Panasonic 35-100mm f/4-5.6 MEGA OIS LUMIX G X VARIO
Lab Test Results
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April 29, 2016
by Andrew Alexander
Announced in September of 2014, the Panasonic 35-100mm ƒ/4-5.6 Mega O.I.S. Lumix G X Vario is a compact, Micro Four-Thirds-format telephoto zoom lens that provides an equivalent field of view of 70-200mm (in 35mm film terms).
The lens takes 46mm filters, ships with the H-FS35100 petal-shaped hood, and is available now for around $400.
The Panasonic 35-100mm ƒ/4-5.6 is a decently sharp lens: our copy showed a slight amount of de-centering, but not so much as to get excited about. When using the lens in the widest apertures, we note excellent image sharpness mostly across the frame: at the wider angles we note a slight amount of corner softness, which is mitigated as the lens is stopped down. For example, at 50mm and ƒ/4.9, we see the image of that lens de-centering on the left-hand side of the frame; stopping down to ƒ/8 removes this corner softness entirely.
The lens' best performance comes at 35mm and ƒ/8. Stopping down further doesn't provide any noticeable further gains, due to diffraction limiting showing up at ƒ/11. It doesn't really impact on sharpness until ƒ/16 or ƒ/22, where we note generalized image softness across the frame.
The lens provides excellent results for chromatic aberration: in-camera correction has taken away any color shifts, turning any aberration into slight reduction in sharpness. Take a look at our sample photos to see the effect, prominent mostly in the corners and on areas of high contrast.
The only area of concern for the lens when it comes to corner shading is at the 35mm focal length when the lens is used wide open at ƒ/4. In this case we see corners which are a half-stop darker than the center; at any other setting, corner shading is negligible.
The Panasonic 35-100mm ƒ/4-5.6 lens produces excellent results for distortion, with images that show no barrel or pincushion distortion at any focal length. There is no doubt some level of image post-processing applied within the camera, and in this case the results are excellent.
The Panasonic 35-100mm ƒ/4-5.6 is very quick to autofocus - the lens takes well under a second to slew through the entire range of focus. Small changes in focus are conducted extremely quickly, and there's very little noise when the lens focuses.
This Panasonic lens is clearly not designed as a macro lens, offering just 0.11x magnification and a minimum close-focusing distance of 90cm (around three feet) at 100mm. Close-focusing improves slightly to about 2 feet (61cm) at 35mm.
Build Quality and Handling
The Panasonic 35-100mm ƒ/4-5.6 lens is extremely small and light, weighing in at just 135gm (just under five ounces). The lens must use a fair amount of plastic to keep the weight down, but does employ a metal lens mount. It employs a mechanism similar to other Micro Four-Thirds lenses which allows the lens to retract for storage, and must be extended prior to use.
The optical layout is decently complex: 12 elements in 9 groups, including 1 aspherical and 2 ED elements, and the lens uses seven curved diaphragm blades to make up the aperture. The are no switches, distance scale or depth-of-field scale on the lens; the only information is the focal length markings. Lens-related functions like image stabilization are controlled from the camera body.
The 35-100mm ƒ/4-5.6 isn't a ''constant'' lens, in that as you increase the focal length, the maximum aperture size decreases, though the minimum remains the same. The following table reflects the change in aperture with focal length:
The focusing ring is plastic with raised ribs, just 1/4'' wide. The ring will rotate forever in either direction with no hard or soft stops. The zoom ring is also plastic with raised ribs, about 3/4'' wide. The zoom ring is smooth to turn, taking only two fingers to rotate, and offers only around 45 degrees of turning action to run through the available range of focal lengths. There is some lens extension as the lens is zoomed in towards 100mm, about one inch. Zoom creep is not a factor with this lens.
The H-FS35100 lens hood is a petal-shaped, bayonet-mounted design that is 1 1/4 inches long. The hood will reverse for storage on the lens.
The Panasonic 35-100mm ƒ/4-5.6G lens features Optical Image Stabilization (Mega O.I.S.) that, in our testing, provided three and a half stops of hand-holding stability at 35mm, and an impressive four and a half stops stops at 100mm. Be sure to check our IS Test tab for greater detail.
Panasonic 35-100mm ƒ/2.8 POWER OIS LUMIX G X VARIO ~$1,500
The 35-100mm ƒ/2.8 is much more expensive, but sports the constant ƒ/2.8 aperture which allows for more light-gathering ability, and a much larger size. Optically the lens is very good indeed, even used wide open at ƒ/2.8.
