In early November, Panasonic announced that they would be releasing a 16-35mm f/4. Ever since Panasonic released the S1 and S1R, people have been asking about a wide angle lens, especially with the availability of a high-res mode in both cameras (96MP in the S1, 187MP in the S1R) making them a great camera for landscape shooters.
Currently, the only way to use wide angles on the S1 cameras is to either adapt, or use the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8. The image quality of the Sigma is great, but having a bulbous front element prevents the easy use of filters, a downfall for photographers and videographers.
We had the chance to test out the Panasonic 16-35mm f/4 for a few days, read on to see what we thought.
The 16-35mm f/4 is nice and compact, weighing in at just over 1 lb. Build quality feels nice and solid, and the lens features a dust/splash/freeze-resistant design.
When zooming in/out the lens extends, but not by much. The autofocus mechanism features a double-magnet linear motor, which has high power despite the small size, and allows for fast and precise autofocusing.
The lens design is quite simple, with just a focus and zoom ring—no buttons or switches to be found. The focus ring is located at the front of the lens, and features a push/pull clutch to go from autofocus to manual focus. While there are “stops” for infinity and close focus, you can rotate the ring past those points, like most focus by wire lenses, but the markings for both feet and meters are in bright red and white for quick reference.
For videographers, the lens has a mechanism that suppresses focus breathing, a common issue with lenses designed for photography over video.
Real World Use
Despite Panasonic having a less-than-stellar reputation for autofocus capabilities, the autofocus performed fine for most situations. Tracking a person’s face from a moderate distance worked quite well, and video tracking worked well with minimal hunting. When trying to focus in low-light situations, the autofocus would occasionally struggle—something I’ve seen with other “slower” wide angle lenses. Being able to quickly switch into manual focus mode and use the focus peaking to hit focus was convenient in the dark, without having to look for the AF switch on the camera body.
Chromatic aberration is minimal to non-existent in most cases, and there is only a hint of vignetting wide open, but nothing overly distracting. Even when using a 6-stop ND with a polarizer from NiSi on it, there wasn’t much vignetting.
With its optimized optical design, resulting images are nice and sharp. While the lens is sharp from center to corner at 16mm, it is slightly softer in the corners at 35mm, but not by much.
If you’re a landscape photographer, or someone who enjoys shooting wide, you can’t go wrong with this lens.
With the L-mount having limited lens options, the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 is the closest competitor. While it may be wider and faster, the Panasonic 16-35mm f/4 has a more useful focal range for most photographers and allows for the use of 77mm filters, which eliminates the need for a drop-in filter system for photographers and allows videographers to easily use a variable ND for run and gun shooting.
The Panasonic Lumix S Pro 16-35mm f/4 comes in at $1,497.99 and will start shipping shortly. The lens can be pre-ordered here.
Full sized sample images can be found here.
About the author: Ihor Balaban is a photographer and store manager of the camera store Pixel Connection in Avon, Ohio. To learn more about the store, head over to the Pixel Connection website. This post was also published here.