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Nov 17

Review: Panasonic Lumix G Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 X OIS

Panasonic and Olympus have been very busy the past few years, filling out their lens lineups for Micro 4/3, and while there have been some consumer grade lenses released in this time frame, both Olympus and Panasonic have really targeted the high-end enthusiast and professional with their recent lens offerings.  At first, Micro 4/3 had a bunch of slow consumer grade zoom lenses, and some mediocre primes, with a few gems like the Panasonic 7-14 thrown in.  After a good start with some very nice lenses, Olympus has released a flurry of truly outstanding prime lenses, while Panasonic has filled the void with much needed high-end zoom lenses.  The latest, Panasonic’s 35-100mm f/2.8 X OIS, fills one of the last major needs in the Micro 4/3 system: A fast telephoto zoom.

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective.  You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here.  There are plenty of other sites that cover those.  I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool.

Around the Lens

Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 X OIS

The Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 is the first high-grade telephoto zoom for the Micro 4/3 system.  It has the same field of view as the standard 70-200mm zooms for full frame cameras and features a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the range.  This type of lens is a stalwart in any camera system, and it’s great to finally have it for Micro 4/3.  The lens features a solid, well constructed body built predominantly of metal, but with some high-grade plastics as well.  The base and focus rings are metal (thin-walled, likely aluminum), while the broad zoom ring is plastic covered in grippy rubber.

Like it’s companion 12-35mm f/2.8 brother (reviewed here), the 35-100mm f/2.8 features weathersealing against dust and water, so there is a rubber gasket surrounding the metal lens mount.  When used with a weathersealed body like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 or the Panasonic GH3, you’ll have a high grade set to shoot when the weather gets nasty.

The lens is relatively large for a Micro 4/3 lens, but positively tiny for an f/2.8 lens with a field of view like a 70-200mm lens on full frame.  It’s half the length and one quarter the weight of Canon’s 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II.  It ends up being slightly longer and fatter than Panasonic’s compact 45-175mm f/4-5.6.  Like that zoom and all pro-grade 70-200 lenses on the DSLR systems, the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 OIS zooms and focuses internally, so the lens stays at a constant length regardless of settings.

Now, the effective depth of field will be similar to an f/5.6 on full frame, but if you want that super shallow depth of field, then a Full Frame DSLR is your thing.  Me?  I’m happy to have the f/2.8 aperture for use in low light, and to get a little extra subject separation while using a zoom lens, and I’ll take the enormous weight and size savings, thank you.

Unlike Olympus, which charges an arm and a leg for the hoods for its high grade lenses, Panasonic is kind enough to include both the lens hood and a lens pouch for the 35-100mm f/2.8. The hood is made of high quality plastic, is reversible for storage, and is nice and deep to protect the front element and shield it from flare.

Autofocus, OIS and Handling

The 35-100mm f/2.8 carries Panasonic’s HD designation, which means it features virtually silent operation, both in autofocus and in the optical stabilizer.  Autofocus with the 35-100mm lens is very fast, silent and quite accurate.

Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 OIS on the Olympus OM-D

Despite it’s slightly large size compared to other Micro 4/3 lenses, I’ve found it to handle very well.  It’s well balanced on a gripped body, and even handles decently on something like the GX1, though it’s not as balanced.  The zoom ring feels wonderful, and it has that damped, almost heavy feeling that is very similar to the feel of a DSLR 70-200 zoom.  Frankly, it’s that detail that truly makes it feel like a high grade lens.  The focus ring is passable, but isn’t particularly damped, and so doesn’t quite match the very high end feel of the zoom ring, but I’m OK with that.

The optical image stabilizer (OIS) in the Panasonic is the newer ‘Power-OIS’ variant that is supposed to be the best.  While certainly better than nothing, the OIS on this lens isn’t up to the level of Canon’s recent IS implementations, or even the outstanding IBIS in the Olympus OM-D.  The OIS can be switched on or off via the hard switch on the side of the lens.  In my use, I’ve found the OIS to be good for a little more than two stops of extra handholdability.  I was able to get sharp shots at about 1/40s consistently at 100mm.  With the OM-D’s IBIS, I was able to go all the way down to 1/15s.

There is one other quirk with the OIS I discovered.  At very high shutter speeds, (1/3200 and 1/4000s), there seems to be some feedback that causes blurring.  Switching the OIS off at these speeds is recommended.

Next: Image Quality

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

16 comments

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  1. lisandra

    That last one is truly sharp! 65 f2.8 primes for 1500$? Sign me up!

  2. tgutgu

    There are numerous reports in the German Systemkamera Forum that the 2.8/35-100mm lens does not really have 100mm at the long end. Forum members and owners of the lens claim that it is only a 35-85mm lens in reality, which would be more than the usual tolerances.

    Did you find anything similar? Helpful review, by the way.

    Kind regards

    Thomas

    1. Jordan Steele

      I don’t do testing of that sort, and I’d have to research and figure out a good way to test that (I suppose it’s simple geometry to find AOV), but it is plausible. The only thing I have to compare it to is the Oly 75/1.8, and indeed, to match FOV on the 35-100, I need to be at about 82mm to get the same AOV as the 75/1.8. 100mm is certainly longer than the 75/1.8. By how much, I couldn’t say.

      Then, I remembered: like many telephoto zooms like this, the real measurement needs to be taken at infinity. (my little quick test was at about 5 feet). Internally focusing lenses tend to shorten focal length at closer distances, and zooms likely further than primes, so it is quite possible that it’s very close to accurate at infinity, but a little shorter at closer focus distances. For instance, the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR is only 135mm at minimum focus distance, and I think I recall the Canon 70-200 shortening to about 150-160mm at that focus distance.

