Panasonic Lumix S PRO 16-35mm f/4 lens (S-R1635)
The low inherent levels of distortion and vignetting (not to say other aberrations) will make this lens a sound choice for landscape and architectural photographers and anyone else needing a capable, aberration-free wide angle lens. Although not exactly cheap, its relatively modest price tag puts it within the ‘affordable’ range for its target professional user.
This lens is a welcome addition to the growing portfolio of Panasonic lenses with L-mounts, which has now reached six and comprises the 50mm f/1.4, 24-105mm f/4, 70-200mm f/4, 70-200mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8 and 16-35mm f/4 lenses. The company has promised to add five more lenses in 2020. Sigma has also been making L-mount lenses, with 11 scheduled before the end of 2019 and three more coming in early 2020, so buyers of Panasonic’s S-series cameras won’t be without options.
The Lumix S PRO 16-35mm f/4 lens is one of two lenses announced at the beginning of November for Panasonic’s S-series of ‘full frame’ mirrorless cameras. It fills a significant gap in the company’s L-Mount line-up and combines professional build quality and performance with a compact, relatively lightweight design. This lens is equally suitable for shooting both still images and video clips. It has been built with dust and splash resistance and it is also freeze-resistant to -10oC, making it suitable for use in challenging environments.
Angled view of the Lumix S PRO 16-35mm f/4 lens without the supplied cap and lens hood. (Source: Panasonic.)
The optical design of this lens is relatively complex, consisting of 22 elements in 17 groups with three aspherical elements plus one extra-low dispersion element and one ultra extra-low dispersion element. The combination reduces weight, addresses spherical and chromatic aberrations and minimises distortion.
This diagram shows the positions of the exotic elements in the Lumix S PRO 16-35mm f/4 lens. (Source: Panasonic.)
Autofocusing is driven by a double magnet linear motor and the lens includes a clutch mechanism for instant manual focus switching and accurate manual focusing. The design suppresses focus breathing to ensure smooth zooming when focus is changed quickly from infinity to close focus. A push-pull clutch mechanism enables instant AF/MF switching and precise manual focusing.
Nine diaphragm blades close to a circular aperture, which optimises bokeh quality. This lens accepts 77mm filters and is supplied with a petal-shaped lens hood that includes a locking button as well as end caps and a soft carrying pouch.
Who’s it For?
Wide-angle lenses are sought after by landscape and architectural photographers as well as those who take group portraits. Many also value the different perspective a wider lens can impart to subjects that are normally photographed with longer lenses.
While not the widest lens available for L-Mount cameras (the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art lens takes that honour), the Panasonic lens is the widest from the company so far. The inherent distortion associated with ultra-wide-angle lenses must be taken into account when using this lens, although rectilinear distortion is actually very well corrected by in-camera adjustments. Check out the sample images for examples of the effects that can occur when shooting at 16mm.
With a constant f/4 maximum aperture this lens is not particularly fast although, since speed is seldom a priority for landscape photographers, it should be fast enough for most potential users. Its closed length of a little less than 100 mm and weight of around half a kilogram, make it compact enough to use with ease on the relatively large S-series bodies.
Weatherproof sealing makes it tough enough to be used in inclement conditions when paired with a similarly-sealed camera, like the S1H. As a professional lens, it’s also competitively priced.
Build and Ergonomics
Build quality is similar to other lenses in Panasonic’s L-Mount range and generally very solid. While much of the exterior of the lens is made from polycarbonate plastic, it’s on a metal base, which gives the lens a robust feel.
The zoom and focusing rings have been designed to be comfortable and easy to use. Zooming from 35mm to 16mm extends the inner barrel by roughly 8 mm without changing the orientation of the lens. The supplied, petal-shaped lens hood is made from rigid black plastic and adds about 15 mm to the overall length of the lens when it’s in position. A locking button clicks in to keep it in position and make it quick and easy to remove when required.
The focusing ring is located at the front of the outer barrel and turns through 360 degrees. It’s 19 mm wide, with a grip band of rubber-like ridging covering 12 mm around its leading edge.
Manual focus is selected by pulling this ring back to expose a distance scale marked in metres and feet, which ranges from 0.29 metres to infinity. With the ring pushed forwards, the scale is covered and the lens is set to AF mode.
Behind the focusing ring is a 13 mm wide fixed section of the outer barrel, on which the name of the lens is stamped in white lettering. The zoom ring starts immediately behind it. It’s 19 mm wide, with a 15 mm wide band of rubber-like ridging that is slightly thicker then the fine ridges of the focusing ring.
