Panasonic, Leica tout monster SLR zoom

Panasonic and its lens-making partner, Leica, announced a zoom lens with a whopping 14-150mm range costing $1,000.

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LAS VEGAS--Panasonic and its lens-making partner, Leica, announced a zoom lens with a whopping 14-150mm range Wednesday at the Photo Marketing Association's trade show here. The $1,000 lens is due to ship this month.

Leica's 14-150mm zoom lens
Leica's 14-150mm zoom lens Panasonic

The lens, formally graced with the name of Leica D Vario-Elmar 14-150mm/F3.5-5.6 Asph. Mega O.I.S., is a member of the Four-Thirds system. That means it can attach to digital SLRs from Panasonic, Leica and Olympus. It also means its focal length equivalence is 28-300mm on a 35mm film SLR camera.

The lens offers some direct competition to Nikon's 18-200mm zoom, which also has image-stabilization technology. Nikon's lens has the equivalent range of 27-300mm in 35mm film terms.

Wide-ranging zoom lenses are tough to make: It's hard to make a single lens that has high resolution, low distortion and few chromatic aberrations when the lens is working anywhere from wide angle to telephoto. Panasonic wasn't afraid of elevated expectations, though, calling the new model "the ideal lens for shooting with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1 (digital SLR) in almost any condition."

Panasonic said the Leica lens performance comes from the use of four aspherical lens elements--those with surfaces more geometrically complicated than a simple sphere--and one with extra-low dispersion glass element. Such methods help steer different frequencies of light along the same path to minimize colored fringes.

The lens also has Panasonic's Optical Image Stabilization (O.I.S.), which compensates for some camera shake to aid in photographs in dimmer conditions.