Sports Photography Lens Review: Lumix G Vario 45-150mm f/4.0-5.6


One of the things I really loved about the Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ82 (full review here)was the fact that its optical zoom is a stunning build-in 60 times zoom. Which is awesome for animal and sports photography. That said the image quality isn’t all that great if you start critically looking at your shots your shot. That said, the camera remains a bargain for its price.

Having bought the Lumix DMC G7 which comes with 12-60mm kit lens, I did have to expand my lens arsenal to cover some of my photography needs with the following lenses

  • The Lumix 20mm f/1.7 (wide angle)
  • The Lumix 25mm f/1.7 (street, portrait, nature & low light photography)
  • The Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 (all round lens)
  • The Lumxi G Vario 45-150mm f/4.0-5.6 (Sports & Nature Photography)

Today I will review the 45-150mm performance with examples from an annual professional road cycling event in my home town. I used my G-7 throughout the event.

I quickly learned a few things about Sports Photography and road cycling. The average speed of the pro’s (both men and women) is about 40 km/h on straights it is likely to exceed 50 km/h. Leading up to turns they will hit their breaks, shift gears before entering the curve and gear up/accelerate in and coming out of a turn or curve. I ride myself so it made sense to position myself with a tripod in just after or in the turn to have the best shots. I had no clue how the lens would respond.

It is important to know that the pictures of ladies race where taken in the afternoon and the men’s race in the evening, which influence the performance of the lens significantly

Mandatory bike check. Shot the still from my window about 8 to 9 meters away
Pro Cyclist Inge Van Der Heijden ( see bio here) before her race. Pro-Cyclers are known to be very easy to approach and open to fans. Distance 20 meters
Kids race before the pro’s start. Probably going at 15-20 km/hr the lens preformed without any problems as you can see. Love the determination of the face of the kid with the pink helmet.
One of my favourite shots. A boy running late in the kids race surrounded by female pro cyclists doing their warm up rounds.
Fun during warm up for the ladies note Giro D’Italia (Giro Rosa 2019) Annemiek van Vleuten in the Pink, she happens to be in full focus which turns out well but on this distance the lens seems to pick (AF)
Peleton just before the Start. In the blue Trek Segafredo is Ellen Van Dijk who specializes is time trials and has a trophy chest full to show for her class. I took this shot about 20 meters distance on both AI+ & AF and am pleased with the Lens performance in this shot
The race is full on in this shot. Average speed I estimate somewhere between 38-45km/h as this was a race for points. I shot this shot in 4k and with the tracking option disabled. The quality of the image is acceptable. The AF function forces the camera to focus on the middle of the frame making Sunweb the focus whilst I wanted the Pink Jersey being the focus. I tried the following round with Manual Focus but the result was poor. That probably because of my own doing than the ability of the camera.

As I mentioned before the ladies race was in the afternoon where the first part was very sunny, later in the race cloud settled in which affected natural light but the lens overall performed decently. Now over to the gent’s race which started at early evening with dusk settling in towards the end which made a big difference on the performance of the lens

The men’s peleton in their first race round. As you can see the AF had significantly more trouble getting the focus area focused with less natural light and multitude of subject to focus on. Average speed here 40-42 km
Just before a sharp 90 degrees turn the lens performed very well to capture all three in focus with a nice background bokeh
Pro Cyclers Theunissen and Groenenwegen (former Tour De France Yellow Jersey holders) going full pace. The lens performed okay. If you zoom in you will see that the focus is far from sharp. The shot was edited in LightRoom. Hence it is so bright
The same duo as mentioned about, again going full throttle, no edit this time.
What I notice is that the lens auto focus is not on the first rider but second one who is more center frame. The level of distortion on the first ride is very noticeable and makes me wonder whether my camera setting is off or the lens has trouble focusing.
2019 Amstel Gold Race Winner Mathieu van der Poel going full. Again full throttle going rought +50km/h the lens performed okay, but if you are critical and start looking it is easy to see the AF can’t focus on the subject going at the speed they do.
Again Mathieu van der Poel, I chose this shot as the focus is good (15 meters at estimated 50 km/h) but the natural light makes a visit to LightRoom required. By all means the lens has a max aperture of f/3.5 so low light photography is not what it was build for.
This shot makes a good statement about the overall speed of the Van der Poel the lens or better said camera because of Auto Focus takes a very different subject in focus. Which is a shame but it makes for a decent shot. Not what I intended

The Verdict

Being used to 60x optical build in zoom of the DC-FZ82 it became my point of reference really. Taking shots of people often 100-200 meters away with no problems was the norm. If we look at the specs:

  1. One UHR element helps to achieve even illumination and sharpness for consistent performance throughout the aperture and zoom ranges
  2. A pair of aspherical elements reduces spherical aberration and distortion for increased sharpness and clarity.
  3. Multi-coated elements help to suppress lens flare and ghosting for greater contrast and color accuracy
  4. MEGA O.I.S. compensates for camera shake in order to realize sharper photos and videos when shooting handheld
  5. Stepping motor provides smooth, near-silent auto focus (AF) that is compatible with Lumix cameras’ high-speed contrast-detection systems.
  6. Rounded seven-blade diaphragm produces a smooth out-of-focus quality when working with shallow depth of field techniques

Taking the above into account and off-set it against the price (Euro 180-250) the lens is impressive, but not perfect. Specifically the “Out-Of-Focus Quality” in combination with “Shallow DOF techniques” will not always produce the outcomes you desire.

That said, the lens does work perfect when it comes to nature photography, architecture photography. Road Cycling is a sport with a very short window to shoot, so the lens you mount combined with your camera settings will determine the outcomes.

In my case I used AF, Photo Burst, No Tracking, 4K I disabled as I shot everything in RAW. If you shoot in JPEG only, you can enable 4K Burst and will probably get improved lens performance, but limited editing options afterwards.

Overall I would recommend the 45-`150 Micro Four Third lens to those who are like me, hobby people with a passion. The price is good and I don’t think you’ll be getting a better deal for that money.

UPDATE:

As it turns out Panasonic Cameras in AF do suffer from general auto-focus issues, the type of lens mounted just magnifies to which extend. Therefore pic your lens carefully especially when going into filming (later a blog post will be posted on that)

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