Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4 ASPH Power OIS - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - (Micro-)Four-Thirds

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published December 2019

Introduction

Every serious system is offering a holy trinity of the fast zoom lenses covering the ultra-wide, standard and medium-tele range ... that's with the exception of Micro-Four-Thirds. They got two sets of them. While Olympus is following the more traditional approach of providing f/2.8 lenses, Panasonic/Leica has relaxed the specs a bit by focusing on f/2.8-4 variants. Regarding the philosophy behind Micro-Four-Thirds, the latter makes sense because such variable aperture lenses are more compact. This also applies to the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4 ASPH Power OIS with its weight of merely 655g and a length of just 132mm. Unfortunately, the lens is a giant when it comes to the pricing of around 1500EUR/USD. This is very similar to the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO IS which may have a smaller range but which is ultimately faster. Please note that none of these lenses are actually comparable with a 70-200mm f/2.8 on full format cameras. Instead, the Leica lens offers a range equivalent to "100-400mm" and less depth-of-field potential.

You may wonder why this lens is called a "Vario-Elmarit" vs the Leica DG "Vario-Elmar" 100-400mm f/4-6.3 ASPH Power OIS. Vario obviously relates to a zoom lens. An "Elmarit" is a Leica designation for zoom lenses with an aperture of f/2.8. "Elmar" lenses are slower than that. Of course, they are cheating a little here because the 50-200mm is not a straight f/2.8 lens and other than at 50mm you are operating at f/3+ - e.g. at 100mm, you have reached f/3.6 already.

The build quality is superb. It's an all-metal construction and the zoom mechanism feels as good as it gets. The focus ring is also very smooth. Unsurprisingly, the lens is both splash- as well as dust-proof but Panasonic went the extra mile - it's also freeze-proof down to -10C. On the downside, it is a bit prone to zoom creeping and there's no zoom lock. Some may also criticize the lack of a dedicated tripod mount but regarding the weight of the lens, there's little need for that really. A deep, barrel-shaped lens hood is provided.

The AF is very fast and essentially noiseless. Typical for most Panasonic/Leica lenses, the 50-200mm f/2.8-4 features an image stabilizer ("Power OIS"). We didn't find any claims regarding its efficiency but in real life, we'd rate it somewhere between 3-4 f-stops. If you have a Panasonic camera featuring Dual IS, it's more than that. It is also possible to use this lens on Panasonic's 1.4x (DMW-TC14) and 2x (DMW-TC20) teleconverters. While you gain range, you'll also lose 1 or 2 f-stops in speed respectively. These are fairly expensive options though ... once again.

Specifications
Equivalent focal length (full format)"100-400mm"
Equivalent aperture (depth-of-field)"f/5.6-8"
Optical construction21 elements in 15 groups inc. 2x aspherical, 2x UED, 2x ED, 1x UHR
Number of aperture blades9 (rounded)
min. focus distance0.75m (max. magnification 1:4)
Dimensions76x132mm
Weight655g
Filter size67mm
Hoodbarrel-shaped, bayonet mount
Other featuresimage stabilizer, splash/dust/freeze-proof, tele-converters