Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 ASPH Power OIS - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - (Micro-)Four-Thirds

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published December 2019

Introduction

There are long lenses and REALLY long lenses - and the Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 ASPH Power OIS falls into the 2nd category. While the focal length range is nothing special on paper, it translates to "200-800mm" on full-format cameras. This illustrates one of the advantages of the Micro-Four-Thirds system - thanks to the 2x crop factor, Tele lenses can be extreme with comparatively little design efforts and they can be offered at a very reasonable price. These days the Leica lens can be yours for about 1400EUR/1500USD and there are fairly frequent promotions. That's still a lot of money but it's still darn affordable within its scope. The lens is also very compact at just 171mm in length and light-weight at a tad below 1Kg without accessories. Of course, there is also a reason for that - the rather slow maximum aperture and the corresponding limits in terms of depth-of-field. Such is life - you can't have it all, of course.

The build quality is impressive. The body is an all-metal construction and everything's pretty tight - and some may argue that it's too tight when it comes to the zoom mechanism. You can also use a zoom lock at any position in the zoom range. The focus ring operates smoothly. It is one of the few modern lenses with a telescope-style lens hood albeit it's rather tiny. However, an additional conventional lens hood is also provided. Besides the two lens hoods, the lens also features two tripod mounts - reads: there is one straight on the lens with a very low profile and you can attach an add-on tripod mount when needed. This is an outdoor-focused lens and Panasonic/Leica was smart enough to implement weather-sealing.

The AF is surprisingly fast and essentially noiseless. A focus limiter is provided to limit focus-hunting. Modern Tele lenses are pretty much always provided with an image stabilizer these days and the Leica lens is no exception. The manufacturer isn't overly vocal about the efficiency but don't expect more than a 2, maybe 3 f-stops gain in real-life. Beyond 300mm, it is also fairly obvious that the image stabilizer is at its limit. Using a Panasonic camera featuring Dual IS instead of an Olympus camera may be a good idea wit this lens.

The product image below shows the fully extended lens at 400mm with the add-on lens hood and add-on tripod mount.

Specifications
Equivalent focal length (full format)"200-800mm"
Equivalent aperture (depth-of-field)"f/8-12.6"
Optical construction20 elements in 13 groups inc. 1x aspherical ED , 1x UED, 2x ED
Number of aperture blades9 (rounded)
min. focus distance1.4m (max. magnification 1:4)
Dimensions83x171mm
Weight985g
Filter size72
Hoodbarrel-shaped (built-in), add-on external lens hood
Other featurestripod mount, image stabilizer, splash/dust-proof