Panasonic announced the Lumix S 100mm f/2.8 Macro, the world’s smallest and lightest full-frame macro lens with a focal length greater than 90mm.
The 1:1 macro lens has the same chassis as Panasonic’s five f/1.8 L-Mount prime lenses, which the company says ensures efficient workflows for users with gimbals and cinema rigs. Users can easily swap between the 18mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm f/1.8 primes and the new 100mm macro lens. Beyond a unified size, all six lenses sport similar centers of gravity and balance.
The Lumix S 100mm f/2.8 Macro’s complete dimensions help put its impressively compact stature into perspective. Its maximum diameter is 73.6 millimeters, the lens is 82mm long, and it weighs only 298 grams — a mere 10.5 ounces.
Consider the Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S. The lens, which includes optical image stabilization — which is something Panasonic’s lens lacks — weighs 630 grams and is 140mm long. It is also considerably wider with an 85mm diameter. Another 105mm f/2.8 macro lens, the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 DG DN Macro Art, weighs 715 grams and is 133.6mm long. Even the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS lens, which offers a bit shorter of a focal length, weighs 602 grams and is 130.5mm long.
Shaving off roughly half the weight of its competitors and reducing the lens length by a third required significant engineering efforts, which can be broken down into four primary achievements. Starting with the optical design, Panasonic’s new macro lens incorporates a double focus system which reduces the lens length by 25mm. The lens also has a trio of aspherical lenses, which Panasonic says shrinks the lens by another 20mm.
Of the optical arrangement in general, the lens includes 13 elements organized across 11 groups. Of these 13 elements, in addition to the three aspherical elements, there are two UED elements and a single ED optic.
Related to the double focus system is a new Dual Phase Linear Motor Actuator for the main focus group. The high-performance actuator promises two to three times the thrust of conventional linear motors while being about half the size. The sub-focus group is driven by a stepping motor actuator.
No detail can be overlooked when trying to make a lens fit into an existing barrel design. Panasonic has also designed a new thinner aperture with a smaller diameter. The company’s engineers have also built a new, high-density circuit board that occupies less space inside the lens.
The optical design, autofocus motor, thinner aperture, smaller circuit board, and meticulous design result in one of the most impressively compact lenses in the L-Mount system and arguably one of the most remarkable “lens shrinking” efforts seen in any mirrorless lens.
Returning to autofocus, Panasonic says that sluggish, jerky, and loud autofocus performance is a common downside to most macro lenses, preventing them from being versatile and useful across many types of photo and video applications. The company promises its unique autofocus technology to ensure the new 100mm f/2.8 Macro doesn’t fall victim to this pitfall. Similarly, while some macro lenses suffer from heavy focus breathing, Panasonic says its new lens doesn’t have this problem.
Even with the promised autofocus performance, when shooting at or near 1:1 magnification, manual focus will be a typical selection for photographers. The Lumix S 100mm f/2.8 has a new focus ring mechanism and giant magnetoresistance (GMR) sensor that detects the ring’s rotation with six times greater precision than conventional methods. By the way, the minimum focusing distance is 0.204 meters (8.03 inches) and the barrel includes a focus range limiter switch.
Regarding image quality, which PetaPixel must thoroughly test, Panasonic has prioritized edge-to-edge sharpness and consistent bokeh across the frame. In test images seen before today’s announcement, center sharpness looked good, but the corner performance was perhaps more impressive, as there is minimal performance falloff toward the periphery.
The same goes for the bokeh performance. Arguably, Sigma’s lens produces rounder bokeh in the center, but Panasonic’s offering is more consistent across the image because Sigma’s macro lens experiences rather significant cat’s eye effects. When viewing Panasonic’s test images, which cannot be shared externally, PetaPixel noted onion ring effects on the new Panasonic lens. It’ll be interesting to see how this affects real-world performance, if at all.
The 100mm f/2.8 Macro Has Been in the Works for a While, but Technology Needed to Catch Up
During discussions with Panasonic, PetaPixel asked if the new macro lens, which shares its physical design with Panasonic’s f/1.8 prime lenses, had been on the company’s radar since the f/1.8 series began. As it turns out, it has been desired internally the entire time.
However, there are a couple of reasons why the macro lens is only arriving now, years after the 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm f/1.8 primes. The company wanted to prioritize more popular focal lengths like these, which is also a big reason why the Lumix S 18mm f/1.8 wide-angle prime released last year was late to the party.
In the case of the 100mm f/2.8 Macro, Panasonic did not have the technology to make the lens work in an identical chassis. The Dual Phase Linear Actuator, redesigned circuit board, and new aperture diaphragm didn’t exist at the advent of Panasonic’s f/1.8 prime series.
It is an excellent example of what engineers do to make innovative new lenses work. The problem was that Panasonic didn’t have the means to make a 100mm f/2.8 macro lens fit into the compact, short chassis. The solution was to attack the problem from every possible angle, including optical design, focus systems, circuitry, and even the aperture, which is generally quite standardized within a lens system.
Consistent Look and ‘Feel’ Across the Lineup
Another topic that came up during PetaPixel‘s discussions with Panasonic is the company’s insistence that its lenses, especially those in a cohesive set like the f/1.8 primes (and now the f/2.8 macro lens), deliver a consistent “look.” This includes color rendition, contrast, flare, and handling of aberrations.
Even across diverse focal lengths, all with unique optical designs, Panasonic’s engineers do extensive testing and calibration to dial in nearly identical images across multiple lenses. The precise arrangement of lenses and how each wavelength of light travels through the lens to the sensor matters, but so do the coatings that Panasonic uses on its glass elements. The team gets as close as possible using optical design, which is also its philosophy for correcting distortion and focus breathing. Then, it cleans up any loose ends using software-based lens corrections.
Pricing and Availability
The Panasonic Lumix S 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens will be available beginning later this month or early next month and will retail for $1,000.
Image credits: Panasonic