The long and the short of it

New stuff

Olympus OM-D E-M5 with half of the HLD-6 battery grip, and the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5

The 14mm just arrived a little while ago, along with the battery grip. I haven’t had a chance to test either, but this morning I did have an opportunity to very briefly check out the Panasonic 100-300mm f/4-5.6. A few snapshots is not enough to arrive at any concrete conclusions, but it’s enough to make a first impression. In this instance it’s a good one…

Thom Hogan has called the 100-300mm the best bargain 600mm equivalent out there. I’ve only tested one other lens in this category, the Sigma 120-400mm. It only took twenty or so images to decide that the Panasonic beats the pants off the Sigma, especially towards the long end of the range. The Panasonic is very sharp wide open, and only begins to soften up a bit as it approaches 300mm(600mm equivalent). I must stress “a bit,” as the lens remains quite usable wide open even at 300mm, retaining good sharpness and reasonably snappy contrast.

As I’ve mentioned before, the first thing I like to do when receiving new gear is find it’s limitations. I want to know what my camera and lenses can and can’t do, so I’m never surprised at a crucial moment. With lenses, I like to shoot high contrast targets wide open(please click the thumbnails for larger images)…

100mm
100mm

200mm
200mm

300mm
300mm

Sharp enough for ya? It is for me. Now don’t get me wrong, this lens is no replacement for a fast prime telephoto, but for a price of $500, this is very, very good performance. Just as importantly, aberrations are very low. Here’s another image with lots of high contrast edges, a real challenge for many lenses…

188mm
188mm

And another…
188mm
188mm


100% crop, with only a bit of RAW pre-sharpening.

How’s the close focus performance?

300mm
300mm, wide open and handheld.

Try handholding a 600mm full frame prime lens. Better spend a month at the gym first, if you want to hold it for more than five minutes and create sharp images. You could hold the E-M5 and 100-300mm all day with one hand.

Are there any negatives? There’s some vignetting, but it’s not bothersome, and can be corrected fairly easily. Build quality is good, but not great – but at this price point, you can’t really expect a great deal of mechanical finesse. The zoom ring is a bit “sticky,” but will hopefully smooth out a little over time. Overall though, the build is solid. I’d love to see a tripod collar. Even with the E-M5’s excellent in-body stabilization, handholding a 600mm equivalent lens is not easy. It gets more difficult as the light levels drop.

All in all, the Panasonic 100-300mm f/4-5.6 looks like a very fine lens, and a pretty good bargain.

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