A Great Telephoto for L Mount: Panasonic 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 Review

The Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 is an affordable telephoto that L mount camera owners should consider.

The L mount lens library is finally starting to grow thanks to Panasonic, Leica, and Sigma. Until recently, all Panasonic lenses were designed for pros who needed top quality. That’s fine, but they came with top-quality prices too. However, this is starting to change. The Panasonic 85mm f1.8 has been released (review coming later), and now an affordable telephoto option is on the market. The Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 is looking to sit alongside the Sigma 100-400mm f5.6-6.3 as a telephoto lens for the masses. At $1,249.99, it’s an attractive option, but does it produce the goods? Find out in our full review.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

A solid performer across the board, the Panasonic 70-300mm Lumix S f4.5-5.6 Macro OIS is a fine telephoto choice for all L mount camera owners. It’s sharp, focuses fast, produces gorgeous colors, and has fun macro capabilities. At $1,249.99, it’s a no-brainer for wildlife, bird photographers, and even landscape photographers.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Weather-sealed
  • Very sharp
  • Gorgeous colors
  • Great ‘Macro’ ability
  • Fast, silent autofocusing
  • Reasonably priced at $1,249.99

Cons

  • None to write home about

Gear Used

We used the Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 with the Panasonic Lumix S5.

Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 – What’s Innovative

There’s nothing innovative about the Panasonic 70-300mm Lumix S f4.5-5.6 Macro OIS from Panasonic. It’s a telephoto lens that performs well. The 0.5x magnification at 300mm is great, but otherwise, it does nothing different from others lenses like this on the market.

Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 – Tech Specs

All of the technical specifications were taken directly from the official Panasonic website:

  • Works with all L mount cameras
  • This lens can shoot images, video, and macro
  • 0.5x magnification at 300mm
  • 5.5 stops of image stabilization (Dual IBIS)
  • Suppressed focused breathing makes it ideal for video
  • Splash, dust, and freeze resistant
  • 11 bladed aperture design
  • 17 elements in 11 groups, including 2 ED, 1 UED, and 1 UHR lenses to minimize aberrations and ensure superb resolution

Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5 -5.6 – Ergonomics

As you can see in the image above, the Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-6.3 is relatively compact for a 70-300mm telephoto lens. When at 70mm, the lens measures just a hair over 6-inches. At 300mm, the lens measures 8.5-inches. Stick the lens hood on, and you can add another 2.5-inches. The zoom ring is large and provides a nice place to hold the lens. The manual focus ring is much smaller. Both are covered in a ribbed rubber grip, which feels nice. The lens is also very light, weighing just 1.74lbs, which makes the lens easy to take on walks and hikes.

Side Controls

The left side of the Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 houses all the lens controls. Here you’ll find a barrel lock, the image stabilizer control, autofocus, manual focus switch, and the focus limiter. The right side of the lens is bare. The switches on the left are well-spaced and easy to reach and use.

Front Element

The front element on this lens has a 77mm filter thread. Keep this in mind if you plan on using filters with this lens. The lens hood that twists onto the front is just a standard hood. It doesn’t even have a window that will allow you to adjust filters. Overall the Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 is a nice lens ergonomically. Nothing really stands out about it. It feels nice in hand, and really, that’s what matters the most.

Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5 -5.6 – Build Quality

The Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 is quite deceiving. When you pick it up, you’ll think this lens probably won’t be rugged due to how little it weighs. However, Panasonic has done a top job when it comes to the build. Yes, this lens is a plastic-fantastic affair. It doesn’t feel cheap by any means, but it certainly doesn’t feel premium either. The four controls on the lens click into place nicely. The focus and zoom rings offer just the right amount of resistance and feel nice to use too. The included lens hood is just a standard plastic hood.

So, what makes this lens so good when it comes to its build quality? The weather sealing. There are six seals throughout the barrel of the lens and then one at the mount. This lens is splash, dust, and freeze resistant. Pair it up with a weather-sealed body like the S5, and you can be out and about in any weather with it. I’ve taken it on trails and through the city. It’s been bumped and bashed around with no ill effects. We had no rain during the review period, but the lens still worked fine after a good splash test. We’re sure this lens will stand up well to the rigors of daily use come rain or shine.

“Pair it up with a stabilized camera, and you’ll have dual IBIS capabilities. Hand-holding this lens out at 300mm with slower shutter speeds is easy.”

Brett Day – Gear Editor

Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5 -5.6 – Ease of Use

The Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 is incredibly easy to use. Even those who are new to telephoto lenses will have no issues. The stabilization in the lens is fantastic. Pair it with a stabilized camera, and you’ll have dual IBIS capabilities. Hand-holding this lens at 300mm with slower shutter speeds is easy. There are four controls on the lens that make life easier as well. You have easy access to stabilization control, a focus limiter, an auto and manual focus switch, and a lock switch. The lock switch can only be engaged at 70mm, though. Utilize these controls, and you’ll do well.

