Panasonic S Pro 70-200mm f/2.8 Field Test: Supreme Image Quality… for a Price

In early November, Panasonic announced that a 70-200mm f/2.8 for the L-mount was coming soon. The lens represents, which comes in at a hefty $2,597.99, is a major step closer to completing the holy-trinity lineup for their S series cameras.

Additionally, Panasonic says that this lens will offer 7 stops of stabilization on the S-Line cameras, a pretty impressive spec for a full frame tele-zoom. We were sent a sample model (with pre-production firmware) for a few days to test out.

Design

The Lumix S Pro 70-200mm f/2.8 is a hefty lens, coming in at 3.46lbs. This is in part due to its 22 total elements (in 17 groups – including 1 aspherical, 3 extra-low dispersion, and 2 ultra extra-low dispersion elements). With all of the ELD elements, the lens features minimal chromatic aberration, and results in sharp images throughout the focal range.

Similarly to the 16-35mm f/4 that was announced alongside this lens, Panasonic says that focus breathing is minimal, which is great news for videographers. The autofocus features a double focus system, which combines a linear motor and a stepping motor to achieve fast and precise focus.

On the outside, the lens is built like a tank. Every part you touch feels solid and well made, and the lens is dust/moisture resistant, as you would expect.

Unlike most 70-200mm lenses on the market, the Panasonic 70-200 features a focus clutch mechanism that allows users to quickly switch between auto/manual focus modes. The zoom ring is also nice and large, and has a fairly short throw with a moderate amount of resistance.

There are two switches near the base, one for the OIS (Off/1/2), and one for the focus limiter (Full/.95m-5m/5m-∞). The tripod collar is solid, and features an arca-swiss foot—something you won’t find on Canon/Nikon/Sony’s 70-200’s. The tripod foot also doubles as a pretty convenient handle with which to carry the lens/camera.

There are also focus hold buttons on the lens, an often seen feature on lenses like this.

Real World Use

For portrait shooters, this lens is a great complement to the 24-70mm f/2.8. The face/Eye-AF works great and does a good job of tracking a person’s eye. Hunting is minimal, and it focuses pretty fast in lower light situations.

Panasonic’s autofocus isn’t the best for fast action, but the lens did pretty well when shooting a high school ice hockey game with mediocre lighting and dirty boards. While there were a good amount of out of focus shots, it didn’t struggle focusing past the glass—the issue was moreso trying to keep up with the fast-moving players.

After shooting with the lens for a bit, I found it’s quite sharp wide open throughout the scene at 200mm. The center is equally sharp at 70mm; however, the corners are a bit softer. That said, when comparing some images taken with Sigma’s 70-200 Sport, Tamron’s 70-200 G2, and Nikon’s 70-200 f/2.8E (using cameras similar to the S1), the Panasonic seems to be the sharpest of the bunch when looking at the extreme corners 1:1.

Sample Images

Final Thoughts

Panasonic definitely put a lot of effort into this lens, both in therms of build quality and the quality of the glass. And while it does raise eyebrows at $2,600, that’s still slightly less than Nikon’s 70-200 f/2.8E.

Not having to use an adapter with an EF mount 70-200, and having 7-stop Dual Image Stabilization are definite advantages of going with the native option, but initially many people may lean towards the adapted option—at least until some rebates hit.

That said, if you’re looking for supreme image quality, and the best autofocusing possible from Panasonic, this lens is definitely the way to go.

The Panasonic Lumix S Pro 70-200 f/2.8 OIS starts shipping now, and can be ordered here.

More images in higher resolution can be found here.


About the author: Ihor Balaban is a photographer and store manager of the camera store Pixel Connection in Avon, Ohio. To learn more about the store, head over to the Pixel Connection website. This post was also published here.

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