Panasonic’s newest ultra-telephoto zoom lens is the LEICA DG VARIO-ELMARIT 50-200 mm F2.8-4.0 ASPH (~100-400mm on a 35mm sensor camera), the third lens in the LEICA DG VARIO-ELMARIT F2.8-4.0 series. This series of bright and compact zoom lenses now has a range from ultra-wide angle to super telephoto, and each one offers exceptionally beautiful image quality for photo and video shots.
Panasonic Leica Vario-Elmar, Elmarit, Summilux oR Nocticron
The 9 Panasonic Leica lenses have 5 different Leica names, which correspond to the brightness of the lenses:
- The Vario-Elmarit series consists of 3 Panasonic Leica zoom lenses (8-18, 12-60 and 50-200mm), starting at f/2.8.
- The Panasonic Leica 200mm Elmarit has a fixed f/2.8 brightness.
- The Summilux series consists of 3 Panasonic Leica zoom lenses (12mm f/1.4, 15mm f/1.7 and 25mm f/1.4) with a brightness of f/1.4 or f/1.7.
- The Panasonic Leica100-400mm Vario-Elmar zoom lens has a brightness starting at f/4.
- The Panasonic Leica 42.5 mm Noctilux has a brightness of f/1.2.
The combination of 5-axis image stabilization and the high brightness of F2.8-4.0 makes this lens ideal for low-light shooting, such as shooting of wild animals or indoor sports. The long focal length and the high brightness are ideal for portraits, where the subject is nicely separated from the background.
USABLE IN COMBINATION WITH PANASONIC TELECONVERTERs
With Panasonic’s1.4x teleconverter DMW- TC14, you can transform the field of view of the Panasonic 50-200 mm into a 560 mm (35-mm sensor camera equivalent) and with Panasonic’s 2,0x teleconverter DMW-TC20, even up to 800 mm (35-mm camera equivalent). Fortunately, the Panasonic 50-200 mm is bright, because with a 2x teleconverter, you lose 2 stops of brightness, and with a 1.4x converter, you lose 1 stop. With the 1.4x converter, the AF speed remains surprisingly good. With the 2x converter, the AF speed is reduced to about 300ms. For an extreme telephoto lens, that is still a top performance, but compared to the AF speed without the 2x converter, the time required to focus is 3 times as long. The AF accuracy is – even with the use of teleconverters – extremely good.
5-AXIS IMAGE STABILIZATION: POWER OIS AND Power OIS II
The POWER OIS (Optical Image Stabilizer) effectively compensates for vibration blur, making it possible to get shots even without a tripod. The lens works with Dual IS (Image Stabilizer), in combination with the Panasonic LUMIX GX9, GX8 and GX80. The Panasonic 50-200 mm can use the improved version, Dual IS2, in combination with the Panasonic LUMIX G9, GH5, G80.
BUILD: Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMARIT 50-200 mm / F2.8-4.0 ASPH
The 67mm filter size is equal to the filter size of the Panasonic Leica 8-18mm and the Panasonic 12-60mm zooms. This makes this trio an ideal combination for both zoom range and filter use.
A 50-200 mm micro-43 zoom lens has the same field of view as a 100-400 mm zoom lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. But with a weight of 650 grams, a 67mm filter size and a length of 13 cm (without lens hood), this telephoto zoom is remarkably light and compact.
All lenses from the Vario-Elmarit series have Panasonic’s Nano Surface Coating technology to minimize ghosts (double images) and flare (light spots/veiling glare). Furthermore, these zoom lenses are robust and dust- and splash-proof and even frost resistant to temperatures of -10 degrees Celsius, making them suitable for professional use under extreme conditions.
You will quickly become familiar with the operation of the Panasonic Leica 50-200 mm zoom. On this zoom lens, you will find two switches: for autofocus (AF/MF) and image stabilization (on/off). Closest to the camera body is a wide, ribbed zoom ring. The focusing ring is narrower, also ribbed and placed more towards the end of the lens. Both the focus ring and the zoom ring offer nice resistance. If you hang the camera around your neck, the zoom ring will not change the focus under the influence of gravity.
