Panasonic Lumix G X 35-100mm F2.8 Lens Review

October 8, 2012

Panasonic G X 35-100 mm F2.8 lens on dark background

In this article I want to explore the Panasonic Lumix G X 35-100mm f/2.8 OIS lens and see why you certainly need to consider getting this lens if you can afford it.  The 35-100 mm is a Micro Four Thirds lens and it’s compatible with all Micro Four Thirds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. Micro Four Thirds sensor have sensors with 2x crop factor, which means that when mounted on a M43 camera, the 35-100mm is equivalent to 70-200 mm, and due to its fast f/2.8 aperture and Power OIS image stabilization,  it resembles the popular  70-200 mm f/2.8 lenses of Canon, Nikon and other 3rd party lenses that offer the same range and fast aperture.

The Lumix G X Vario 35-100 mm F2.8 ASPH. lens also perfectly compliment the G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 ASPH lens, which is paralleled to the very popular 24-70 mm f/2.8 of the Nikon and Canon counterpart. So if you want the best of the best for your Micro Four Thirds camera, choosing those two lenses will give you the best image quality and creative possibilities that will match the high performance of today’s Micro43 image sensors.

This lens is also dust and splash proof, which means that it compliments the dust and splash proof design of the Panasonic Lumix GH3 and Olympus OM-D E-M5 cameras, which are also both dust-proof and splash-proof.  The Lumix G X Vario 35-100 mm isn’t a cheap lens, it costs around $1500 and it’s aimed towards enthusiast and professional photographers who need and will take advantage of that weather-sealed fast-aperture lens.

The Lumix G X Vario 35-100 mm belongs to Panasonic’s Premium Lumix G X lens lineup, which are a new breed of very high quality zoom lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system standard. You can look at it like a Canon-L lenses but for the M43. Panasonic utilizes the latest technologies and the best optical performance to deliver the best image quality possible, this includes Panasonic’s nano surface coating, optical image stabilization (POWER P.I.S.) and also aspherical and ED glass elements.

 

Size Matters

The 35-100mm lens was designed to be lightweight and compact in size, and indeed it’s remarkably small. The next image will give you a good look how small the 35-100 really when being compared side by side to the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II lens.

Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 and Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 size comparison

Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 and Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 size comparison (via: camerasize.com)

* The 35-100 mm lens diameter is 67.4mm and the length is 99.9mm, but it’s measured from the top lens elements to the bottom lens element, so therefore the total estimated with is larger than what stated in the specs.

The above image really gives you a good understanding what the Micro Four Thirds format is all about, and I didn’t even add a Nikon and a Micro Four Thirds camera to this size comparison. You can view this comparison with the lenses attached to cameras on camera size compact meter web app.

In this case size does matter and don’t take it for granted, Panasonic used the best technologies to make this lens as small as possible, but at the same time still keep it the optical performance very high, which is crucial for such a lens. I certainly prefer carrying the 35-100 mm over the large and heavy 70-200 f/2.8 lens. The Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 VR II weights 1540g, the Panasonic weights 360g, that’s more than 4 times less than the Nikon.

Just for the record, in terms of pricing, the Nikon costs around $2400, the Panasonic costs around $1500, approximately $900 less.

 

Depth of Field at F2.8 – Full Frame vs Micro Four Thirds

The Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm is an F2.8 lens, a constant F2.8 which means that you can shoot at F2.8 at any give focal length.  That means that this lens is best suitable for low-light shooting and in occasions where you want to separate the background from the subject buy utilizing the fast aperture.

The one thing that is getting some people confused is the depth of field.

Micro Four Thirds / 35mm f2.8 / 2m subject distance =
- Near Limit: 1.87 m
- Far Limit: 2.15 m
- Total: 0.27 m
- In front of subject: 0.13 m (47%)
- Behind subject: 0.15 m (53%)

 

Full Frame / 70mm / f5.6 / 2m subject distance =
- Near Limit: 1.87 m
- Far Limit: 2.15 m
- Total: 0.27 m
- In front of subject: 0.13 m (47%)
- Behind subject: 0.15 m (53%)

 

You can see that for a 35mm equivalent 70 mm, the 35-100 mm MFT lens produce the same depth of field as a 70mm f/5.6 on a full frame camera. The light gathering ability (i.e. exposure) is the same for both at f/2.8. So due to the smaller focal length the depth of field is reduces, so you won’t get the same depth of field as with a Nikon 70-200 mm  at f/2.8, but as with f/5.6. Still, you get very nice shallow depth of field, but not at the same shallowness degree as with a full frame sensor and equivalent aperture.

