Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 announced: Compact lens offers 6.5 stops of Dual IS and 400mm equiv. focal length
posted Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 5:00 AM EDT
With the new Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S. lens, Panasonic has introduced the brightest long prime lens ever made for Micro Four Thirds. While it's shorter than the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 300mm f/4, it is also a full stop brighter. Within Panasonic's lens lineup, the 200mm f/2.8 is their longest prime lens, although they do offer longer zoom lenses, but none nearly as fast as this new f/2.8 telephoto prime.
When paired with a Micro Four Thirds camera, the new 200mm f/2.8 has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 400mm, giving it the same effective focal length and light gathering capabilities as a 400mm f/2.8 prime lens on a full-frame camera. However, the new 200mm f/2.8 is around 50% shorter and roughly one-third the weight of a standard full-frame 400mm f/2.8 lens.
Let's take a closer look at the new Panasonic 200mm f/2.8's features and specifications.
Key Features and Info
- Compact and lightweight ultra telephoto lens
- 400mm equivalent focal length
- First large-diameter ultra-telephoto fixed focal length Leica DG lens
- 6.5 stops of Dual I.S. (with certain cameras)
- "Sharpest-ever image quality" for a LUMIX lens
- 15 elements across 13 groups
- Two Ultra Extra-low Dispersion (UED) elements
- Triple Linear Motor autofocus system with 240 frames per second sensor
- Dust, splash and freeze-proof (down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit/-10 degrees Celsius)
- Comes with a 1.4x teleconverter
- Available 2x teleconverter
- $2,999 MSRP
Lens Design and Physical Characteristics: Very compact and rugged
The Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 is approximately 50% shorter and weighs about a third of the weight of a Canon or Nikon 400mm f/2.8 lens. That's a considerable difference, especially when you are handholding or needing to travel with the lens. When out in the field, every inch and ounce counts. In total, the Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 lens is 6.85 inches long (174 millimeters) and has a maximum diameter of 3.44 inches (87.5 millimeters) excluding the tripod mount. It weighs 43.92 ounces (1,245 grams) without the lens hood and external tripod mount.
The lens will look familiar to anyone who has used other Panasonic professional lenses. Near the lens mount, there are a multitude of switches, including a focus distance range selector (Full versus 3 meters to Infinity), Focus Preset button and a switch to determine what that Focus button does, including focus recall and focus stopping functions. There is also a switch to toggle between autofocus and manual focus, and an On/Off switch for the Power O.I.S. image stabilization.
The lens includes a wide ridged focus ring and nearer the front element of the lens, a ridged aperture ring. The lens includes a long one-piece lens hood as well. On the bottom of the lens is a removable tripod mount, which has an orientation locking knob and can rotate a full 360 degrees.
As a premium telephoto prime designed for active outdoor photographers in particular, the Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 needs to be rugged. Panasonic has designed the lens to be dust, splash and freezeproof, and certainly seems primed to take on the great outdoors.
Overall, the 200mm f/2.8 is designed to be a compact, lightweight and rugged lens, and based on our hands-on time with the lens thus far, we believe that Panasonic has achieved its design goals.
Optics: Panasonic says it's their sharpest lens yet
With 15 elements in 13 groups, including 2 UED elements, the Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 is designed to offer superb image quality. The lens also includes Nano Surface Coating. Based on MTF charts from Panasonic, the Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S. lens may well be the sharpest Micro Four Thirds lens yet. We will need to put the lens through its paces in the lab, but initial time with the lens has proven promising.
Regarding video shooting in particular, the new 200mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S. prime has features including a micro stepper motor to ensure smooth exposure changes, an advanced autofocus system designed to have minimum wobbling, finer autofocus control and silent focusing thanks to its inner focusing system.
Autofocus and Image Stabilization: Up to 6.5 stops of image stabilization
On the topic of autofocus, the lens includes a 240-fps autofocus sensor drive. The internal focusing lens has a triple linear motor autofocus system which Panasonic says will offer fast, precise autofocus performance. The autofocus system is also designed to be silent, making it well-suited for not only video recording, but also for shooting in situations where noise is problematic, such as photographing events or wildlife.
The Power O.I.S. lens works with Panasonic's Dual I.S. 2 system, which is included in the Panasonic GH5, G9 and G80/81/85 cameras. It is worth noting that the GH5 will require a firmware update to take advantage of all the features of the new 200mm f/2.8 lens. This firmware will be available in March 2018. The lens, with compatible cameras, can offer up to 6.5 stops of image stabilization.
Teleconverters: Comes with a 1.4x teleconverter, 2x also available
The Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 lens comes with Panasonic's new DMW-TC14 1.4x teleconverter. This teleconverter has six elements in four groups and is only 0.87 inches (22 millimeters) long. It adds a mere 4.23 ounces (120 grams) of weight to the 200mm f/2.8. With the 1.4x teleconverter, the lens becomes a 280mm (560mm equivalent) prime with a maximum aperture of f/4.
There is also a new 2x teleconverter, the DMW-TC20, which is sold separately. With this attached, the 200mm f/2.8 becomes a 400mm f/5.6, which is equivalent to an 800mm f/5.6 lens on a full-frame camera. This larger teleconverter includes eight elements in five groups and adds 1.34 inches (34 millimeters) to the total length of the lens. It also adds 5.64 ounces (160 grams) of weight. The 2x teleconverter will cost $599.99 and be available alongside the lens. Both teleconverters, like the lens itself, are splash, dust and freezeproof.
These two teleconverters are all-new for this 200mm f/2.8 lens and currently will only work with this new telephoto prime lens, although we are hopeful that future Panasonic lenses will be able to use the teleconverters as well.
Where the lens fits for Micro Four Thirds
For Micro Four Thirds shooters, there is another telephoto lens to consider. Olympus has the 300mm f/4 IS PRO lens, which is of course longer than Panasonic's new lens, but Panasonic's 200mm f/2.8 offers a full stop more for light gathering capabilities. It will be very interesting to see how the Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 with the included 1.4x teleconverter performs compared to the Olympus 300mm f/4, as those will be roughly equivalent lenses, albeit with the Panasonic lens offering more flexibility and light-gathering capabilities when needed.
With the 2x crop factor, Micro Four Thirds has become a great option for nature and wildlife photographers who regularly need a lot of focal length reach. While the 200mm f/2.8 doesn't provide the same subject separation as a 400mm f/2.8 lens on a full-frame camera, it does offer the same light gathering ability which is very important for photographers working in low light or in need of very fast shutter speeds.
In terms of Panasonic's lineup, the 200mm f/2.8 will be an alternative of sorts to the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 100-400mm f/4-6.3 ASPH. lens with the 200mm f/2.8 being capable of performing like a 400mm f/5.6 with the 2x teleconverter, which is a bit faster than the zoom. Of course, the zoom offers more versatility. The zoom lens also costs $1,200 less without considering the $600 teleconverter needed to make the 200mm f/2.8 equivalent in maximum focal length.
When considering Olympus Micro Four Thirds lenses, the number one competitor for the new Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 is the Olympus 300mm f/4 IS PRO, which costs $2,500. Olympus also offers a 1.4x teleconverter although not a 2x teleconverter. It will be very interesting to see how users who aren't brand-loyal with their MFT lenses choose a high-end telephoto prime lens now.
Pricing and Availability
The Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S. lens will be available starting in January 2018. The lens will retail for around US$3,000 and includes the 1.4x teleconverter in the box. The 2x teleconverter will be available alongside the lens for US$600.