Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm F2.8 Review
Full-frame camera systems are quick to offer professional photographers the traditional holy trinity of f/2.8 lenses to cover most shooting scenarios; 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm. The Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm F2.8 lens in this test is seen as a real all-rounder; wide enough for landscapes, close enough for portraits and a whole bunch of other stuff in between.
That trio of lenses is technically now available for the L-Mount that Panasonic S1 full-frame cameras use, although currently the 14-24mm f/2.8 lens is only available from Sigma. And unlike the stand alone 70-200mm f/2.8 that Panasonic launched at the end of 2019, Sigma also offers its own 24-70mm f/2.8 lens which we gave a firm five star rating earlier this year.
There was a mouth-watering £2,249 RRP at launch for Panasonic's 24-70mm lens, which is double the price of Sigma's version. From the offset we can be fairly sure that Panasonic's lens is exceptionally capable in every way, but is it a more enticing option than Sigma's cut price and highly-rated offering?
Given this is the only like-for-like clash of L-Mount zoom lenses between Panasonic and Sigma, we've provided a few extra specification comparisons for you in this test, although we have not run a real-world head to head. What we will say now though, is that the lens on test here will reward those with deep enough pockets, it's fantastic.
Ease of Use
It is immediately clear that the Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm F2.8 is a pro-grade lens.
At 935g, the 24-70mm lens is reassuringly weighty, and it sits well when mounted to a S1R. It packs 18 lens elements in 16 groups, three of which are aspherical and four are ED elements. Yes, there is some serious glass inside.
The overall length of the lens is 140mm, but when you extend the zoom to its maximum telephoto setting, the lens barrel length increases by approximately 25mm. Overall it's approximately 10% bigger and heavier than Sigma's offering.
Like all of Panasonic's L-Mount lenses, the 24-70mm exterior is built to a high standard. You've got a solid metal lens barrel that is dust and splash resistant and can be used in temperatures down to -10°C. We've not had the chance to push this lens in extreme environments, but it has withstood rain showers no problem.
And if you've held any of Panasonic's other full-frame lenses, you'll be immediately familiar here. The exterior design and operation of the 24-70mm PRO lens is essentially identical to the 16-70mm f/2.8 PRO lens.
Unlike the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8, you won't find a single switch on the lens barrel here. No zoom lock, no MF/ AF for focusing modes, no stabilisation (which neither have), no AF button.
So is the Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm F2.8 missing a trick? Hardly. In place of a focusing mode switch, there is a lovely focus clutch. You pull back the focus clutch at the front end of the lens barrel to switch into manual focus, with focus distances marked on the barrel.
It's an easy action to switch between focus modes - you won't even need to take your eye away from the viewfinder. The focus clutch is a huge draw to this lens and perhaps the single biggest plus over the Sigma lens.
Manual focus information can also be viewed on screen, with the focus distance appearing by default as you make changes. On screen you also get an indication of the focus range of that distance in context of the particular aperture in use, plus the option of focus peaking as an additional manual focus aid.
There is a minimum focus distance of 0.37m throughout the entire zoom range, offering a maximum magnification of 0.25x in the telephoto setting. Closeup work is not a selling point of this lens and Sigma's 24-70mm lens is markedly more versatile, with a 0.19m close focusing distance and maximum 0.37x maximum magnification.
Panasonic has built its L-Mount lenses with video in mind. One such feature is the suppression of focus breathing - a phenomenon where the lens appears to zoom in or out as the focus distance is changed. We ran a check on focus breathing with the camera and lens mounted to a tripod, manually focusing the entire focus range. There is still focus breathing, but it is extremely well controlled and only the eagle-eyed will spot the difference.
As already mentioned, there is no zoom-lock on the Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm F2.8. This control is often found on zoom lenses where the barrel extends and retracts as it moves through the zoom range, in order to lock the barrel in place. A lock isn't really not needed here, because the zoom ring is beautifully dampened yet remains firmly in place whatever angle the lens is held at.
Yes, that zoom ring feels wonderful in the hand - you'll get smooth zooms throughout the 90° rotation required to shift between those five key focal lengths marked on the zoom ring. By default, the focal length is displayed on screen down to the nearest 1mm while any changes are made, so precise adjustments are a doddle.
When used with the S1R for photography, the autofocus of the Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm F2.8 lens is wonderfully rapid, plus it's silent. Yet it's perhaps for video where autofocusing impresses more and is an another advantage over the Sigma 24-70mm lens in context of use with a Panasonic camera.
