is significantly longer, but with a full stop less light-gathering at maximum aperture. Both models intriguingly offer 6.5 stops of Dual I.S. (Sync I.S.) with capable camera bodies, and both are diminutive compared to the same animals in the DSLR/full-frame world.

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
Panasonic GH5 + 200mm f/2.8 shown beside the Canon 1D X II + 400mm f/2.8

This lens was announced the same day as the new co-flagship Panasonic G9, and because we wanted to shoot that model right away with a bevy of lenses, I loaded the 200mm f/2.8 onto the popular GH5 and headed out to see what I could find in the mid-light of November. At first I was a bit disappointed by the general autumn light level, but then it occurred to me that as someone meant to test the lens for you, this was actually good. After all, it's that generously bright aperture that's the main star of the show with this lens, and the most important factor intended to be the big difference maker compared to the competition.

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
1/1300s / f/2.8 / ISO 200 / 400mm eq.
A bright aperture for foggy morning games: The dreary morning of this game between "Belgium" and "Uruguay" seemed more like London than Atlanta, and thus the bright aperture was certainly welcome to me. Also, as with most of the shots in this piece that are wide open, you can really get a feel for how shallow the depth of field can be. This is often terrific for giving the images a nice amount of depth and "pop" but it also makes nailing focus a lot trickier. I have a few examples below where I slightly missed focus, and the results this caused. That is, of course, not the fault of the camera nor the lens, but of the photographer. I found the combination of this lens on the GH5 to be fast and accurate, especially while in AF-S. We'll take a much closer look at AF-C for you in an in-depth follow-up report to follow.

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
1/1300s / f/3.2 / ISO 200 / 400mm eq.

[Images have been resized to fit this page and altered in post-production, primarily to balance shadows and highlights. Click any image to see the original, unedited version as delivered by the camera. And for access to the full resolution files, RAW files and more images from this combination please see our Gallery page.]

Another important feature offered on this lens is a reported 6.5 stops of "dual" image stabilization when paired with capable camera bodies. The new Panasonic G9 is one of these, and firmware will be forthcoming in March of 2018 to bring the GH5 this capability as well. This number matches that offered by the Olympus 300mm f/4 when paired with a capable "Sync IS" body such as the E-M1 Mark II. (Note: We were unable to ascertain how many stops I.S. the 200mm f/2.8 is rated when paired with a body not capable of Dual IS. Stay tuned, as we'll report more once we get an answer from Panasonic.)

Brighter means faster

For any of you who have shot sports or wildlife at longer focal lengths, you know full well how important fast shutter speeds are. At shorter focal lengths, the wider apertures are often as much about the shallow depth of field as the light-gathering, but at longer focal lengths the depth of field is usually considerably shallow anyway, often even too shallow. It's all about light-gathering in order to use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action without cranking the ISO too much, and f/2.8 has long been regarded as the most classic aperture for the job.

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
1/500s / f/2.8 / ISO 800 / 400mm eq.

One of the coolest things about the Leica DG 200mm f/2.8 right out of the gate is that it ships with a 1.4x teleconverter. This yields the 35mm equivalent focal length of 560mm at f/4. That's really close in focal length to the Olympus 300mm f/4, and from what I've seen thus far, the 1.4x TC offers some rather sharp imagery! We'll take a closer look at this in a section down below, but suffice it to say that you're not really trading much in comparison for focal length, given that the 1.4x ships with the lens. You are though paying about $500 more for the 200mm f/2.8, but the added versatility is built into the price.

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
1/640s / f/4 / ISO 3200 / 560mm eq. (1.4x teleconverter)
Lofty gain: The 1.4x teleconverter allowed me to get closer to this little lizard perched high atop a window sill while sunning himself before hibernation. At f/4 I needed an ISO of 3200 in order to remain at a comfortable 1/640s shutter speed in this handheld situation at 560mm eq. Once the firmware is available for the GH5 to allow for 6.5 stops of I.S., I would likely be able to let the shutter speed, and thus the ISO, fall a bit for a shot like this. Still, noise is fairly well-controlled here, although this is about as high as I'm comfortable cranking the ISO for most situations with an MFT camera.

