Panasonic’s 70-200mm f2.8 equivalent is up for an upgrade — but this time, the lens has Leica’s stamp of approval. The new Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 35-100mm f2.8 Power OIS keeps the compact form factor of Panasonic’s earlier lens, but upgrades the optics and joins the list of Panasonic Leica branded lenses for Micro Four Thirds. The 70-200mm equivalent comes shortly after the announcement of the Panasonic Leica 12-35mm f2.8 II, a 24-70mm equivalent that is often considered the partner to a 70-200mm.
Does slapping the word Leica on a lens barrel automatically make it better? No, but there are a few changes to the lens besides the name. The biggest change to the new Panasonic Leica 35-100mm f2.8 over the earlier lens is the Leica collaboration. But besides taking on the exterior look and feel of a Leica, the optics also see an upgrade with more coatings and suppression for ghosting and flare.
The coatings and new look aren’t going to sway Micro Four Thirds shooters that already own the earlier lens. The new lens has the same 18 element construction, the same 7 aperture blades, the same Power OIS and is slightly heavier than the earlier lens. But it’s an enticing option for photographers in the market for a 70-200mm equivalent — and photographers that don’t care about the Leica look or coatings can look for discounts on the earlier glass.
While the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f2.8 II retails for $1,098, the new Panasonic Leica lens sells for $1,149, a minor $50 blip. With the Panasonic G9 II—launched on the same day—also seeing a small price bump over the predecessor, it’s unclear if the lenses’ price bump is due to the Leica branding or inflation. Considering the typical cost of a Leica lens, the latter seems more likely.
The lens isn’t the first to carry both Panasonic and Leica’s name, but it’s a sign of continuing collaboration reinforced by the L Mount Alliance. Along with the growing list of Panasonic-Leica lenses for Micro Four Thirds, the Panasonic G9 II announced today also adapts the Leica Monochrome color profile. The collaboration is a great thing for photographers because it both makes some Leica features more affordable and increases the options for Micro Four Thirds shooters.
Leica is known for its luxury price. While the $1,900 G9 II and $1,150 35-100mm f2.8 lens aren’t exactly cheap, both are a far cry from Leica-luxury pricing. Do you get everything you would from a Leica? No, but you get a lovely high contrast black and white profile, a metal lens barrel with classic styling, and some of Leica’s coatings and high-end design.
I’d much rather see more imaging companies working together than seeing more companies copying lens designs and pretending otherwise. We don’t need more of the same thing. We need more character, more ergonomically lovely lenses. Hopefully, the new Panasonic Leica 35-100mm f2.8 is just that.