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The Panasonic 35-100 f/2.8 First Impression: The Glass is 87.6% Full

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I’ve been waiting for the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 OIS lens since, well, since the Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 lens came out. Much to my surprise, Tyler had 7 copies sitting on my desk this morning. As usual when something like this arrives I only had a few hours before the packers would start screaming for them since they were mostly rented already. But that was enough time to do a quick set of Imatest and play around with it a bit.

For the purists who are going to point out the real name is the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 XOIS, I think we’ve reached the point where we can assume any product remotely connected with photography has an X in its name somewhere. Maybe if we all quit mentioning that letter, they’ll stop using it. Twenty years from now, young photographers will make fun of us old-timers by saying things like “you’re still shooting with X equipment, aren’t you?” A century from now they’ll describe the timeline of photography as the wet plate era, the film era, the digital era, and the X era.

But I digress. As usual. Back to the topic.

As always, I’ll start with my expectations. To me, these are “all in” lenses for m4/3 shooters. Those using m4/3 as secondary cameras, for the most part, aren’t going to invest quite this level of $$ in glass. Serious photographers who use m4/3 as their primary system, though, have been waiting for SLR-quality f/2.8 zooms. They may not be thrilled with the SLR-like price tags, but they’re willing to pay them.

The Panasonic 12-35 pretty much met my expectations: a lens that was, from a resolution and build standpoint, right there with what I would get with a full-frame 24-70 f/2.8. I expected the 35-100 f/2.8 to be right there with what I’d get from a full-frame 70-200 f/2.8 lens. So my expectations were pretty high.

Look and Feel

A very nicely made lens (and no, I haven’t taken one apart yet). But it’s sturdy and comes with a nice hood in the nice nylon Panasonic lens pouch (take a note, Olympus). The zoom and focus rings are smooth and easy to use. The size was a pleasant surprise, not too large for the cameras it will be mounted to and the weight nicely balances on either camera we used.

 

Focus was quick and accurate on both the OM-D and the Lumix G5. We couldn’t tell any difference with single-shot focus, although continuous focus seemed quicker on the G5. From a look-and-feel standpoint, it’s a definite winner.

Resolution Tests

First, let me point out that our Imatest results are shot at 15 feet (35mm) and 40 feet (100mm). I mention that first because several of us felt, while just shooting around, that the camera might have been a bit sharper close up than it seemed at infinity. Since our optical bench still isn’t standardized to my liking, we aren’t able to test at infinity.

Imatest, however, does tend to support part of what we noticed just shooting around. At 35mm the lens is awesomely sharp; every bit as good as the 12-35 f/2.8 OIS is at 35mm. That means it’s as good as most primes, or at least in prime territory as far as resolution goes. It holds up well right out to the corners.

There was a slightly different story at 100mm, though, where resolution dropped significantly (100mm mtf 50 is 86% of what it is at 35mm, hence the article title). This is still good, but it’s not what I was hoping for. I’ve already got a sharp f/2.8 zoom at 35mm. The difference is worth showing in chart form since it’s quite consistent with all 7 copies I tested.

 

MTF 50 at 35mm and 70mm

 

Time constraints prevented me testing at other focal lengths, but visually the lens seems to start softening about 70mm or so.

I should point out that the numbers at 100mm and f/2.8 are still pretty good, easily better than any other zoom at 100mm. It also is reassuring that stopping down to f/4 sharpens the 100mm end up dramatically; it’s just as sharp as the 35mm end at f/4.

 

Average resolution at various apertures. At 35mm the corners get a bit sharper, but that’s about it, as you stop down. At the 70mm end the lens sharpens dramatically by f/4.

 

 Conclusion

Well, it didn’t quite meet my expectations, at least not at the 100mm end which is where my main interest was. But I’d set the bar pretty high.

On the other hand, it is certainly the sharpest m4/3 option I can get at 100mm, particularly stopped down to f/4. So I guess whether it met my expectations really isn’t important. It’s easily better than any other option, so I’ll be grabbing one. But I’ll probably whine about the price a bit.

 

Roger Cicala

Lensrentals.com

October 2012

32 Responses to “The Panasonic 35-100 f/2.8 First Impression: The Glass is 87.6% Full”

Jason said:

You sound like the only option in the range of 100 is this, but in reality there is also the Olympus 90mm f/1.8. I was deciding between the two and ultimately chose the 90mm. I bet it is sharper than this at 100mm given it is a prime. But if you want the flexibility of a zoom, I agree. But if you want better tele the 90 might be a better choice…

Mike Aubrey said:

@Jason: There is no 90mm f/1.8. There’s 45mm f/1.8 and there’s a 75mm f/1.8.

If you’re talking about 90mm equivalents, then, well, there’s nothing about a 90mm equivalent that’s helpful if you’re looking for 200mm equivalence (=100mm).

