Panasonic 35-100mm first impressions

I nearly managed to name this 35-100m first impressions which makes it sound like I was reviewing  a swimming pool…

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In any event this turned up just before I went to work this morning so I thought I would take it for a spin. Overall I was impressed, but I think for some people they would be wiser to look at an alternative (such as the Olympus 75mm) instead.

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This lens is clearly designed to work in parallel with the 12-35mm Panasonic lens to give a huge constant aperture zoom range. The lens is very nicely put together and feels solid (more so than the 12-35mm). The focus ring is aluminium which is a nice touch. The lens is a bit large though and very conspicuous on the front of the camera. Note, my comment about size is in comparison to other M43s lenses – compared to other constant aperture zooms (for example the Sony 70-200mm which I tried but did not buy for my (now departed) A900) this is relatively small (just don’t expect it to be small compared to any other M43s lenses you own)!

The zoom is internal, so there is none of that awful superzoom extension here. It is heavy and the camera needed the grip on to be comfortable. I think it will much feel better on a GH3 or an E-M5 with full battery grip.

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Having had an argument a while back on DPReview with someone about the best way to approach people for street photography (a person suggested you must always ask permission in advance), I thought I would experiment with actually asking people if they would pose for candid portraits. Well… that may work for some people in some places. It doesn’t work well on people in the City of London.

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A particular favourite of mine in the negative responses I received was the chap who stood up when I asked him if I could take his picture to reveal himself to be about 8 foot tall (well, maybe about 6’4″…) and who gave me a look like I had just asked him to perform a sex act on a dog. Needless to say his response translated to “I don’t want my picture taken”*.

*There were a few more colourful metaphors involved…

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Having abandoned my daft experiment I set out to road test the lens. First things first, this lens is way too long (focal length and physical size) for street photography IMO. It’s not that it’s too “paparazzi” (which is an ad hominem argument if ever I heard one), but rather it just puts you far too close at 100mm and if you get closer (and reduce the focal length) its size grabs people’s attention in a rather unhelpful way. I know people will obsess about the fact that the Oly 75mm is silver but frankly it’s smaller than this lens (even if the weight is similar) and just as sharp (if not sharper for pixel peepers). Also if you do want to go telephoto on the street I wouldn’t go longer than 75mm (150mm equivalent).

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That said, the lens is very sharp indeed. I had quite a few softer results with it but I think those were down to trusting to the IBIS in the E-M5 and some phenomenally dark conditions in London today. I think I would have been much better off trying the OIS on the lens (which I didn’t do but will test when I get the chance).

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Bokeh is very good but not excellent. People’s view of bokeh is very subjective but IMO it isn’t as good as the 75mm, 45mm or 25mm lenses for M43s. That said, it is acceptable and can look really great depending on the background.

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Contrast and colour seem excellent and the sharpness improves as you stop down. I was very happy with it. CA, which is an issue with the 12-35mm, didn’t seem to be apparent to the same degree as the 12-35mm (actually I didn’t notice it at all, but that may be more related to the conditions).

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Notwithstanding my views about street photography with it, this is on balance (for one days use) an excellent lens. Personally, this stuck me as a perfect wildlife and live/sporting event lens. If I had limited space (and/or limited opportunities to change lenses) the 12-35mm and this lens together give you huge flexibility and great image quality.

In any event, here are a few more examples to look at:

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Thanks for looking. Note that I will post some more thoughts on this lens once I’ve had a little more chance to use it.

All taken with my Olympus E-M5 and 35-100mm lens.

Further samples with the E-M5 here: http://wp.me/p2wMAg-ge

Some impressions of using the 35-100mm with the G5 here: http://wp.me/p2wMAg-gl

Panasonic 35-100mm final impressions: http://wp.me/p2wMAg-gz

12 thoughts

  1. Pingback: Panasonic 35-100 F2.8 reviews - Page 2 - Micro Four Thirds User Forum

  2. Pingback: A new first impression review on Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8 lens - Blog for micro four third and competing cameras

    • Fair point, except that when you mount it on the camera the combination does feel heavy and unbalanced. Personally I think it’s most important to give an account of what it feels like on the camera rather than when it is held in hand. As a comparison the Olympus 75mm is also heavy on camera, but feels less unbalanced – perhaps the weight is relatively more evenly distributed in that lens?

      Looking at the optical design of the 35-100mm it is front heavy – there is a lot of (large) glass elements at the front of the lens and a lot of air towards the rear – which perhaps, together with the length, accounts for why it might feel heavy on camera. Note, again, this is all relative to M43s lenses. This lens feels like a pancake compared to similar constant aperture lenses for full frame…

  3. By heck that was a dark day! Let’s see some parkland stuff when the sun comes out again …
    Such nice looking lenses lately, (shame that 14-42X isn’t optically up to much.)
    Thanks for blogging … How much did you pay?

    • Cheers, the darkness seems unrelenting at the minute.

      Without wanting to cause myself domestic distress (!) I suspect I paid exactly what WEX had the lens listed for at the time of the original post. As of now it hasn’t changed…

  4. I have the 12-35 and I am looking forward to get the 35-100 (I’m an ex-press photographer and I work for a long long time with this range of zooms !)
    I’m impressed with the sharpness and the overall quality ! The 35-100 looks as if it is as good as the 12-35/2.8. I got rid of my Nikon gear and Now I am sure I did the right choice.
    These lenses on the GH3, I will be the king of the world !
    Bravo for your pictures, they make me want to go back to London (I’m from Paris, France and not Texas !)

    • Cheers Xavier. I too ditched my old FF DSLR to focus on my CSCs.

      I really like the 12-35mm too but if anything I would say the 35-100mm is slightly better in build quality and image quality. I doubt you could go far wrong with the GH3 and these two X lenses!

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