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Best Micro Four Thirds lenses for Panasonic and Olympus mirrorless cameras


 


 
Best Micro Four Thirds lenses
 
Micro Four Thirds is the most established of the mirror-less system camera formats. Jointly developed by Panasonic and Olympus, it brought mirror-less bodies and native lenses to the market at least one year before its first rival arrived. Being first to market along with having not one but two major manufacturers behind it are two major advantages Micro Four Thirds enjoys over the competition, and it really shows when you compare their respective native lens catalogues. As of early 2013, Micro Four Thirds had over 40 lenses available from Panasonic and Olympus along with third parties including Sigma, Tamron, Samyang, Voigtlander and others.

So while many rival mirror-less formats are struggling to offer even one lens in every category, Micro Four Thirds typically has two or more options available. Whether it's Fisheye, ultra wide, fast aperture, macro, super-zoom or good old general-purpose, the Micro Four Thirds catalogue has it covered. But with such a choice available, where does the new or even long-term Micro Four Thirds owner begin to make their choice on a new lens?

This is where my latest lens guide comes in. I've been regularly using Micro Four Thirds gear since it was launched and selected it as the format to take away with me for a one year trip around the world. During this time I've tried most of the lenses available which makes it easy to produce a shortlist of highlights below. I've chosen at least one example in every category, described its pros and cons and also suggested alternatives if you prefer.

Note, one of the major differences between Olympus and Panasonic bodies is the former's built-in stabilization which works with any lens you attach, whereas the latter requires it to be built-into the lens. For this reason you'll see a bias towards Panasonic at the long end as I can't recommend an Olympus telephoto zoom to a Panasonic owner due to their lack of stabilization, whereas Olympus owners have the choice of using their built-in stabilization or that provided by a Panasonic lens, where available. I'm also recommending lenses I've actually used, so will update this page when I get to try others.

Note, the sensors used in Micro Four Thirds bodies apply a field reduction of two times compared to a full-frame / 35mm format, so to calculate the effective coverage of any lens, simply multiply its focal length by two. This reduction also applies to the effective depth-of-field compared to full-frame / 35mm formats too, so a 25mm f1.4 lens would actually deliver the same coverage and depth of field as a 50mm f2.8 lens on a full-frame / 35mm body. But in terms of exposure, the focal ratio is independent of the sensor, so an f1.4 lens on a Micro Four Thirds body would deliver the same exposures as an f1.4 lens on any other format.



   
Samyang / Rokinon 7.5mm f3.5 UMC Fisheye

Specifications

Focal length:
7.5mm
Aperture: f3.5
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 15mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 9cm
Filter thread: None
Hood: Built-in
Optics: 9 el. / 7 groups
Diaphragm blades: 6
Weather-sealed: No
Weight: 197g
Dia x Length: 48x60mm

     
For a long time the only Fisheye option was Panasonic's Lumix G Fisheye 8mm f3.5, but I'm going to recommend a more recent alternative: Samyang's 7.5mm 3.5. Samyang, also known as Rokinon in the US and Walimex in parts of Europe, is a Korean company that's really shaking up the lens market, delivering good quality optics at affordable prices - indeed their Fisheye for Micro Four Thirds costs about half that of the Panasonic. The only things missing are autofocus and support for Auto exposure modes, but on a lens this wide they're something you can easily live without. So if you want to squeeze a 180 degree field of view across the diagonal without breaking the bank, this could be the lens for you.


   
Panasonic Lumix G 7-14mm f4 review

Specifications

Focal length:
7-14mm
Aperture: f4
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 14-28mm
Anti-shake: None
Closest focus: 25cm
Filter thread: None
Hood: Built-in
Optics: 16 el. / 12 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weather-sealed: No
Weight: 300g
Dia x Length: 70x83mm

     
Owners of Micro Four Thirds cameras have the choice of two ultra wide zooms when some rival formats still have none. I'm recommending both options and will start with the wider and pricier of the two: Panasonic's Lumix G 7-14mm. With an equivalent range of 14-28mm and a constant aperture of f4, this is a very classy operator which delivers excellent results across the frame even at the maximum aperture. It features a built-in lens hood which does a good job at protecting the bulbous front element from knocks, scratches as well as stray light. On the downside there's no way to fit filters without a DIY bracket and owners of Olympus bodies may suffer from purple flare when shooting bright lights. But even at its relatively high price it remains a popular choice and a personal favourite.