The lens design consists of 21 elements in 15 groups, including two UED (Ultra Extra-low Dispersion) lenses, two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) lenses and two aspherical lenses. The use of these lenses suppresses spherical distortion and chromatic aberrations. This ensures high resolution and high contrast from the center to the edge.
FAST AND ACCURATE AF
AF is lightning fast: from infinity to 1.5 meters in 50 ms (@ 50 mm) to 150 ms (@ 200 mm). There are very few telephoto lenses (either zoom or fixed focal point), of any brand, that come close.
Because the AF focuses on the sensor signal, you do not suffer from front or back focus, and the AF is also very accurate. A telephoto lens with a shortest focus distance of 75 cm also offers opportunities for macro photography: you don’t reach a 1:1 picture scale (the subject is the same size as the image on the sensor), but with an image ratio of 1:2 (full-frame equivalent), you get beautiful insect shots without disturbing the subject.
The AF tracking performance when zooming has also been improved, according to Panasonic, thanks to the rapid frame analysis for focus control. The sensor drive of up to 240 fps ensures that cameras with an extremely fast and accurate Contrast AF (e.g. Panasonic G9) are used optimally. It also helps to reduce vibration. In practice, this 50-200 mm showed occasional hunting on both a GX9 and a G9. It may be a matter of a firmware update, because the two other Panasonic Leica telephoto lenses (200 mm f/2.8 and 100-400 mm) are less affected by this.
This new lens also excels in video recording performance. The internal focusing system ensures quiet operation. In addition, the drive system with micro steps in the aperture control area helps the camera quickly adapt to changes in brightness while zooming and panning.
This lens not only has a high build quality and high brightness, but also a high image quality across the entire zoom range. The sharpness is already good from full aperture. Stopping down is not necessary for the sharpness. Because of diffraction, it is wise not to stop down any further than f/11, sing that’s at the expense of the overall sharpness (the depth of field does increase, but the sharpness is reduced over the entire image because of a physics phenomenon that cannot be helped). At 50mm, this zoom approaches the scores of the fixed focal lengths Olympus 45mm f/1.2 PRO and the Olympus 45 mm f/1.8 ED M.Zuiko Digital. At 150mm, the performance is almost as good as that of the Olympus PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8. At 200mm, the performance is almost as good as that of the Panasonic Leica 200mm f/2.8.
At full aperture (~f/2.8) at the short focal lengths and (~f/4) at the longer focal lengths, the vignetting can be visible in images with smooth surfaces (skies). If necessary, this can easily be corrected afterwards. After stopping down 1 stop, the vignetting has completely disappeared. Distortion is already very nice in uncorrected RAW files (less than 1% over the entire zoom range), but when opening RAW files in Lightroom/Photoshop, or with the in-camera jpg files, it is even significantly less. Long live automatic lens corrections.
ConclusiON: REVIEW Panasonic 50-200mm f/2.8-4 LEICA DG VARIO-ELMARIT
- Fantastic image quality across the entire zoom range
- Fantastic build quality: dust-, splash- and freeze-resistant
- Can be combined with Panasonic’s 1.4x and 2x teleconverters
- 67mm filter size (also used by many other Panasonic lenses)
- Terribly good image stabilization
- Fast and accurate AF
- Compact and light for a high-end telephoto zoom
- In practice, the AF hunts in some situations
For the description of the Panasonic 50-200 mm f/2.8-4 LEICA DG VARIO-ELMARIT, 1 word is enough: WOW!
Dreams exist. A bright telephoto zoom that you can hang around your neck for a long time without getting neck pain. One that is so small that 67mm filters fit on it, which are normally used for lenses with much shorter focal lengths. On that is built like a tank, yet only weighs 655 grams. One with which, thanks to the super-effective 5-axis image stabilization, you can take pictures at 200mm (with a field of view that corresponds to 400mm @ full frame) with a shutter speed of 1/13 second! And then the zoom range can also be expanded by combining this zoom with Panasonic’s 1.4x converter or 2x converter. We will revisit the image quality of these combinations soon.