Røde Stereo VideoMic Pro


Røde Stereo VideoMic Pro.


I’ve had a Røde Stereo VideoMic Pro since December 2017. I’ve been absolutely delighted with it. This is not a microphone for interviews or blogging, no it’s forte is picking up ambient sound with “a wide stereo image with natural depth”. I use it when I’m out in the bush trying to get wildlife and scenic footage. So I was a little upset when it developed a problem and would only record sound on one channel. I decided to send it back to Røde, who are an Australian company, and see if it could be repaired. The customer service rep was straight onto the case and really helpful and because I’d registered for the ten year warranty they would take a look at it. After a few days I was sent an email saying that they’d fixed it and it was in the post. I was at this stage well impressed. But wait – more was to come. When the parcel from Røde turned up on my doorstep imagine my surprise when I opened it and found a brand new microphone. A great product backed with great service.


Røde Stereo VideoMic Pro mounted on a Panasonic Lumix G85 camera.

Optical Antithesis

A review of the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN lens for m4/3




The Sigma 16mm f1.4 shown mounted to an Oympus OMD EM1 mk 1 which is one of the larger m4/3 cameras.


I’ve said many times on this blog that my favourite focal length is 35mm (35mm equivalent) which give a diagonal angle of view of 63.4º To me it is a relaxing normal view, I find 50mm a bit too tight and 28mm a bit too “loose”. So when I migrated from so-called full frame to micro four thirds in 2010 one of the first lenses I bought was the Olympus m.Zuiko 17mm f2.8 pancake lens. Actually at the time there were only three lenses in the system the 17mm, a 14-42mm kit lens and the 40-150 telephoto kit zoom and I ended up getting them all.


Olympus m.Zuiko 17mm f2.8 shown on an EP5. The lens was the first prime introduced for the Olympus’ m4/3 system.


The 17mm was equivalent to 34mm in in full frame terms and has a diagonal angle of view of 65º, so close enough as not to make any real difference. It wasn’t a well received lens despite being what initial advocates of the micro four thirds said they wanted – pancake lenses. It’s slow maximum aperture of f2.8, slow and noisey auto focus combined with less than stellar optical performance put many people off and they went for the much more expensive Panasonic 20mm f1.7 which had the virtues of being optically better, and having a faster maximum aperture. It still wasn’t great in the AF department though. But hey these were the early days of mirrorless technology and AF systems were not very quick and accurate then. But anyways I got the Olympus in a kit with my Olympus EP2 and I actually loved it. I could slip it mounted to the EP2 in my pocket which made it a great stealth camera combination and I used it to shoot my TransPerth-Transhumance project. I still use the lens today, mainly on my EP5. The area where I felt it was absolutely hopeless was video. The AF was too slow, too noisy (think angry wasp stuck in a jar) and I wanted a bit more subject isolation than the f2.8 aperture could give.


The Sigma 16mm f1.4 compared to the Olympus 17mm f2.8, 25mm f.1.8 and the 45mm f1.9.


The Sigma 16mm f1.4 is a physically large lens. Here it is shown with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 and 75-300 f4-6.3 zoom lenses.


So fast forward a few years and I’m shooting more and more video and I decide to get myself a better 17mm lens. In the intervening years Olympus had produced the very favourably received 17mm f1.8 and the eye-wateringly expensive f1.2 version. Panasonic had also come to the party with their Panasonic Leica Summilux 15mm f/1.7 lens. In fact I went to my local (if you can call 110Km away local) camera dealer to buy this lens and it was always out of stock which made me want it even more. But in the end I went for an outlier in the form of the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN lens. The reasons being that f1.4 is faster than f1.9, it was cheaper than the f1.2 and the difference between f1.2 and f1.4 is slight, and my dealer had it in stock. So what makes it and outlier? Well to put it bluntly it’s bloody huge. It has a 67mm ⌀ filter thread which compares to 37mm for the Olympus 17mm f2.8. It is bigger than the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 and the Panasonic Leica 8-18mm f2.8-4 while being only a little shorter than the Olympus 75-300mm f4.8-6.7. The 16mm focal length equates to 32mm on full frame with a diagonal angle of view 68.1º so is a bit wider, but when used with the Panasonic G85 for 4K video this isn’t much of a problem as the camera crops in slightly. So how come this lens is so lardy I hear you all ask. Well this lens wasn’t designed for micro four thirds, it was initially designed for the Sony 6000 series cameras with an APS sized sensor where it equates to being a 24mm in full frame terms. To get a wide angle lens that’s fast and a good optical performance means lots of glass and glass is heavy, and this lens is large and heavy for APS format cameras. To get some additional return on their investment Sigma decided to offer the lens in micro four thirds mount hence it seeming a funny focal length and being bigger than necessary.


Vital Statistics

Olympus 17mm f2.8

Sigma 16mm f1.4

Diagonal angle of view 65º 68.1º
Optical construction 6 elements in 4 groups 16 elements in 13 groups
Diaphragm 5 rounded blades 9 rounded blades
Minimum aperture f2.8 F1.4
Maximum aperture F22 F16
Minimum focusing distance 20cm 25cm
maximum magnification ratio 0.11x 0.07X
Filter diameter 37mm 67mm
Dimensions 57mm x 22mm (H) 72.2mm x 92.3mm (H)
Weight 71g 405g
Internal focusing No Yes



In the hand the Sigma 16mm feels very dense and substantial. The lens body is made out of what Sigma calls a Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) which is substantially stronger than conventional polycarbonates while having similar thermal expansion properties to aluminium. The lens mount is made of chromium plated brass which should ensure a long life. The Sigma 16mm is advertised as being dust and splash proof but on closer reading of Sigma’s spec sheet there is only one seal and that is at the lens mount. The lens comes with a bayonet mount petal lens hood which has a ribbed grip to make attaching and detaching easier. While it is good that the lens comes with a hood it’s not the best implementation and feels quite insubstantial and can be fiddly to attach as it can foul and not lock home. There is a ribbed rubber focus ring of the fly by wire type – it feels smooth and easy to use. There are no other controls or switches which means if you want to switch between AF and manual focus you will have to use the camera controls for that.



The Sigma 16mm has an optical construction of 16 elements in 13 groups with 3 FLD (“F” Low Dispersion) glass elements, which offers performance equivalent to fluorite which exhibits less chromatic aberration than those utilising a traditional flint glass. There are 2 SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements which also help to minimise chromatic aberration and 2 ASPH moulded glass aspherical elements which work to reduce optical aberrations. According to Sigma’s website the ASPH elements are polished with a tolerance of under 10 nanometers or 0.000001 millimetres which according to Sigma reduces onion ring bokeh.


100 % crops showing lens performance wide open and then at the best performing aperture.


