The Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm F2.8 ASPH. ($1,499.99 direct) is pro-level zoom for Micro Four Thirds cameras. It covers a 70-200mm field of view in terms of full-frame 35mm photography, equaling the classic range that is the go-to lens for many a wedding and event photographer. Panasonic’s take on the design isn’t perfect—the edges could be a bit sharper—but it’s optically stabilized and compact. It’s pricey, but if you’re a Micro Four Thirds shooter and are looking for a lens of this type, it’s the best option on the market at this time. Olympus plans to release a 40-150mm f/2.8 zoom as part of its line of pro-grade lenses late next year, but based on the prototype it’s a much larger lens, and no details have been revealed about pricing.
The lens measures just 3.9 by 2.7 inches (HD), weighs 12.7 ounces, and uses the same 58mm filters as its wide-angle sibling, the Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 ASPH.. It’s an internal zoom design, so the barrel doesn’t extend when you’re adjusting the focal length, and the front element is fixed so using a polarizer is not an issue. The zoom ring features a rubberized covering, but the focus ring is bare metal so it’s easy to tell them apart by touch. The only control of note is a toggle switch to enable or disable image stabilization. A reversible bayonet hood, front and rear caps, and a carrying case are included.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the lens paired with the Lumix GH3. We consider an image that scores better than 1,800 lines per picture height using a center-weighted testing method to be sharp, but we do also look at how well the lens performs at the edges of the frame. At 35mm f/2.8 the lens scores 1,962 lines and there’s no distortion, but the edges are a bit soft at just 1,403 lines. Stopping down to f/4 improves things—the center-weighted score is 2,111 lines and edges sharpen up to 1,523 lines. That’s not terribly soft, but we were hoping for a bit better from a pro-grade zoom.
Moving into to 50mm shows some improvement. At f/2.8 we got 2,057 lines with edges that were just a tad soft at 1,672 lines. Stopping down to f/4 improves the overall score to 2,185 lines with edges that show an acceptable 1,723 lines. At 75mm the lens manages 2,015 lines at f/2.8 with edges that top 1,700 lines; stopping down to f/4 brings the overall score up to 2,208 lines and the edges are just shy of 1,900 lines. A little bit of softness creeps in at 100mm; there the lens manages just 1,685 lines at f/2.8, but the sharpness is even from the center to the edge of the frame. Stopping down to f/4 brings the score up to an excellent 2,305 lines, with edges that are just shy of 2,000 lines.
The Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm F2.8 ASPH. is an impressive zoom lens, especially when you take its light and compact design into account. It’s optically stabilized and it balances well with a Micro Four Thirds camera. While it has a few issues with sharpness at f/2.8, stopping down to f/4 delivers impressive performance throughout its range. It’s not an inexpensive lens by any means, but if you’re committed to the Micro Four Thirds camera system and are in need of a zoom that can be used for events and other critical assignments, this is the best option at this point in time.
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