 

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
1/640s / f/4 / ISO 640 / 560mm eq. (1.4x teleconverter)
Talk to me, geese: I slightly missed focus here, but that was my fault. I would have preferred the front goose in focus. But the difference in either case is a good example of how shallow the lens can be at 560mm eq. range. I did use the GH5's AF joystick to move the point when I could, but this shot was spur of the moment. If you're new to a long lens that is this bright, and therefore potentially shallow on DOF, be aware that nailing focus is even more critical than you may be accustomed to, even at f/4. (And, of course, can lend far more depth to an image.)

 

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
1/640s / f/4 / ISO 640 / 560mm eq. (1.4x teleconverter)
The feel of Autumn: Squirrels are common in our area, but still fairly timid. A long lens comes in handy to capture photos without spooking them away.

Autofocus with the 200mm f/2.8

I found single-shot auto-focus performance between the GH5 and this lens to be superb -- both very fast and also accurate. I wasn't quite as impressed with C-AF during the soccer game I shot with this combination, as it tended to wobble a lot and also took a fairly long time to regain focus when it lost the subject. But I'd like to wait on the firmware update and shoot that type situation again before making a final decision. For now I can advise that AF-S is exceedingly fast and dependable.

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
1/640s / f/4 / ISO 400 / 560mm eq. (1.4x teleconverter)
Locking in: AF-S performance between the GH5 and the 200mm f/2.8 was found to be fast and accurate.

 

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
1/640s / f/4 / ISO 400 / 560mm eq. (1.4x teleconverter)
Avian Armada: I once again missed focus on the geese, this time hitting the one to the right, but this one was also the fault of the photographer. I post it here as another example of how shallow the lens really is when wide open, and the need to make sure and focus with care given the shallow DOF available.

Going even longer

In addition to the 1.4x teleconverter that ships in the box, at announcement time Panasonic also unveiled a 2x teleconverter, which will take you all the way to 800mm eq. length, although this will decrease your light-gathering ability to f/5.6. I shot the same image with the lens and with each teleconverter for a quick reference below. The framing appears slightly different due to the difference in compression of the background at the varying focal lengths, but the focus point is close enough to the same on each image to be able to study the differences in sharpness.

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
1/2500s / f/4 / ISO 200 / 560mm eq. (1.4x teleconverter)
Comparison shooting: So how does the IQ of the teleconverters compare in the real world? I'm glad you asked! I set up this shot out in the real world to try and get an initial feel for exactly that.
Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
1x = 400mm equivalent [1:1]
1.4x = 560mm equivalent [1:1]
2x = 800mm equivalent [1:1]
I was shooting handheld from a very low vantage point for this shot, so the framing isn't identical, but the focus point is on the same area of the gray shell in each image. In the above 1:1 crops it's clear that the 1.4x TC doesn't lose anything noticeable in terms of sharpness for the image, at least not in the areas in focus, and this is a really comforting thing given that the TC itself ships in the box! The 2x teleconverter isn't nearly as dependable for sharpness, but this is what we've generally found from other competitors for 2x extenders. You can expect to lose a little sharpness with that one from what I've seen, but with the 1.4x you can expect crisp images.

Here are a few additional examples with the 2x teleconverter, and these were also all shot handheld at the maximum aperture of f/5.6

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
1/500s / f/5.6 / ISO 3200 / 800mm eq. (2x teleconverter)
Bird on a wire: The optional 2x teleconverter at 800mm eq. certainly allows a shooter to get closer to the wildlife that traditionally won't let you get so close. (not as sharp though)

 

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
1/640s / f/5.6 / ISO 200 / 800mm eq. (2x teleconverter)

Conclusion

I've thus far enjoyed my brief stint with the Panasonic 200mm f/2.8, and look forward to more shooting to come. It allows for a bright aperture at a fairly long focal in a package that is easily handheld for extended periods of time out in the field. The image quality thus far from this lens has proven superb, as have the images with the 560mm eq. 1.4x teleconverter engaged, and I look forward to seeing our forthcoming lab results. This lens represents mobility combined with versatility, and I personally find that combination tempting indeed. To be sure, this is a nice lens and a versatile package given the included 1.4x teleconverter.

