Review: Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm F4 Macro OIS

The Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS currently acts as the standard lens available for the system–and it’s not too bad!

While I’m usually not a fan of lenses like the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS, I have to admit that this one grew on me. Many years ago, a 24-105mm f4 was my bread and butter lens, and many folks have something like it for general shooting. But for the type of photography and shooting I do now, I found that this lens isn’t versatile enough. This is a problem I find inherent in all 24-105mm lenses: it’s either not as long as Nikon’s 24-120mm or the aperture is too slow. When it comes to shooting in very low light situations, the image stabilization from the sensor and the lens sometimes falls short of what a faster aperture can give you. The Panasonic S1R is perhaps the best camera to combine this lens with. It is designed for high resolution shooting that therefore lends itself to better color editing and much more. The Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS is fittingly large to accommodate the Panasonic Lumix Pro series of cameras, and a lens that I’m not sure every photographer would want or need.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Image stabilization is excellent in most cases; but most effective during the daytime.
  • Solid image quality, very sharp!
  • Nice bokeh for portraits
  • Very versatile
  • Probably as compact as you’re going to get for this system
  • Perhaps the best current option at this zoom range as Leica has nothing that is a constant aperture and Sigma’s lenses are clones of their DSLR options.
  • Built incredibly well
  • Fairly priced

Cons

  • Big
  • Panasonic took a long time to get their S Pro system out and so I expected this lens to do something innovative. But it doesn’t.

 

Gear Used

We tested the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS with the Panasonic S1R.

 

Tech Specs

Taken from the Adorama listing

  • 24-105mm standard focal macro zoom F4 L-Mount for LUMIX S Series Full-Frame L-Mount Lens
  • O.I.S. STABILIZATION
  • 16 lenses in 13 groups; 2 aspherical lenses and 2 ED (Extra-low Dispersion) Lenses
  • MACRO LENS – 0.5x macro shooting with a minimum focusing distance of 0.3m
  • RUGGED LENS DESIGN – Dust/splash*/freeze-resistant design withstands use under harsh conditions
  • Lens Mount: Lens Mount: Leica L
  • Lens Format: Lens Format: Full-Frame
  • Mirrorless: Zoom: 24-105mm
  • Maximum Aperture: Maximum Aperture: f/4
  • Special Features: Aspherical, Dustproof/Splashproof
  • Image Stabilization: Image Stabilization: Yes (OIS)
  • Lens Type: Macro Lens, Wide Angle Zoom Lens

Ergonomics

Taken from our first impressions

The Panasonic 24-105mm f4 is very standard in many ways. And while it’s an essential piece of Panasonic’s new lineup of cameras, I so far have found it uninteresting. Part of this is reflected in the ergonomics: this lens looks like a whole bunch of others on the market–and if you covered up all the logos and stuff you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between this and Sigma’s. There is a focusing ring near the front and a zoom ring towards the back.

Perhaps the only exciting feature is the switches on the side for OIS, locking the zoom and AF/MF. Otherwise, this is a standard lens.

The Panasonic 24-105mm f4 uses a 77mm filter thread on the front. When the lens hood is attached, the overall size doesn’t get much more extensive.

Build Quality

In hand, the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS feels like it was designed for a lighter system camera. It is built well and feels great in hand. If anything, this lens’ light weight and versatility make using the otherwise hefty camera system a lot nicer. Photographers getting into the system as hobbyists would value a lens like this, however pricey that can be. This lens is great as an everyday carry around lens. Everything from the way that the rubber rings and the switches feel are very pleasing in a tactile sense.

In comparison to the options from other systems, the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS is the best-built optic of this type that I’ve held and used. The only thing that comes close is Canon’s RF version. Sony’s 24-105mm is a lens that I have serious doubts about, and no one convinced me otherwise.

Of course, the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS is also weather sealed. We took it out into the rain, and it survived. Like the cameras it is attached to from Panasonic, this lens is built like a tank–except it’s a light tank. There wasn’t a single moment during our testing period where we doubted how well this lens would work.

Ease of Use

The Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS is a simple lens to use. As it is an autofocus optic, you just have to point, focus and shoot. The autofocus is snappy, and the meticulous placement of the switches is a great feature worth pointing out. There wasn’t a single moment where I accidentally switched the OIS off or put the lens into manual focus mode. This lens requires you to act with intent, which translates into a photographer being able to just focus on what they’re doing. One particularly nice feature is the zoom lock. It locks at 24mm–could only have been made better if the lens were to lock at specific focal lengths such as those designed on the lens. That would transform the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS into a lens that offers a variety of prime focal lengths.

Something to note with the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS: the image stabilization isn’t as useful on the longer end of the lens. Sony’s is better for what it’s worth. I’ve even shot with the Canon 24-105mm f4 L IS USM RF at 1/13th on the EOS R and gotten a blur-free image. The photo above was shot at 1/15th, and there is a blur as a result of camera shake. So if you need to shoot at the longer end and at slower shutter speed, you’ll run into some trouble.

