Pocket telephoto: Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 II POWER OIS LUMIX G X VARIO
The lens name, Panasonic 35-100 mm f/2.8 mm II Power OIS Lumix GX Vario, is almost longer than the lens itself. The Panasonic 35-100 mm f/2.8 II is a compact telephoto lens with an field of view that matches that of a 70-200 mm lens on 35mm. That is a range that has been very popular for years. On the short side, around 40 to 50 mm, you can use the lens very nicely for portraits. You then stand at a pleasant working distance, and you do not get any weird distortions in faces. On the long side, at 100mm, you have a real 4x telephoto with which you can portray subjects very large and can create a nice, flat perspective. Thanks to the wonderful brightness of f/2.8, you also get a beautiful bokeh with this lens. Of course, that is not as buttery soft as the bokeh that you get with a 70-200 mm f/2.8 on full frame. But bokeh is not solely the result of the brightness. The lens design also has an influence on this, and the design of the 35-100 mm f/2.8 is such that the background blur is nice and soft. That lens design is not changed in the new version. This lens has always been one of the sharpest zooms Panasonic had in its range. What has changed is the appearance and the image stabilization. The lens is now – finally – just black. Panasonic has finally abandoned the strange metallic purple glow of the previous version. Functionally more important is that the image stabilization has been modified. This allows the new 35-100 mm f/2.8 II to cooperate optimally with the Dual IS of the most modern Panasonic cameras.
BUILD AND autofocus
The Panasonic 35-100 mm f/2.8 II is a real compact telephoto, with a length of just under 10 centimeters. Even better is that this length does not change with either both zooming or focusing. Everything happens internally. With a diameter of just under 68mm, the lens is also fairly slim. And talking about slim, at 380 grams, this is a telephoto zoom that has been on a serious diet. Yet this is not a typical, plastic consumer zoom. The housing is largely made of high-quality plastics, though, but the tolerances are very close. And with f/2.8, this lens is fairly bright, and the lens maintains that brightness over the entire range. The 35-100 mm f/2.8 II is also completely weatherproof. The versions we have reviewed have been tested under very diverse conditions, like hiking on a glacier in Iceland with frozen rain blowing horizontally across the plains while the camera cheerfully hangs over the shoulder, without any problem. This is one of those lenses within the Micro Four Thirds system that you can use professionally in places where you would rather not take any heavier equipment with you. The finish of the lens is a nice matte black, without even a red or gold edge with which other brands like to adorn their top quality lenses. Together with the compact dimensions, this ensures that the 35-100 mm f/2.8 II is a nicely inconspicuous lens.
Functionally, Panasonic has changed two things. The first is the autofocus. That is quiet and very fast, thanks to the linear micromotor and fast control up to 240 times per second. To take full advantage of this, you obviously need a modern body that supports this fast control. Panasonic also claims to have improved the control of the aperture. We have not noticed much from this in our tests, but certainly for film work these little things can help.
5-AXIS IMAGE STABILIZATION
The other big change is the adjustment of image stabilization. The original 35-100 mm also had optical image stabilization, which could also work together with the built-in image stabilization of Panasonic cameras. But the arrival of Dual IS 2 in the latest Panasonic bodies with five-axis image stabilization also placed new demands on the image stabilization of the lens. The graph below shows the gain from only the optical image stabilization of the lens, and that is a good 3 stops. In combination with the five-axis image stabilization of the latest Panasonic cameras such as the G9 and GX9, almost twice that is achievable, and you can get stabilization in video that almost matches that of a tripod, although that is usually not for very extended periods.
The image quality of the 35-100 mm f/2.8 was already good in version 1 and still is in version II. If we place the graphs for both lenses side by side, we see higher results for the new version. That is not so much because of an improved design, but because we tested the new lens on a new 20 megapixel camera. With lesser lenses, a body with more pixels often creates bigger differences between the center (which does benefit from the extra resolution) and the corners (which lag behind). That is not the case with the 35-100 mm. The sharpness increases both in the center and the corners. The corners are, though, less than the center at almost all apertures. In the short range, the lens is more uniform than at the longer focal lengths, where the difference between the center and the corners is certainly larger at the full opening. At the longer focal lengths, it is best to stop down at least one or two stops for the best result.
The distortion is minimal in the photos, almost 0, because it is already corrected in the camera. That does not mean that the lens has no distortion. Far from it, even. The measured distortion is quite a bit for a telephoto zoom. The correction thereof is not lossless. It is difficult to say how big the loss is. If you can give the design sharper corners by accepting some distortion (which you then recalculate), then that may ultimately be better than designing a lens that has no distortion but has corners that are not as good, due to a more complex design. What ultimately counts is that the corrections in the camera provide an almost distortion-free image.
What also contributes to the overall impression of a high image quality is the minimal presence of chromatic aberrations. In the Panasonic bodies they are, insofar as they exist, also corrected in the camera. Those who work with older Olympus models will have to do that in post-processing. But even without post-processing or correction in the camera, you have to look closely to see any of it. The bokeh is generally pretty nice. Of course, you cannot compare an f/2.8 for Micro Four Thirds with an f/2.8 for 35mm. Because you are shooting with a 100mm on Micro Four Thirds, where you need a 200mm on 35mm for the same picture, you also have more depth of field, and the background becomes visible more quickly or is sometimes even restless when you have a lot of small branches or something similar in frame. But in general, you can get a nice bokeh with this 35-100 mm f/2.8, and the lens is great for portraits with a soft background.
ConclusiON: REVIEW Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 II POWER OIS LUMIX G X VARIO
- Fantastic image quality
- Very good image stabilization
- Constant length and f/2.8 brightness
- Nicely compact and light
- Price close to 1,000 euros
- Shortest setting distance could have been shorter