Panasonic has already launched three lenses for the new full-format LUMIX S system. The most versatile of these is the Panasonic LUMIX S 24-105 mm F4 Macro OIS. With a range from solid wide angle to reasonable telephoto, this will be the lens that is offered in kits and that many photographers will buy as their first lens with the camera. If only because this is (for the time being) the only Panasonic wide-angle lens. The lens not only offers a nice range, it also has a good macro setting and image stabilization that can work with the image stabilization of the LUMIX S cameras.
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- Good image quality (after corrections)
- Fast S-AF
- OISimage stabilization
- Good macro setting
- Relatively big and heavy
- C-AF not as good as the competition
BUILDThe Lumix S 24-105 mm F4 Macro OIS is a hefty lens. It fits well with the somewhat hefty S cameras, and the combination sits nicely in the hand. It’s 118 mm long, 84 mm thick, and it weighs 680 grams. The filter size is 77 mm. The lens has no ‘PRO’ addition, but just like the two PRO lenses, it’s dust- and (splash) water-proof and frost resistant (down to -10 degrees Celsius). The optical design consists of 16 lens elements, four of which are aspherical and three made of glass with a special refractive index. The diaphragm consists of nine blades. The Lumix S 24-105 mm F4 Macro OIS can also be used as a macro. The shortest setting distance is 30 cm, and the maximum magnification scale is therefore a very nice 0.5x. The Lumix S 24-105 mm F4 Macro OIS also has built-in image stabilization, and, in combination with the image stabilization in the body, Panasonic claims a gain of no less than 6 stops. That’s a lot for a full-frame system. The lens has three switches: one for locking the lens in the shortest position, one for switching between autofocus and manual focus, and one for turning the image stabilization on and off.
AutofocusPanasonic uses only contrast detection for all its system cameras. Compared to phase detection that we find with many competitors, a contrast detection system does not normally know in which direction to focus, which means that the autofocus has to search more for the correct focus. Once found, the accuracy is very high. Many competitors therefore combine phase detection AF with a little bit of contrast detection. Panasonic does the opposite. They complement the contrast detection with a technique called DFD, Depth from Defocus. It works because the camera can also use contrast detection, based on the lens characteristics, to determine the extent of the blur and the direction in which to focus. It therefore only works well with Panasonic’s own lenses. In practice, the system therefore works perfectly with S-AF. If you use single autofocus, the camera focuses quickly, and the score is almost 100%. In continuous AF, the system always adjusts the autofocus a bit, so that in the viewfinder you see the image always momentarily blurry and then sharp. That’s not so bad for photography, because the shots are almost all sharp. You only suffer from a somewhat restless viewfinder image. It is less attractive for video, because you also see that searching in your recording.
VIGNETTING, FLARE AND DISTORTION
In practice, the shots taken with the Panasonic LUMIX S 24-105 mm F4 Macro OIS look great. That does not seem to correspond entirely with some of the values that we measured. That’s because we always measure the uncorrected files in RAW. The latter is becoming increasingly difficult because almost all popular RAW converters automatically apply lens correction. And certainly for system cameras, that’s good, because it gives you the image you saw in the viewfinder. But if we look at the uncorrected files, we find very significant vignetting in the corners of the image. You don’t really see that in the measured values, because it’s too far out in the corners. The average vignetting is therefore not too bad, with 1.2 stops at 24 mm and full aperture. After correction, less than half of that remains. And at f/5.6, you can hardly see any vignetting over the entire range.As a photographer, you don’t see the very dark corners that we saw in the uncorrected files because they disappear after the correction of the distortion. That’s very high. Nearly 7% at the wide-angle setting is extreme. We have seen such values before, but then for lenses with much shorter focal lengths. This is very high for a 24-mm setting on full frame. The built-in lens correction effectively eliminates this, so that you hardly see any distortion in practice. An additional advantage of this correction is that the dark corners are pushed just out of the frame. It’s clear that this lens cannot be used without corrections. The lens corrections are therefore not an option for those who want to perfect their image, but are actually already part of the entire design process. Without corrections, the image circle at 24 mm is actually just a bit too small, but after corrections, it fits perfectly.
IMAGE QUALITYToday, the image corrections in the software are taken into account when designing many modern lenses. If, as a designer, you can make a lens smaller, lighter and sharper, when you have to take less account of, for example, distortion, then that’s quite an attractive option. Calculating the distortion away later in the software may cost some sharpness, but if the sharpness before the correction was high, then it’s usually good after the correction. And the image correction is so advanced today that the images after correction are sometimes even better on all fronts than in RAW. We see that reflected in the Panasonic LUMIX S 24-105 mm F4 Macro OIS. The distortion and the extreme vignetting in the corners at 24 mm disappear after correction. And in the RAW files, we also saw some chromatic aberration in the corners at 24 mm. After correction, nothing is left of that either. If we look at the jpeg files, then we see at 24mm, despite all those corrections, a high and very even sharpness starting from full aperture, with little gradient to the corners. We see the same thing at 35 mm, and the image quality decreases a bit from 50mm. The lens earns its lowest score at the longest setting, at 105mm. The center sharpness is less at full aperture, and the gradient to the corners is somewhat larger. But overall, this is a great performance for a lens with such a wide range.
IMAGE STABILIZATIONPanasonic has had one of the best image stabilization systems in the Micro Four Thirds cameras for years. Now, that does not automatically mean that the image stabilization on a full-frame model will be just as good. A full-frame sensor requires even higher accuracy. Panasonic itself nevertheless claims a correction of the image stabilization of about 6 stops when you combine the built-in correction in the camera with the OIS of the lens. We didn’t manage that well ourselves, but a correction of about 4 to 5 stops is certainly feasible. The graph above is an average of a series of shots, and a better result is therefore possible. If you really need the 6-stop correction, make a series of, for example, 10 shots. Then chances are good that one will be really sharp.
Panasonic 24-105mm f/4 In PRACTICECurious about the performance of the Panasonic LUMIX S 24-105 mm F4 Macro OIS in practice? Click on the button below and visit our renewed web gallery with sample images. The images can be downloaded in full resolution to be viewed at 100%.
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The Panasonic LUMIX S 24-105mm F4 Macro OIS is a great all-around lens for daily use, with a bit of macro along with wide angle and telephoto capabilities.
It’s easy to recommend the Panasonic LUMIX S 24-105mm F4 Macro OIS. There is namely no other Panasonic lens for the S system that offers any wide angle. Apart from that, this 24-105 mm is also a good option as an all-around lens for daily use. The range is nicer than that of a 24-70 mm, because the extra 35 mm on the long side offers you some telephoto capabilities. The good close-up setting also provides an expansion of the options, and the image quality is great. At least if you leave the lens corrections on. But why wouldn’t you do that? This lens is designed for it. We don’t find that the lens is really lightweight. The LUMIX S cameras are also on the heavy side, and we assume that photographers find that an attractive feature of the S system.