Jason said:

@Mike You’re right. I was thinking of the 75mm and going off the top of my head. I guess it comes down to have significant 75mm vs 100mm is to the end user. Anyways, I just brought it up because it seems like the obvious comparison since there are pros and cons each way. I used to shoot with a 70-200 on my dSLR and then switched to m43. I was planning on getting the 35-100, but changed my mind for the Oly 75mm (partly because the 35-100 took too long to get to market too).

David said:

I did the same thing Jason. I own the 12-35, 45, 60 and 75, and unless the 35-100 was amazing, I figured that the primes would cover me in the longer focal lengths.
The 3 tele primes are about $1800, compared to $1500 for the zoom, so it isn’t exactly the cheap route, but not much more expensive. Something to think about for people looking to go this route, especially on an Olympus body.

To each their own though, seems like it’s a pretty good, if not amazing, piece of kit.

Rob said:

So, it seems that given a choice between this 35-100 2.8 and the Oly 75 1.8, you would simply take ‘both’.

Lisandra said:

do you have numbers for the canon 70-200 L? I really enjoyed the comparison you did with the 12-35, i still link idiots to it. How bout it? pretty pleeeeease…

Lisandra said:

And the primes are indeed goo, but theyre primes. You have to change them every time you see a different opportunity, and the zoom, well, zooms.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Rob I think horses for courses. For me, the m4/3 is mostly about convenience and I don’t shoot wide aperture often so I’d probably go with the zoom. But if I shot 75mm mostly, or needed the aperture, the 75 is awesome.
Oh, who am I kidding. Yeah, I want both :-)

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Lisandra, it’s not really a fair comparison moving from body to body. For one thing the sensor shape means the Canon corners are much further from center. But the 70-200 IS II resolves about 920 / 750.

L.P.O. said:

As for the comparison to a Canon 70-200…

If I might add, a thing to remember is that this 35-100mm f/2.8 is the equivalent to a 35mm Full Frame 70-200mm f/5.6 lens.

For those that don’t get equivalence thing (and by “those” I don’t mean you, Roger): the equivalent values will give you the same field of view, depth of field, and total amount of light – in other words, the same image! As long as you use 4 times the ISO in the FF camera, you’ll even get the same exposure time, and as the icing of the cake, usually roughly the same amounf of noise.

(Yes yes, f/2.8 is four times as bright as f/5.6, but the FF sensor is four times the size of a m43 sensor, so the total amount of light received by the two respective sensors will miraculously be the same.)

jjj said:

Yes, the Olympus primes are great, but, of course, if you have a Panasonic body, the 45, 60, and 75 mm Olympus lenses become problematic, since they have no Image Stabilization. So, I’m not sure it’s fair to directly compare the new Panasonic stabilized zoom with the Olympus primes (unless you have an OM-D EM-5). For a Panasonic body owner, the Olympus lenses are not very useful for hand held shooting, no?

NZ Scott said:

jjj:

On the contrary, prime lenses are useful in many situations in which image stabilisation is useless – namely, when there is a moving target and a nice bright prime helps to increase shutter speed.

Oly’s IBIS is over-rated anyway, in my opinion. It’s supposedly quite good on the E-M5, but it’s practically useless on PEN cameras. I shoot Oly primes on my E-P3, and I don’t think I’ve switched on the IBIS even once this year.

Dave said:

Thanks Roger, as always, for your fantastic and humorous reviews and general contribution.

I’d really like to see someone come out with something called the Ultra Extreme X ____ .

Carpandean said:

Interesting fact: I just eyeballed the MTF50 graphs at DPReview for the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II, and it appears that at the center it is roughly 945 at 70mm and 825 at 200mm. 825/945 = 0.873 (87.3%). The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM seems to drop to about 82.5% of its 70mm value at 200mm and the Tamron SP AF 70-200mm f/2.8 seems to drop to about 75% (both lenses on Canon bodies.) The Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II seems to drop to below 80% (though, it starts insanely high on the D3X.) The Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 seems like it might have the worst drop-off of them all.

While we can’t really compare absolute MTF50 values for lenses on different bodies, we should be able to compare drop-off, right? It seems that all of the 70-200mm (equiv) f/2.8mm lenses drop off by at least as much as the Panasonic 35-100mm does.

Carpandean said:

I should add that three of those lenses (Nikon, Sony, Sigma) have equal sharpness across the zoom range at f/4 like the Panasonic, but the Canon and Tamron both still show some dropoff at the long end. Not as much as wide open, but still noticeable.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Carpandean,

Our numbers on the 70-200 IS II are quite different. We find it exactly as sharp at 200 as at 70 wide open. The Mk I certainly wasn’t, nor the Sigma nor Tamron, so I still agree with your point. It’s a hard thing to do with a zoom. Nikon actually seems a bit sharper at 200 than at 70, which is what I’d prefer if the lens designer emphasizes one end over the other.

derek said:

Roger thanks for your very interesting review of a very nice lens.
I have one question:
I have both Nikon and Canon FF cameras and want to get either the Canon 70-200f2.8LISMK2 or the Nikon VR2 70-200f2.8, which one is actually sharper at 200mm and 135mm f2.8?

thank you in advance.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Hi Derek,

Our measurements depend on the camera used for testing, which is why it’s a bad idea to compare resolutions between them. But I’ll try. The Canon system on a 5D Mk III resolves just a bit better than the Nikon on a D3x. Both resolve much better than the Nikon on a D700 or D3s, but not nearly as well as the Nikon on a D800.

