Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S Review

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 Pros
  • Excellent sharpness
  • Low CA
  • No flare
  • Fast AF, and close focus
  • Beautifully designed and engineered
  • Very usable TC
  • Superb OIS
  • Dust, moisture and freezeproof
  • Compact
Cons
  • Price

Panasonic Leica 200mm F2,8 Front Oblique View

A 200mm f/2.8 lens might seems a fairly standard offering, but when we consider this is for MFT format and we apply the 2x crop factor, we are left with a field of view comparable to a 400mm f/2.8 on a 35mm-format full frame camera. Fit the 1.4x teleconverter and the resulting 280mm f/4 optic has a  “35mm-equivalent” of 560mm f/4, a very exciting prospect. The resulting package is also extremely compact, a fraction of the size and weight of comparable-effect full frame lenses. Coupled up to the Panasonic Lumix G6 camera body used for this review, let’s see if this all lives up to the promise.

Handling and Features

Panasonic Leica 200mm F2,8 On Lumix G6

This is clearly from the outset a beautifully made lens. All the controls are super-smooth in operation, everything fits together with precision and the overall finish is exemplary. Weighing in at 1245g, this might seem heavy for the format, but consider the alternatives in larger formats and we really have a relatively light package for the intended purposes. There is a standard 77mm filter thread, outside of which the barrel is smooth where it accepts a slide-on lens hood. The hood is secured by a small knurled screw that tightens a band within the hood, firmly and evenly gripping the lens. It’s all designed very well and fits perfectly.

Behind here we find a large aperture ring. An A setting is provided should we wish to control the aperture from the camera, or values can be directly set on the ring in 1/3 stop increments. The detents have just the right feel and the ring operates very smoothly.

There is a wide manual focus ring, although little need was found to switch from AF. The AF system locks on very efficiently. Moving closer again to the camera body, we find two switches on the lens barrel. The first is a focus limiter, allowing AF to operate over the full range or restricting it to between 3m and infinity. The second is a Memory switch. This enables a focus position to be retained and recalled by pressing a small button between the two switches. The Fn setting on this switch enables a camera function to be allocated to the button, after which pressing the button will set the function on the camera. This latter feature depends upon the camera body used supporting the function. Focusing is down to 1.15m, giving a maximum magnification of 0.2x.

Closer to the camera body lies the tripod foot and ring. This is very solid and secure and loosening a knurled knob also allows for camera orientation to be set. This works very elegantly, a lovely simple bit of design.

Finally we have two switches on the lens body closest to the camera. The AF/MF switch lies just above an on/off switch for the Power OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) system. The lens is also rated as being dust, splash and freeze proof, making it ideal for using outdoors in demanding situations.

Panasonic Leica 200mm F2,8 Side View With Converter

Optical construction of the lens comprises 15 elements in 13 groups, two of which are Ultra-Extra Low Dispersion. The diaphragm has 9 blades, aiming to improve the quality of the out of focus areas, or bokeh.

1.4x Teleconverter DMW-TC14

This Teleconverter is provided with the lens, turning it into a very useful 280mm f/4. The minimum focus distance remains the same, so magnification is also increased. The converter comprises 6 elements in 4 groups. It adds just 115g to the weight of the lens. The pulling power of this combination is very powerful, having a “35mm-format” equivalent of a 560mm f/4, a very attractive proposition.

Panasonic Leica 1,4x Teleconverter For 200mm F2,8

Overall handling is very slick, regardless of whether the TC is used or not. In fact, adding the TC seems to make no difference to AF speed or usability in any way. Using the lens in the studio for portraits might not seem the intuitive thing to do, but in fact this works very well. The perspective at the distances required makes excellent head and shoulder portraits. Out in the field, wildlife, nature, landscape, all fall within the types of subjects that can be handled with ease.

Although we do need to remember that shutter speeds will still need to be high to arrest subject movement, here we have a very powerful telephoto lens that handles with the same ease as a much more modest one.

Panasonic Leica 200mm F2,8 Rear Oblique View

Performance

Looking at the lens alone, centrally sharpness is excellent from f/2.8 to f/11. It is very good at f/16 until diffraction pulls down the performance at f/22, although even here it remains a good standard. The edges start of as very good at f/2.8, rise to excellent from f/4 to f/11 and back to very good at f/16. At f/22 sharpness is good, but diffraction does take the bite off it.

