Hands-on with the Lumix S 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 Macro OIS
The Lumix S 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 Macro OIS is a tele-zoom lens designed for Panasonic’s full-frame mirrorless cameras. It brings a useful focal range to telephoto shooters with a bit more reach, and at a lower price point, than the company’s constant aperture tele-zoom options.
Panasonic says the lens was designed with professional photographers in mind, though it doesn’t carry the ‘Pro’ moniker found on some of its pricier optics. On the next few slides we’ll take a look at the various features packed into this lens.
Design and build
At 790g (1.75 pounds) the 70-300mm isn’t exactly svelte, but it feels well-balanced on one of Panasonic’s S-series bodies. Its maximum diameter is 84mm (3.31″) and it measures 148mm (5.83″) in length.
The lens is dust, splash and freeze resistant, and Panasonic rates it for use down to -10ºC (14ºF). The front element has a fluorine coating to help repel water and oil, and the filter thread is 77mm.
The 70-300mm feels solid in your hand and on the camera, with no mechanical play where you don’t expect it.
The lens consists of 17 elements in 11 groups. This includes an alphabet soup of special lens elements, including one UED (ultra extra-low dispersion) element, two ED (extra-low dispersion) elements, and one UHR (ultra-high refractive index) element. The latter is designed to suppress axial chromatic aberration at the telephoto end and chromatic aberration at the wide end, while also reducing the overall size of the lens.
Minimum focus distance is an impressively short 0.54m (1.77 ft.) when shooting at 70mm. The circular aperture comprises 11 blades to help achieve rounded bokeh. A lens hood is included to reduce flare.
Focus is driven by a linear motor, similar to Panasonic’s Lumix S Pro lenses. Autofocus is quick and decisive and should be adequate for all but the fastest moving subjects.
Rubberized zoom and focus rings are well-damped and smooth to turn, and the zoom ring is wide, making it easy to find with your eye behind the viewfinder. The lens extends when zoomed.
On the side of the lens you’ll find a focus limiter switch, which can improve performance if you don’t need to worry about focusing at closer distances, a manual AF/MF switch, an OIS switch to turn off in-lens image stabilization, and a zoom lock. We didn’t notice much lens creep while shooting with our copy of the lens, but it’s nice to know it’s there for extended carrying when creep will inevitably occur.
The lens includes Panasonic’s OIS in-lens image stabilization system. When combined with the 5-axis in-body stabilization in its cameras, Panasonic claims its Dual I.S. 2 system can deliver up to 5.5 stops of effective image stabilization – certainly a helpful feature when shooting handheld at 300mm.
It should come as no surprise that a lens from Panasonic includes features designed to appeal to video shooters. Like other S series lenses it exhibits minimal focus breathing, allowing you to rack focus with minimal apparent change in angle of view, though it doesn’t include the push/pull focus clutch found on some Panasonic lenses. While not optically parfocal, focus shifts are suppressed during zooming, making it possible to zoom while maintaining focus.
Additionally, the lens features silent operation to avoid interference with on-camera microphones and stepless exposure changes for smooth exposure transitions.
Finally, Panasonic bills this as a macro lens, though as with most macro zooms it doesn’t achieve full 1:1 magnification. When shooting at 300mm maximum magnification is 0.5x, or (still very impressive) one half life size, with a minimum focusing distance of 0.74m (2.43 ft.).
The Lumix S 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 Macro OIS will be available in April at a cost of $1250.
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