Stay tuned, as we'll have you much more to come from the test lab and the field with the intriguing 200mm f/2.8 Lumix lens.

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
1/1300s / f/3.2 / ISO 200 / 400mm eq.

 

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 - Sample Image
1/1000s / f/3.2 / ISO 200 / 400mm eq.

Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 DG O.I.S. Gallery

 

 

• • •

 

Product Overview

(From Panasonic lens literature) Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company is proud to introduce a new telephoto single focal length lens, the LEICA DG ELMARIT 200mm / F2.8 / POWER O.I.S. (35 mm camera equivalent: 400 mm). The LEICA DG ELMARIT 200mm / F2.8 / POWER O.I.S. is the first large-diameter ultra-telephoto fixed focal length lens with a name of LEICA DG. It boasts sharpest-ever image quality from corner to corner in the history of LUMIX digital interchangeable lenses. Featuring high mobility in a compact, lightweight design, it also realizes handheld ultra-telephoto shooting.

With its 400mm ultra telephoto focal length and stunning descriptive performance, the LEICA DG ELMARIT 200mm / F2.8 / POWER O.I.S. is suitable for wildlife or sports photography. The 1.4x Teleconverter (DMW-TC14) is bundled to extend the focusing distance to 560mm (35mm camera equivalent) for close-up shots.

The fast F2.8 aperture lets you capture fast-moving subjects while the POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) effectively compensates for hand-shake movement, making it easy to shoot even without a tripod or in low-lit situations. The lens works with Dual I.S.*2 (Image Stabilizer) and Dual I.S. 2.0*3 system when mounted on the compliant Panasonic LUMIX DSLM (Digital Single Lens Mirrorless) cameras for more powerful hand-shake suppression.

Clearing the stringent quality standard of LEICA, the lens is comprised of 15 elements in 13 groups, featuring two UED (Ultra Extra-low Dispersion) lenses. The use of UED lenses and Panasonic cutting-edge optical technology achieve high resolution, high contrast image from corner to corner while suppressing distortion and chromatic aberration.

Incorporating a triple linear motor system and max. 240 fps sensor drive, the new LEICA DG ELMARIT 200mm / F2.8 / POWER O.I.S. achieves high-speed, high-precision contrast AF system for both photo and video recording. This stunning AF performance is excellent to record 4K video, where precise focusing is required. In addition, the micro-step drive system in the aperture control section helps the camera smoothly catch up to brightness changes when panning.

It boasts a rugged, dust/splash-proof design and are even freeze-proof down to -10° (14 degrees F) to withstand professional use under harsh conditions. Offered in sharp, metallic black color, it stylishly matches the LUMIX G Digital Single Lens Mirrorless (DSLM) cameras. The LEICA DG ELMARIT 200mm / F2.8 / POWER O.I.S. can also be used with the 2.0x Teleconverter DMW-TC20 (sold separately), which extends the focusing distance to 800mm (35mm camera equivalent) to capture subjects at a greater distance.

The new ELMARIT 200mm lens and accessories will be available in early January 2018. The lens with the 1.4x teleconverter MSRP will be US$2,999.99 and the optional 2x teleconverter is US$599.99.

*1 The 1.4x Teleconverter (DMW-TC14) is also sold separately as an optional accessory.
*2 Dual I.S. is available on GX8, GX80/85
*3 Dual I.S. 2.0 is available on GH5, G9, G80/81/85
• Some functions of H-ES200 cannot be used with DC-GH5. The firmware for DC-GH5 to fully comply with H-ES200 is scheduled to be released by the end of March, 2018.
• Design and specifications are subject to change without notice.
• LEICA is a registered trademark of Leica Microsystems IR GmbH.
• ELMARIT is a registered trademark of Leica Camera AG.

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