Roger

Carpandean said:

Interesting Roger. I definitely used their IS II numbers. Photozone.de’s MFT50 results show a center drop-off to 91% of 35mm at 200mm on the IS II. Maybe you had a really good example.

ronnbot said:

L.P.O.:

Wow, another equivalent post. I think most people already know that this is equivalent to FF at 70-200/5.6 in FoV and DoF only. Exposure wise, it is still f/2.8. Also, total amount light is meaningless across formats; it’s about intensity.

Consider this analogy: there are two rooms for you to paint, one 4x times larger than the other. Do you just get two 1 gallon buckets of paint and paint each room with the same amount (1 gallon each) then think to yourself: “it’s not important how many coats each room gets, what matter is both rooms receives the amount of paint”?

lisandra said:

That analogy doesn’t apply at all…how bout the same rooms, but instead of paint its how big a window you need to illuminate them? They vary in size, but proportionally to the room they’re equal.

Anyway roger thanks for the reply earlier. I’m a numbers gal too, and get really exited when you post stuff. What would really be something is to test all those 70-200s and the 35-100 on the the same camera with an adapter. I know, the focal length then changes, but wouldn’t it be fun?

derek said:

Thank you Roger, appreciated.

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Lisandra, you know just what to say to get me interested, don’t you?:-)

It really would be a fun project for a slow winter week. I’ll look into that.

Sggs said:

Why not compare the panasonic 35-100 with the olympus 35-100 f2, that seems to be much better and have a price that is not much bigger?

What? said:

@Sggs:
Not much bigger? Olympus 35-100 costs $1000 more and is 5 times heavier with a ft=>mft adapter.

David Bateman said:

Thank you for the tests!
I do second the request to see the Olympus 35-100 on the same body tested with the Pan 35-100. That would be interesting to me, to see if the comments from users that say the M43rds glass is terrible to the old 43rds glass.

Also its really sad to see equivalents dissusions here. This place has been good and hasn’t been soured like Dpreview with all that crap that people get wrong. Yes the Sony R100 has 2.7x crop and will be crap compaired to full 135 sensory. No one will buy it at all. Lets just drop these discussions that people clearly don’t understand.
If your a photographer and setting up a shot with a light meter, the M43rds 35mm f2.8 lens will have the ADVANTAGE of DOF equal to your 70mm F5.6 135 lens, but with the exposure values of your 70mm f2.8 lens (ISO same, aperture 2.8, shutter speed the same). Also works for film!

Roger Abbott said:

THe 35-100 is probably better for sports, but I’m looking for something to shoot my kid performing on stage. Do you think the 75mm is sharp enough to crop to get the equivalent of 100mm FL (i.e., 20mm in 35mm terms)? Or do you think I’d be better off with the 35-100? The 35-100 is more flexible, and I suppose the OMD EM5 has decent high ISO.

Peter said:

The X isn’t something new, I own 2 Tokina AT-X Lenses (I bought them used 10 Years ago), they both are from the 80s.

Igor said:

Can you comment on the resolution of the 35-100mm f/2.8 at 100mm f/4.0 in comparison with the Panasonic 100-300mm f/4-5.6 at the same focal length?

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Roger Cicala said:

Igor,

I can only comment through comparison shooting: the 35-100 is better at 100 and I didn’t find it really close, even though this is where the 100-300 is at it’s best.

Thomas A. Fog said:

Oh, am I extremely late here! Anyway, a suggestion: Why not slam on any first-class (35mm film) manual legend prime! With an M-adapter my sixty-year old Leica 50mm Summicron F/2 produces absolutely wonderful (100mm equiv.) images from either the old 12Mp sensor in the PENs’ or the new 16Mp. sensor in the OM-D.

To NZ Scott: OM-D has a fascinating IBIS. It is visually very obvious in the EVF that my target immediately falls to rest as soon as AF locks in. It offers me a three to four stops speed advance compared to IBIS off. My hand is a bit shaky but I was already quite happy with the PEN EP-L 2. I found its IBIS quite successful (by one or two stops) and handheld it was always on.

Dave said:

I purchased and returned this lens, as the OIS just doesn’t work well for hand held video shots. I like the image quality, but the OIS on my 14-140mm and 12-35mm Lumix lenses work soooo much better. I’d buy this lens again in a heartbeat if Panasonic could fix the jittery OIS problem.

Example video of the lens I purchased:
http://youtu.be/xML3AFgu8BM

Other examples:
https://vimeo.com/76176641
http://youtu.be/DfqqmDwV9nU
https://vimeo.com/77619384
http://youtu.be/1hXl0dCHaBo
http://youtu.be/Rl00rMhQP-Y
https://vimeo.com/106895202
https://vimeo.com/77795568

https://vimeo.com/77619384
password: test

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