Panasonic Canada lend me a 35-100mm f/2.8 zoom for two weeks so I can try it and tell you what I think about it. I liked it but did not fell in love with it. OK, we're done! Next post!
Hmmmm, ok, if you insist, I can tell you some details. This is not really a lens review. Take it more as a bar discussion between two photographers. ;)
When I was shooting with my 5D Mark II, the 70-200mm was my second favorite lens. I still have a soft spot for my 35mm f/1.4, especially for lifestyle. For portrait, the 70-200mm was on the top of the list though. The Panasonic 35-100mm zoom is the equivalent in terms of angle of view.
It is a solid lens, well built and weatherproof. It is also a lot lighter than I expected. Constant f/2.8 aperture usually means heavy lenses but not in this case.
What I like most about it is its versatility. I love that focal range for portraits and events. It allows you to sneak in without being in the face of the person you photograph. It is a great lens for wedding cocktails when you want to take candid shots of people talking together (or of a drunk uncle about to fumble down the stairs). The focal range is very nice for food photography. It is also very useful in video.
The constant f/2.8 aperture is essential for wedding photographers. Some churches or venues are so dark that I'd say f/2.8 is a minimum to have. I would love it if Panasonic or Olympus could make a f/2 zoom lens for micro 4/3.
Autofocus and DFD
Like most micro 4/3 lenses, the autofocus is really fast and precise. I used it with the GH4 and the Depth of Defocus (DFD) gives a really good continuous autofocus (C-AF). I even used the Tracking C-AF with good results. At 200mm equivalent at the long end, it's still way to short for many sports, like Football, but good for others.
Wide open, the sharpness is acceptable but not as good as the prime lenses I'm using. I admit that the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 is in a class of its own. The 35-100mm does a good job and the stabilization can help with that in low-light, but you will have to close the lens a bit to get the best out of it.
At f/2.8, you get good separation from the background, especially in close-up shots. Once again, there is a big difference with the primes, especially if the subject is a certain distance from the camera. Shooting at f/1.8 or f/2 makes a big difference in the depth of field when compared to f/2.8. Here are some shots of my boy at his hip-hop class, taken with the Panasonic 35-100mm and the Olympus 75mm.
Photography is always about compromises. In the case of the Panasonic 35-100mm, it's a compromise between versatility and image quality (IQ). The IQ is good but what I get from my prime lenses is simply better. For photography, I will keep shooting with the 45mm and 75mm f/1.8 primes. For video, the Panasonic 35-100mm is a very good choice though. Being able to switch from a medium shot to a close up shot without moving the tripod or changing lenses is really useful. If you often shoot in the rain or in harsh weather, the Panasonic 35-100mm wins over the primes that are not weather-sealed.
Another point that might be silly but I did not have fun shooting with it. I guess I'm used to shooting with primes and to move around. When I use a zoom lens, I tend to be more static. I think I get lazy, and in my case, it is always a bad thing. Being lazy and staying at the same spot makes you miss opportunities. Moving around will sometimes result in a shot that you did not think about at first. Here are some of the photos taken with the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8.