   
Olympus M Zuiko Digital 9-18mm f4-5.6

Specifications

Focal length:
9-18mm
Aperture: f4-5.6
Lens mount: MFT
Eequiv: 18-36mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 25cm
Filter thread: 52mm
Hood: Optional
Optics: 12 el. / 8 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weight: 155g
Dia x Length: 57x50mm

     
The Olympus M Zuiko Digital 9-18mm is the second of two ultra-wide zooms for the Micro Four Thirds system. With an effective range of 18-36mm it's less extreme than the Panasonic above, but more flexible as a general-purpose option that you could leave on your body more often. This along with a slower focal ratio of f4-5.6 allows the lens to hit a lower price point and there's no reported issues when mounted on Olympus bodies. But arguably one of the most compelling benefits over the Panasonic 7-14mm is ability to mount filters to the end of the barrel. So while it doesn't boast the wider coverage or constant aperture of the Panasonic, the Olympus 9-18mm remains a valuable alternative especially to those on a tighter budget.



   
Olympus M Zuiko Digital 12mm f2

Specifications

Focal length:
12mm
Aperture: f2
Lens mount: MFT
EF-S equiv: 24mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 20cm
Filter thread: 46mm
Hood: Optional
Optics: 11 el. / 8 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weather-sealed: No
Weight: 130g
Dia x Length: 56x43mm

     
The Olympus M Zuiko Digital 12mm is a prime lens with fixed coverage equivalent to 24mm and a bright focal ratio of f2. This makes it a great option for fans of wide angle photography who also want to work in low light more easily - after all, an aperture of f2 gathers four times more light than the two zooms above at the same focal length. The 12mm is also satisfyingly compact and well-built with a metallic body, along with featuring a neat snapshot mechanism which activates when you pull the manual focusing ring towards the body. It's not exactly a low-cost option though and in my optical tests the Lumix G 7-14mm actually out-performed it at 12mm, but the small metallic body and fast f2 aperture will remain seductive for some photographers.



   
Panasonic Lumix G X 12-35mm f2.8

Specifications

Focal length:
12-35mm
Aperture: f2.8
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 24-70mm
Anti-shake: Yes
Closest focus: 25cm
Filter thread: 58mm
Hood: Included
Optics: 14 el. / 9 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weather-sealed: Yes
Weight: 305g
Dia x Length: 68x74mm

     
The Panasonic Lumix G X 12-35mm is a high-end genera-purpose zoom. The effective coverage of 24-70mm delivers the range beloved by portrait and wedding photographers for group shots and portraits, but is also very flexible as a walkaround lens. Meanwhile the bright f2.8 focal ratio remains constant throughout the range, allowing you to work in lower light and deliver shallower depth-of-field effects, although remember in terms of depth of field it's only equivalent to a 24-70mm f5.6 on a full-frame system. On the upside it does have image stabilisation and it's also one of the first weather-sealed lenses for Micro Four Thirds which makes it a desirable general-purpose option for weather-sealed bodies like the Panasonic GH3 and the Olympus OMD EM5. For a more affordable weather-proof general-purpose zoom, consider the Olympus M Zuiko Digital 12-50mm f3.5-6.3 but be aware the aperture is much slower and there's no image stabilisation for Panasonic bodies.



   
Panasonic Lumix G X 14-42mm f3.5-5.6

Specifications

Focal length:
14-42mm
Aperture: f3.5-5.6
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 28-84mm
Anti-shake: Yes
Closest focus: 20cm
Filter thread: 37mm
Hood: Optional
Optics: 9 el. / 8 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weather-sealed: No
Weight: 95g
Dia x Length: 61x27mm

     
Panasonic's Lumix G X 14-42mm is the smallest zoom lens available for the Micro Four Thirds format, and the first motorized pancake zoom in the market. Amazingly it weighs just 95g and measures just 26.8mm thick when the camera is switched off. Power the camera on and the lens extends quickly to become operational, after which you can control the motorized zoom with a lever on the side of the barrel; the motor also lets you make smooth zooms during videos. Like other pancake lenses, it transforms the size of your camera, allowing many models to squeeze into larger pockets, but the big difference is being able to zoom, making it a very flexible general-purpose option. Anyone buying a new Panasonic body should also look out for bundled deals with this lens.