The remainder of the zoom ring carries stamped indicators for the 16mm, 20mm, 24mm, 28mm and 35mm focal lengths, which are lined up against a prominent white line on the fixed section of the barrel between the zoom ring and the mount. This section of the barrel is approximately 15 mm wide and carries a branding logo plus zoom range and minimum focus indicators.
The rest of the outer barrel slopes inwards to the lens mount, which is solid chromed metal. Ten gold-plated contacts inside the mount provide contact points for signals to pass between the camera and lens.
The supplied petal-shaped lens hood has a locking button to keep it in place, whether it’s positioned for shooting or reversed for storage. It’s easy to attach via a bayonet fitting at the front of the inner barrel.
Imatest showed the review lens to be a fair performer on the S1H camera we used for our tests. However, it only just met expectations for the sensor’s resolution in JPEG files when sampled around the centre of the frame. Towards the periphery, resolution declined a little.
With raw files, which were converted in to 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw, resolution comfortably exceeded expectations around the centre of the frame and just exceeded them towards the periphery. As expected with such a wide-angle lens, edge softening occurred at all focal lengths and with aperture settings down to f/11, where diffraction began to take effect. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration remained well within the negligible band at all aperture settings. We found no evidence of coloured fringing in test shots, even when in-camera corrections were switched off. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
Assessment of vignetting and distortion were carried out on uncorrected raw files, which were converted in to 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw. Slight vignetting could be seen at f/4 with the 16mm and 20mm focal lengths but it was difficult to discern from 24mm on. (Atmospheric conditions when the tests were conducted may have had some influence on our assessments.)
Rectilinear distortion was surprisingly low for an ultra-wide-angle lens. Although barrel distortion could be seen at 16mm and slight pincushion distortion at 35mm, the intervening focal lengths were effectively distortion-free.
Like the other lenses tested in this batch, the 16-35mm lens was relatively immune to ghosting and flare, a surprising finding for such a wide-angle lens. Normally backlit subjects were generally handled very well.
With a minimum focus of 25 cm, this lens is not really suitable for close-ups even when subjects are relatively large. Nor is it a brilliant choice for portraiture, although it could be useful for photographing groups of people.
We found autofocusing to be a little challenging when shooting close-ups with wide aperture settings, even though the f/4 maximum aperture didn’t provide much subject isolation. Bokeh was reasonably smooth for a lens of this type but not without issues like outlining of highlights and a failure to blur out background details.
With the types of subjects for which this lens is best suited, autofocusing was almost always fast, accurate and quiet. Subject tracking was, in the main, competently handled.
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Picture angle: 63 to 107 degrees
Minimum aperture: f/22
Lens construction: 12 elements in 9 groups (including 3 aspherical, 1ED and 1UHR elements)
Lens mounts: L-Mount
Diaphragm Blades: 9 (circular aperture)
Focus drive: Double-magnet linear motor system
Minimum focus: 25 cm
Maximum magnification: 0.23x
Filter size: 77 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 85 x 99.6 mm
Weight: Approx. 500 grams
Standard Accessories: Lens front and end caps, lens hood, storage bag
Distributor: Panasonic Australia, Ph. 132 600; www.panasonic.com.au
Based on JPEG files taken with the Lumix DC-S1 camera.
Results from RW2.RAW files captured simultaneously.
Vignetting at 16mm, f/4.
Vignetting at 20mm, f/4.
Vignetting at 24mm, f/4.
Vignetting at 28mm, f/4.
Vignetting at 35mm, f/4.
Rectilinear distortion at 16mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 20mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 24mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 28mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 35mm.
16mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/800 second at f/7.1.
20mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/800 second at f/7.1.
24mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1000 second at f/7.1.
28mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1000 second at f/7.1.
35mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/800 second at f/7.1.
16mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/8.
35mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/8.
Close-up at 16mm, ISO 400, 1/640 second at f/4.
Close-up at 35mm, ISO 400, 1/640 second at f/4.
Portrait shot, 35mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/800 second at f/4.
Strong backlighting; 17mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1000 second at f/8.
Strong backlighting; 16mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/2000 second at f/8.
35mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/9.
Crop from the above image at 100% magnification showing no coloured fringing.
16mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/8. Note the distortion in the park bench on the lower right hand corner.
Crop from the above image at 100% magnification showing slight edge softening.
16mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/11.
35mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/11.
RRP: AU$2499; US$1499
- Build: 9.0
- Handling: 9.0
- Image quality: 8.9
- Versatility: 8.7