In terms of autofocus the stepping motor is fast and accurate and very smooth when shooting video. I tested the lens on the OMD EM1 mk ii which has on sensor phase detect AF and on the Panasonic G85 which uses DFD technology – a variant of contrast detect auto focus that requires the lens to provide a profile to the camera to ensure fast and accurate AF. The Sigma does not have such a profile as these are limited at present to only Panasonic’s own lenses. Despite that there were no problems and I could detect no discernible difference between the Olympus and the Panasonic. The only downside in the AF department is that I can’t use the Pro Capture Low setting which gives up to 18 fps with auto exposure and AF tracking. This is no fault of Sigma’s as the option is only available with Olympus lenses.



Optically – well straight from the get go the Sigma is impressively sharp wide open corner to corner. The performance improves slightly (and it is only visible on my 4K screen at 300%) as you stop down. Diffraction sets in at f16 and this does soften the image. In terms of chromatic aberration, well wide open in high contrast situations it is apparent albeit slight and it is easy to correct in post. The lens is reasonably resistant to flare – but if you have a specular light source in the frame you will experience some veiled flare and ghosting. If you turn off the built in lens profile you can observe a slight barrel distortion, but switch on the profile and it is not visible. The bokeh balls this lens produces are more or less round when shooting wide open even at the edges of the frame and the transitions are nice and smooth. There is some onion ring bokeh which is the result of using moulded aspherical lens.Vignetting is not a problem and is very slight in the region of 1/2 stop.


Chromatic aberration is quite apparent on this lens. It is also quite prone to flare even when using the included lens hood.



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Being designed to have an image circle much larger than micro four thirds requires means that you are using the best performing part of the lens and this really shows. Just for giggles I compared the Sigma with my old Olympus. The Olympus is noticeably soft in the corners at all apertures and just average in the centre. It suffers badly from chromatic aberration. Vignetting is very apparent, in excess of 1 stop in the corners with the lens profile switched on and getting on for 2 stops when switched off. Physically, optically and figuratively the Sigma stands head and shoulders above the little Olympus. The only area where the Olympus wins out is its small size and that is why I’ll continue to use it when I want something small and compact. For every other occasion I’m reaching for the Sigma. The knock on effect is that I’m seriously wondering about replacing my Olympus 45mm f1.8 with the Sigma 56mm f1.4.

In The Bag

The video is the short version of this article with a slide show of the best of this year’s orchids at the end.



It’s not for nothing that Western Australia is referred to as the “Wildflower State”. There are over 13,000 species of plant to be found, with new discoveries added every year. If we narrow it down to my particular area of interest – orchids – there are 394 species of terrestrial orchids in the South West Corner of the state. Some of these species are so specialised that are confined to very small areas and found nowhere else. Some species will not bloom unless there has been a bush fire the summer before, others if the winter rains are delayed or are insufficient will not put a show on either. This means that no two years are the same. An example of this is my favourite spot near where I live is prolific with the number of orchid species found there. When I first went I was simply amazed by the number of fringed mantis and white spider orchids that were flowering. Over the ensuing ten years I’ve seen such a display of those species since. This year there was a carpet of purple and pink enamels like I’ve never seen before. So this not knowing quite what you are going to find adds to the whole experience. On a few occasions I may be lucky enough to be able to access the flowers by car and a short walk, but most of the time I end up walking through the bush for anything up to four hours.


Pink Enamel Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Pink enamel orchid, Elythranthera emarginata. Mokine, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM 1 mk ii with Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro lens. Aperture priority, exposure: 1/800 sec, f5.6 at ISO 400.


Purple Enamel Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Purple Enamel Orchid, Elythranthera brunonis. Mokine, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM 1 mk ii with Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro lens and Metz 64AF-1 flash. Exposure: Aperture priority mode, 1/40 sec, f8 at ISO 200 with -1 stop exposure compensation.


The Canon EOS 6d camera with 100mm f2.8 macro lens that I used to use for photographing orchids alongside the Olympus EM 1 mk ii with 60mm f2.8 macro lens that I use now.


I approach photographing orchids as I would shooting a person’s portrait – using off camera flash and reflectors to fill shadows, separate from the background, bring out the shape and textures. Too many botanic studies show indistinct photos where the subject does not fill the frame and the background is intrusive. To that end I use a macro lens of around 100 -120mm (35mm equivalent). It’s not because I’m necessarily shooting at a 1:1 ratio, it’s just because I’ve found there are very few zoom lens that focus close enough and have a fast aperture to allow control of depth of field.I used to use a Canon DSLR with a Canon EF 100mm f2.8 IS L lens and carry around a Manfrotto 143 Magic Arm Kit to support the lights. I made a video about using that setup some 7 years ago and that can be seen just below. Since making that video I added a full frame 6d, the Canon macro lens, and extra light and a set of TTL wireless flash triggers and consequently found myself schlepping 10-12Kg of kit into the bush on longer and longer forays. Something had to give – and my back did! So fast forward 7 years and I’m now using an Olympus OMD EM1 mk ii with Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro lens. I’ve not given anything up in terms of image quality with this change because I’m generally working at a base ISO of 200 with lighting which means all the usual objections to m4/3 about excessive noise and poor dynamic range have been taken out of the equation. The Olympus 60mm f2.8 is easily the optical equal of Canon’s EF 100mm f2.8 IS macro L lens at less than 1/2 the price and about 1/3 of the weight. The Manfrotto Magic Arm got binned as it was very heavy at 2.7 Kg and replaced with a Manfrotto Table Top Tripod Kit 209, 492 Long which weighs 454g. As far as lighting goes I’m using a Metz 64AF – 1 and an Olympus FL-600R flash with small soft box, snoot and honeycomb grid. The only thing that I have given up is radio TTL triggers for the flash, I’m using a TTL flash sync cable at the moment. I prefer to use the Metz unit when doing a lot of high speed sync work as it is the more powerful of the two. This may change in the New Year, it may not.


Lighting diagram for my basic lighting of an orchid.


The FL-600R is a flash with a guide number of of 50 (ISO200/m). In addition, it comes with a LED lightt for use when shooting video.


Other things in the bag include an 80cm 5 in 1 reflector – I only use the white reflector as the silver is too strong, the gold too garish. Some times I use the diffuser over a plant to cut down on ambient light levels. A Vittorinox CyberTool L is there. It has a good selection of small screwdriver bits that can most screws on a camera body, a set of pliers, wood saw, metal saw and file and a host of other doodads. I once re-assembled my Voigtländer 35mm f2.5 Color-Skopar with it while in on holiday in Beijing. Water – this can be in a 1L bottle for shorter expeditions or a 3L water bladder for longer ones. Extra clothing if needed, sunscreen and insect repellent to avoid nasty encounters. Batteries for camera and flash. Wallet of memory cards. That’s it. The whole process is very simple.

What A Whopper!

The Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS Contemporary lens is part of Sigma’s Global Vision line of lenses. It offers an inexpensive way of getting into wildlife photography.