   
Olympus M Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8

Specifications

Focal length:
17mm
Aperture: f1.8
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 34mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 25cm
Filter thread: 46mm
Hood: Optional
Optics: 9 el. / 6 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weather-sealed: No
Weight: 120g
Dia x Length: 58x36mm

     
The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8 is a prime lens designed for general-purpose use. With an equivalent focal length of 34mm, it delivers a field of view that's almost identical to the classic 35mm lenses adored by street photographers. As such it's comfortably wider than a 50mm equivalent without suffering from the distortion of 28mm equivalent and wider options. This makes it ideal as a walkaround lens, while the light weight and small size means you'll hardly notice it's fitted. The bright aperture is useful in low light and can also deliver shallow depth of field effects especially if the subject is close to the minimum focusing distance; if you're careful with distance and placement on the frame it can even take a reasonable portrait. Downsides? The lens hood is optional, there's no weatherproofing and the price is quite high, but the quality is great and it could end up being your most used lens, especially if you don't already own the 20mm.



   
Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f1.7

Specifications

Focal length:
20mm
Aperture: f1.7
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 40mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 20cm
Filter thread: 46mm
Hood: Optional
Optics: 7 el. / 5 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weather-sealed: No
Weight: 100g
Dia x Length: 63x26mm

     
The Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f1.7 is a pancake prime lens designed for general-purpose use. With an equivalent focal length of 40mm, it's a very usable walkaround option, while the small size and light weight will transform the overall portability of any body. Panasonic's 14-42mm Power Zoom above may be roughly the same size and weight while boasting a 28-84mm zoom range and optical stabilisation, but in its favour, the 20mm is much brighter with an aperture that gathers over four times more light than the zoom at the same focal length. This allows you to work in lower light or use lower sensitivities or faster shutter speeds under the same conditions. The image quality is also very good, although owners of Olympus bodies have reported subtle banding across the image at high ISOs; they may prefer the Olympus 17mm f1.8 pancake lens.



   
Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 review

Specifications

Focal length:
25mm
Aperture: f1.4
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 50mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 30cm
Filter thread: 46mm
Hood: Optional
Optics: 9 el. / 7 groups
Diaphragm blades: 8
Weather-sealed: No
Weight: 200g
Dia x Length: 63x55mm

     
Panasonic's Leica Summilux DG 25mm f1.4 is a high quality standard prime lens with an effective focal length of 50mm. It's the second Leica-branded lens from Panasonic for Micro Four Thirds, and like the 45mm f2.8 macro before it, Leica designs the optics and Panasonic manufactures it in Japan. The build quality and manual focusing ring are of a high standard and it delivers great quality results. The f1.4 focal ratio allows you to work in low light and deliver a shallow depth of field that can be great for close-range portraits; indeed I personally find it easier to photograph portraits of kids with this lens than longer models. Overall a worthwhile step-up from the 20mm f1.7 if you like the 50mm coverage and one of my personal favourites, although some owners of Olympus bodies have reported occasional rattling during composition as the aperture is adjusted; they may prefer the Olympus 25mm f2.8 pancake.


   
Olympus M Zuiko Digital 45mm f1.8 review

Specifications

Focal length:
45mm
Aperture: f1.8
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 90mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 50cm
Filter thread: 37mm
Hood: Built-in
Optics: 9 el. / 8 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weather-sealed: No
Weight: 116g
Dia x Length: 56x46mm

     
The Olympus M Zuiko Digital 45mm f1.8 is a short telephoto lens with an equivalent focal length of 90mm. This makes it a traditional portrait lens, but I also find it very adept at capturing details in landscapes and around town. At f1.8 you can easily throw the background out of focus and at f4 you'll enjoy crisp details right into the corners making it a surprisingly flexible lens and another of my personal favourites. But what makes this lens really special is the size and the price. Measuring just 56x46mm and weighing only 116g it's remarkably compact, and surprisingly low-priced too. Sure, there's no image stabilization for Panasonic owners, but it's easy to achieve hand-holdable shutter speeds at f1.8 and the pros far outweigh this single con. If I had to choose one no-brainer on this page, it'd be this lens - it should be a compulsory purchase for all owners of Micro Four Thirds bodies. If you want something even brighter, there's Panasonic's upcoming 42.5mm f1.2, but it ain't gonna be cheap.