You can do that yourself using this depth of field calculator.

 

The Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm F2.8 features 7 rounded diaphragm blades for smooth Bokeh. The minimum focusing distance of this lens is 0.85m / 2.8ft (0.2x magnification / 35mm equivalent).

 

Bokeh Quality

The Bokeh is a term that related to the quality of the out-of-focus areas of an image.  Fast lenses usually adapt rounded diaphragm and more blades in order to produce circular smooth out-of-focus elements. Some lenses perform better than the others, and I’m pretty sure that yo wanna know how good the 35-100 mm Bokeh is.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time going over lots of images inspecting the Bokeh quality up close and here’s my conclusion:

The Bokeh quality is a subjective opinion, but I measure the quality of the defocused elements and highlights with how rounded and smooth it is. With the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100 mm it’s kind of a mixed bag. Viewing some sample images on popco.net,  you can see that the overall Bokeh  looks very very smooth and out-of-focus highlights / elements in the image appear rounded and that’s thanks to the 7 rounded blades. However, in the photos with the leaves at the back, you can see that straight elements that aren’t that rounded in nature doesn’t seem to look very good when blurred out, like a duplication of those elements. I’ve also notices that when those elements are close to the lens, the The blur effect doesn’t look that good.

Bokeh quality, rough edges

Out of focus tree and flower leaves at f/2.8 don't render so nicely (image source: popco.net)

 

So that means that it depends on the scene that you are shooting. Also note that you won’t get the same blurriness that you get with a 200mm f/2.8 lens on a full frame camera, it’s not going to happen and I explained why in the previous section. So the overall impressions are good, but you should understand the limitations. It’s not science, but I think that those images at popco.net gives a good idea how good the Bokeh is.

So as you can see, I’m not 100% pleased with the blurring quality, but the overall Bokeh quality if very pleasing. You can see on the other images that the Bokeh looks great, and it depends on the shape of the out-of-focus elements in the background and also the distance of course. Of course let’s look at the good side, this shallow DOF allow you to separate the subject from the background in a very high degree, what is not possible with slow zoom lenses. Those images looks very good due to the blurred background effect.

 

10-300mm Image Quality analysis (Sample Images)

The Image Quality is Excellent, sharpness is just mind blowing and colors are very pleasing and well saturated. The images that this lens produces are so vivid and full of life, contrast is excellent and it seems that every photo that you take with this lens just comes to life on your screen.

 

Panasonic 35-100mm F2.8 image qualityPanasonic 35-100mm F2.8 image qualityPanasonic 35-100mm F2.8 image qualityPanasonic 35-100mm F2.8 image quality
100 mm
f2.8
ISO 400
100 mm
f2.8
ISO 400
100 mm
f4
ISO 160
89 mm
f2.8
ISO 400

The first image really shows the capabilities of the camera in terms of contras and shaprness. The full-res image is not available, but it certainly shows part of the 35-100mm G X capabilities.  I am already fantasizing about the GH3 + 12-35 x  + 35-100 x..mmm..
Dpreview has also posted 31 sample photos taken with this lens and I certainly worth a look here. Those images tell the same story, the image quality of this lens is just incredible (taken with the Lumix DMC-GX1 MFT camera). I recommend downloading the original JPEG files to your computer and inspect the image at full resolution. The strawberries image gives you a good overview of the color rendition, sharpness, DOF ad contrast of this lens (shot at 100mm, F4.5, ISO160).

The sunflower image really shows us how sharp this lens is, tack sharp! – Look at the fine details in this image, just incredible.  The horse carriage image shows that the Bokeh can be very pleasing, it really depends on the backgoround elements, but in that image it looks beautiful. The statue image also shows how beautiful the Bokeh can be, it looks battery smooth (100mm, F2.8, ISO160). Now you can understand why the Bokeh was kind of a mixed bag, but after viewing those images, I wouldn’t worry about the Bokeh quality that much, the overall image quality is amazing and the advantages waaaayy outweigh the disadvantages, which are almost none.

