Panasonic LUMIX G VARIO 100-300mm F4.0-5.6 MEGA O.I.S. Review

December 15, 2010 | Mark Goldstein | |

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#1 C.Y.Leow

My goodness! Yak! The sharpness or rather lack of, at 300mm is appalling! What is the point Panasonic? Judging from the result this lens is USELESS at 300mm, provided of course Photography Blog test it correctly.

12:13 pm - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#2 Arthur

I agree and suppose one is better off buying the GH2 with the 14-140mm lens.

2:14 pm - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#3 zebarnabe

There is blur from shaken at f/16 samples on 100 and 200mm and at f/11 on 300mm :/

This is no prime, that’s for sure, but is not that bad… it seems that most of the samples are lacking contrast, but there was a certain mist on the air by looks of it…

You guys need to use a tripod more often… ISO 1250 and above make it look mushy… even with 1/500s at 600mm equivalent, without tripod, shake is bound to happen, O.I.S. is not the holy grail ...

I would like to get a lens in this range, but a 300mm prime (that doesn’t exist) would perhaps be better…

3:19 pm - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#4 Phil Keeling

The 300mm shots are ruined by camera shake: apparently not a sturdy enough tripod! It just goes to show that at these extremes one has to take extreme care, though to be fair the light in a misty London in December is hardly conducive to the test.

5:53 pm - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#5 Mark Goldstein

OK, we’re going to re-shoot the 300mm sharpness samples when the weather improves.

6:32 pm - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#6 Mark Goldstein

Scratch that - given the current inclement weather, we’ve re-shot all the sharpness samples indoors.

7:22 pm - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#7 Louis Berk

I own the lens and while I agree it is not stellar it is possible to elicit very good results in terms of colour, sharpness and background blur. It adds an additional creative dimension for owners of m43 camera bodies not previously available. Good examples can be found in the Flickr group dedicated to the lens:

11:02 pm - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#8 C.Y.Leow

Thanks for that Louis! I knew Panasonics won’t release a lens with that kind of results shown by PB’s test ;)
The shots in flick look really good!
I will be looking at getting one for my E-P2 :)

11:08 pm - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#9 Lester

Just to check—for the (new) indoor sharpness shots, ISO was set at 160, right?

11:18 pm - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#10 Bruce B.

I wish someone would comment about the physical balance of this lens.  Even the 45-200 is a little front heavy on a tripod using the camera’s tripod socket.  Seems like a 600 equiv. lens would absolutely need a tripod socket somewhat forward of the camera to have any hope of a sharp shot, particularly at these apertures.

11:26 pm - Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#11 Asiya maryam

Depends upon the lens. Check this if so

5:04 am - Thursday, December 16, 2010

#12 Asiya maryam

Is that so?
Check this out?

5:07 am - Thursday, December 16, 2010

#13 Asiya maryam

Missed this

5:10 am - Thursday, December 16, 2010

#14 Bilgy_no1

The current list of rivals only lists the Olympus m.ZD 14-150mm. Might I suggest you also compare with the Panasonic 45-200mm, the upcoming Olympus m.ZD 75-300mm, and the 4/3 Olympus ZD 70-300. Especially the latter is much lower priced than the native m4/3 lenses (even including the cost of the adapter), and focuses relatively fast (CDAF compatible) on m4/3.

You may not have reviews of all these lenses (yet), but it would be informative for prospective buyers of the lens to know other options in the range.

9:54 am - Thursday, December 16, 2010

#15 Mark Goldstein

Lester, yes the ISO is 160.

10:25 am - Thursday, December 16, 2010

#16 Luis

Sorry, but I have no idea what you’re talking about softness coming from camera shake. With IS, there should be no problem to handhold a 600mm EFL lens at 1/250s. Without IS, you should need 1/600s.

Was IS turned off here??

8:06 pm - Thursday, December 16, 2010

#17 Hal Petursson

There is something seriously amiss here, either with the lens being a poor copy, the camera or the testing procedure itself.  These results prompted me to test, fairly rigorously, my copy of this lens bought a week ago. I used a Panasonic GF1 mounted on a Gitzo tripod & placed on a stone floor. The photos were taken at 100 ISO in Raw mode.

