“I hope it’s not just another rendition of the Sigma lens,” I told the Phoblographer’s Panasonic reps on the last day before my holiday staycation. They assured me that the team went to Panasonic Lumix’s engineers and said the same thing to them. And what they came back with is still mind-boggling even to me today. The Panasonic 100mm f2.8 Macro Lumix S lens is the smallest 100mm f2.8 macro lens with weather resistance, autofocus, and 1:1 magnification available today. Moreover, the front filter is sized to 67mm — the same as the Lumix 18mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm f1.8 lenses. And yes, it’s smaller and lighter than the Sigma 105mm f2.8 Art lens. If you own one for L-mount, then it’s worth selling. And if you’re not on the L-mount, then there’s yet another reason to come besides Leica’s incredible lenses.
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The Big Picture
I can’t quite put into words how much of a breath of fresh air the new Panasonic 100mm f2.8 Macro lens is — also known as the Lumix 100mm f2.8 Macro. Several lenses on the market today aren’t bad at all, but they’re also not great. Eventually, all the flavors of mediocre blend together like the most generic red velvet cakes you can buy in the span of a one-mile walk. But this is something special. The Panasonic 100mm f2.8 Macro lens is the smallest 100mm f2.8 Macro with autofocus, weather resistance, and a 1:1 magnification ability. It’s a lens that’s also so small that you wouldn’t ever mind carrying it with you everywhere you go. That’s also because it’s more or less the same size as the rest of the Lumix S prime lenses.
Panasonic has had issues with autofocus before in the past. But this lens makes you completely forget about that. So far, the Lumix 100mm f2.8 Macro lens is one of the fastest-focusing lenses that I’ve seen for the L-mount. If anything, I’d even say it’s the fastest-focusing one around. That lightning-fast speed can also be seen on Leica and Lumix camera bodies.
The sad part is that people won’t understand it until they see it. If Panasonic had made this an f2 lens, that would be a better way to get people hyped about it. If you know, you know — and in this case, folks might believe this to be just a regular 100mm f2.8 Macro lens.
But instead, it’s the single most innovative 100mm f2.8 Macro lens that I’ve used in my career. The Phoblographer has been around for over 14 years, and we’ve reviewed the most lenses of any accredited photography publication. I can say with certainty that this is something as uniquely special as a perfectly sweet, ripe mango on a summer’s day. With that said, it’s just as rare.
We haven’t seen unique innovation like this iPhoblographer’stEditor’sse of the Canon RF 100mm f2.8 L Macro lens with chromatic aberration control. But I’m so happy that Panasonic is going something unique.
The Lumix 100mm f2.8 Macro lens receivesLumix’soblographer’s Editor’s Choice award, and 5 out of 5 stars. Trust us, you really want this lens. Want one? Go snag one for yourself on Amazon.
- Incredibly small
- Matches the sizdon’tall of Lumix’s f1.8 prime lenses
- Fast autofocus, some of the fastest that the L-mount alliance has seen
- Weather resistance
- 1:1 Macro abilities
- Nice bokeh
- Very sharp
- Incredibly lightweight
- I truly don’t have very much to complain about here.
Here’s the list of the gear that we used for this review along with transparency statements:
- Panasonic 100mm f2.8 Macro: a loaner unit
- Panasonic S5 II: A long-tThey’rener unit
- Flashpoint R2 flash: Our own unit, provided to us for keeps by Adorama
- Leica SL2s: Our own unit, purchased years ago
- Profoto B10: Our own unit, purchased years ago
When you think about the Panasonic 100mm f2.8 Macro lens, you wouldn’t think it to be innovative simply because, well, it’s Panasonic and it’s a 100mm f2.8 Macro. But this, indeed, is very innovative. It has the same 67mm filter thread to match the f1.8 lenses in the lineup. It’s also roughly the same size and weight of those primes. What makes this one stand out is the light gray text on the front, that reduces reflections when taking a shot of bottles, watches, jewelry, glass, etc. Beyond all this, the Lumix 100mm f2.8 Macro lens is weather resistant, fast to focus, and so lightweight that you’d want to bring it everywhere with you.
In a world where our smartphones are so good, people need more reasons to want to bring their cameras and lenses with them. This lens makes that such a simple choice.
