Home L-Mount Panasonic 24-70 S Pro: How it stacks up against Leica’s Vario-Elmarit-SL and...

Panasonic 24-70 S Pro: How it stacks up against Leica’s Vario-Elmarit-SL and the Lumix 24-105 S

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Vintage lunch — Panasonic Lumix S1 and "cheapo" kit zoom

Leica’s Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4.0 ASPH is one of the best medium-range zoom lenses I have ever encountered. It’s big (138mm long without hood), it’s heavy (1,140g) it’s bold and it’s stuffed with peerless glass and ingenious technical wizardry. It supplies epic performance for its £3,700 price tag.

Apart from the size, I have not a word of criticism of this Leica lens. If you can afford it and can cope with the weight then go for it. You will not be disappointed.

Nowadays, though, it isn’t the only lens in town, thanks to the advent of the L-Mount Alliance.

The new 24-70 S Pro promises "stunning performance" and sells at a very attractive price. Note the full-out manual-focus distance scale which is something you don't get on the 24-105. On the down side, the 24-70 lacks in-built optical stabilisation.
The new 24-70 S Pro promises “stunning performance” and sells at a very attractive price. Note the pull-out manual-focus distance scale which is something you don’t get on the 24-105. On the downside, the 24-70 lacks in-built optical stabilisation.

When Panasonic introduced the S1 and S1R cameras earlier this year, the standard lens offering was the S 24-105mm f/4 Macro OIS.

It bears a silver S imprint on the barrel, denoting that it isn’t “Certified by Leica”. If it had been (and the other lenses in the initial range are) it would have had a red S imprint and “Pro” tagged on to its name. Nice to know.

The little red logo

But that red logo does add quite a bit to the retail price and more than a few ounces to the weight. And, frankly, the 24-105mm is a really good lens for what it is. I own it and I am not noticeably deprived by the lack of the Leica approval, nor do I feel in any way shortchanged. Jonathan Slack liked it, too, when he reviewed the Panasonic S1:

The ‘kit lens’ 24-105 f/4 is a really good workhorse. It is without frills, but also free of vices…… It focused fast and without issue, and it’s quite usable at all focal lengths and all apertures. This lens is relatively light, very good ergonomically and very sharp. It might not be quite as stellar as the Leica 24-90, but it’s considerably lighter and about a third of the price! 

At 690g the 24-105mm it is very light for what it offers. With a price tag of £1,300, it represents excellent value for money. In fact, it’s well worth buying the kit instead of the S1 or S1R body alone because there is a useful in-built discount.

Vintage lunch — Panasonic Lumix S1 and "cheapo" kit zoom
Vintage lunch — Panasonic Lumix S1 and “cheapo” kit zoom
The 24-105mm is a good choice for general use, especially for events, and it is very light compared with "pro" zooms
Dun Lunchin’ :The 24-105mm is a good choice for general use, especially for events, and it is very light compared with “pro” zooms

In short, I am very satisfied with my un-Pro zoom, with its constant f/4 and great handling. If I look lustfully at Leica’s Vario-Elmarit, I chastise myself with the thought of those extra ounces. On the contrary, far from succumbing to lust, I can’t help feeling that if the 24-105mm is the cheapo kit lens, the 24-70mm could be a stunner.

Focal-length dilemma

This Panasonic Lumix S Pro 24-70mm F2.8 loses out to both Leica’s Vario-Elmarit and the Lumix 24-105 in covering a more modest 24-70mm focal range. This is perhaps its major disadvantage when stacked up against the Vario-Elmarit. I find the focal range of the 24-105mm or 24-90mm preferable in an all-rounder of this nature.

Yet the new zoom a raft of attractions. It has a constant f/4 aperture, for a start, and claims to offer the same image quality (“stunning quality” according to the press release) provided by the Leica lens. It displays that red S to add some support to the argument. It also has the advantage of relative lightness — 935g — although it is just as big as the Leica Vario-Elmarit. It also adds a pull-down manual focus ring which I like.

On the negative size, strangely, this lens does not include optical image stabilisation, unlike the Leica Vario-Elmarit. Assuming, though, that it performs as well as expected, then this lens is a bargain. When it arrives in October it will cost $2,200 or, perhaps, £2,100 (including tax) on this side of the Atlantic.

New versus used

Would you prefer the save the cash and go for the Lumix S Pro instead of the Leica SL Vario-Elmarit? From my perspective, I’m not sure. I will reserve judgment until I’ve seen the comparative tests or, perhaps, tried the new lens for myself.

As a new buy, the Lumix will undoubtedly be compelling. But when compared with a used Vario-Elmarit-SL — a lens that is a known and very much loved quantity — the choice is less clear. I suspect the Vario-Elmarit, at the right price, will be a better long-term bet both in terms of user satisfaction and lower depreciation.

Meanwhile, as someone who uses primes most of the time, I feel that the light and inexpensive un-Pro 24-105mm makes a cracking all-rounder and produces some excellent results.

DPReview announcement of the Panasonic Lumix 24-70mm Pro.

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi Mike, I used to own the Leica SL 24-90 and it was a sensational lens. However, it was killer heavy on the SL for periods longer than 2 to 3 hours. I may be able to carry it longer on the Panasonic S1R but I really do not need the stunning quality as I prefer to use primes when possible for a number of reasons. I use it for event photography where lesser zooms are adequate. I have only had the Panasonic 24-105 for a few days but preliminary experience is way more than adequate rendering for general photography. There is more visible sharpness drop off at wide aperture at edges but only noticeable at pixel peeping which I do not care Bout. There appears to be strong software corrections of distortion but final image looks fine. I need to check the lens out more to reach a final verdict. I love how it handles and it feels so compact and noticeably lighter on the camera. It is a pleasure to shhot with. I also love its more extended reach of 105 as 135mm is a favourite focal length of mine and I can easily crop image with minimal loss.
    I have no interest in a 24-70. Been there, done that. I would rather carry one or two primes instead of a monster variable “35mm” lens. I see their value for things like weddings but it is not my cup of tea.

    Also, I got an amazing kit deal due to $1500 off sale on kit so the lens is very low priced and seems to be suitable for my zoom needs.

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