Additionally, I was careful to make sure the camera was square on to the target & carefully focussed on a high contrast, fine detail subject using manual focus & the screen zoom function (about 10x magnification). The exposures were made with the two second self timer.

My photographs were markedly better throughout the zoom & aperture range than shown here, especially at the 300mm focal length setting. I’d be quite happy to let Mark have my full set of test shots or post them elsewhere if someone can suggest a suitable site.

8:45 pm - Thursday, December 16, 2010

#18 Hal Petursson

Looking at my results in more detail, I would say that this is a superlative lens when used at this distance (about 3 metres). Of course things may change at other distances. The performance is fairly even across the frame with the best results being obtained in the 200-250mm range.  The only exception to this is at the 150mm setting.

At 100mm focal length the sharpest aperture is f5.6 in the centre & f11 at the edge. The poorest results were seen at 150 mm where the extreme edge (corner diagonal) didn’t really sharpen up until f16 & even then was some way below the centre value.

I would say that the best overall performance was obtained at 200mm where the central sharpness at f8.0 was superb with the edges not being too far behind.  Between 250-300mm the best performance was f11 both centre & edge.

Vignetting was somewhat pronounced at full aperture, but had practically gone by a stop down, although in reality two stops were needed to remove all traces.

There was no evidence of decentering at all with the sharpness being very even in all four corners of the frame.

PS - I have no connection with Panasonic :)

11:30 pm - Thursday, December 16, 2010

#19 Jordan

Please, please, do not put ‘equivalent focal length’ on the sample shots…it makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.  The lens is not a 200-600mm lens.  Period.  It is a 100-300mm lens.  Yes, the angle of view on a m4/3 camera is equal to the angle of view of a 200-600mm lens on 35mm, but 35mm is not now, nor ever will it be a ‘magic standard format’ that all lenses reference to.  The focal length is 100-300.  You wouldn’t compare a medium format lens and use a ‘division factor’ to give the ‘true’ focal length on that, would you?  So don’t do it here, it’s just confusing.  Also, the exposure compensation needs to be used on about half the images, which are severely underexposed (specifically the gray sky images)

12:06 pm - Friday, December 17, 2010

#20 zebarnabe


I guess the best is to use the real focal length with the 35mm equivalent between parenthesis… it can be confusing when one doesn’t know what is looking at…

IMHO most people that look at lens think in FoV using the equivalent focal length ... at least I do… specially if you look at compact cameras where real focal length means nothing without FoV or 35mm equivalent… like the 3.7mm lens on my mobile phone… that are roughly equivalent (lots of focus breath) to 42mm in 35mm terms…

12:35 pm - Friday, December 17, 2010

#21 Pops

Please see link below to appreciate what this lens is capable of in the right hands.

5:13 pm - Friday, December 17, 2010

#22 Tom LeROY

I own this lens with Lumix G1, it’s quite sharp considering it’s around $ 600.  The auto focus locks on real quick, and good photos can be obtained with only minor PP.  It’s not L glass quality but it’s light and easy to carry around.
Negatives: it’s not good in low light, focus ring sticks sometimes (better then having lens creep)

2:32 pm - Sunday, December 19, 2010

#23 Ed

I am thinking about purchasing this lens for my EP1. Has anyone here used this combo, and if so what’s your impression?

5:27 am - Tuesday, December 21, 2010

#24 Henning

I’ve had this lens for about a month, and I’m extremely happy with it. Possibly the example for this test was defective or some other problem existed. I’m doing my comparisons on a G1, GF1 and GH2.

I largely concur with Hal’s observations. It is a very good lens and beats most lenses that get to or are 300mm in general optical performance and equals a Nikon 300/4.5 IF AiS that I have. At 200mm it is outstanding. I also use Canon equipment, both full frame and 1.6 crop bodies, with various lenses including the 300/2.8 IS. On a 1.6 crop 18 megapixel body the 300/2.8 does not get me as much detail as the 100-300 at 300mm does at 300mm on a GH2. It’s a difficult comparison because of the difference in pixel size, apertures etc. but the only advantage the Canon combo has (obviously) is at low light levels. When the Canon 1.4x TC is used on the 300/2.8, the detail resolved is very similar, but the low light performance is also closer. And the size, and the weight….