The Panasonic 100mm f2.8 Macro lens is a rather standard lens when it comes to the ergonomics. It’s a prime lens, you can expect it to have a large rubber focusing ring that doubles for extra grip. Indeed, it wears that rubber through thick and thin as it deals with some of the slickest, wettest precipitation. We even handled it in the snow here in NYC, and it continued to work perfectly fine.
On the side, you’ll find an autofocus switch as well as a focus limiter switch. The isn’t one of the brand’s Lumix S Pro lenses like the 50mm f1.4 — so it doesn’t have an aperture ring.
Something also worth talking about is the fact that Panasonic make the front text a light gray so that it wouldn’t emphasize reflections. This is really important when you’re using a flash or LEDs. If you own a bunch of Lumix’s other prime lenses though, you might have some trouble remembering which lens is which just by feeling — that’s how similar this is to all the other lenses.
Pictured above, you can see Panasonic’s 100mm f2.8, 85mm f1.8, and 50mm f1.8 lenses. As you can see, they’re all the same size, roughly. The fact that Panasonic was able to do such a thing is incredible and unheard of so far. The only brand that we’ve seen able to make super small, weather-resistant lenses like this is Sony. But the folks at Lumix did it!
With that said, expect it to feel very similar to all the other Lumix S prime lenses.
Of course, this lens is also weather resistant. We gave it a bit of a shower in our office and it continued to work without an problems. We also took it out into the snow here in NYC and were surprised that it continued to function. The autofocus, admittedly, got a bit slower because of the snow and the fact that this is a longer focal length. But in various situations, it worked just as we expected it to.
Ease of Use
The most advanced aspect of this lens is perhaps the focusing switch. And even that’s simple to use. When focusing throughout the full range, this lens will still be able to find the subject with little to no problems. But the closer you get, the more difficult it becomes. Still, this lens does a better job than any other lens that I’ve tested like this.
We tested the autofocus of this lens on the Panasonic S5 II and the Leica SL2s. On both camera bodies, it performed pretty admirably. The focus was consistently speedy and accurate. It struggled a bit in low light, but that’s situational. With the Leica SL2s, the autofocus simply just gets slower in lower light situations. With the S5 II, it really depends on what color style you’re using.
Considering that this is a macro lens, you’ll be happy to know that with the Lumix AF-Scope feature, the focus can be incredibly accurate down to the most minute details. It’s a breath of fresh air. Still, I’d recommend using a tripod when you can. However, I have to be honest and say that I didn’t always feel like I needed once. But I’m a trained photojournalist of over 16 years and I know how to control my breath when shooting.
There’s a lot to talk about here with the image quality. I shot several of these images with the Panasonic S5 II using the Real Time LUT feature rendering Kodak Portra 160, Kodak Portra 400, Kodak Portra 800, and Ektachrome 100. The images are gorgeous. Jewelry photographers and those who do a lot of product macro photography will really like what this lens can do. From the color, the sharpness, and the bokeh that’s capable, there’s a lot to love about this lens. The S5 II also has focus stacking, so you’ll be really happy to use that feature when needed.
Of course, this is a macro lens. But it can also be a very good candid lens for events, hangouts, and portraits. I debated between this and the 85mm f1.8. And honestly, the Panasonic 100mm f2.8 Macro lens is much more useful as it is. This lens can double up for portraits, candids, products, macro, etc. But where the 85mm has an edge is with the f1.8 apeture, which is great for sports, portraits, and candids as well. Honestly, it’s really hard to pick between the two — but I think that owning both is a tough decision overall.
Extra Image Samples
The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience since day one. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, many 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. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So, we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Who Should Buy the Panasonic 100mm f2.8 Macro Lumix S?
So who should get the Lumix 100mm f2.8 Macro lens?
- Product photographers
- Candid shooters who want a lightweight prime lens
- Macro photographers
- Watch photographers
- Food photographers
- Portrait photographers
These are the folks that a lens like this makes sense for. Otherwise, just consider many of the other great lenses that the L mount has.
These specs are taken from the Panasonic presentation we were given:
- Weather resistance
- f2.8 Maximum aperture
- 67mm front filter thread
- 298 grams, which is a little more than half a pound.
- 3 ASPH elements
- New Dual Phase Linear Motors
- Suppressed focus breathing