Fast 70-200 mm zoom lenses are the most popular lenses for cameras with a full frame sensor among quality-conscious photographers. That is not for nothing; the professional fast 70-200 mm zoom lenses belong to the best lenses out there in terms of optical performance. If you want to have a zoom lens with the same field of view and brightness for a micro-43 camera, you have the choice of one lens since recently: the Panasonic 35-100 mm 2.8. It is 50% shorter, 75% lighter and 50% cheaper. We hope you are as curious as we were when we started this Panasonic 35-100mm review.
Panasonic 35-100mm review with Olympus OM-D E-M5 & Panasonic GH3
A 70-200 mm telephoto zoom lens is almost standard equipment of every photographer having image quality in high priorities. A maximum aperture of f/2.8 also makes it easier to take sharp pictures from the hand in low light. The built-in image stabilization reinforces that too.
Construction and autofocus
The construction of this lens is – despite its low weight and compact size – of a professional level. The supplied lens hood can be placed inversely on the lens for transport, but the lens hood is so large that you cannot focus manually anymore and it can be difficult to control the zoom ring if you leave the lens hood on the lens unchanged. If you use the lens hood, the lens is about 50% longer.
The drive of the autofocus runs very quickly and in low light, this lens still focuses quickly and accurately.
Focusing goes as fast as with a good SLR and it is very quiet. On an Olympus OM-D E-M5, this lens is slightly less quiet than on a Panasonic GH3.
On a Panasonic camera, you switch on the image stabilization with a switch on the lens. The Power OIS is very quiet: you hardly hear that it is on. We have tested the image stabilization on a Panasonic GH3 at a focal length of 50 mm. From a shutter speed of 1/100, Power OIS provides a sharper image than an image shot out of hand without image stabilization. In the range of 1/100 seconds to 1/13 seconds, the gain is 2 stops. The images shot out of hand without image stabilization exhibit a much more unpredictable result than the images taken with image stabilization. The images taken without image stabilization with a shutter speed of 1/100 seconds to 1/13 seconds are sometimes very sharp images, but the longer the shutter speed, the smaller the chance of a sharp picture. At a shutter speed slower than 1/13 seconds, the image is visibly less sharp than an image taken from a tripod. This goes for both the images taken with and without Power OIS. Those are less good results than we have achieved with the IBIS of a Panasonic lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M5.
In practice, we have managed to use a shutter speed to 1/10 seconds at a focal length of 100 mm and get a somewhat sharp picture. These images are not as sharp anymore as an image taken with a shutter speed of 1/200 s or faster, but thanks to the high resolution of the Panasonic 35-100 mm still usable for a (small) print.
On a Panasonic GH3 camera, you have the facility to correct for vignetting. This correction is highly effective.
If you open a RAW file with a program other than Lightroom, Photoshop or SILKYPIX, you discover that this lens shows a visible barrel distortion at a focal length of less than 70 mm. If you open a RAW file in Photoshop or Lightroom, it is already corrected before you see the image on your screen. Both the Olympus OMD-EM5 and the Panasonic GH3 carry out a very effective in-camera correction of the Panasonic 35-100mm distortion in jpg files. In practice, you will not suffer from distortion when working with both RAW files and jpg, even at critical issues such as architectural photography.
A 100 mm Micro-43 telephoto lens delivers a nice blurred background at full aperture in practice, as in the example above. However, if there are bright lights at a greater distance in the background, it can still give a troubled background. Move your mouse over the image shown for a second example.
Below on the right, you see an image area of the bokeh of a close shot taken with a 100 mm focal length.
To prevent flare, Panasonic has provided the lens elements with a nano-coating. In addition, the lens comes with a lens hood. When shooting straight into the sun, it can give you a small area around the sun where there is reduced contrast due to flare. Yet we have not encountered ghosting, even under extreme conditions. This lens is so good that you can probably leave the lens hood at home, without this being noticeable in the image quality.
The Panasonic 35-100 mm delivers sharp images across all focal lengths from full aperture to aperture 8. Above that, the resolution decreases as a result of diffraction. This is the best micro-43 zoom lens we have reviewed to date, with the Panasonic 12-35 mm yielding more or less equivalent results (but at a different focal length range). The images are measurably sharper in the center, with the maximum being located at aperture 4 to 5.6. Nevertheless, with the naked eye, the difference in resolution between the corners and the center is hardly visible. The graph below on the left shows a comparison of the measurements done by Roger Cicala of LensRentals.com (he has reviewed 7 copies) to the results of CameraStuffReview. Note: it is about the number of line pairs per picture height of a non-sharpened RAW file. Normally in our reviews, we show in our Imatest graphs the number of lines of a jpg file sharpened and saved in the camera by default. The results are consistent. Only at 100 mm f/2.8, we find clearly sharper images. It says, especially in combination with the results of the 7 separate examples on Lensrentals, something about the high degree of reproducibility of the production process of Panasonic. The image of a penguin was taken with a 100mm focal length. Click (2x) on the image for a compressed version for the website in full resolution (4608 x 3072).In order to compare MTF50 results for this lens with MTF values for lenses tested on cameras with an APS-C or full frame sensor, we set the micro-43 test camera to a 2: 3 ratio. In other words: we tested this lens with a resolution of 14 megapixels (2:3 ratio) instead of 16 megapixels 4:3 ratio). Using the native 4:3 aspect ratio will yield slightly higher MTF values.
If you want to compare the resolution of the Panasonic 35-100 mm at 100mm to the resolution of the Panasonic 100-300 mm, Panasonic 45-150 mm or the Panasonic 45-175 mm, please go to our overview of performances @ 200mm FF and filter the list on sensor: m43.
Both in RAW and jpg files created with the Olympus OM-D EM-5, the chromatic aberration is so low that you not be affected in practice, even at large magnifications. In combination with the Panasonic GH3, the chromatic aberration is even slightly lower. This is probably because Panasonic applies in-camera correction of chromatic aberration, although this lens does not even need that.
Conclusion Review Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8
A fast 70-200mm (full frame equivalent) telephoto zoom lens was missing in the wide range of micro-43 lenses. The Panasonic 35-100 mm f/2.8 fills that gap with gusto. The construction of this lens is – despite its low weight and the compact size – of a professional level. In addition, Panasonic has succeeded in making the Panasonic 35-100 mm the equivalent of a 70-200 mm f/2.8 zoom lens on a camera with a full frame sensor in terms of optical performance. That is a very good achievement, because those lenses are among the best lenses for sale. At a retail price of 1299 Euro’s, we are talking about a lot of money. Given the optical performances and the high quality of construction, this lens is certainly not expensive.