Adding the TC does mean some reduction in performance, as we might expect, but centrally it remains excellent from f/4 to f/8, is very good at f/11 and f/16 and good at f/22. Diffraction at f/32 makes for soft images and in fact the camera EXIF reports this as still being f/22. The edges suffer the most, being good at f/4 and f/5.6, very good at f/8 and f/11 and good at f/16. beyond this, images become soft at f/22 and f/32. This is actually all pretty good, as using wide apertures with subjects centrally placed results in very nice, crisp images.

MTF Charts

200mm f/2.8 MTF

200mm f/2.8 With TC 1.4x MTF

How to read our MTF charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Panasonic Lumix G6 using Imatest.

CA (Chromatic Aberration) is extremely well corrected. Using the lens alone CA is kept under one half of a pixel centre and edge. Adding the TC gives a mild increase of CA, but it still hovers around the half a pixel value. This is unlikely to need any further correction in either case.

Chromatic Aberration Charts

200mm f/2.8 CA Graph

200mm f/2.8 With TC 1.4x CA Graph

How to read our CA charts

Chromatic aberration (CA) is the lens’ inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Panasonic Lumix G6 using Imatest.

Distortion figures are also very impressive. With the lens alone we have +0.22% pincushion distortion. With the TC added we have -0.45% barrel distortion. Both these figures mean that the lens is very close to rectilinear and distortion is unlikely to be noticed. For very critical work it could be further corrected in software.

Flare is not a problem either, it being marked by its total absence.

Bokeh is of course the smoothness of the gradation of out of focus areas and all long lenses are already ahead of the game by virtue of the reduced depth of field. This lens excels in having ultra-smooth bokeh, making it ideal for quality images with diffused backgrounds.

The OIS system is a very welcome addition and it was with ease that a full 6 stops advantage could be enjoyed. That is amazing. However, it is worth remembering that this does nothing to address subject movement, so for much wildlife photography it may well be best to switch OIS off.

Sample Photos

Panasonic Leica 200mm F2,8 Misty Trees | 0.5 sec | f/11.0 | 200.0 mm | ISO 200

200mm Botanic Gardens | 1/500 sec | f/5.6 | 200.0 mm | ISO 400

280mm (with 1.4x) Botanic Gardens | 1/640 sec | f/11.0 | 280.0 mm | ISO 800

Panasonic Leica 200mm F2,8 Bold Colour | 1/15 sec | f/9.0 | 200.0 mm | ISO 200

Panasonic Leica 200mm F2,8 Ca Test | 1/50 sec | f/9.0 | 200.0 mm | ISO 200

Panasonic LEICA DG ELMARIT 200mm f/2.8 POWER O.I.S Other sample images


Leica 200mm Water Buffalo2 | 1/1600 sec | f/4.0 | 200.0 mm | ISO 200

200mm 1.4x Tele (Levels, WB adjusted) | 1/60 sec | f/4.0 | 280.0 mm | ISO 200

200mm 1.4x Tele | 1/640 sec | f/4.0 | 280.0 mm | ISO 1600

200mm 1.4x Tele (Levels adjusted) | 1/1600 sec | f/5.0 | 280.0 mm | ISO 200

200mm 1.4x Tele | 1/1300 sec | f/4.5 | 280.0 mm | ISO 200

Panasonic LEICA DG ELMARIT 200mm f/2.8 POWER O.I.S Aperture range

Bokeh At f/2.8 | 1/50 sec | f/2.8 | 200.0 mm | ISO 200

Bokeh At f/8 | 1/6 sec | f/8.0 | 200.0 mm | ISO 200

Bokeh At f/22 | 1.3 sec | f/22.0 | 200.0 mm | ISO 200

Specifications

Manufacturer Panasonic
General
Lens Mounts
  • Panasonic Micro Four Thirds
  • Olympus Micro Four Thirds
Lens
Focal Length 200mm
Angle of View No Data
Max Aperture f/2.8
Min Aperture f/22
Filter Size 77mm
Stabilised Yes
35mm equivalent 400mm
Internal focusing Yes
Maximum magnification 0.2x
Focusing
Min Focus 115cm
Construction
Blades 9
Elements 15
Groups 13
Box Contents
Box Contents No Data
Dimensions
Weight 1245g
Height 174mm

Verdict

The Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S is a cracking good lens that is highly functional, with a very useful teleconverter that extends the possibilities. Yes, the price hurts, but the alternatives hurt even more. This is such a pleasure to use and the results are just as satisfying, even with the fairly modest pixel count of the Panasonic Lumix G6.

(ephotozine.com, https://goo.gl/xXp6t6)

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