Not so long ago I looked at the the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400 f4-6.3 ASPH Power OIS lens for micro four thirds, well today I’m looking at an alternative lens for APS and full frame cameras – the Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS Contemporary lens. Now confusingly Sigma make two versions of the 150-600 and they are labelled the Sport and Contemporary. The-Digital-Picture.com has put up a good article explaining the difference between the two. The main ones are price and weight with the Contemporary being a 1Kg lighter and $1200 AUD cheaper. This is quite a significant difference and I for one prefer a lighter lens and a heavier wallet. The Contemporary is part of Sigma’s Global Vision line of lenses and is thus compatible with the Sigma TC-1401 1.4x Teleconverter which allows auto focus to work to a maximum of f8 while wide open if your camera supports this feature. This is an interesting option as it allows a reach of 860mm on full frame and a humongous 1376mm on an APSC sensor which is impressive reach for a lens and converter costing less than $2000 AUD. I didn’t happen to look at this option because none of my Canon DSLRs allow f8 auto focusing. shuttermuse.com has an article on f8 focusing with extenders or teleconverters and a list of compatible Canon DSLRs. This does not apply to the mirrorless R and RP which have f11 auto focusing.


Lens mounts available Canon EF

Nikon F

Sigma SA

Focal length 150-600mm
Angle of view 4.1° – 16.4°
Aperture range f5/6.3 to f22/27
Filter size 95mm
Minimum focusing distance 2.8 metres
Maximum magnification 1:4.9
Focusing Silent HSM with internal focusing and manual override
Aperture blades 9
Lens construction 20 elements in 14 groups with 1 FLD and 3 SLD elements
Image stabilisation Yes – 3 stops equivalent
Length 26cm
Diameter 10.5cm
Weight 1.93Kg without lens hood and tripod collar.



Fully extended to the 600mm focal length the lens is a beast. There is no sign of any wobble in the zoom extension.

Physically this is a large lens, it stands head and shoulders above my Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS L lens which in itself quite a large lens. The 150-600 is also 500g heavier. At 2.1 Kg with lens hood and tripod collar attached it definitely has heft to it. Interestingly Sigma refer to it as a lightweight lens, I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective as the Panasonic Leica 100-400 is 0.985 Kg so the Sigma feels gargantuan compared to it while the Canon EF 600 mm f4L IS is over 3Kg so the Sigma then seems svelte and compact. The lens body is made out of what Sigma calls a Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) which is substantially stronger than conventional polycarbonates while having similar thermal expansion properties to aluminium. The lens mount is made of chromium plated brass which should ensure a long life. All in all it feels a well made and rugged lens, it may feel like plastic but the TSC body feels substantial and gives the impression of being very durable with no creaking or flexing. The Sigma 150-600 is advertised as being dust and splash proof but on closer reading of Sigma’s spec sheet there is only one seal and that is at the lens mount. If you want better then you’ll have to spring for the Sports version.


The Canon EF lens mount is made of chromium plated brass.

When looking at the lens from the front there is a large ribbed rubber zoom ring that has a long throw of about 160º. The action is smooth and feels not too tight nor too loose. As you rotate the zoom ring the lens barrel extends by 8cm. The extension feels secure with no slop or wobble. Just behind the zoom ring on the lefthand side is a zoom lock switch which can lock the zoom ring at the 150mm focal length to prevent zoom creep while carrying the lens. The focusing ring is narrow ribbed rubber and allows you to manually adjust focus while the lens is in the autofocus mode. There are no hard stops which might concern you if you were to use the lens for video. Behind the focusing ring is a panel of four switches and they are:

  • An AF switch allowing to choose between AF, MF and MO (Manual Override)
  • A focus limiter switch allowing a choice of full range, 10m to ∞, and 2.8 to 10m.
  • An optical stabilisation switch that gives a choice of off, on and a panning mode.
  • A custom switch that allows you to select two custom modes that can be programmed using the Sigma FD-11 USB Dock


There are three switches on the lens barrel. One fotr focus modes, the second a focus limiter and the third is for the optical stabilisation.


The focus distance scale is behind a window just below the the focus ring.

Above the switches is a window showing the focusing scale and then behind that is the lens collar. The lens collar allows you to turn the camera from horizontal to vertical while mounted on a tripod, but, unfortunately there are no detents to allow you to do this while looking through the viewfinder of the camera, you have to align the marks on the collar with those on the lens body. The tripod collar can be detached and thoughtfully Sigma provide a cosmetic rubber ring to slide over the lugs that hold the collar in place. The lens comes with a large plastic lens hood the size of a flower pot, it seems sturdy enough and bayonets into place and a nice touch  is that is ribbed internally to prevent reflections. The 150-600 has a 95mm filter thread which means filters will be expensive and potentially hard to get. In terms of accessories Sigma provide a nice well padded lens case, a shoulder strap for it and a Sigma branded camera strap. Like all Sigma lenses you get a lot for the money you spend. Nice one Sigma!

The 150-600 has a 95mm filter thread which means filters will be the size of dinner plates, be expensive and potentially hard to get.

I tested the lens on a Canon EOS 6d and an EOS 550d to see how it would perform on both crop and full frame cameras. In terms of AF performance as neither of those cameras have what can be considered state of the art AF systems, in fact it is over twelve years old, the lens did very well. The single point AF using the centre point was fast and precise and well capable of fixing on small birds amongst foliage. In terms of continuous AF on the EOS 550d the camera was the limitation being only able to shoot 6 frame bursts in RAW, but out of my six shots when tracking my dog trotting five of the six would be in focus. The 6d is able to shoot 4.5 frames per second for 15 frames and on the trotting bull terrier test it managed 12 frames in focus.


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When it came to BIF (birds in flight not fisticuffs) the AF was more than capable of focusing on and tracking medium to large birds. It really struggled with small birds especially swallows. Put it on a better camera and I’m sure you’d get better results.


Australian White Ibis, by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Australian white ibis, Threskiornis molucca, Herdsman Lake, Western Australia.


My primary use for a lens like this is handheld bird photography, and as such I didn’t really give the image stabilisation a workout as I seldom use a shutter speed below 1/500 sec. But messing around at home in the house and garden I figured it was good for three stops. Mind you I do have steady hands so your experience may differ from mine.



The optical construction of the lens is twenty elements in fourteen groups with 1 FLD and 3 SLD elements. The FLD (“F” Low Dispersion) glass element, which offers performance equivalent to fluorite.  Canon and other manufacturers have used synthetically grown crystals of calcium fluoride components in lenses to aid apochromatic design, and to reduce light dispersion so lenses made from it exhibit less chromatic aberration. What Sigma has done is use newer glasses and computer-aided design to render the use of fluorite crystals unnecessary. Sigma claim that the FLD element is “highly transparent, its refractive index and dispersion are extremely low as compared to conventional types of glass. It offers characteristics very similar to those of fluorite, which is valued for its anomalous dispersion. These characteristics minimize residual chromatic aberration (secondary spectrum), which cannot be corrected by ordinary optical glass, while helping to produce sharp, high-contrast images.” (https://sigmaphoto.com.au). The three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements also help to minimize chromatic aberration. To help achieve attractive out of focus transitions there are nine rounded aperture blades which should help achieve nice round bokeh balls when shooting specular highlights.



