Review Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4.0

The Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4 is the first wide-angle zoom for the Lumix S system. It is a light and handy lens that will appeal primarily to travel and documentary photographers. Despite the low weight, it is an S Pro lens. It is resistant to the elements, and the lens also has a focus clutch for manual focus.

Click on the lens for specifications, prices and test results.

TEST RESULTS PANASONIC LUMIX S PRO 16-35MM F/4:

PROS

CONS

  • Good image quality

    Fast (S-AF) autofocus

    Handy and light

    Focus clutch for manual focusing

    Virtually no focus breathing

  • Fairly high vignetting at full aperture

The Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4 is ideal for landscape photography and for traveling.

Panasonic has chosen not to immediately release an f/2.8 as its first wide-angle zoom, and there is something to be said for that. The Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35 mm f/4 is relatively light due to that one stop less brightness. It also fits comfortably in the hand on the hefty Lumix S bodies. Those who like to travel or shoot landscapes with their Lumix S camera will appreciate these features. You really feel the difference between this 16-35mm and, for example, the Lumix S Pro 24-70mm f/2.8. That has nothing to do with solidity. After all, the Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4 is a Pro lens. That means it is resistant to moisture and dust.

The Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4 is less a lens for wedding photographers or journalists due to its brightness of f/4. But it is ideal for landscape photography and for travel. And thanks to the good image stabilization of the Lumix S cameras, you can also shoot by hand in low light with f/4. Just use a slightly slower shutter speed. No problem, as long as your subject doesn’t move too much.

BUILD AND AUTOFOCUS

The Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4 is just under 10 cm long and 8.5 cm in diameter.  That is not exactly huge, and the weight is not bad, at only 500 grams (without lens cap or lens hood). With 12 lens elements in 9 groups, it does not seem like a particularly complex lens design in modern terms, but almost half of the elements are aspherical or made of glass with a special refractive index. The shortest focusing distance is 0.25m, which gives a magnification of 0.23x. The diaphragm has 9 blades. This ensures a nice round aperture, and you can see that in the bokeh. The front lens has a fluorine coating that makes it hard for dirt and moisture to stick to the front lens and makes the glass easier to clean. The lens is solidly built. The focus ring on the front is not very wide, but you can easily feel it when you have it in your hand. The zoom ring is more towards the center. That is not very wide either but can be clearly felt. Both turn nicely without play, and both offer good resistance.

FOCUS

For the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4, the same applies for the focus as for the Lumix S Pro 24-70mm f/2.8. The autofocus is, as on all Panasonics, a DFD system. That means that the camera only uses contrast detection, but then in the Panasonic way. Panasonic cameras recognize the blur of the Panasonic lenses and can therefore immediately focus in the right direction. Almost as if it were a phase detection system. Almost. In S-AF, the autofocus is very fast and very accurate. In continuous autofocus, you can still see small corrections while focusing. When you take pictures, you will not be bothered by that too much, because the system corrects so quickly that you still get a lot of sharp pictures. 

For video, it’s a challenge, because with C-AF you record all those small corrections. So you are better off doing serious filming with manual focusing. Real videographers will think that’s the only way anyway. Fortunately, the focus ring has what’s called a focus clutch. That is a link with the focus motor that you establish by pulling the focus ring back slightly. When you do that, you will see a scale with the focusing distance in feet and meters, and you have stops at infinity and close. You can turn the ring further, but you feel when you have passed the extreme point of the focus range.

It works quickly and intuitively and has the advantage that you can easily set a focus distance without holding the camera to your eye. That’s handy both for focus pulls during filming and for street photography. If you make a focus pull, shifting the focus from one subject to another, the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4 offers something that few other lenses have: a lack of focus breathing. When shifting the focus with this Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35 mm f/4 OIS, you hardly see a difference in image size, whereas with many other zooms you get the impression that you are zooming when you are only changing the focus. To top it all off, the focus peaking in the viewfinder or on the screen on the back shows you where the focus is, so you can move it very precisely during filming and turn it to the right new focus point in one go.

IMAGE QUALITY

The Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4 is exceptionally good. The scores for the center are unusual, and the gradient to the corners is small. The sharpness is particularly high, starting straight away at full aperture. In fact, at full aperture, the sharpness is already at its best, and it does not get better when you stop down. This can be clearly seen in RAW. After applying the lens corrections, you get a nice even result with hardly any gradient from one zoom range to another.

If the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4 has a weak point anywhere, then it is the vignetting. In the RAW files, it is quite substantial at full aperture, at about two stops. And that’s true across the entire zoom range. Corrected, you actually only see a bit of it at the extreme wide-angle position, with one stop of vignetting at f/4 at 16mm. But those corrections do result in a loss of dynamic range in the corners.

The distortion is quite substantial in RAW, with about 5.5% pincushion-shaped distortion at 16mm. That distortion gradually decreases to almost zero at 35mm. Corrected, you actually only still see some distortion at 16mm, but then it’s less than 1%. You should see those corrections in lower sharpness, but the sharpness could hardly be better. With this lens, you can also see that a modern design with distortion in combination with lens corrections can yield a very good result.

IMAGE STABILIZATION

Panasonic has a lot of experience with image stabilization and currently has perhaps the best image stabilization system in full frame. On cameras with high-resolution sensors such as the Lumix S1R, the old rule of 1/focal length no longer applies as the slowest shutter speed. You can see that in the graph. At 35mm, you can see that you get a sharper image with image stabilization at 1/80 second, while you would only expect that at shutter speeds slower than 1/40 sec. The stabilization works to at least one second.

Bokeh

For a nice background blur, you need more than a big aperture. The bokeh of the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4 is very nice, even though it is “only” an f/4 lens. Bokeh balls are beautiful, virtually without edges and with hardly any noise in the center. And what’s even nicer is that they stay round almost to the edge of the image. That’s pretty amazing.

Panasonic Lumix  S Pro 16-35mm f/4 SAMPLE IMAGES

Curious about the performance of the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4 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%.

ConclusiON: REVIEW lens Panasonic Lumix  S Pro 16-35mm f/4 oN camera Panasonic Lumix S1R

The image quality of the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4 is almost perfect.

The Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4 is a truly fantastic asset for the Lumix S system. The image quality of the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4 is almost perfect. The lens is also compact, light, solid and affordable. What more can you ask for? Combine it with the Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 OIS, and you can cover a wide range with these two lenses, from extreme wide angle to moderate telephoto. With those two lenses, you can handle almost anything.