The Big City Lens: The Panasonic 16-35mm F4 PRO Review

The Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO is very nice, but it’s not outdoing Sigma’s 14-24mm f2.8.

When we called the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO lens in for review, we were pretty excited. Panasonic has done a positively stellar job of designing lenses for the L mount system. But when looking at prices, I was scratching my head. One would think the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO would be the affordable wide-angle zoom amongst the lineup. But the truth is it isn’t. Sigma’s 14-24mm f2.8 is a bigger lens that lets more light hit the sensor, and it’s more affordable than the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO. As I sit in my office typing that sentence, I’m still perplexed as to why. The Panasonic is an excellent lens in every single respect, but I would sooner reach for an f2.8 lens if I could. That’s also not to say that the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO isn’t a great performer. In fact, it’s exceptional.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Small
  • Amazingly lightweight for an L mount lens
  • Sharp optics
  • Weather sealing
  • Nice feeling in the hand

Cons

  • We wish it had a faster aperture, but understand why it doesn’t
  • $1,497.99 is sort of high, and higher than Sigma’s pricing

Gear Used

We tested the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO with the Panasonic S1, a Manfrotto BeFree tripod, and PolarPro QuartzLine Polarizer filters.

Tech Specs

Specs are taken from the Lensrentals listing

Angle of View107° to 63°
Aperture Blades9, Rounded
Aspherical Elements3
AutofocusAutofocus
BrandPanasonic
Diameter3.3″
Extra Low-Dispersion Elements1
Filter Size77.0mm
Focal Length16.0-35.0
Groups/Elements9/12
Hood IncludedYes
Image StabilizationNo
Item TypeLens
Length3.9″
Lens TypeWide Angle
Max Aperture4.0
Maximum Magnification0.23x
Minimum Aperture22.0
Minimum Focusing Distance0.8′
MountL Mount
Ultra High-Refractive Index Elements1
Weight1.1 lbs.

Ergonomics

The Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO is a compact lens with two main controls, and it will be useful to the landscape and cityscape photographers who are bound to use it. The lens isn’t that heavy, and so it will appeal more to those who hike and g on long treks. But for more professional work, you may want to reach for the Sigma wide-angle zoom. Similar to many other zooms like the Sigma, photographers will find a focusing ring and a zoom ring, though we doubt they’ll really use the manual focus ring towards the front.

Both of these rings are rubber and help with gripping the lens. In our tests, we found that to be more critical in the rain. And though the lens looks large here, it really isn’t. It’s delightfully small, unlike Panasonic’s cameras.

The front of the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO holds a 77mm filter thread. We used this for ND filters and Polarizer filters.

If you’re using a lens filter, then you’re typically going to need to ditch the lens hood. Luckily, this hood isn’t all that large and fits fine in a jacket pocket.

“The Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO survived being outside in the rain for four hours. And it probably would have survived even longer.”

Build Quality

We think the photo above shows how durable this lens is, doesn’t it? Our standard torture tests involve our staff going out into the rain or snow with gear and shooting. The Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO survived being outside in the rain for four hours. And it probably would have survived even longer. We’re incredibly impressed with how well this small lens performed while shooting.

What’s more, even when the lens was wet, it’s very comfortable to hold. There is just enough of a balance between rubber and hard plastic. Additionally, the texture on the plastic gives photographers a better grip. You’re not going to have a significant reason to complain here.

Ease of Use

The Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO is pretty straightforward to use: just slap it onto the camera, point, focus, and shoot. Well, it should be that easy, at least. You see, it’s not the lens’ fault that Panasonic’s autofocus isn’t that great. This lens would do so much better if Panasonic just got their autofocus act together.

Autofocus

Speaking of autofocus, the Panasonic S1 and the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO don’t do so well in low light and while tracking fast-moving subjects. That’s an issue: Canon and Sony do a much better job here. Overall, Panasonic’s autofocus just isn’t that great. Again, that’s not the lens’ fault. This lens would probably be fantastic on the right camera with the right autofocus. But, this is hard to rate as the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO can probably do well at autofocusing, but their cameras don’t.

That doesn’t mean that fresh images can’t be created. You just need to be creative with the way you do things. In this case, some help from RNI films in Capture One Pro 20 did the trick.

Image Quality

“If you like wide angle black and white images, then get ready to stare at some beautiful images.”

The strongest features of the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO include the image quality. In regard to the images this lens creates, it’s positively stellar. There’s less distortion than what I’ve seen with Sigma’s offering, and I find it challenging to take a bad photo with this lens. Landscape and cityscape photographers will thoroughly enjoy it. What they’ll appreciate the most is the sharpness mixed with the convenient size. And while the colors are a bit muted for a Panasonic L mount lens, they’re still better than lots of what I feel Panasonic has put out in the past. The really lovely kicker, though, is using the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO on the S1 with the L Monochrom D setting. If you like wide angle black and white images, then get ready to stare at some beautiful photos.

Bokeh

With the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO, photographers get bokeh that’s okay: nothing to write home about. When it comes to telling a story, I didn’t feel like it’s anything that significant. I like using out of focus areas to give people a hint of what’s going on around the main subject. You’ll get that here. But quite honestly, the bokeh from the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO is only slightly better than what some phones are doing these days. While it’s a million times more organic, the bokeh isn’t a strong suit of the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO.

Chromatic Aberration

In our tests, we found a fair amount of distortion at the wider end. Once you get to 35mm, though, the distortion is mostly gone. In Capture One 20, we were able to correct this. Luckily, we didn’t find any significant issues with color fringing.

Color Rendition

I really, really like the colors from the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO. I still think Panasonic has lenses with even better tint though. However, for small documentary-style setups, cityscapes, or landscapes, you’ll be happy. As stated earlier, we really like the look of the images with L Monochrome D enabled.

Sharpness

Stopped down to f5.6 the lens becomes very sharp. At f11, it’s also incredibly sharp. While I still think Sigma’s option is more acute, the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO isn’t any slouch. And if you’re using post-production, you’re probably going to sharpen in post anyway. But you also have to consider the higher price point of the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Small
  • Light
  • Sharp optics
  • Build Quality

Dislikes

  • L mount cameras need better autofocus
  • The price

The good news about the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO is that it’s an excellent lens. What’s holding it back most is the autofocus on L mount cameras. But once you nail that focus, you’ll get beautiful photos each and every time. Cityscape, landscape, and interior photographers will like the lens. And with the right post-production, you’ll do even better with it. The problem otherwise is the price point; I’m not quite sure I want to pay for a slower aperture lens that’s smaller when Sigma’s closest competitor is more affordable and lets more light hit the sensor. With that said, if Panasonic dropped the price on the Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO and improved the autofocus on their cameras, it would be one of the reasons to switch over to the system.

The Panasonic 16-35mm f4 PRO receives four out of five stars. Want one? They’re $1,497 right now.