Is the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 II Power OIS zoom lens the ultimate super telephoto for less than $900CAN? A look into the latest Panasonic MFT lens line-up seems to confirm this assertion. But what about the qualities of this specialized telephoto zoom lens? Its very modest aperture (considering the MFT format), the absence of any tripod lens collar mount accessory, its lightweight construction are all parts of the criticisms that can be addressed for its design and its manufacturing. But despite those objections, the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 II Power OIS should be seen as an accessible opportunity to reach these higher magnifications.
Because the Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 II Power OIS zoom lens will give strong magnifications (4 to 12X compare to your own vision), we can really classify it as a true long-range telephoto. But you may ask you if the image quality results will be or not sustain these big numbers. That is the essential question.
At my first encounter with the Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 II, I was surprised by its compact size considering its long telephoto focal length range. Combined with a mid-sized MFT ILC camera body such as the G9 or G95, the zoom lens is perfectly handholding usable. Adding the furnished bayonet-mount dedicated lens hood will increase the total lens physical length and when selecting its longest focal setting (300mm), the lens will extend almost twice its original physical length. The two focus and zoom rings are smooth to operate and are easy to identify. The Stabilizer On/Off switch is clearly located on the left side. The 67mm accessory filter ring diameter is a bit large but it reflects the focal length magnitude of the zoom lens. No provision has been designed for an additional tripod ring collar which it can be annoying for long use at the same position during picture taking like for animal or action photography***.
By no means the Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 II Power OIS zoom lens can be qualified as a close focusing optic. The minimum focusing distance is limited to 1,5 meters so, you certainly won’t disturb your subject by your own proximity! On the sunny side the high magnification of the zoom lens will allow you to isolate the subject in a very effective way. Speaking of those magnifications, the necessity of the internal optical stabilization functionality became obvious for the photographer as for selecting a higher shutter speed if the light level allows it. The apparent lack of definition from pictures taken by many long telephotos is often the result of a blurry effect induced by the photographer movement (shake). Special care should be taken in consideration by the photographer all the times when handling lens model that more than 2X magnification.
Picture quality output
That is the second pleasant surprise that I have encounter in using the Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 II Power OIS zoom lens. The image result output was clearly comparable with its sibling trans-standard zoom partner (Lumix G Vario 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 Power OIS) perhaps with a bit of being more contrast but it offers the same consistency along its different focal lengths. The color and monochrome renditions were similar too. I was a little concern about that since the Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 II Power OIS zoom lens is manufactured at a different place (in fact “Made in Japan»!) but the manufacturer lens standards seem to have been respected.
Big telephoto (zoom) lenses imply narrowed deep of field, a phenomenon that many photographers are please to profit. But because the Lumix 100-300mm maximum aperture is quite small (F4-5.6), that characteristic is less present for the farthest distance subjects. The Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 II Power OIS zoom lens is not really a “portrait” optic but it can be used that way providing that your main subject will not be located too close to you.
Some reviewers will limit the good use of the Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 II Power OIS zoom lens to specific and sunny light conditions because of their higher requirements for the shutter speed and a low ISO and I won’t dispute the necessity of applying these criteria to many various situations. But it can be counteracted by using other picture taking techniques such as pan-follow-up your subject in action situations. It appears today that some photographers have forgotten to adapt themselves to more critical light conditions and were asking for a photo equipment that is answering theirs needs in a static point of view. That is generating more “standardized” results with less creativity (that is often incidental of a specific situation).
Is the Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 II Power OIS zoom lens the ultimate bird (on-hand) optic? If not, it is may be not far from it considering its relatively low buying price. Right from the start I have pleasure to use it on the spot and the first result were very encouraging. For action applications, its smaller maximum aperture can be in fact an advantage by getting a little more critical deep-of-field. Setting your camera different parameters like shutter speed and ISO sensibility should be paramount to get a certain picture result consistency (yes, that could be applied to many other photographic subjects 😉).
*** If you intend to use extendedly a long telephoto (zoom) lens with a tripod or a monopod, it may be better to get an optic that have already a tripod lens collar optionality that will allow you a better weight distribution (without stressing the camera lens mount), and will give you a more usable panning pivot and an easy switching between the horizontal view (panoramic) to the vertical one (portrait).