The Panasonic 100-300 mm zoom lens was introduced at the end of 2010. Together with the Olympus M 75-300 mm, this lens occupies a unique position in the contemporary micro-43 arsenal of lenses: it has the longest focal length. It’s zoom range ranges from 100 mm to 300 mm (200 – 600 mm full frame equivalent). The Panasonic 100-300 mm has built-in image stabilization, a modest length (12,6 cm), a relatively low weight (520 grams) and a reasonable price. This supertelephoto lens is small and light enough to routinely carry it with you in your camera bag. The good optical performance of the Panasonic 100-300 mm lens might be another reason to take it with you.
Testing a telephoto lens with such a large focal length is not straightforward. In order to test this lens properly, you need a testing environment where you can place the test target at a 20 meters distance from the camera. Luckily, we had this opportunity.
Test results were obtained using jpg files, straight out of the Panasonic G3 camera. We tested resolution at a 2:3 image ratio, which enables you to compare the obtained resolution results (in line widths per picture height: LW/PH)) directly with other lenses tested in conjunction with a camera with an aps-C or full frame sensor. If you’re going to use the camera in the standard 4:3 ratio, the resolution in line widths per picture height will be even higher. For further information about the test method, see our FAQ section.
The 3x zoom range of the Panasonic 100-300 mm might seem modest, but it makes a large difference in practice.
Construction and autofocus
This zoom lens is well built. A general advantage of the micro-43 system is that the lenses are smaller. But this is much less true for telephoto lenses than for wide angle lenses. You will notice this when you use this lens at 300 mm; the zoom lens becomes almost twice as long.
A point lost is the zoom ring: it rotates so easily that when you point the camera downwards, it almost starts zooming driven by gravitation.
Move your mouse over the image to see how the length of the lens increases when zoomed to 300 mm.
he autofocus is quiet, reliable and fast. Micro-43 camera’s don’t possess a phase detection module for autofocussing, but focus by contrast detection at the sensor itself. That’s why autofocusing with this lens in the dark is slightly slower than focusing with slr camera’s. Hunting at low light i.e. low contrast, is nevertheless limited, certainly for a micro-43 lens.
Making really sharp images with a telephoto lens without the use of a tripod is always a challenge. At full frame and a focal length of 400 mm you will need at least a shutterspeed of 1/800 sec.
Image Stabilization thus is a nice feature for anyone who wishes to use this lens hand held. We tested the image stabilization at a focal length of 200 mm (400 mm full frame equivalent). Image Stabilization will let you gain 1 extra stop. This is perhaps less than expected. But on the other hand, about a third of the images taken with very slow shutter speeds (1/50 and 1/25 sec and 400 mm @ full frame) yielded usable images.
Vignetting is already acceptable with the aperture wide open. After two stops there is no visible vignetting. In practice you will encounter some vignetting, as this image shows (taken @ 300 mm, aperture 6.7). Luckily, this can easily be corrected by software.
Panasonic 100-300mm @ 162 mm,f/8, 1/320 s
Distortion is low over the entire zoom range, as might be expected from a telephoto lens.
Bokeh isn’t the strongest point of the Panasonic 100-300 mm. You will encounter less often beautiful Bokeh using this lens, than you might expect from a telephoto lens. Compare this image with the Bokeh test in the Panasonic 14 mm 2.5 review. The Bokeh of the Panasonic 100-300 mm is less fluent than the Bokeh of the Panasonic 14 mm 2.5. This will be partially due to the large aperture (5.6 at 300 mm) of the Panasonic 100-300 mm. Nevertheless, under certain circumstances, it will yield nice Bokeh.
Panasonic states that the individual lenses used in this telephoto lens have been multi-coated in order to prevent ghosting and flare. The Panasonic 100-300 mm is a strong performer and almost never shows flare or ghosting. But we did manage to bring about some ghosting, by aiming directly into the sun (only) at a very specific angle, as you can see in this image.
Sharpness / Resolution
The image quality of telephoto lenses with a focal length of 300 mm (full frame equivalent) are strongly influenced by the weather: mist, smog, heat and rain diminish the sharpness and contrast of super telephoto lenses much more than regular lenses.
By using a high focal length you can, even in misty weather, play with the compressed perspective of a telephoto lens. The boats in the bay seem closer than they are in reality.
Obtaining sharp images with the Panasonic 100-300 mm is easy: The smaller the focal length, the sharper the image. Sharpness of images taken at 100 mm are visibly sharper than images taken at 300mm. As an illustration, this is a 100% crop from the right top corner taken with a focal length of 100 mm @ 5.6 (1600 LW/PH) and 300 mm @ 5.6 (800 LW/PH).
The resolution of the Panasonic 100-300 mm zoom lens is higher than 1500 LW/PH in the center for a jpg file taken at a focal length between 100 and 150 mm, which is very high. The resolution in the center is still high for images taken at a focal length between 200 and 250 mm, Above 250 mm the sharpness rapidly decreases. At all focal lengths the sharpness in the corners lags behind. For a telephoto lens, where quit often crops from the image center are used, this is less worse than for wide angle lens.
For the best performance in the extrema telephoto range, choose aperture 8 at 250 mm and use image stabilization.
Partially due to in-camera correction, chromatic aberration is low over the entire zoom range. Our measurements show that incidentally you might encounter chromatic aberration with the Panasonic 100-300 mm. During our field test however, we didn’t encounter any. Which is a good achievement, since especially wide angle and telephoto lenses are more susceptible towards chromatic aberration.
Conclusion Panasonic 100-300mm f/4-5.6 ASPH MEGA OIS LUMIX G VARIO review
- light and small
- well built
- long telephoto range
- optical performance (distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberration)
- very high resolution @ 100 to 150 mm, high resolution @ 200 to 250 mm
- modest price
- zoom ring turns too easily
- less sharp in corners
- lower resolution at 300 mm (=600 mm @ full frame)
The Panasonic 100-300 mm surprises with high optical performance almost over the entire zoom range. At focal lengths above 250 mm (500 mm @ full frame) optical performance rapidly becomes less. But at 100 mm it can rival the very best lenses currently available. Autofocus is accurate, fast and silent, which will also be appreciated by video amateurs. Given the modest price this is an excellent performer. Here’s a simple recipe for making (technically) good pictures with the Panasonic 100-300 mm lens:
- choose a high ISO value (800 or 1600 ISO for the Panasonic GH2 or Panasonic G3) in order to circumvent blur due to movement by photographer or subject
- choose aperture 8
- choose the smallest focal length possible
- use a tripod or optical stabilization
As long as the focal length remains below 250 mm, the Panasonic 100-300 mm lens will reward you with sharp pictures with low distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting. You can free your mind and focus at finding an interesting subject, the composition and the right moment.