Autofocus

We tested the autofocus performance of the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS on the S1R–and overall it felt more than usable. But, in certain conditions, you’d be better served by Sony or Canon. In the case of face detection, Panasonic is pretty inferior here. But for photojournalistic settings in good lighting, the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS with the S1R can track moving subjects with accuracy and precision. You’re not really going to complain here at all, even with the lens wide open. Of course, the tracking will be better at the wider end due to how the laws of physics work.

To be transparent, the situation I photographed was a parade, and the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS wasn’t tracking people moving at incredibly fast-paced speeds. I don’t believe that this lens and camera combined could handle such a thing. If it can’t handle fast-tracking in good lighting, then it won’t be able to do so in low light, right? Wrong! Believe it or not, the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS delivered consistent tracking performance whether I was in low lighting or ample lighting. It was quite shocking to see as Sony or Canon would both have a few hiccups–Canon more so than Sony of course!

Processed Via Capture One Export Tab

When it comes to single target acquisition from the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS, I found the results to be mostly accurate. To get the best balance of focus precision and speed, you’ll need to choose a larger focusing area/group. But if you want absolute accuracy, the autofocus performance feels as slow as molasses in comparison to every other system. With a single focus point, you’ll probably get what you want from the scene three out of five times in low lighting situations.

Image Quality

What the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS excels at with the Panasonic S1R is the image quality. It doesn’t feel like a Sigma lens with a lot of saturation, and it also doesn’t feel like something Sony or Canon made. It feels like a lens that doesn’t have  very much character to it at all. It feels clinical. This is something that I’ve always accepted with Panasonic though–embracing only their Monochrome settings at times because they’re gorgeous. This all translates into you getting the most out of the lens and camera in post-production. Capture One makes RAW files from the Panasonic camera lineup sing with dynamic range and color. The lenses are also just offering up even more quality.

Bokeh

The bokeh from the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS is gorgeous. On the longer end of the lens, it looks creamy while the shorter end doesn’t offer as much of the beautiful, out of focus area that so many people start internet arguments about. It still looks better than what some phone will try to render, and the muted color tone shows you precisely what you’re getting. This lends itself more to the photographer needing to work on the file in post-production. If you’re shooting in RAW, then that’s fine.

Chromatic Aberration

I found in my tests that the chromatic aberration on the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS isn’t anything worth talking about. Only infrequently did I find some fringing, and the distortion of the lens is kept down quite a lot. Capture One didn’t do much in terms of lens corrections.

Color Rendition

The colors from the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS aren’t anything great right out of the camera. Again though, I’ve always felt this to be the case with Panasonic. The magic comes out in post-production. If you’re one to go for muted tones, then the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS could be a lens that you’d really like.

Sharpness

On the Panasonic S1R, the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS performs very admirably. The sharpness is pretty unreal. Canon’s option won’t do this, but it will surely be very sharp. Sony’s is laughable, in my opinion. But the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS has to be the most acute optic of this type that I’ve seen.

Extra Image Samples

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Conclusions

Likes

  • Sharpness
  • Build Quality
  • OIS

Dislikes

  • It’s not really the lens as it is the camera system

The Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS has a whole lot going for it. This is a lens a photojournalist can easily use in daytime events. Even indoors, with a flash, a photographer will be all set to capture events, weddings, etc. With a variety of focal lengths locked at a constant f4, photographers will find the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS very versatile, especially considering the image stabilization. Of course, the need for a faster aperture zoom lens is there, but the L mount alliance is still young at the publishing of this review. This lens outputs sharp images, has decent autofocus, great build quality, is very lightweight, and is the best 24-105mm lens overall that I’ve tested. But the problem isn’t really the lens. Instead, it’s the camera system. I feel like the Panasonic S Pro system is still lacking when it comes to autofocus.

Additionally, the system is cumbersome. Leica’s SL is a tank of a camera too, but I haven’t tried this lens on there. Sigma’s option is tiny and really designed more for pancake primes. So if anything, Panasonic should pair this lens with a lighter camera and not something as pricey and higher targeted as their S1, S1R, etc.

While the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS wins a lot of awards for doing something right, it’s just doing what everything else out there could do a bit better. It isn’t changing things–and that’s what we really need in photography right now. Sure, it focuses strictly. But so what? Why couldn’t they give us a 24-120mm f4 OIS lens instead? Or why couldn’t there have been 11 aperture blades instead of 9? Even crazier, why couldn’t this have been an internally zooming lens option? I feel like Panasonic’s playing catch up and not making a unique distinguishing feature to their lenses could hurt them. Sigma has a bunch of lenses that they’ve more or less adapted to the system, and Leica’s lenses are arguably overpriced.

I really like Panasonic’s Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS as a lens, but I think that the camera system and the lack of innovations are going to hold them back. The Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS wins four out of five stars. Want one? Head on over to Adorama.