For those that have used the 45-200mm Panasonic, the 100-300 is a much better lens. Only the size is more problematic. It’s a bit big on the G series bodies, especially if you want to use a tripod. Also, you need a very sturdy tripod. The lens/body combo is light, but you have to have a tripod that’s suitable for a 600mm 35mm lens.

I will shortly be going to Panama, and will be taking the GH2 with the 100-300 for bird and other wildlife photography, along with mostly other m4/3 items. I’m not considering the Canon setup.

I have tried the lens on the Olympus EP1, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Very hard to use without a viewfinder. A 4 degree lens at arms length doesn’t work. I tried the new Olympus 40-150 lens, and if it is decent optically I would go for that on the Olympus, but that is the maximum. It’s a very tidy package.

7:24 am - Sunday, January 2, 2011

#25 M.B

Henning, you are sooo wrong!
Your Canon 18MB APS-C has the same pixel size as the GH2, so 300mm’s can be compared directly.
Your 300mm 2.8 IS will knock out the 100-300mm regarding resolved details from the same shooting distance. Period.
If you cant see that in your comparison, something must be very wrong in your test setup!!

9:29 am - Wednesday, January 26, 2011

#26 Henning

MB, please check your math. The GH2 has a higher pixel density.

The Canon 300 needs a 1.4 converter to get the same angle of view. With that, the reduction in resolution puts the optical performance at about the same level as the Panasonic. Without the TC, the Canon lens resolves more on a pixel independent basis, but due to the higher pixel density the Panasonic comes out ahead.

5:07 pm - Wednesday, January 26, 2011

#27 Nick

Can I use this LUMIX G VARIO 100-300mm F4.0-5.6 MEGA O.I.S. with Sony NEX 5?

6:01 am - Tuesday, February 8, 2011

#28 NPrincen

Yes, the 100-300 may be big compared to a m4/3 body, but that is not a valid comparison.  Think of the size of a 200-600 zoom of equal f-number on a full frame body!  That will be huge and heavy.  I have the 100-300 and find it no difficulty at all on my GH1.  People need to hold the camera/lens combo with their left hand underneath the lens for support.  That is the way I was taught to hold all SLR style cameras, even with shorter lenses.  I prefer to think of the 100-300 lens as the pancake lens of super-telephotos!  It shows the real advantage that the m4/3 system gives us in small size.

9:34 pm - Saturday, March 12, 2011

#29 George Elgin

When I saw the samples of the “people shots” I was blown away!  I have seldom seen such a beautiful cinematic softness and luminance, as if they were taken with a really good 16mm film camera and lens. I went instantly and ordered one. I can’t wait to use it with my Lumix GH1.
This is really wonderful. And it focuses down to 5 ft. Fantastic!

1:38 am - Monday, April 25, 2011

#30 Steve Orobec

I wasn’t very impressed with the choice of test shots, come on a bookcase for a 100-300 zoom (200-600 on FF), you did better with the 14-140mm

I have this lens plus several quality primes and while it isn’t as good as a prime it is very good for what it is.

I have used it for pseudo macro shots and had no problem getting above 1/500 in Aperture priority at 300mm and I managed to get sharp hand held shots at 300mm (in my opinion)

The following is a 100% crop of a hand held at 188mm

10:20 am - Friday, April 29, 2011

#31 David Elm

There is now a tripod collar available for the 100-300mm lens. Collar can be quickly adjusted for landscape or portrait and you must provide a mounting plate. 

Contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

10:17 pm - Saturday, July 30, 2011

#32 Warren Lyons

Help, fellow readers.  I need some advice.  I currently use a Canonsx30is superzoom and have been progressively dissatisfied with its image quality and have been relying more on my Olympus EPL1 and Pansonic DMC G3 micro 4/3 cameras.  I do like large zoom for boating and wildlife photography.  Should I get this Pany 100-300 lens for my micro 4/3 or should I get one of the newer super zooms (sony HX100 or Pany FZ150) and dump my sx30is?

4:19 pm - Friday, September 23, 2011

#33 Hakon Soreide

I got this lens recently as there currently are no other alternatives for long telephoto zooms for MFT. I had the 45-200 for a while, but anything above 150mm was rather useless, and focus tended to miss by just a little bit too, which makes a huge difference on long telephoto.