      So, I took a few test shots out my window, and while at 75mm, the 75/1.8 is still SLIGHTLY longer, I’d put the difference at no more than 1mm (it’s extremely close to the same framing). At 80mm on the zoom, it’s a tighter perspective, and 100mm much tighter still. So, I would say the 35-100 may shorten in a similar manner to most modern 70-200 zooms at the closer focus range, but it appears to be pretty close to marked focal lengths at infinity.

    2. Jesper

      That’s true, and the confusion is because of the majority thinks 43 has a crop factor of 2X. Which is not true, by default many 43 (M43) cameras are set to take stills in 4:3 ratio. For that ratio the crop factor is actually 1.85.

      http://photo.stackexchange.com/questions/24642/what-is-the-crop-factor-for-four-thirds-cameras-considering-aspect-ratios

  3. mimstyle

    Can beat the same in full frame, this is tthe best lens ever !

  4. Cal Williams

    Thank you, Jordon, for this great review of the 35-100. When this lens was first announced, I wasn’t all that excited by it, and I was seduced by the excellent 75mm as a fairly long alternative. However I now see what the happy owners of the 35-100 can do with it, and am having second thoughts. Although I am very comfortable with my other m43 primes, the 75mm, for all of its excellent sharpness and charactor, is a focal length that doesn’t seem to be clicking for me. I don’t do much portrature, and find 75mm a bit too long – 45mm is just fine. As I am saving for the eventual Pany 150mm prime, which I figure will sell for well north of $2000, I may have to sell the 75mm in order to buy the 35-100, which with its water resistance and wide range, should be more usefull to me. The flip side of having this great selection of lenses for m43 is that, unless one wins a lottery, it is difficult to settle on the most cost-effective kit! Keep up the good work – I enjow your blog very much.

  5. TomS

    I really appreciate the time you put into this write-up. I’ve been shooting and developing film, as a hobby since a child and have just jumped from a Canon G10 I purchased a bit more than four years ago to the OMD, which I plan to use for professional work. I pushed myself to learn every nook and cranny of that G10, pulling its full potential and seriously cannot wait to invest the same time and love into understanding the absolute limits of this camera. Obviously, purchasing the first lens will be a big occasion.

    Knowing my comfort zone, I was sure I was going to invest in the 12mm, though after reading more about this lens, I am likely going to go another direction. Being assured the quality is there, in a range new to me, gets me really excited to go out, shoot and learn.

    I’ve been reluctant to join some of the online conversations, though I felt compelled to say thank you and let you know I will continue to look here for opinions and guidance as it seems you and your audience are (you might say) more level-headed.

    All the best in the new year!

  6. tomK

    Thanks for this review. Realistic overview with great sample pics. Anxious to try one out.

  7. Marcus

    I am just waiting for my GH3, this lens and the 12 – 35 as a more portable alternative to my Nikon D3s kit.

    I would not expect this to outdo my Nikkor 70-200 2.8 VRII but then that lens costs over $1000 more than this one!

    It looks like a great lens though and the GH 3 looks like a great camera, so I am looking forward to seeing what I can achieve with them and intend to produce paid jobs with the system which I am confident can be done although not every job.

  8. Tony

    Just got my lens today.

    $1,500. Disappointed, lens says, “Made in China.”

    WTF?

    1. Edward Fox

      Yes, I was surprised when I rec’d the lens too… usually Japan reserve the best technology in-house but then again all my Olympus gear including prime lens are made in China, and I never had any problems. I guess China is the new Japan & Tailand is the old China.

  9. watch stream

    very good

  10. Jay Gould

    Hi Jordan, thank for this and the 12-35 f/2.8 review. I am a new convert to the Olympus OMD EM-5 body; selling a lot of heavy Canon 5D3 + lenses gear. I also purchased the Panasonic 12-35, 35-100, and 100-300 f/2.8 lenses.

    My question: please explain the use/interaction between the OIS on the lens and the Olympus 5-axis image stabilization system. I had thought with the Olympus 5-axis image stabilization system you should turn off the OIS. I will leave it on pending hearing from you. Cheers, Jay

    1. Jordan Steele

      Sorry I didn’t see this comment until today: With the Panny lenses with OIS switches, you need to choose one or the other. I have found the E-M5’s In body IS to be generally a little better than the 35-100’s OIS, so I generally turn off the lens IS unless I’m using my Panny GX1. If you leave both on, they will compete, and horribly blurry images will result.

  11. Ed

    Jay,
    I too recently picked up the Olympus OM-D EM-5 and was wondering if you’ve taken the35-100mm Panasonic lens thru it’s paces and whether you’ve found any issues to be concerned about. I’m seriously thinking about getting this lens but haven’t found enough reviews using this in combination with the OMD. Any feedback would be appreciated.

    Thanks – Ed

  12. Nobuyuki Sakamoto

    After reading your recent Nocticron review, I wanted to see what you thought about the 35-100mm lens. I’ve not had good luck with it, and lens flare, with the lens hood in place was awful with the sun out of the frame. The Panasonic repair facility found it to be normal.

    I never thought to turn off the IS for certain shutter speeds to increase clarity, so I will try this. When I sent this lens away, I bought the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens and noticed how much better the GH3 seemed to be–in color, in sharpness, in most any aspect. I’m glad you’ve had better luck with the 35-100mm lens than I have.

  1. Panasonic Lumix 12-35mm f/2.8 X Review @ Admiring Light

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