The Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 II Power O.I.S. is the update to the old, familiar 45-200mm. It is a telephoto zoom lens with a big range and modest dimensions. The new version is improved on many small points, although the optical design is unchanged, and this zoom lens now works optimally with Panasonic’s newest cameras.
A lot of range in a small package: Panasonic 45-200mm f/4-5.6 II POWER OIS LUMIX G VARIO
The Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 II Power O.I.S is a telephoto zoom with a big range. Converted to 35 mm equivalents, this is a 90mm to 400mm zoom. For full-frame cameras, you are then usually talking about lenses of a kilo or more, but this Panasonic weighs just 370 grams. The new 45-200mm, version II, is dust- and moisture-resistant and can handle temperatures down to -10 degrees Celsius. Despite the low weight, this lens can thus be used in practically all conditions. The Lumix G Vario 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 II is also improved on a number of other points: The focus is faster when you use the lens with Panasonic cameras with the latest version of the DFD auto focus system. The aperture can be adjusted in smaller steps, so that adjustments to exposure during video are much more even. And the Power O.I.S. image stabilization has gotten an update so that the system can work optimally with Dual IS and Dual IS 2 in the newest Panasonic cameras like the GH5 and the G80/G85.
BUILD AND AUTO FOCUs
The Lumix G Vario 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 II is a compact and light lens. It is 10 cm long and weighs just 370 grams. The filter size is a modest 52mm. The lens is largely made of high-quality plastics. The mount is metal. The whole thing feels solid. With such low weight, the forces on the lens are, of course, not that great. The Lumix G Vario 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 II is moisture- and dust-resistant, which is unique for lenses in this price class, and it demonstrates that Panasonic has not made any concessions on sturdiness, despite the limited dimensions and the low weight. When zooming, the lens becomes significantly longer. The tube that extends shows practically no play at all, which is also a sign of good construction. The lens has a beautiful matte black finish with two broad, ribbed rings. The one on the front is for manual focus. The focus is “focus-by-wire.” The ring is not linked directly to the focal elements, but sends a signal to the camera. Even so, the ring turn is beautifully dampened. The back and larger of the two is for zooming. In between the two, we find the switch for turning the OIS on and off. The lens is delivered with a hefty plastic lens hood that can be attached backwards during transport. The shortest setting distance is 1 meter, which delivers a not-too-impressive enlargement of 0.2x at 200mm.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario H-FS AF 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm f/8 1/500 sec 800 ISO
The focus is internal. The lens does not get longer when focusing, and the front lens does not turn, which is great when you use polarization filters, for example. The lens focuses fast and accurately. Especially in S-AF, the results are outstanding, in all the zoom modes. C-AF can also be used quite well for photography, although it is not by definition ideal for action sports. Only when filming in 4K video does the auto focus slow down a bit. In Full HD, you have practically no trouble with that. Most likely, filming in 4K demands so much processor power that the DFD auto focus is sacrificed a bit for it. This is, however, not a problem of the lens, but of the camera used.
Dual IS2 is A BIG PLUS
The Lumix G Vario 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 II is optically equal to the 45-200mm that it is replacing. One of the important reasons for releasing a version II is the arrival of image stabilization in Panasonic’s cameras. Apparently, it was not possible for the image stabilization of the original 45-200mm to work well with the DUAL IS systems of those cameras. We tested the new Lumix G Vario 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 II in combination with the Panasonic GH5, which has DUAL IS2. When the two systems work together, the image stabilization for both photography and video works very well. In the 200mm mode, you are actually working with a 400mm lens, and the magnification is 8x relative to a standard lens. You then benefit with shots by hand without stabilization to keep the shutter time above 1/400 of a second. We saw this in our tests as well. Even at 1/200 sec, there is a small difference between the results with and without image stabilization. Without image stabilization, the focus drops off quickly with every extension of the shutter time. From 1/13 of a second, it is all but impossible to focus sharply on something in the shots. With image stabilization, the results are much better. Even at 1/13 sec, 5 stops below the ideal shutter time, we still achieved 75% of the maximum sharpness. At longer times, the sharpness does decrease, but even at 1/3 of a second, the lens still scores 50%. The shots are therefore still quite usable. That is impressive.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario H-FS AF 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 136 mm f/5.6 1/800 sec 200 ISO
The optical performance of the lens is good. Certainly for a compact, relatively inexpensive telephoto zoom. The sharpness is the highest at the shortest zoom setting. We see that with practically all telephoto zooms that we test. The center sharpness is good; the edges and the corners lag a bit behind. Stopping down one stop results in a small increase in the image quality. After that, it deteriorates a bit, although aperture 11 is still quite usable. The image quality on 150mm is only a fraction less than on 45 and 100mm. Only in the most extreme zoom setting, on 200mm, does the sharpness visibly decrease, although the results are still entirely reasonably. The chromatic aberration is surprisingly low and is automatically corrected in the camera. This contributes to the good impression of sharpness. Vignetting in the jpeg files, thanks to the autocorrection that Panasonic does, is negligible. But even in the RAW shots, there is very little. Only at 45mm would you be able to see some vignetting, right at one stop at full aperture. The same applies for deformation. In the jpegs, you won’t notice it. In RAW, the distortion is a maximum of 1.3% at 45mm. Only in real architecture shots with lots of straight lines along the edges will you see it.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario H-FS AF 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 124mm f/8 1/1000 sec 400 ISO
Panasonic 45-20mm II =
an ideal travel lens for photographers who want to bring distant subjects considerably closer.
The Lumix G Vario 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 II offers a very big zoom range in a compact housing that fits easily in any photo bag. The weight is the same as an average lens with a fixed focal length for full-frame. That means you can walk around it all day without noticing. The performance, by contrast, is quite good. At the most extreme zoom setting, the sharpness drops off a bit, and you would do well to add a bit of sharpening in post-editing if you want to squeeze the most out of your pictures. But across the whole range, the shots look great. In combination with good sealing and great image stabilization, this is an ideal travel lens for photographers who want to travel light and still bring distant subjects considerably closer.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario H-FS AF 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ OMD EM5 78mm f/4.4 1/640 sec 1600 ISO