Whereas the usable range of the 45-200 was 45-150, the usable range of the 100-300 is 100-220 from my test shots so far. Above that, and the increase in fuzziness means that a picture taken at 220mm cropped and interpolated back to the original pixel dimensions would pretty much look the same as one taken at 300mm, and the same went for the 45-200 from 150 to 200mm. Focus is also more likely to hit at 200-220 than it is at 300mm where I’ve sometimes had to manually adjust focus to get it just right.

One could speculate whether it would have been possible for Panasonic to make the zooms in question 45-150 and 100-220 with the optical benefits of a shorter range, not to mention they would have been smaller, lighter and possibly cheaper too.

Anyway, disregarding the long end and only using this lens as a 100-220 lens, the results are quite stellar, especially stopped down to f5.6, and it is a lens definitely worth its price.

The IS is not on par with Canon’s latest IS technology, but it does add a stop or two of easy hand-holdability.

The weight and size still makes it very comfortable to use on the SLR-style GH2. I’d not use this on the GF series.

In conclusion, I still feel this could have been a better lens, or at least a slightly smaller 100-220 lens, but for what it is and the price it sells for, this is a must-have lens for anyone taking pictures of birds, wildlife or anything else distant and/or small.

3:28 pm - Thursday, March 8, 2012

#34 NPrincen

I have to echo some of the concerns regarding test technique for this lens.  The 300mm sharpness test may be flawed.  Lenses of long focal length have very shallow depth of field.  When testing these lenses for center versus corner sharpness, the targets must be in the same plane and the camera must be parallel to that plane.  It is not clear that this was the case here.  It is obvious from the picture that the books on the bookshelf are in different in and out positions.  So, the center and corner book may not be in the same plane relative to the lens/camera.  I take it that the center was used for focusing.  The corner images get sharper as the lens is stopped down.  Is this the out of focus corner book coming into focus due to increased depth of field or is this real image softness of the lens?  We will never know from this test setup.  In the future, use a flat test chart or other scene that is known to be flat.  Make sure the camera is perfectly parallel to the test subject.

6:09 pm - Monday, October 1, 2012

#35 Edmund Sykes

This is enough to make me sell my 45-200 and buy the 100-300, thank you all.

9:58 pm - Friday, February 1, 2013

#36 Kym Warner

Where in you obviously spend a significant amount of time and effort constructing these reviews, on almost every review I have looked at the following phrase seems to appear all the time.
“While this lens is obviously not in the same class as the primes and high-grade zooms that we have reviewed so far”,etc. etc etc.
Do you actually have a list that has the lenses in order of performance?

I am trying to pick some lenses for a MFT system but it is very difficult when almost every review has that ‘catch phrase’.
So what lenses are better than the Panasonic LUMIX G VARIO 100-300mm F4.0-5.6 ?

5:12 am - Thursday, August 15, 2013

#37 M.b

10:06 pm - Thursday, August 15, 2013

#38 Pat Sweeney

Is this lens compatible for use with Panasonic DMC-GF1 camera.

10:08 am - Monday, March 2, 2015

#39 Edmund Sykes

Yes, the lens is compatible with all M4/3 cameras but it will weigh far more than your GF1.

10:25 am - Monday, March 2, 2015

#40 Mark Starbuck

I have just returned from South Africa and used this lens mounted on Oly P5 in the Kruger Park shooting handheld out of the car window. The results were great and I was very pleased. The lens does have a sweetspot around 200mm and gives stellar results if the subject is about 10 to 15m away (i.e. not at infinity) The zoom collar can be a bit sticky, but in actual shooting I did not find this a problem, in fact it made the zoom settings stay where I set them. The tripod collar ordered from Rösch Feinmechanik was also a great help. All in all very happy with this lens and the photos I got.

7:54 am - Friday, May 22, 2015

#41 Edmund

Hi Mark
Can you tell us whether you were using the lens OIS or that of the Olympus?

8:26 am - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

#42 marc


I’m planning on buying a gh4 and this lens. do you think it’s a good combo for filming sports?


11:29 am - Sunday, December 13, 2015

Entry Tags

compact system camera, micro four thirds, lumix, panasonic, super zoom, telephoto, sports, superzoom, wildlife, dmc-gh2, gh2, 100-300mm, Panasonic LUMIX G VARIO 100-300mm F4.0-5.6 MEGA O.I.S., panasonic 100-300mm

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