In terms of optical performance well I’ll deal with full frame and crop separately. First up using the lens on the crop framed 550d. At 150mm the centre of the lens wide open was sharp and contrasty and stayed A as such until f22 when it softened due to the effects of diffraction. At the edges the peak performance was attained at f11 and remained until f22 when it softened again. At 600mm the centre wide open was a little soft and lacking in contrast. This improved by f8 and then deteriorated at f22. The edges weren’t so good – wide open they were soft and lacking contrast and remained so until f22 when they got worse. As for vignetting well at the short end wide open it was apparent, about 1/2 to 1 stop and this disappeared by f8. It was the same story at the long end. Throughout the focal range there is slight pin cushion distortion and some chromatic aberration can also be seen. Open the files up in Lightroom and apply the lens profile and things improve nicely. On the full frame 6d the story is the same except for the vignetting which is naturally worse at around 1-1 1/2 stops which is totally understandable as you are using the whole frame rather than just the central part of the lens coverage.


100 % crop from the centre of a New Holland Honeyeater to show how detail is rendered by the Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 Contemporary lens.


What’s all this mean in real life. Well if we look at the image for the New Holland Honeyeater which I took at a distance of around 3.5 to 4 metres and then enlarge the section around the head you can see that there is nice feather detail and that the eye is sharper than a very sharp thing. To get much better you’d have to spend an awful lot of money and if we look at the Canon 600mm f4 lens I mentioned earlier that has an eye watering price of $18,500 AUD which is over 11 times the cost of the Sigma. Personally I know that if I plonked $18 K down on a lens I’d be heading for the divorce court which would make the Canon a doubly expensive lens. So for what it costs the Sigma is amazing value.

Below are some examples of bird photography shot with the lens on both a Canon EOS 6d and 550d.


Welcome Swallow by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Welcome Swallow, Hirundo neoxxena, Herdsman Lake, Western Australia. Canon 6d with Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f7.1 at ISO 250.


Red Capped Robin, by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Red capped robin, Petroica goodenovi, Avon Walk Trail, York, Western Australia. Canon 550d with Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens. Exposure: 1/500, f6.3 at ISO 160.


Chestnut-rumped Thornbill by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Chestnut-rumped Thornbill (Acanthiza uropygialis), York, Western Australia. canon 550d with Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f6.3 at ISO 320.


Mistletoebird, by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Mistletoebird, Dicaeum hirundinaceum. The Nyoongar name is Minnijit. York, Western Australia. Canon 6d with Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens. Exposure: 1/1000 sec, f8 at ISO 1600.

So would I recommend the lens? Yes without hesitation. It performs very well and is sold at a very good price and you can’t argue with that.

Zoomin’ Heck


On 7th October 2018 I put a video up of me unwrapping the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400 f4-6.3 ASPH Power OIS and my initial impressions of it. Well after six months of use this is my opinion of the lens. I don’t know if it has won the title for having the longest model name, but if not it should be a contender. For brevities sake I’ll just refer to it hence forth as the PanaLeica 100-400.  At the outset I’ll say that this is my lens bought with my money and I’ve only used the one copy of it


First off let’s set things straight – this is a very specialist bit of kit that you either have a need for or you don’t. I’ll also say that there is a very good argument to adopt the micro four thirds system just for this lens alone. No I’ve not stopped taking my meds, this lens should be a contender for anyone who shoots wildlife, particularly birds, and travels a lot. A long time ago someone said to me, and I’m not entirely sure who it was, but I’ll attribute it to Hugh Graham who’d been a Fleet Street photographer, that you should choose your camera system on the basis of the lenses you’ll use. I think Panasonic were very smart when they designed this lens because this leverages all the benefits of the m4/3 system. It uses the two times crop factor and small size to produce a lens that is just not available in the 35mm full frame world ie a compact lightweight 200-800mm zoom lens. Recently a muppet on YouTube pronounced that micro four thirds is dead but this lens proves that the system is very viable indeed. Lets compare the PanaLeica 100-400 to some of its rivals. 

Comparing the Canon EOS6d with Sigma 150-600mm lens to the Panasonic G85 and PanaLeica 100-400 lens. Remember folks the Panasonic combination has more reach.



Lens Weight Cost
PanaLeica 100-400 0.985 Kg $1900 AUD
Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM Lens 4.5 Kg $17000 AUD
Sigma 800mm f/5.6 APO EX DG HSM Lens 4.9 Kg $8400 AUD
Sigma 300-800mm f/5.6 APO EX DG HSM Lens 5.8 Kg $8000 AUD
Nikon AF-S 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR Lens 4.5 Kg $23000 AUD



Or lets look at it another way. My Panasonic G85 with battery grip, two batteries, a memory card and the PanaLeica 100-400 weighs in at 1.829 Kg. A Canon EOS 550d with a Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Lens which has the same equivalent angle of view is 2.958 Kg and my Canon 6d with the same Sigma lens is 3.345 Kg and doesn’t have the same range. To get the same zoom range the 6d would need to be paired up with the Sigma 300-800mm f/5.6 APO EX DG HSM Lens and the combination would weigh 7.1 Kg. Now if you sit in a bird hide all day with your camera on a tripod then you might be prepared to sacrifice weight, expense and portability to get high image quality. But if like me you walk around anything up to 20 Km in a day looking for birds and are willing to work around the issue of the smaller sensor and it’s inherent poorer performance at ISOs over 6400 (and coming from the days of shooting slide film at ISOs between 50 and 400 I can’t believe that I see 6400 as a problem) then you will be very happy. The argument about image quality is very spurious if you only look at your images on an iPad or phone. So you can see why I think that this lens is enough to persuade people to adopt the m4/3 system – it has enormous reach, is lightweight and is very affordable.

Tech Specs


Focal Length 100-400mm (200-800 35mm equivalent)
Aperture range f4-6.3 to f22
Construction 20 elements in 13 groups
Diaphragm 9 circular blades
Focus drive Ultra sonic stepper motor
Close focus distance 1.3 m
Maximum magnification x 0.25
Length collapsed 17.15 cm
Diameter 8.3 cm
Filter size 72 mm
Weight 985 g

The Leica designation denotes that Leica had input into the design but the lens is made by Panasonic at their Yamagata lens factory in Japan. The PanaLeica 100-400 retains the same design cues as Leica’s own lenses and the other Panasonic lenses in this series such as the 8-18mm f2.8-4 ie it uses the same fonts and the same ribbing for the focus and zoom rings. It features an all metal body construction and is listed as being weather proof. However, there is no rating as to the extent of the weather resistance. It is a very attractive lens to look at and has a satisfying heft to it which reinforces the fact that this a quality bit of kit. In November 2015 I blogged about the Olympus m.Zuiko 75-300mm f4.8-6.7 mk ii which I bought when I first started dabbling in wildlife photography, with its plastic construction it makes the PanaLeica 100-400 look like a luxury item.


