For the past four years, I’ve photographed an event for Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids — the Laughfest Signature Event. It features a highly sought-after comedian with the ultimate goal to raise money for cancer support. This year, Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah (from The Daily Show) graced Grand Rapids with his presence for the event.
While photographing comedians is a blast, being in the back of the room means you have to be creative in terms of how you’re going to capture it. The first year, I was completely unprepared and had to rely on a much older crop-sensor body for the reach. But the second year, I started renting lenses for the shoot.
This year, I was lucky enough to test out the Leica 200mm f/2.8 prime lens for my Panasonic Lumix G9. On a micro four-thirds camera, this gave me a full-frame equivalent field of view of 400mm. Add in the 1.4 teleconverter that came with the lens, and the total reach was equal to 560mm.
Build Quality and Specs
Being familiar with the Leica lenses produced for Panasonic cameras, I wasn’t surprised at the amazing build quality that the 200mm had. This lens is a beast, and rightfully so. It’s by far the heaviest micro four-thirds lens I’ve used.
The front element features nano surface coating for reducing glare and the exterior body of the weatherproof lens features a satin black finish with both aperture and focus rings. It has a 6.2-degree angle of view and minimum focusing distance of 3.77 feet. It features a built-in Arca Swiss rotating tripod collar around the lens, making it easy to mount to a tripod or monopod. The metal lens hood is rather large and it slips on with a compression screw to keep it tight like some other Leica-branded lenses for Panasonic.
There are also switches for auto and manual focus, Power OIS and autofocus limiting. There’s also a function button on the lens, which can be configured to have a fixed focus distance, or treated like any other function button.
The lens is made up of 15 elements in 13 groups and has nine rounded diaphragm blades present. It weighs 2.745 pounds.
At the Laughfest event, I coupled the 200mm lens with the included 1.4 teleconverter, making for a perfect reach. I did have an initial problem getting my focus point set, which was fixed by changing my autofocus to a pinpoint selection (instead of a single square focus point). However, I contribute this to the event’s low lighting, instead of the performance of the lens.
Once I got my focusing set, the lens was very fast and the results were better than expected. The photos were super sharp, even when shooting handheld. I can contribute this to both the lens stabilization and in-body stabilization that Lumix offers with the setup.
I shot with a shutter speed of 1/200 and an f/4 aperture, making for a combination that was fast and was able to let in enough light to the frame. The photos did display some minor chromatic aberration, but that was easily fixed in post-processing.
The Panasonic Leica 200mm f/2.8 lens (which retails for $2997.99) is easily the best telephoto lens I’ve used to date. Coupled with the 1.4 teleconverter, this lens provides a great reach, while retaining sharpness and image quality.