Review Panasonic 2x teleconverter

Is a subject too far away, even though you have a Leica 200mm f/2.8 on your camera? Then a teleconverter offers a solution. You first think of the Panasonic 1.4x converter, which is sold together with the 200mm lens. But if there is enough light, and the subject is too far even for the 1.4x teleconverter, then a 2x converter offers a solution. At the cost of 2 stops of light, you bring your subject twice as close, for a modest extra price and negligibly more weight. That makes a difference! How about video quality? Is a Panasonic 2x teleconverter just as good as the 1.4x converter from Panasonic, which we tested previously?

Panasonic DMW-TC20 2x Teleconverter sample image @ f/5.6, 1/3200 sec, 200 ISO

Panasonic Leica 200mm + Panasonic DMW-TC20 2x Teleconverter @ f/5.6, 1/3200 sec, 200 ISO

According to Panasonic, the Panasonic 2x teleconverter is only suitable for the Panasonic Leica 200 mm f/2.8. Because the rear lens element protrudes, that certainly applies to almost all Panasonic lenses. Still, I hope that this 2x teleconverter will work with the Olympus 40-150 mm f/2.8 PRO or the Olympus 300 mm f/4 PRO, because there is currently no 2x teleconverter from Olympus for micro-43 lenses. Unfortunately, I forgot to check that when I tested the 2x teleconverter from Panasonic.

BUILD AND autofocus

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Just like the 1.4x teleconverter and the Panasonic Leica 200mm f/2.8 lens, the Panasonic 2x teleconverter is extremely solid, dust- and splashwater-proof and freeze-resistant. The 2x teleconverter, at 160 grams, is, as you might expect, slightly larger and heavier than the 1.4x teleconverters from Olympus and Panasonic. The lens design consists of 8 elements in 5 groups. Autofocus was super fast: with or without converter makes no difference. Without image stabilization, the combination with 2x teleconverter focused sharply in 150ms: that was just a bit faster than the lens without a converter. If you use image stabilization, the AF slows down, but the combination of lens and teleconverter still focuses within half a second. That is just as fast as, or faster than, the professional telephoto lenses on an SLR camera.
What is sensational about the Panasonic with 2x teleconverter, compared to full-frame lenses with the same field of view, is the shortest focal distance. With an 800-mm lens on an SLR camera, the shortest focusing distance is approximately 9 meters. With Panasonic, that’s just over a meter. That makes this 2x teleconverter a nice tool for close-up photography.

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Panasonic Leica 200mm + Panasonic DMW-TC20 2x Teleconverter @ f/5.6, 1/2500 sec, 200 ISO

The autofocus speed of the Panasonic Leica 200 mm f/2.8 including 2x teleconverter is very fast: with the image stabilization switched off, this combination focused from infinity to one and a half meters within 200 ms. There are a great many telephoto lenses from other brands that are slower without a teleconverter. If you use the image stabilization, then the AF speed slows down a bit, but it’s still very fast: in our test, the combination of lens and teleconverter still focused within 500ms from infinity to one and a half meters. Compared to the 1.4x converter, focusing was less accurate and less reproducible than with the 1.4 x converter. That was also to be expected, given the longer focal length and the lower brightness.  

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IMAGE QUALITY Panasonic 2x teleconverter

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Panasonic Leica 200mm + Panasonic DMW-TC20 2x Teleconverter @ f/7.1, 1/8000 sec, 100 ISO

First the good news: Vignetting (loss of light out to the corners) is not visible, even in uncorrected RAW files. The RAW files opened in Photoshop or Lightroom and the in-camera jpg files show even less vignetting. The distortion is also very low: even without correction, it is just over 0.5% at full aperture. If we compare the lens with and without a teleconverter, then the degree of flare with bright backlighting that shines right in the lens is slightly greater, but still nicely limited.

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Panasonic Leica 200mm + Panasonic DMW-TC20 2x Teleconverter @ f/5.6, 1/3200 sec, 200 ISO

As far as the resolution is concerned, the difference in sharpness in comparison with the 1.4x teleconverter is visible. I would use the 200mm f/2.8 with 1.4x teleconverter without stopping down and not give it a second thought, but with the 2x converter, I would always stop down 1 stop whenever possible, for higher sharpness. Stopping down more than that is not necessary, because at f/8 the sharpness is uniform from center to corner, and the sharpness at f/8 is higher than at f/11. We could not detect a difference in sharpness of the 200 mm Panasonic Leica with 2x teleconverter compared to the Panasonic Leica 100-400 mm @ 400 mm. The combination with teleconverter did show more visible colored edges (lateral chromatic aberration) than the zoom. 

 

 

IMAGE STABILIZATION

To get sharp pictures by hand without image stabilization with the combination of Panasonic lens and 2x teleconverter, you need a shutter speed of 1/1500 sec or faster. Because you achieve the highest sharpness at f/8, you then need a lot of light, or a high ISO value. Fortunately, the image stabilization in the lens works together with the in-body image stabilization on the most modern Panasonic cameras, such as the GH5 and G9, so that, according to Panasonic, you can achieve a gain of 6.5 stops. We haven’t tested it yet, but even if it turns out to be 5 stops in practice, you end up with a shutter speed of about 1/100 second, which means you can use a considerably lower ISO value. That requires some discipline from the photographer, especially with the auto-ISO setting, but it clearly improves the sharpness of the shots.
Finally, a bokeh shot of Christmas lights behind the focal plane: the bokeh of the 200 mm with 2x teleconverter is, despite the long focal length and the very shallow focal depth, not as nice as that of the Panasonic 42.5 mm f/1.2. With a bright light source in the background, you can see rings in the bokeh using the 200mm with either the 2x or the 1.4x teleconverter:

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CONCLUSION: REVIEW Panasonic 200mm f/2.8 + 2x teleconverter oN A G9

PROS

  • Good image quality
  • Dust and splashwater-tight
  • Doubles the focal length

CONS

  • 2 stops of vignetting
  • Only suitable for the Panasonic Leica 200 mm f/2.8
  • Not as good as the 1.4x converter (which you already have)

This 2x converter brings your subject even closer if you don’t have Panasonic’s 1.4x converter or if 560mm is not enough.

As an amateur photographer, I’m not part of the target group for the Panasonic Leica 200 mm f/2.8. It’s a fantastic lens, but I’m am already satisfied with the more attractively priced Panasonic Leica 100-400 mm. But I also mainly photograph on vacation, under good weather conditions, so I can usually give up that extra brightness. For professional photographers, it’s a different story: they have less trouble with a higher price tag for a bright lens, because they need to get successful shots even under bad lighting conditions. A one-time investment of around 600 euros for an additional 2x teleconverter is not an insurmountable problem for the professional or the ambitious amateur who travels the world to photograph exotic animals.
I would be satisfied with the 1.4x converter, if I had a Panasonic Leica 200 mm f/2.8, because the image quality is slightly better than that from the 2x converter. But if I had both the 1.4x and 2x teleconverter from Panasonic in my photo bag, then I would probably use the 2x converter the most. Because I always want to capture that screen-filling shot of a little bird.

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