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Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Zoom Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4-5.6 lens, a super-telephoto micro four thirds lens.

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Handling and Features
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6

This super-telephoto zoom from Panasonic covers a range equivalent to a 200-600mm lens on a 35mm camera, focuses internally, includes optical image stabilisation and costs around £460.


Photographers looking at this lens may also consider the Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 lens, which costs around £660. This lens covers a range equivalent to a 150-600mm lens on a 35mm camera but has a slower maximum aperture and no optical image stabilisation.

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6


Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Handling and Features

High quality plastics have been used for much of the construction of the lens barrel finished in a smart semi-matte finish that is quite hard wearing. The lens mount is metal and should be durable enough for may lens changes. On the Panasonic Lumix G3 used for testing, the combination is quite lens-heavy, but not overly so.

As focusing is performed internally the 67mm filter thread does not rotate during use, making this lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters. Focus speeds are reasonable, but certainly not lightning fast. The lens tends to track back and forth a little before confirming focus, especially in low light conditions.

The minimum focus distance of 1.5m makes this lens suitable for frame filling close ups at maximum zoom, as that distance is much closer than you would find on a typical 600mm lens on a 35mm camera.

With a little care, the optical stabilisation system allows sharp shots to be taken just over half the time at 300mm at 1/40sec, and about two thirds of the time at 1/80sec which is roughly three to four stops slower than the usual rule of thumb would dictate.


Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Performance

At 100mm and maximum aperture, sharpness is excellent in the centre of the frame and approaching good levels towards the edges. Stopping the lens down a stop or two improves sharpness across the frame, until f/8. Here the clarity across the frame is good with the centre remaining excellent.

At 200mm, the clarity in the centre of the frame drops a little, but the sharpness towards the edges catches up. At maximum aperture sharpness in the centre is very good, and good towards the edges of the frame. Peak quality across the frame is reached at f/8, where the sharpness across the frame is excellent.

As is typical with zoom lenses, quality drops off a little more at maximum zoom, but at f/5.6 the sharpness in the centre is still good. F/8 will result in peak quality, as it does throughout the zoom range and sharpness is good across the frame.


Resolution @ 100mm
Resolution @ 100mm
Resolution @ 200mm
Resolution @ 200mm
Resolution @ 300mm
Resolution @ 300mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Panasonic Lumix G3 using Imatest.

For a super-telephoto zoom, levels of chromatic aberrations are remarkably low. At their worst they just exceed half a pixel width, which should not pose too many issues, even in large prints, or harsh crops from near the edges of the frame.

Chromatic aberration @ 100mm
Chromatic aberration @ 100mm
Chromatic aberration @ 200mm
Chromatic aberration @ 200mm
Chromatic aberration @ 300mm
Chromatic aberration @ 300mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration 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 G3 using Imatest.

As falloff and distortion are corrected by the camera's image processing engine when shooting JPEGs, falloff and distortion will only be easily visible when shooting in RAW format.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is reasonably well controlled throughout the zoom range. At 100mm the corners are 1.2 stops darker than the image centre and at 300mm they are 1.58 stops darker. Visually uniform illumination is achieved one stop below maximum aperture throughout the zoom range.

Distortion is typical for a 3x telephoto zoom lens. At 100mm 1.58% barrel distortion is present and at 300mm 0.845% pincushion. These levels should pose few issues day to day, but if you do require absolutely straight lines, the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, and should be relatively easy to correct in image editing software afterwards.

This lens is reasonably resistant to flare. Shooting into strong light sources will result in a noticeable loss of contrast, but images taken under these conditions are still very usable and easily corrected. Strong light sources just outside of the frame are dealt with well by the supplied lens hood.

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Sample Photos


Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Verdict

Although £460 may seem a little expensive for a 100-300mm lens, if you think of it in comparison to a 600mm lens for a 35mm camera, it suddenly seems like better value, and should be a popular choice for wildlife shooters who own a Micro-Four Thirds camera.

The performance of the lens is good too. Although it isn't the highest performing lens Panasonic make, it is certainly adequate, producing sharp contrasty images.

  The Panasonic 100-300mm lens offers good value and would make a good choice for wildlife shooters

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Pros

Good build quality
Good sharpness in the centre at all focal lengths and apertures
Good sharpness towards the edges when stopped down
Lightweight for a lens providing an angle of view equivalent to a 600mm lens on a 35mm camera

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Cons

Focusing could be faster
Could be sharper towards the edges at maximum aperture



Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Panasonic Micro Four Thirds
  • Olympus Micro Four Thirds
Focal Length100mm - 300mm
Angle of View4.1 - 12
Max Aperturef/4 - f/5.6
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size67mm
35mm equivalent200mm - 600mm
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus150cm
BladesNo Data
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens caps, Lens hood, Soft pouch

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StrayCat 17 19.1k 3 Canada
17 Apr 2012 6:58AM
Tells me all I need to know, thanks.

10 Feb 2015 2:26PM
Can you tell me please why some lenses are advertised as H-FS100300 and others as H-FS100300E? What does the E mean and is it significant please?

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