Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. Review

March 17, 2016 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. is a superzoom lens for the Micro Four Thirds system. Featuring near-silent, high-speed focusing thanks to a 240fps AF motor, the Panasonic 100-400mm lens offers an extensive focal range of 200-800mm in 35mm terms. It uses 20 elements in 13 groups, incorporating one aspherical extra-low dispersion element, one Ultra Extra-Low Dispersion element, and two extra-low dispersion elements. Power O.I.S. helps to combat camera shake, while 9 rounded diaphragm blades give the aperture a rounded shape. The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens costs £1349 / $1,799 in the UK and the US, respectively.

Ease of Use

The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. is surprisingly compact and relatively light for a superzoom lens covering a huge 35mm equivalent focal range of 400-800mm. Zoomed out to the 400mm setting, the lens does look a little innocuous even on a larger camera body like the DMC-GX8, but overall Panasonic have done a great job in keeping the lens below 1kg in weight.

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens attached to a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8
Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens attached to a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens attached to a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8

Zooming is not internal – as you can see, the front extends considerably upon zooming to 400mm, reaching nearly 25cms in length, at which point the lens cannot be considered tiny any more. Still, it's a pretty compact affair for a lens that spans such a vast focal range.

 

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens attached to a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8, zoomed out

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens attached to a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8, zoomed out

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens alongside the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8

In terms of features, the lens offers a switch for turning the POWER O.I.S. image stabilisation on or off, an AF/M switch, and a Focus Limiter switch with two settings, Full-Infinity and 5m-Infinity, with the latter speeding up the autofocusing if you don't need to shoot closer than 5m away from your subject.

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens, zoomed in

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens, zoomed out

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.The front of the Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.The rear of the Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens

There's also a zoom ring lock to lock/unlock the lens to prevent zoom creep, and a quick-shift, two-part rotating tripod collar that can be rotated using a knurled locking ring to easily switch between horizontal and vertical shooting orientations.

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.The side of the Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.The side of the Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens

The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens may have a lot of plastic parts to help keep the weight down, but the lens mount is, thankfully, made of metal. The lens has a gapless construction which makes it both dust- and moisture-resistant, an excellent feature given that this lens will predominantly be used by wildlife and sports photographers in all kinds of conditions.

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens in-hand

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens with the supplied lens hood fitted

Usefully the lens comes with a snap-on hood with a small screw to tighten it in place, or if you don't want to use that, there's a smaller integrated hood that can be pulled out from the end of the lens - very neat. Panasonic also include a cloth storage bag, and the lens accepts 72mm filters.

Focal Range

At the 100mm end of the zoom range, the lens has a diagonal angle of view of 12°, equivalent to that of a 200mm lens in a 35mm system.

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.Field of view at 100mm

At the 400mm end, the angle of view is 3.1°, which is the same as that of a 800mm lens on a 35mm full-frame camera.

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.Field of view at 400mm

Focusing

The Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens offers virtually silent focusing. In use, we have also found the system very quick on the DMC-GX8. With the focus mode on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 set to AFC, the lens tracked moving subjects well, although it takes some practice to keep them in the frame when using the 800mm focal length!

The 72mm filter thread does not rotate on focus, which is good news for users of polarisers and graduated neutral density filters.

Manual focusing is possible in a focus-by-wire fashion. This should not put you off using it as it feels pretty natural in use, and actually enables the camera to display a magnified view of the subject automatically, i.e. without your having to press a dedicated button or enter the menu. The focus ring is generously sized and more than adequate for the job.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are not really a problem with the Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens, as shown in the example below.

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.

Light Fall-off

With the Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens set to its maximum aperture, you can see some light fall-off in the corners, but nothing too excessive. You will likely only notice this when photographing a subject with large homogeneous surfaces.

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.Vignetting at 100mm

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.Vignetting at 400mm

Macro

Although Panasonic does not call the LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. a macro lens, you can at least fill the frame when shooting at 400mm, with a maximum 0.25x magnification rating and able to focus at 1.3m/4.27ft away from the subject.

Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S.Close-up performance

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. In the Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f/4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S. lens, Panasonic employed a diaphragm with 9 rounded blades, which has resulted in quite nice bokeh, at least in our opinion. However, recognising that bokeh evaluation is subjective, we have provided a few examples for your perusal.

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2 ASPH Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2 ASPH
   
Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2 ASPH Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2 ASPH

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.

Entry Tags

compact system camera, micro four thirds, lumix, panasonic, super zoom, telephoto, sports, superzoom, action, wildlife, 100-400mm, dmc-gx8, gx8, birds, Panasonic LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm f4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S., panasonic 100-400mm

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