   
Olympus M Zuiko Digital 60mm f2.8 macro

Specifications

Focal length:
60mm
Aperture: f2.8
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 120mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 19cm
Filter thread: 46mm
Hood: Optional
Optics: 13 el. / 10 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weather-sealed: Yes
Weight: 185g
Dia x Length: 56x82mm

     
The Olympus M Zuiko Digital 60mm f2.8 is the second native macro lens for the Micro Four Thirds format, following the Panasonic Leica 45mm f2.8 which enjoyed being the only option for some time. Both lenses allow you to achieve true 1:1 or life-size reproduction, which on a Micro Four Thirds body means a subject measuring 17.3x13mm will fill the frame. The difference in focal length though means the Olympus can achieve this at a more comfortable distance of 19cm compared to 15cm on the Panasonic. The Olympus also boasts dust and splash-proof construction which is great for owners of the OMD EM5 or GH3, and while it doesn't share the image stabilization of the Panasonic 45mm (which means the 60mm becomes unstabilised on a Panasonic body), it does come in comfortably cheaper. For all these reasons, it's the preferred macro lens for Micro Four Thirds.



   
Olympus M Zuiko Digital 75mm f1.8

Specifications

Focal length:
75mm
Aperture: f1.8
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 150mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 84cm
Filter thread: 58mm
Hood: Optional
Optics: 10 el. / 9 groups
Diaphragm blades: 9
Weather-sealed: No
Weight: 305g
Dia x Length: 64x69mm

     
Olympus continues it run of high quality, metal-bodied prime lenses with the M Zuiko Digital 75mm f1.8. This delivers telephoto coverage equivalent to 150mm with a bright f1.8 focal ratio that makes it ideal for serious portrait work, along with picking out finer details in landscapes and urban environments. Maintaining the f1.8 focal ratio at a longer focal length though has resulted in a high price tag, around double that of the 45mm f1.8 above, and despite the robust construction it's not splash or dust proof; owners of Panasonic bodies should also know that like all Olympus lenses there's no optical stabilization, so they'll have to shoot at sufficiently fast shutter speeds or on a tripod to avoid shake. But even with these caveats it remains a highly desirable lens especially for serious portrait photographers. Meanwhile fans of long fast primes can also look forward to Panasonic's upcoming 150mm f2.8, albeit at an even higher price.



   
Panasonic Lumix G 45-200mm f4-5.6

Specifications

Focal length:
45-200mm
Aperture: f4-5.6
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 90-400mm
Anti-shake: Yes
Closest focus: 100cm
Filter thread: 52mm
Hood: Included
Optics: 16 el. / 13 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weather-sealed: No
Weight: 380g
Dia x Length: 70x100mm

     
Micro Four Thirds has no shortage of telephoto zoom lenses, but one of the best value options is Panasonic's Lumix G 45-200mm f4.5.6. With an equivalent focal length of 90-400mm, it'll let you get close to distant subjects with a lens that's reasonably small and light. There's also image stabilization built into the lens which is essential for Panasonic owners at this magnification. The quality is good and the autofocus reasonably swift, but like most telephoto zooms of this class, don't expect mircales for fast action or sports. If you'd prefer a lighter option, there's Panasonic's 45-150mm f4-5.6 at almost half the weight, but roughly similar pricing. If you want something brighter, albeit much more expensive, consider Panasonic's weather-sealed Lumix G X 35-100mm f2.8. Another interesting alternative for those who want 200mm with a brighter focal ratio but at the cost of ineffective AF on current MFT bodies is the Olympus Zuiko Digital 50-200mm f2.8-3.5 via an adapter.



   
Panasonic Lumix G 100-300mm f4-5.6

Specifications

Focal length:
100-300mm
Aperture: f4-5.6
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 200-600mm
Anti-shake: Yes
Closest focus: 150cm
Filter thread: 67mm
Hood: Included
Optics: 17 el. / 12 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weather-sealed: No
Weight: 520g
Size: 74x126mm

     
If you need to get close to really small and distant subjects, there's two choices in the Micro Four Thirds catalogue: Panasonic's Lumix G 100-300mm f4-5.6 and the Olympus M Zuiko Digital 75-300mm f4.8-6.7 II. Both zoom-into an equivalent of 600mm, but the Panasonic features a brighter focal ratio throughout the range and optical stabilization which may be redundant for Olympus body owners, but is essential on Panasonic models at these magnifications. The trump card of the Panasonic is a cheaper price at the time of writing which makes it my recommended choice for those who want a really long lens for their Micro Four Thirds body. Once again though, don't expect miracles with moving subjects.




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