The PanaLeica 100-400mm mounted on Olympus OMD EM1 with lens zoomed out to 400mm.


With regards to the physical controls on the lens body working backwards from the built in mini lens hood (a separate full-sized one can attach to this but I have never used it) there is a narrow focus ring. As per usual with Panasonic this a fly by wire ring with no direct physical coupling to the lens heliocord. Behind the focusing ring is ring which locks and unlocks the lens mechanism to prevent zoom creep. This can be applied at any point in the focal range. The zoom ring is nice a broad enabling a good grip and is quite smooth with a little resistance to movement. It has a ninety degree throw and works very nicely when shooting video. The lens body extends outwards as you progress through the lens range. The front lens element, however, does not rotate which is good news for users of polarizing and variable neutral density filters. The tripod foot and collar is really a rather clever piece of design. There is no collar as such, the rear part of the lens rotates 90 degrees to allow users to change from horizontal to vertical orientation. The foot screws into the lens and can be completely detached. In another nice touch you don’t need the foot to attach a tripod plate as you can attach it directly to the lens body which reduces the profile of the lens considerably. Just before the lens mount there are three physical switches. The first is a focus limiter which offers two positions, full focus range and 5m to infinity. Below that is a switch for AF or manual focus, and below that a switch for the optical image stabilisation system. The lens mount is metal and there is an o ring that provides some sealing against water and dust ingress.



Without a doubt the PanaLeica 100-400 is a very complex lens with 20 elements in 13 groups, 1 ultra low dispersion element, 2 extra low dispersion elements and 1 aspheric extra low dispersion element. From this we can see that it is corrected against chromatic aberration and optimised to produce high contrast, high-resolution images whilst maintaining a compact form factor. Although each group is positioned precisely within the lens barrel it is impossible to do this perfectly so the three lens groups that are most acutely effected by tilt and centring defects and therefore impact most upon image quality are the only ones that are adjustable. This has meant that repair or adjustment of the lens is very difficult and only Panasonic’s Yamagata factory is able to do this which means warranty repairs are sent back to Japan for assessment and then are usually replaced. If your lens fails outside of the warranty period customers are offered a refurbished lens at a discount rather than a repair. To further complicate the issue Panasonic in most countries contracts out its customer service and it is very difficult to access and there have been quite a few accounts of poor service on various camera forums. So my best advice would be to buy this lens from a bricks and mortar store with a good returns policy and then thoroughly test the lens, because if you have a problem it could be quite difficult to resolve.



The image quality is very good from 100-300 and just gets a little softer towards 400. This is not unusual for zoom lenses. At all focal lengths the edges of the frame are a little softer wide open but sharpen up nicely as you stop down. Diffraction becomes apparent at f16. There is next to no chromatic aberration, and the only times that I did observe it a simple click in Lightroom fixed it. Flare is remarkably well controlled on a lens with so many glass elements. I have shot a lot of frames into the light and have found that I don’t need to use the full-sized screw on lens hood, I just use the mini sliding hood that is built into the lens. Filter users be aware that this lens is very fussy about filters as many long lenses are. I’ve had no problem with multi-coated B+W and Heliopan filters. For giggles I tried an uncoated Fotga variable neutral density filter and using a combination of the lens on both a G85 and an EM1 could not get focus. This is not a fault of the lens but shows the effect that using cheap uncoated filters can have on lenses. My Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS L does exactly the same with the Fotga filter. I’ve never understood why people will spend $2K on a lens and then slap a cheap $10 filter on it. If you are going to use filters use good ones.


Australasian Grebe by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Australasian Grebe, Tachybaptus novaehollandiae. Lake Monger, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with PanaLeica 100-400mm. Exposure: 1/1000s, f6.3, ISO 400.


Rainbow Lorikeet by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Rainbow Lorikeet, Trichoglossus moluccanus. Lake Monger, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with PanaLeica 100-400mm lens. Exposure: 1/1000s, f5.1 at ISO 6400.


Laughing Kookaburra by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Laughing Kookaburra, Dacelo novaeguineae. Avon Walk Trail, York, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with PanaLeica 100-400mm lens. Exposure: 1/1000s, f6.3 at ISO 250.



White Faced Herron by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
White faced heron, Egretta novaehollandiae, Wilson Inlet, Denmark, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with PanaLeica 100-400mm lens. Exposure: 1/800s, f6.3 at ISO 320.


In Use


After six months of use and a few thousand exposures I think I’ve got a good handle on this lens. The inbuilt optical stabilisation combines with Panasonic’s Dual IS bodies (at the time of writing the GH5, G9, G95, G85, GX85, and GX9) to give impressive results, around 5-6 stops. When shooting 4K video with the G85 it is very impressive being able to shoot handheld with such a long lens. The video below has footage using the lens on both the G85 and EM1 as well as more stills examples. Unfortunately the OIS does not combine with the IBIS on Olympus bodies so it’s a case of either or. I have my EM1 set up with the IBIS permanently on and have selected Lens IS Priority in the custom functions. This means that when a lens with inbuilt stabilisation is detected the camera switches IBIS off. The reason for this is with shorter lenses IBIS is more effective, but with longer telephoto lenses lens based stabilization works best. The OIS works well enough to get fairly good handheld 1080 video with the EM1, but it’s obviously not as smooth as the G85. The hybrid AF system in the EM1 (a combination of contrast detect and on sensor phase detect) is more confident than the DFD (depth from defocus) of the Panasonic. With small subjects against busy backgrounds I’ve found that the G85 and the PanaLeica just hesitates that little bit as it tries to acquire focus and with small birds that slight hesitation is difference between getting a shot or not. The EM1 is very quick to acquire focus and that is why I’ve ended up favouring it more for bird photography. Now I’m perfectly happy to accept that this just might be a shortcoming of the AF system in the G85 and having read the Lumix GH5/Gh5s/G9 AF Guide Book things might improve significantly if I were to use one of those bodies. But for now I have the quandary of superb image stabilisation versus better AF and I’d sooner have better AF and use faster shutter speeds.





Lakesided Walk - Thomsons Lake by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Good close focusing and fairly decent maximum magnification of 0.25 means that the PanaLeica 100-400 is very good when photographing larger insects such as butterflies, moths, dragon flies and damsel flies. Australian painted lady (Vanessa kershawi). Thomsons Lake, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with PanaLeica 100-400mm lens. Exposure: 1/1000s, f6.3 at ISO 640.