This is certainly image quality of a PREMIUM lens. Ive even went to photographyblog.com to check their sample images at various aperture settings, and it seems that the sweet spot of this lens is at f/5.6, but that’s just a tine bit better than f/2.8. Even at f/2.8 this lens is incredibly sharp at the center and improved at the corners when you close the aperture.

Any downsides?

I’ve visited quesabesde.com and I’ve observed the vignetting which is certainly there at f2.8 and even at f4 you can see it’s visible mostly in the corners. This of course can be easily corrected using photo editing software like Lightroom 4. Quesabesde also reports very little Chromatic aberrations in all focal lengths and also at f2.8, which is great news. The site also reported very smooth out of focus and excellent image quality. ephotozine.com came to the same conclusion: “At 35mm and f/2.8 sharpness in the centre of the frame is already approaching outstanding levels..“. Yes, you read it right ‘outstanding level’, what more do you want?

Image quality you wanted – you got it! – 35-100 X is a professional grade lens, I am really impressed with what I’ve seen, I really do.

 

So let’s sum it up:

  • Sharpness is excellent
  • Medium degree of vignetting at f/2.8, even at f/4 there is still some shadows at the corners
  • Contrast and Color rendition is excellent
  • Bokeh is buttery smooth, but it depends on the type of out-of-focus elements. In some circumstances the Bokeh doesn’t look that good (see the Bokeh quality section above) – did I miss something?
  • Low distortion
  • aluminum body

 

Summary: Outstanding High Image Quality!

 

What about Video Quality, let’s take a look:

X35-100(Cross P) from POPCO.NET on Vimeo.

X35-100(AFC Face Detection) from POPCO.NET on Vimeo.

 

 

Lens Construction

Take a look at the Panasonic 35-100 mm f/2.8 optical elements:

The optical elements of the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8

You can see the two ED and UED lens elements, and you can also see how complex this lens is.

Lens Construction characteristics:

  • 18 elements in 13 groups
  • UED (Ultra Extra-Low Dispersion) lens and 2 ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) lenses minimize chromatic aberration and distortion
  • Nano Surface Coating technology for dramatic reduction of ghost and flare
  • Circular aperture diaphragm
  • Power O.I.S. / Optical image stabilization
  • 7 diaphragm blades / Circular aperture diaphragm
  • F22 minimum aperture
  • Filter size 58mm
  • Durable metal mount
  • Inner focusing system and stepping motor

 

I have to give it to Panasonic for delivering such exceptional results with such a complex lens – bravo!

 

Conclusion

If you are searching for a fast telephoto-zoom lens, look no further. This is by far one of the most impressive telephoto-zoom lenses I’ve seen in years. This lens is so small and the image quality it produces it out of this world.  It’s weather sealing perfectly matches the Panasonic GH3 and Olympus OM-D E-M5 weather sealing capabilities.  The lens won’t extend when you zoom in or focus. The inner focus system and stepping motor enables excellent resolution and contrast and also promote smooth and silent focusing which is essential for video recording.

The Power O.I.S. is very useful when shooting in slow shutter speed and in low-lit situations. This lens produces pleasant defocused background (although notice my remarks in the Bokeh quality section). The Panasonic LUMIX G Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 ASPH Lens already got great rating all across the web. It’s the perfect match for the 12-24mm G X lens and a must have lens for enthusiast photographers who want to take their skills to a new level. For around $1500 it can be out of reach for many photographers, but believe me when I say that it’s worth every cent. I am still amazed how small and lightweight this f/2.8 lens is, Panasonic was able to make an incredible lens that will convince more people to move to the micro four thirds. It’s a win for Panasonic and a win for the Micro Four Thirds format too.

It just can’t get better than this folks (at least for now). A Super Highly recommended lens that will give you professional results and matches perfectly your Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic Lumix GH3 MFT cameras.

Order the Panasonic 35-100 mm f/2.8 Lumix G Vario from B&H here.

 

Share your opinion by commenting below.

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