Video AF is not snappy like for photography - the camera is geared differently. Focus transitions are silent and smooth as silk, without dragging their heels. And focus hunting is rare. For those planning on shooting video with AF, the Panasonic 24-70mm f/2.8 is a real winner.
Like most other like-for-like lenses, the Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm F2.8 lens does not feature optical stabilisation, so again there's no switch on the barrel. Panasonic S1 cameras already feature excellent in-body-image-stabilisation (IBIS), and combined with this lens, stabilisation is up to 5.5-stops (EV).
And for video, you have a host of IBIS options with Panasonic cameras like the S1R used for this test, including a digital boost that will get you smooth handheld shots.
Should you wish to use lens filters, they can be screwed on directly to the lens via it's 82mm thread, which is also true of the 70-200mm f/2.8 PRO lens.
We've mentioned it before in other reviews, but the lens cap and lens hood provided with a L-Mount lens lock on securely and are removed easily. A soft protective case is supplied with the lens.
Ease of use, features and handling, there really is no area found wanting. Quite the opposite. There is a solid build, fast and silent AF and a delightful manual focus clutch. The Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm F2.8 is large and heavy, but not ungainly so when used with a S1 camera.
The 24-70mm focal length range gives an angle of view ranging between of 84° at the wide end to 34° at the telephoto end on a full frame sensor.
We have taken our images in raw format and with all lens corrections turned off to ensure any lens distortions are present.
We had high expectations of the Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm F2.8 ahead of its test. It's an expensive lens packing some heavy glass inside, with 18 elements in all. It packs both aspherical and extra-low dispersion lens elements both of which help to correct CA.
Having looked through multiple images for chromatic aberrations (CA) in the form of chroma (colour) fringing, we have struggled to find any. Whatsoever. Even pushing the lens to its limit at 24mm and f/2.8 to capture a forest scene with high contrast detail in the very edges of the picture, or looking through bokeh areas, we didn't see any fringing even when pixel peeping. It's a staggeringly good feat.
Light Fall-off and Distortion
Light fall-off (also know as vignetting which is the difference in brightness between the centre and the edges of the frame) at the maximum f/2.8 aperture when in the 24mm focal length is kept to the very corner of the image and is no more than 0.5EV.
At f/4, there is fractional light fall-off which is of no consequence and then by f/5.6 light fall-off has gone completely. Performance at the telephoto end is the same, where the maximum aperture of f/2.8. aperture is also available, although the light fall off is more gradual.
When shooting videos in the standard 16:9 aspect ratio, light fall-off is virtually negligible at any aperture due to the crop of the aspect ratio, although you might see some at f/2.8 when shooting the telephoto end.
Lens distortion-wise (as seen in curvature of straight lines in a shot like architecture), the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens has a decent control of barrel distortion at the widest 24mm focal length and this distortion is all but gone by 28mm. The 70mm telephoto lens setting is still too wide to expect pincushion distortion and indeed we have not observed pincushion distortion at all.
Overall, the Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm F2.8 lens has a excellent control over light-fall off and distortion and poses no issues in post production for removing any of those fractional distortions. Honestly, aside from minimising barrel distortion at 24mm, there's no real area which corrections are necessary.
We have appreciated a reasonable control over lens flare and what looks like excellent sunstars at f/16 - those light rays are long, tidy and well spread, although the centre is a tad mushy. There has also been some unpredictable 'ghosting' effects in images with the sun directly in the shot.
This uncropped image show how close you can get to a CF card.
You can see that close up work is not the forte of the Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm F2.8 lens. It offers a modest minimum focus distance of 0.37m at any focal length and a maximum magnification of 0.25x at the telephoto end.
In terms of bokeh (describing the quality of out-of-focus areas), we had high hopes for the Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm F2.8 lens, which features eleven aperture blades and a constant maximum f/2.8 aperture. (We were not quite expecting the performance of the Panasonic S 50mm f/1.4 PRO lens, but we'd want to be confident using this lens especially for portraits.)
Combine a focal length of 50mm and higher with an aperture of f/2.8 and f/4 and there is a lovely smooth and rounded bokeh. Even stopped down to f/5.6 and bokeh is well rounded. It's at f/8 where the polygonal shape starts to become evident. At f/2.8 if you look in the very corners, rounded bokeh shapes appear to have a chunk cut out of them from the corner side not too dissimilar to 'cats-eye', but this effect is gone by f/4.
In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.