If you are already invested in the m4/3 ecosystem and are interested in photographing birds then this is a no brainer. The PanaLeica 100-400 is streets ahead of the Olympus 75-300 and I would imagine the similarly priced Panasonic 100-300mm. It’s absolutely the muts nuts for walking around in the bush photographing birds and larger insects. Now if you’re interested in wildlife and nature and either don’t have a camera or have another brand I’d really recommend giving this lens and a micro four thirds camera some serious consideration. The image quality is very good as long as you’re not a pixel peeper and are honest with your self on what you’ll do with the image. It is very liberating to walk through the bush unencumbered by heavy camera kit that cost the equivalent of the annual GDP of a small Pacific Island nation. My only wish is that there were more compatibility within the micro four thirds system so that the image stabilisation worked across brands, the zoom rings turn in the same direction and that Panasonic adopt the clutch mechanism on their lenses for manual focus with hard stops.


Sacred Kingfisher by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Sacred Kingfisher, Todiramphus sanctus, the Knoll, Walpole, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with PanaLeica 100-400 lens. Exposure: 1/1000s, f5.7 at ISO 800.


Bags Of Fun

If video is more your thing there is a video review at the bottom of the page.


The Mindshift Rotation 180º Horizon 34L


Photography and bushwalking (hiking, tramping) go together like cheese and Branston Pickle. What I find strange that after all this time that there is still a dearth of bags that are both good for bushwalking and carrying photographic equipment. The average photo backpack is absolutely pants in the bush. First off the straps, harness and if you’re lucky the hip belt are really not up to snuff.They are either too thin and lacking in padding or they are poorly positioned and make no ergonomic sense at all. Then when it comes to carrying stuff the photography side is well taken care of, but there is no room for the things a bushwalker needs such as a fleece, waterproof, water and food. Photo backpacks are also unbelievably heavy. I have a LowePro one that is actually heavier than the camera and three lenses that I put in it. Finally they become instruments of torture when used for anything more than an hour. The alternative has been to use a standard walking pack and then carry your kit in pouches, or wrapped up in something soft (for many years I used a keffiyeh), inside the back pack. The benefits of this approach are you get a bag that is well suited to walking and is comfy to wear, but accessing your photo equipment is a bit of a chore. I like many others tried using camera holsters in conjunction with a back pack, but often felt like a pack-horse with lots of things strapped to me. Recently we have started to see some manufacturers introduce backpacks for the outdoor market.

Looking at the harness of the Mindshift Rotation 180º Horizon 34L.


This is where the MindShift Rotation 180º Horizon 34L comes in. Before I start talking about the bag I’ll talk about the manufacturers. MindShift is a subsidiary of Think Tank Photo which are a company founded to produce high quality, innovative carrying solutions for professional photographers. I have been using their belt based carrying system and camera holsters for quite a while now and find them to be well made, well designed and well priced. The customer support is truly excellent – I received a faulty item and upon contacting Think Tank a replacement was quickly sent out from the USA to me in rural Western Australia. MindShift was created to provide photographers carrying systems that are suitable to use off the beaten track. So I had high hopes for this bag.


The Horizon 34L has straps on the exterior that allow you to carry a tripod and accessories such as walking poles.
Showing the compartment that can hold a 3L hydration bladder and how the hose routs out and down the strap to allow access to it.

The Horizon 34L is a pack that is divided into two sections – a 7L photo section and a 27L pack. Nothing revolutionary here you say, well what sets it apart is that the lower section is affixed  to a waist belt  that can rotate from it compartment at the bottom of the pack round to the front. This means you can work from the bag without having to take the pack off. The whole palaver of repeatedly taking a laden pack on and off your back and rummaging around looking for filters, memory cards etc on a long walk can become a big disincentive  to taking photos. Initially I was a little sceptical about how useful this feature would be and how well it would work in practice, but with use I was won over. It is a great idea and I’m surprised nobody thought of it before. The bag comes in blue and grey and retails for $365 AUD or $260 USD which puts it at the more expensive end of the market.


The photo compartment of the Horizon 34L mounts on the backpack’s waist belt which allows it to be rotated round to the wearer’s front to gain access.


On unpacking it I was presented with a fairly large daypack made out of a lightweight ripstop nylon with a polyurethane backing. At various points of anticipated abrasion there are reinforcing panels of Cordura pack cloth. The harness appears well made and is well padded with a good range of adjustment. I’m 1.93 m tall and have a long torso which means I usually find getting a comfortable pack quite difficult but Horizon 34L fitted well and over the last 8 months have clocked up just under 1000Km wearing it. The hip belt has padded wings and adjustable belt and does a grand job of placing the load on your hips in a comfy manner.The back of the pack has three pads with large spaces between them to promote air flow and stop you getting a sweaty back. Here in Australia they are a bit academic, especially in the warmer months, but I imagine they will be of some use in more temperate climates. In terms of exterior pockets there is one on the lid, one on the front-end on the left hand side there is a pocket that will take a 3L water bladder. There is also a pocket for a water bottle on the flap of the bladder pocket. In terms of exterior fixing points there is are straps for a tripod, walking pole and two rows of daisy chains. The top section of the pack eschews the normal walking pack type enclosures of a drawstring mouth with a large lid that buckles down in favour of a large YKK zip. While I appreciate the convenience of a zip for quick and easy access zips allow water ingress especially when they have no storm cover like this. The inside of the top compartment has a stretchy mesh pocket to hold things like maps or guide books. There is ample room to stow a gore-tex, a fleece, lunch and a first aid kit. There is no provision for carrying a laptop, but you could put an iPad in the stretchy pocket. On the lid is an exterior pocket which has a key clip inside. Its big enough to hold gloves, a hat, a personal locator beacon and some snacks. All fairly standard stuff for this type of day pack. 


The photo compartment can separate from the backpack to allow it to be used as a waist pack.


Not standard is the bottom camera compartment. Basically the bottom of the pack has a tube in which a waist pack or as our American cousins call them a ‘Fanny Pack” (snigger!). The left side of the tube (as you wear the pack) is sealed and it has a gap to allow the waist belt to pass through. The right end has a flap which is secured by a magnetic clip and this in conjunction with a leash stops the waist pack from falling out as you walk. This flap has an ingenious pop up system which allows you set the preferred tension. To rotate the waist pack to your front to gain access to it you reach behind you and open the magnetic clip, The flap pops up out of the way and then you pull on the loop on the right side of the belt and the camera compartment rotates around. You then undo the zip and lift the lid away from you. The camera compartment has two dividers that can be repositioned so as to allow you to configure the storage as you wish. I opted for a large central space to hold a camera body and lens with two smaller areas either side to hold two more lenses. The lid has a mesh pocket to allow you to stow small bits and pieces. So what will it hold. Well I used it with two different camera systems. Most commonly I used it to hold a gripped Panasonic Lumix G85 or  an Olympus EM1 with grip with a mounted 12-40mm f2.8 lens. Then I would put in the side compartments a Panasonic Leica 8-18mm and an Olympus 75-300mm. Sometimes I’d swap out the wide-angle zoom for the Olympus 60mm macro. The other system I carried was either an ungripped Canon 5 or 6d with a 24-70mm f4 zoom and a  Canon 75-300mm and a 100mm macro. Because I was researching a walking guide-book and needed access to a note-book, pen and handheld GPS I mounted a Lowepro Street and Field 100AW utility bag on the righthand fin of the waist belt. This held the afore-mentioned bits and also camera batteries and memory cards. If you don’t want to carry the whole shebang then you can detach the camera compartment and use it as a waist pack/fanny pack (snigger !).


