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Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH UK Review

Written by  Mar 19, 2018

The third in a series of three Power OIS lenses from Panasonic, the first two being the 8-18mm and 12-60mm.

Taking into account the 2x crop factor, the new 50-200mm has the “35mm-format equivalent” field of view of a 100-400mm lens. This is a very useful and powerful telephoto zoom specification, so provided the performance is up to scratch we have potentially a lens of choice for a wide variety of sports and wildlife applications. Let's have a closer look using the Panasonic Lumix G9 camera body.

 Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH. Handling and Features

Panasonic Dg 50 200mm No Hood On Lumix G9

The glossy black finish of the lens is impressive, but even more so is the high overall quality of the finish. All the controls are smooth and the whole gives a solid sense of being made to last. The construction is billed as splash, dust and freeze proof, operating at least down to -10C. The lens is compact and relatively light at 655g, especially if we compare it against any typical full-frame 100-400mm optic.

Starting at the front, we are supplied with a large bayonet fit lens hood, complete with locking catch. This surrounds a standard 67mm filter thread. The lens does not rotate on either zooming or focusing, so using polarising and graduated filters is facilitated.

The manual focusing ring is firm but smooth, operating electronically. The AF though is so fast and precise that manual focus may not be needed most of the time. The zoom ring is broad, operates very smoothly and is clearly marked in various focal lengths. Zooming does extend the lens, but balance remains good. Focusing is down to 0.75m or 2.46 feet. This represents a maximum magnification of 0.25x, or 1:4, usefully close.

There are just two switches closest to the camera body, the AF/MF and the on/off switch for the Power OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) system. This system will work in conjunction with in-body stabilisation where supported.

The metal bayonet mount carries the electronic contacts to communicate with the camera and is engineered to a very high standard. There is no play whatsoever in the lens mounting, which is silky smooth and solidly secure.

Panasonic Dg 50 200mm With Hood On Lumix G9 At 200mm

Optical construction of the lens comprises 21 elements in 15 groups, of which there are 2 Aspherical, 2 UED (Ultra Extra Low Dispersion), 2 UD (Ultra Low Dispersion) and 1 UHR (Ultra High Refractive Index). Panasonic uses a nano surface coating to eliminate flare and ghosting, without which a 21 element lens would not be a viable proposition. The diaphragm has 9 blades, aiming to improve the quality of the out of focus areas or bokeh. The lens is compatible with 1.4x and 2x teleconverters.

Out in the field, there is really everything to like about the way the lens handles. Focusing is fast and precise, controls are slick and there is nothing to get in the way of the photography. Ergonomically, it is superb. The fast, bright aperture is another advantage that could put it ahead of many of its rivals, enabling faster shutter speeds to freeze the movement of, for example, wildlife subjects.

Panasonic Dg 50 200mm Rear Oblique View

 Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH. Performance

Starting with sharpness, at 50mm the central results are excellent from f/2.8 to f/5.6, very good from f/8 to f/11, good at f/16 and only softening at f/22 as diffraction takes its hold. The edges are very good from f/2.8 to f/8, good at f/11 and f/16 and again soft at f/22.

At 100mm, the centre follows exactly the same pattern as at 50mm, being excellent from f/3.6 to f/5.6, very good at f/8 and f/11, good at f/16 and softening at f/22. The edges are very good from f/3.6 to f/5.6, good from f/8 to f/16 and soft at f/22.

150mm sees the same again, with the centre being excellent from f/3.9 to f/5.6, very good at f/8 and f/11, good at f/16 and soft at f/22. The edges are very good from f/3.9 to f/5.6, good from f/8 to f/16 and soft at f/22.

The longest focal lengths of a zoom are rarely, if ever, the best area of performance and it does indeed drop a little as expected. So, 200mm centrally is very good at f/4, excellent at f/5.6, good at f/8 and f/11 and softening at f/16 and f/22. The edges are good at f/4, very good at f/5.6 and softening progressively from f/11 to f/22.

Also see: Fujifilm X-H1 Camera UK Review: The most advanced X-series yet

This is overall a very consistent performance, and well up to producing sparkling, sharp images across the focal length range.

Distortion figures are also very impressive. At 50mm we have -0.02% barrel distortion. This reduces still further at 100mm to -0.01% barrel. At 150mm, distortion measures +0.03% pincushion and at 200mm +0.08% pincushion. This is as near to rectilinear as makes no difference and straight lines in an image can be expected to be reproduced as straight.

Flare is not evident, with no loss of contrast or created artefacts in against the light shots.

Bokeh is, of course, the smoothness of the gradation of out of focus areas and all long lenses are already ahead of the game by virtue of the reduced depth of field. This lens excels in having ultra-smooth bokeh, making it ideal for quality images with diffused backgrounds.

The OIS system is a very welcome addition and it was with ease that a full 6 stops advantage could be enjoyed. Beyond that, signs of blur start to creep in. This is an amazing performance. However, it is worth remembering that this does nothing to address subject movement, so for much wildlife photography, it may well be best to switch OIS off.

These lenses are slower, bigger and heavier as well as more expensive, so against that the Panasonic looks pretty good value and highlights the benefits of the MFT format. 

 Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH. Verdict

Panasonic has produced here a telephoto zoom that is exceptionally easy to handle, produces excellent results and is priced realistically against the competition. Compared to full frame marques, it is priced very competitively when we consider what job the lens does.

Not only that, but the compact, light construction mirrors the size of the MFT cameras and follows the ethos of the MFT system. It is easy to see the attraction of lighter, smaller cameras and lenses, especially when the quality is still extremely high.

The Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4 is a compact and efficient telephoto zoom that delivers excellent quality.

Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH. Pros

  • Excellent sharpness
  • Low CA
  • No flare
  • Fast AF
  • Beautifully designed and engineered
  • Superb OIS
  • Dust, moisture and freezeproof
  • Compact

Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH. Cons

  • Diffraction limits smaller apertures 

Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH. Specs

Manufacturer  Panasonic
General
  Lens Mounts
  • Panasonic Micro Four Thirds
  • Olympus Micro Four Thirds
Lens
  Focal Length 50mm - 200mm
  Angle of View 6.2 - 24
  Max Aperture f/2.8 - f/4
  Min Aperture f/22
  Filter Size 67mm
  Stabilised Yes
  35mm equivalent 100mm - 400mm
  Internal focusing Yes
  Maximum magnification   0.25x
Focusing
  Min Focus 75cm
Construction
  Blades 9
  Elements 21
  Groups 15
Box Contents
  Box Contents No Data
Dimensions
  Weight 655g
  Height 132mm

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