Macro Mode

The macro mode on this telephoto lens is great. We have seen telephoto lenses with macro capabilities before, and they haven’t always impressed. However, with this lens, you can get very close to your subjects at 300mm. The results are impressive. The image above was at 300mm. No editing, no cropping, just straight out of the camera. This will open up many creative doors for you. Overall, the Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 is easy to use. Just attach it to your camera, and away you go.

Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5 -5.6 -Autofocus

Rapid and accurate in both good and lower light situations. I only encountered hunting a few times. However, this is due to the DFD contrast-based autofocus system Panasonic uses and not the lens itself. The lens works well with both human and animal detection. It will easily lock on and track objects in motion, and it’s blazing fast in single-point focusing modes. I used the lens for wildlife and birding, street, landscapes, and some concert photography. It performed well for all of those genres. It even finds focus fast when you’re playing with the macro side of things too. It’s a solid performer.

“One of my favorite things about this lens is the colors it renders. They’re gorgeous.”

Brett Day – Gear Editor

Panasonic 70-300mm – Image Quality

Panasonic 70-300mm F4.5-5.6

Images with the Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 will please just about everyone who uses it. The colors rendered are beautiful, and bokeh at the long end is creamy. There’s plenty more on offer here, too, when it comes to image quality. Let’s break things down more below.

Bokeh

Panasonic 70-300mm F4.5-5.6

The bokeh that this lens can render is creamy. This should come as no surprise. When shot at their long end, telephoto lenses produce dreamy bokeh thanks to the compression they offer. Even at 70mm, when focusing as close as you can, this lens will produce the bokeh goods. Bokeh balls are almost completely circular and look great. If you like bokeh, this lens will not disappoint.

Color Rendition

Panasonic 70-300mm F4.5-5.6

One of my favorite things about this lens is the colors it renders. They’re gorgeous. This, of course, is subjective, and everyone’s tastes differ. I prefer the colors from the 70-300mm much more than the colors from the L mount Sigma 100-400mm contemporary that I own. The colors are natural and looked great in every scene that I shot. You can shoot and know that colors will be accurate, which will save time during post.

Lens Character

Panasonic 70-300mm F4.5-5.6

There’s not a whole lot of character to this lens. Character generally means flaws. This is both a good and a bad thing. Character can make a lens stand out from the rest. Sometimes this is nice to see as most modern lenses are far too clinical. Still, if you like perfection, then you’ll enjoy this lens. The Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 has zero issues with chromatic aberration. I have tested it in several high-contrast scenarios, and I have not seen a hint of green or purple fringing. There is no evidence of vignetting either. Lens flare is also controlled well when shooting into the sun, and there’s no sign of distortion.

Sharpness

Panasonic 70-300mm F4.5-5.6

The lens is impressively sharp for a zoom lens at this price point. However, it does get a tad softer when at 300mm. This is not something unique to this telephoto lens. It’s a characteristic of almost every telephoto zoom. Having said that, you’re really only to see the slight dip in sharpness if you pixel peep during post. Wide-open at f4.5, images are sharp across the frame, and it doesn’t really get softer until you stop the lens down quite a lot. I mainly shot between f4.5 and f9 and had zero issues.

Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5 -5.6 – Extra Image Samples

From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. You’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a whole section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.

Unedited

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Edited

Panasonic 70-300mm F4.5-5.6
Panasonic 70-300mm F4.5-5.6
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“The Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 is a solid option for L mount users who want or need a capable telephoto lens for wildlife, birding, landscapes, outdoor sports, and more.”

Brett Day – Gear Editor

Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5 -5.6 – Conclusions

Likes

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use
  • Sharp images with great colors
  • A fun ‘macro’ mode
  • Weather Sealing

Dislikes

  • None

The Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 has given the L mount a fantastic affordable telephoto lens that doesn’t disappoint. Images from this lens are sharp with great colors. There’s no evidence of distortion, vignetting, or chromatic aberration. Focusing is fast and accurate. The lens is also well built and has lots of weather sealing. At $1,249.99, it’s slightly more expensive than the Sigma 100-400mm f5.6-6.3 Contemporary ($949) and doesn’t have as much reach. However, having a slightly wider 70mm end is nice. The macro capability and better colors make up for the 100mm you lose.

The Panasonic 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 is a solid option for L mount users who want or need a capable telephoto lens for wildlife, birding, landscapes, outdoor sports, and more. If I didn’t own the Sigma 100-400mm, I’d snap this up and would be very happy with the purchase.

The Panasonic 70-300mm Lumix S f4.5-5.6 Macro OIS receives our Editor’s Choice Award and five stars. I can’t fault this lens. It’s well priced and performs very well across the board. This is a fine lens. Want one? Check out the latest prices on Amazon.

Brett Day

Brett Day is the Gear Editor at The Phoblographer and has been a photographer for as long as he can remember. Brett has his own photography business that focuses on corporate events and portraiture. In his spare time, Brett loves to practice landscape and wildlife photography. When he's not behind a camera, he's enjoying life with his wife and two kids, or he's playing video games, drinking coffee, and eating Cheetos.