This is the lens that sports / nature photo enthusiasts have been waiting for! If high-end optics are starting to develop well in the Micro 4/3 standard, they were mainly fixed focal lengths and a few “normal” or wide angle zooms. Facing the Olympus M. Zuiko 40-150mm f / 2.8 Pro, less powerful, and the Olympus 300mm f / 4 Pro, very expensive fixed focal length, Panasonic has developed this Panasonic Leica DG 100-400mm f / 4 -6.3, a more versatile compromise lens.
Less bright than its competitors, this super telephoto x4 zoom aims to offer the Micro 4/3 mount a true nature / sport zoom that sticks to the first promise of the hybrid system worn by Panasonic and Olympus: compactness and lightness.
Compact and powerful
The Panasonic Leica DG 100-400mm f / 4-6.3 is a compact zoom. Yes, it measures 17.2 cm and weighs 985 g, but when you realize that it offers a focal length equivalent to a stabilized 200-800 mm, you realize that the machine is ultimately small and compact. If he does not like the small Pen type boxes from Olympus and other GMs from Panasonic, he finds his footing with the GH4, GX8, G7, G80 but also the OM-D E-M5 Mark II or E -M1 Mark I.
When it is available for your camera, we recommend that you equip yourself with an optional grip in order to benefit from a wider grip that is more suitable for vertical framing in particular.
Impeccable construction, lack of mechanical fluidity
This 100-400 mm lens is from the Panasonic Leica range, high-end lenses including the specifications, designed by Japanese engineers at Pana, are first validated by their German colleagues at Leica. These optics benefit from a finish a good notch above the “normal” models: tropicalized and all metal – lens hood included – the Panasonic Leica DG 100-400 mm is a superb lens as pleasant to touch as to look at . The fitting of the pieces is perfect and the smallest details, the smallest inscriptions are taken care of.
Handling side, we blame him for his zoom ring, not fluid enough for our taste. Admittedly the trajectory is much longer than on an Olympus 40-150 mm (reviewed), but a little flexibility would not have hurt. While not as smart as the Olympus 40-150mm lens hood, the 100-400mm lens hood also slides to let the focus ring hold its hand. Compared to the Olympus it has the advantage of being made of metal, so it is more solid and more elegant.
Sharpness of image and quality / space compromise
This was THE fear of this lens: By offering such zoom power in such a compact format, would Panasonic succeed in maintaining a sufficient level of optical quality? The answer is yes. The sharpness is certainly lower than that of the Olympus 40-150 mm f / 2.8 Pro (read below) but the image quality that can be obtained is really very good. We recommend taking the time to tame it by paying attention to the exposure speeds and by privileging the stabilized cases, whose mechanism can be coupled with the optical stabilization of this gigazoom. Anyway, at € 1,700 per optic, you can take a little time to understand what you are using!
800 mm freehand shooter!
The photos, taken on a gray morning in this fall of 2016 with Scandinavian light, are all done by hand and there was no need to do a lot of sorting: almost all the images are clear. In aperture priority mode (A) with ISOs set to 400 to avoid suffering too much from the Micro 4/3 sensor, the images are sharp at 1/50e from seconds to 400 mm or 800 mm in 24 x 36 equivalent!
Coupled with the mechanical stabilization of the Lumix G80 sensor reviewed in parallel, the optical stabilization of this Panasonic Leica 100-400 mm has proven to be very convincing. This duo is for us the weapon of choice of any Micro 4/3 photographer, the two elements being tropicalized and cut for action. While waiting for the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and its furious bursts and autofocus.
Coupled with the Olympus 40-150 f / 2.8, 300 mm f / 4, OM-D E-M1 Mark II, this Panasonic Leica 100-400 mm is proof that the Micro 4/3 standard supported by the two Japanese brands is in catching up on SLRs in the field of sports / nature super telephoto lenses. With weights and dimensions without common measure with their big cousins, giving a decisive advantage to hybrids with small sensor: it is indeed almost impossible to shoot freehand with a big 150-600 mm without climbing significantly in the high sensibilities. While we have never used a single tripod for our review sessions!
Superb compression of perspectives
Using a long focal length is of course useful for shooting crocodiles without risking the bite and any other subject you cannot get close to, but it is also very useful for filling a frame in a striking way. Indeed, the longer the focal length, the more the perspectives are compressed, a rendering that works very well especially with natural and urban landscapes.
Facing the Olympus 40-150mm f / 2.8 ED Pro
At a fairly close price, Olympus 40-150mm f / 2.8 ED Pro is a more classic telephoto lens – it is equivalent to an 80-300mm f / 2.8, more powerful and yet just as bright as the traditional 70-200 mm f / 2.8 of the SLRs. Cheaper than 300 euros, it offers a much lower magnification power than the Panasonic but it has for it a better and constant brightness and a better image sharpness.
The Panasonic is just as well built and if it is less bright and less sharp, it allows you to capture subjects from further away and better isolate the subjects. In between, you will need to assess which of the two focal lengths is best for you by analyzing your usage. The Olympus is more versatile since it lends itself well to portraits, the Panasonic is resolutely an exterior and nature / sport lens. In terms of size, the two optics are quite close, the Panasonic weighing 150 g more including sun visor.
The verdict of the review
Panasonic Leica DG 100-400mm f / 4-6.3 ASPH Power OIS
A success: it is the first adjective that comes to mind when we take stock of this gigazoom for Micro 4/3 boxes. In a compact format weighing less than one kilogram of lens hood included, Panasonic succeeds in offering record zoom power while maintaining a very good level of image quality. The few compromises in terms of apertures (f / 4-6.3) and sharpness of image are little compared to the service rendered: being able to take close-ups of quality animals at long distance and … by hand lifted! If you are passionate about nature / sport photography and this will be your main use, the Panasonic Leica DG 100-400mm f / 4-6.3 ASPH Power OIS is the most powerful and versatile lens in the world of Micro 4 / 3.
Panasonic Leica 100-400mm F/4-6.3 OIS review
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