Olympus 40-150mm ƒ/4-5.6 ED M.Zuiko Digital ~$180
When it comes to this class of lens, there aren't many other options to choose from in any of the Micro Four-Thirds camps: the Olympus 40-150mm isn't directly equivalent, but provides a similar shooting experience. Optically the lens is about as good as the Panasonic, perhaps a bit worse for chromatic aberration, and your mileage may vary by mounting an Olympus lens on a Panasonic body.
Optically, the Panasonic 35-100mm Mega O.I.S. Lumix G X Vario is very good for the price - there are some very slight issues with corner softness and de-centering with our review copy, but nothing to write home about.
For what it does, the lens does it very well: the only performance item I might have a problem with is that the variable aperture reduces quite quickly. For example wide open at 35mm the maximum aperture is ƒ/4; zooming in to 50mm, your maximum aperture is ƒ/4.9. This will restrict your shooting style a bit; you'll either be shooting outside, with a flash, or you'll need to boost your ISO settings.
Panasonic has had a 35-100mm ƒ/2.8 zoom available for some time now, but the casual Micro Four-Thirds shooter could have been put off by its $1,500+ price tag. Panasonic has wisely provided a less expensive option that will match extremely well with the Panasonic 12-32mm ƒ/3.5-5.6.
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/4-5.6 MEGA OIS LUMIX G X VARIO
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Panasonic 35-100mm f/4-5.6 MEGA OIS LUMIX G X VARIO User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by mactheweb (1 reviews)Super light, good sharpness, good color. Small size.Slow aperture. Lots of plastic.
This is a perfect compliment to the Panasonic GM5. It weighs less than 5 ounces and is small enough that it looks right on the GM5. The lens focuses quickly, at least as quickly as the camera allows. Images are sharp. Micro contrast is not as good as the as the 12-32mm kit lens, though that's surprisingly nice for such an inexpensive lens. With the tiny camera and kit lens this makes a super compact and light travel kit. When it's on sale it's a great deal. At full price it's decently priced for what it is.reviewed August 5th, 2016 (purchased for $250)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Prime Minister (42 reviews)Incredibly compact and lightweight, sharpness, contrast, stabilisation, build quality
From the day this lens was announced, I was interested in it. I read some reviews and I saw the product photos online of course, but when I opened the small box and took the petite lens out of its plastic packaging, I was totally amazed by how small and lightweight this lens really is. The small box even seems slightly large for this lens. The first thing that came to my mind, was that if this lens delivered good image quality, it would be the perfect carry everywhere short telezoom. I haven't seen anything this compact ever, except for the Nikon 1, but that system uses a much smaller sensor.reviewed December 19th, 2014 (purchased for $430)
The build quality seems very good. The rear element doesn't move in or out and the front doesn't rotate. The barrel, zoom ring, focus ring, filter thread and lens mount are all made of metal. The inner tube is plastic. The lens certainly doesn't feel cheap (and it isn't). Zooming in and out feels slightly rough but it's precise enough. The front element has the fairly standard 46mm filter thread, excellent. You don't have to push a button or lever to extend the lens, just turn the focus ring and you're good to go. It clicks nicely into place.
Autofocus is fast, silent and accurate. The optical image stabilisation works very well and I think it will give you two to three stops extra. I haven't used it extensively, but I didn't find it annoying or jumpy at all. Stabilisation seemed smooth and calm and it did its job well.
The image quality is surprisingly good. Now I know this is not a fast lens, but for normal daytime photography (or on a tripod) this lens shines. Photos made with this lens have good contrast and excellent detail. It's a little softer towards the edges, but nothing to worry about. There is some vignetting, but it's very minor. A few clicks in post processing fixes this. I haven't found any CA at all. If it's there, it's probably very little. Really good optical results for such a small lens. I mean, we're talking about a 70-200mm equivalent zoom lens that's hardly any bigger than the small Olympus 45mm f/1.8.
Nothing is perfect and I noticed that this lens suffers from shutter vibrations when used on a Panasonic GX7 and mostly from 70-100mm. However, that's only when you use the mechanical shutter. Images made with the electronic shutter are tack sharp at all settings. It's probably be the camera. The GX7 is known for its shutter shock issues. No problems at all on the GM5 body.
This lens stays in my collection. I definitely recommend it if you are looking for the smallest and lightest (slow) zoom possible without sacrificing image quality. It punches above its weight.
Update: After owning it a little longer, I grew even more fond of this lens. It's a really nice lens. Good reach, lots of detail and it's so lightweight and compact. I can see why this lens, the 12-32mm, a fast prime and a tiny camera body like the Panasonic GM5 is a perfect walk around camera kit.