Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 POWER OIS LUMIX G X VARIO HD
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Lab Test Results
July 10, 2014
by Andrew Alexander
Probably the most frequently-used lens in any professional photographer's bag is a 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, and Panasonic has created a product which fills this gap in its Micro Four-Thirds camera series: the 35-100mm ƒ/2.8 POWER OIS LUMIX G X VARIO HD.
The lens produces an effective 70-200mm field of view, when you consider the 2x crop factor of the Micro Four-Thirds sensor; it's also equipped with all the bells and whistles, including optical image stabilization, a nano-surface coating to reduce ghosting and flaring, and a near-silent autofocus motor designed to work seamlessly with HD movie capture.
The lens ships with a round lens hood, takes 58mm filters, and is available now for around $1,500.
In a word: sharp.
Right out of the gate at ƒ/2.8, and the lens produces edge-to-edge, tack-sharp results, at any focal length. While stopping down technically produces slightly sharper results, you'd be hard-pressed to see it with the naked eye or pixel-peeping a test chart.
Technically, diffraction limiting begins to set in ƒ/8, but again, the sharpness is just so good at this lens that you probably won't see it until ƒ/22, where we note generalized softness across the frame.
You'll see lower results for chromatic aberration on other lenses, but there's nothing here to really get worried about; CA is well-controlled, only showing some very slight magenta fringing in areas of contrast, in the extreme edges of the frame.
There's some slight corner shading when the lens is used at the ƒ/2.8 setting -- the corners are between a third and a half-stop darker than the center of the frame. At any other aperture setting, corner shading is minimal.
There's definitely some distortion correction going on in the Panasonic camera, as our test results show no relevant distortion at all, despite the focal length.
The 35-100mm ƒ/2.8 X offers very fast autofocus results, motivated by an in-lens electrical motor that's very fast and very quiet. The lens took well under 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.
The lens isn't designed as a macro lens, and produces poor results in this category, offering just 0.10x magnification at a minimum close-focusing distance of 85cm (2.8 feet).
Build Quality and Handling
Compared to most Micro Four-Thirds lenses, the Panasonic 35-100mm ƒ/2.8 is fairly heavy - just over 12 ounces. This is however much lighter than a conventional APS-C or full-frame equivalent lens (the Nikon 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 weighs 54 ounces, or 4 1/2 times heavier, for example). The lens offers a clean design dominated mostly by its massive zoom ring. The optical design of the lens is fairly complicated: 18 elements in 13 groups, with 2 ED lenses and one Ultra ED lens. Seven rounded aperture blades are used with the expectation of creating pleasing out-of-focus elements. The lens mount is metal, and the 58mm filter threads are plastic. The lens also offers a rubber grommet at the mount end for protection from water and dust.
The lens has few controls to speak of, other than the zoom and focus rings. A single switch is available, which controls the Image Stabilization (''Power O.I.S.''), turning it on or off. The lens has no distance scale or depth-of-field markings. The lens features an internal focus design, meaning the lens does not extend during focusing, and it does not change its size while being zoomed in from 35mm to 100mm.
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. The lens doesn't have any problems with zoom creep, and the zoom action is nicely cammed, providing a smooth turn that has just the right level of firmness. It provides around 70 degrees of turning action to go from 35mm to 100mm
The focus ring is composed of plastic with raised ribs, and is 1/2'' 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 H-HS35100 lens hood that ships with this lens is a (comparatively) long round hood which attaches to the end of the lens via a bayonet mount. The hood is 2.5'' in length and can be reversed onto the front of the lens for easy storage.
Given the relative newness of the Micro Four-Thirds lens mount, it's not surprising that there isn't a plethora of alternatives for this unit; you can certainly get there with a third-party adapter, opening up options from almost every other manufacturer, but you lose key features such as autofocus and image stabilization.
Olympus 35-100mm ƒ/2.0 ED Zuiko ~$2,500
At the time of writing, this is the only lens that is out-of-the box comparable with the Panasonic 35-100mm ƒ/2.8 for Four-Thirds DSLRs. It's longer, heavier, and almost twice as expensive, but offers a full stop of greater light-gathering ability with its ƒ/2 aperture. We have not yet reviewed this lens.
There's a lot to like in the Panasonic 35-100mm ƒ/2.8: it's super sharp and offers professional results at slightly less than you might pay for a comparable full-frame lens. Perhaps its most attractive feature is its slim frame, but then, that's one of the chief selling points of the whole Micro Four-Thirds endeavor.
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 35-100mm f/2.8 POWER OIS LUMIX G X VARIO HD User Reviews
10 out of 10 points and recommended by lalitjee (13 reviews)lightweight,sharp small sizenot so far
a very well balanced lens on Olympus Em 1,love this combinationreviewed November 24th, 2014 (purchased for $1,335)
7 out of 10 points and not recommended by mgauss (2 reviews)great lensdo not like cheap rubber on the metal body, would like metal ridges
do not like rubber, gets sticky and it smellsreviewed September 7th, 2014
10 out of 10 points and recommended by asulea (12 reviews)ligth-weight, very sharp, fast autofocus, excellent contrast & colors, OIS,etc.No
Sharp edge to edge at any focal length, very fast autofocus, excellent contrast and colors, small and light-weight. The lens has internal focus and zoom (not change its size).reviewed August 10th, 2014 (purchased for $1,100)
I use the lens on Olympus OMD E-M1 and the results is real profesional.