There is enough room to stow a DSLR such as the Canon 5d pictured mounted with a lens, two additional lenses, a notebook, memory cards and batteries.


Showing how the weather resistant PU layer on the inside of the pack is already perishing after 8 months of use.

In use. The pack is very comfy and I carried it on a range of hikes for nearly 1000Km. To work from it is great. Most of the time I had my camera on strap slung across my body. If I needed to change lenses then I’d access the camera compartment. The whole thing worked really well. However, if you take the pack off while taking photos then it becomes a right royal pain in the derrière as it becomes quite clumsy to use. Pulling out the camera compartment while the rest of the back rests on the ground feels very clumsy compared to the elegance of using it while it is worn on your back. The pack isn’t very weather resistant and MindShift sell a separate rain cover for $45 AUD or $25 USD. Given the price of the Horizon 34 I think MindShift are being tighter than a fishes eyelid here especially when the Think Tank bags from the same company have them built in. The rain cover is also fiddly to affix which is not what you need when you are cold and tired as a rainstorm breaks. The pack material isn’t very durable and after 8 months of use the polyurethane backing has peeled off in m any places and the lightweight ripstop nylon that makes up most of the pack has started to wear through. I’ve got some camera pouches made by the now defunct Camera Care Systems in England that are over 30 years old and have led a very hard life and they show less wear than the Horizon 34.


The $45 AUD optional rain cover that should come as standard with the pack considering its $365 AUD price. To add insult to injury it is difficult to attach and mine has already started to have it weather resistant PU backing wear through rending it not rain resistant and therefore redundant.

In conclusion The MindShift Rotation 180º Horizon 34L is quite an innovative product that solves carrying camera equipment on day hikes into the wilderness. The concept is quite brilliant and I’m astounded that no-one has done it before. Unfortunately the execution of the product lets it down and it seems very expensive for a bag that I’ll probably end up throwing away in 12-18 months as it has worn out. I think that MindShift should construct the pack from heavier duty Cordura Pack cloth throughout and make sure that the polyurethane backing is more durable. A pack cover should be integral to the main pack body not an optional extra. If they did that it would be an excellent product. Ah well back to a proper walking pack and camera pouches.




Get A Grip

The Neewer DMW-BGG1 battery grip for the Panasonic Lumix G85.


There’s no doubt about it that micro four thirds cameras offer superb performance in a compact body. My favourite cameras have been the EM10 Mki and the EP-5 equipped with one of the excellent prime lenses such as the 25mm f1.8 or the 45mm f1.8. Trouble arises when you slap a bigger lens on such as the truly excellent Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8. It’s possible to use them but it feels unwieldy and uncomfortable for long periods. So the solution was to buy a bigger bodied camera such as the EM1 Mki. I was lucky that I managed to blag a good deal and it included HLD-7 battery grip. In day-to-day usage that grip has never left the camera. When I got the Panasonic Leica 100-400 I started using it primarily on the EM1 and it felt well-balanced, but I wasn’t getting the use of the 5 axis dual image stabilisation. So I thought I’d slap it on front of the G85 that I bought for video. Problem solved for the image stabilisation, but then I felt I needed a bit more real estate for the hands. 


The Neewer DMW-BGG1 battery grip for the Panasonic Lumix G85.


Looking online I saw the Panasonic BGG1 Battery Grip was $362 AUD. Now I don’t know about you but lately I think the camera manufacturers have been having a lend of us with camera grips. The new Canon EOS R’s grip retails for $599 AUD and the Fuji X-H1’s is $499 AUD. This is why there is a thriving market in cheap Chinese knock offs, but these tend to be for the best-selling cameras from Canon and Nikon. A lot of people regard these as crap, but back in 2010 I’d bought a Canon 550d and wanted a grip and I ended up buying one by Aputure from eBay for a whopping $40. It is still going strong, in fact it is in better nick than the camera body which I’ve had to superglue together on a couple of occasions. So I was definitely open to the idea of an after market grip, but I was under the impression that there wouldn’t be one as Panasonic don’t command a big enough market share. The other week I was trawling the internet looking for some batteries for my G85 and I found on Amazon Australia for the grand price of $61 AUD the battery grip DMW-BGG1 Battery Grip. So I took the plunge.


The Neewer DMW-BGG1 battery grip for the Panasonic Lumix G85.


The Neewer DMW-BGG1 battery grip for the Panasonic Lumix G85.


Ok first impressions. It’s made of plastic, but so is the body of the G85. It seems to be a pretty faithful copy of the Panasonic version right down to the recessed area for holding the rubber cover for the electrical contacts from the camera. The buttons and dials don’t feel as nice as those on the camera but they work well. The only downsides are that the tripod mount is not under the axis of the lens and it is obviously not weather sealed. For me these weren’t a big deal. In use the grip is comfortable and fits the contours of the camera body well. It helps provide a nice comfy grip, especially in the portrait orientation and the extra battery is a welcome addition when shooting video.I’ve been using it for a couple of months and it has been great. A good buy. 


The Neewer DMW-BGG1 battery grip for the Panasonic Lumix G85.


The Neewer DMW-BGG1 battery grip for the Panasonic Lumix G85.

Broadening My Horizons…


… with the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 micro four thirds lens which will be referred to hence forth as the 8-18 for brevity’s sake. For those who prefer video there is a video review at the bottom of the page.

The 8-18 was introduced as part of Panasonic’s Leica branded f2.8-4 lens range in April 2017. I was immediately interested as I wanted a wide-angle zoom in m4/3. I had discounted the existing Panasonic 7-14mm f4 and the Olympus 7-14mm f2.8 because they wouldn’t accept screw in filters and the Olympus 9-18mm f4-5.6 because the collapsible design means the lens is prone to failure due to the internal ribbon cables breaking. The new 8-18 presented itself with a high quality metal construction that was splash proof and a modest 67mm filter thread. I wanted to use the lens for video work and so the ability to take a variable neutral density filter was a must. So when the lens became available here in Australia I plonked my cash down and got one.


My first impression on opening the box was that it is a quality bit of kit – it feels nice in the hand with a cool metallic feel and satisfying density. The bulbous front element is well recessed and combined with the excellent locking lens hood means that it is protected from stray light and from being physically damaged. The lens barrel has two ring controls – the front being for focus and the rear for zoom – and a switch for selecting auto or manual focus.The focusing ring is of the fly-by-wire type that twiddles endlessly – I wish that Panasonic would follow Olympus’s lead and have the pull back clutch type focusing rings with hard stops. The zoom ring is nicely damped and travels in a smooth 90º rotation. Another gripe is that both Panasonic and Olympus are members of the m4/3 consortium so why oh why can’t they agree on which way the zoom ring turns? Both zoom and focus are internal which is nice as it does not affect the centre of balance while using a gimbal. The lens body is finished in a smooth black satin with the engravings done in the Leica font and colours. The lens mount is metal and looks to be chrome plated brass. So full marks to Panasonic for presentation.

Vital Statistics

lens mount m4/3
focal length 8-18mm (16-36mm 35mm full frame equivalent)
angle of view 62º – 107º
maximum aperture f2.8-4
minimum aperture f22
filter size 67mm
optical stabilisation no
internal focusing yes
internal zoom yes
minimum focusing distance 23cm
maximum magnification 0.12 x
number of lens elements 15
number of lens groups 10
weight 315g
length 88mm
diameter 73.4mm


The lens construction is 15 elements in 10 groups with 1 aspherical extra low dispersion element, 2 extra low dispersion elements and 1 ultra high refractive index element. Combined with the nano coatings they should reduce internal flare, distortion and chromatic aberration. Control of distortion and chromatic aberration is also aided by an internal software profile that is baked into the image file. A lot of people don’t like this approach as they feel corrections should be made optically. The main criticism is that there is too much of an image quality hit in the corners with this approach. Hasselblad was the manufacturer to take this approach with their H3 camera and when that was introduced there were few complaints about image quality. The reality is that using lens profiles means lenses can be cheaper, smaller, and lighter than their optically optimised brethren.

The 8-18 has a variable aperture and unfortunately it quickly steps down as you zoom in as can be seen by the chart below.

8mm f2.8
9mm f3.1
10mm f3.2
12mm f3.4
14mm f3.6
18mm f4

Test Results

I’ve done my standard tests to look for distortion, chromatic aberration, and sharpness at 8mm, 12mm and 18mm to give an indication of how the lens does throughout its zoom range. I have just for interest sake posted images with no profile correction to give an idea of what the lens is actually doing. Click on the images to see them at full size.


8mm at f2.8 no lens profile applied



8mm at f2.8 with internal profile applied.

At 8mm without any inbuilt lens profile applied there is very obvious barrel distortion and vignetting at f2.8. With the profile applied there is still a very slight barrel distortion and the vignetting remains until f5.6. In terms of sharpness well at f2.8 the centre of the image is nicely sharp and contrasty and remain so until f16 when diffraction kicks in and softens the image. In the corners the story is different, at f2.8 the corners are significantly softer and less contrasty than the centre, they improve a little as you stop down reaching best performance at f5.6 and then get worse at f16 with diffraction. A small amount of chromatic aberration is present throughout the aperture range and is easily corrected in post.


12mm at f3.4 no lens profile applied


12mm at f3.4 with profile applied.

At 12mm we can see no distortion when the lens profile is applied and the vignetting is about 1/2 stop and is barely discernible. Wide open at f3.4 the centre of the image is sharp and contrasty and the best performance is at f5.6. In the corners the image is softer and has less contrast than the centre. The best performance is at f8. Diffraction starts to set in at f11.


18mm at f4 no lens profile


18mm at f4 with internal profile applied.

At 18mm there is some pincushion distortion in the profile corrected image. There is also a tiny bit of vignetting at f4 but this clears up at f5.6. Sharpness at f4 is very, very good in the centre throughout the aperture range only deteriorating at f16 due to diffraction.The corners are remarkably sharp at f4 but have slightly less contrast than the centre. Peak performance sets in at f5.6 and then again diffraction rears its ugly head at f16 and spoils the party. Chromatic aberration is very well controlled across the whole range and is very, very slight.

Like most ultra wide-angle zooms Panasonic’s 8-18mm f2.8-4 is prone to flare. The recessed front element and tulip lens hood do minimise this, but with the sun in the frame you will see veiling flare. When stopped down you can achieve nice sun stars.

Like most wide-angle zooms the 8-18 is prone to flare. In order to reduce this the engineers recessed the front lens element and then provided a decent lens hood. The Panasonic 7-14mm f4 caused purple blobs on Olympus cameras when there was a specular light source in the frame. Some people pointed the finger at the difference in UV coatings between Panasonic and Olympus cameras. Others said the thickness of the Olympus sensor stack caused the problem. Anyway the 8-18 is thankfully free of those artefacts. Shooting into the sun there is some veiling flare and ghosting.

Auto focus is done via a stepping motor and it is designed to work with Panasonic’s Depth From Defocus technology that is basically a contrast based auto focus system that is enhanced by software profiles for each Panasonic lens. Single point autofocus in single shot drive mode is incredibly fast and accurate. I decided to check the Continuous Auto Focus by continuous shooting at medium speed wide open on the Panasonic G85 with a person walking slowly towards the camera at focal lengths of 8mm and 18mm. All the shots were in focus. Then I tried to see how the lens would perform on a camera without DFD – in this case an Olympus OMD EM1 mk i. At 8mm and f2.8 all the images were in focus. At 18mm shooting a burst of 10 images the camera lost focus on the last 2 images of the burst. So this very limited test shows that the autofocus of the lens does perform better on Panasonic cameras with DFD.


The Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f2.8-4 lens with Cokin P system wide-angle lens filter holder attached.

Ok I’ve had the lens a year now and I’ve used it for stills, time lapses and video shooting on the afore-mentioned EM1 and G85 along with an EP5 and EM10 so what can I say. The in camera lens profiles make a huge difference in terms of distortion, but most people won’t see this as they’ll see the corrected images. I did expect this to have some impact on sharpness in the corners but was pleasantly surprised to find that not the case at all. Most zooms perform best at the short end and become softer at the long end. With my copy of the 8-18 this lens is very good at the long end and it is a little softer at the short end. The ability to use filters is a boon for landscape photography and video. The 67mm filter size does not make filter purchases onerous and with the wide-angle filter holder you can use the Cokin P filter system with rectangular filter with an 85mm width. It is really nice not to use filters the size of dinner plates with this lens. I’ve been caught in a couple of downpours while using the 8-18 and have had no problems. I have found the lens immensely satisfying to use and have put it to more uses than I originally thought I would. In all I feel it is a very good lens if you can live without a fixed aperture. I would definitely recommend it.


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