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 2016, Micro Four Thirds had over 50 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, all Olympus OMD and PEN bodies feature built-in stabilisation, whereas only the most recent Panasonic bodies include it. If you have an older Panasonic body without built-in stabilisation, you'll need a lens with optical stabilisation if you want to compensate for camera shake. You may also wonder why I've not included certain models on this list - that's because I only recommend products I've actually tested myself, so I 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.



Olympus 8mm f1.8 Fisheye Pro review
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Specifications

Focal length:
8mm
Aperture: f2
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 16mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 120mm
Filter thread: None
Hood: Built-in
Optics: 17 el. / 15 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weather-sealed:Yes
Weight: 315g
Dia x Length: 62x80mm

     
The Olympus 8mm f1.8 Fisheye Pro is the first fisheye lens to sport an f1.8 focal ratio, allowing you to shoot in dimmer conditions without having to increase the sensitivity. Even wide-open at f1.8, the lens delivers very sharp details right into the corners, making it a great choice for interiors. It's also great for action and extreme sports, whether shooting stills or movies, especially with the dust and splash-proof construction. I'm often sceptical over the usefulness of fisheye lenses, but I find myself shooting with the 8mm f1.8 Fisheye much more than I expected thanks to its speed, quality and build - they make it much more flexible than the slower options. If you fancy a fisheye but have a tighter budget, consider the Samyang 8mm f3.5.


Panasonic Lumix G 7-14mm f4 review
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Specifications

Focal length:
7-14mm
Aperture: f4
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 14-28mm
Anti-shake: No
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 three ultra wide zooms and I think there's merit in recommending all of them. I'll will start with 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 priced between the less extreme Olympus 9-18mm and the higher-end Olympus 7-14mm f2.8, it remains a popular choice and a personal favourite.



Olympus 7-14mm f2.8 Pro review
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Specifications

Focal length:
7-14mm
Aperture: f2.8
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 14-28mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 250mm
Filter thread: None
Hood: Built-in
Optics: 18 el. / 12 groups
Diaphragm blades:7
Weather-sealed: Yes
Weight:780g
Dia x Length: 87x120mm

     
The Olympus 7-14mm f2.8 Pro is a high-end ultra-wide angle zoom that delivers an equivalent range of 14-28mm with a constant f2.8 focal ratio. The range matches the coverage of the Lumix G 7-14mm, but it's a stop brighter and boasts weather-sealing too. Like the Lumix G 7-14mm, the built-in lens hood means there's no standard filter thread on the front, but third party solutions from the likes of Lee are available. The brighter aperture and tougher build means the Olympus 7-14mm f2.8 is inevitably larger, heavier and more expensive than the Lumix G 7-14mm, but it represents a step-up in all respects while also avoiding the purple flares that could plague the Lumix on some bodies.



Olympus M Zuiko Digital 9-18mm f4-5.6
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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:
Optics: 12 el. / 8 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weight: 155g
Dia x Length: 57x50mm

     
The Olympus M Zuiko Digital 9-18mm is an affordable ultra-wide zoom for the Micro Four Thirds system. With an effective range of 18-36mm it's less extreme than the Panasonic and Olympus 7-14mm options, 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 7-14mm models is ability to mount filters to the end of the barrel without a third party adapter. So while it doesn't boast their wider coverage or constant aperture, the Olympus 9-18mm remains a valuable alternative especially to those on a tighter budget.



Panasonic Leica 12mm f1.4 review
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Specifications

Focal length:
12mm
Aperture: f1.4
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 24mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 200mm
Filter thread: 62mm
Hood: Included
Optics: 15 el. / 12 groups
Diaphragm blades: 9
Weather-sealed: Yes
Weight: 335g
Dia x Length: 70x70mm

     

The Panasonic Leica 12mm f1.4 is a wide angle prime lens with a bright focal ratio. Like the Panasonic / Leica collaborations which preceded it, the 12mm f1.4 is an unashamedly premium lens that delivers excellent results. The optical and build quality are a step-up from the Olympus 12mm f2, but equally it's comfortably larger, heavier and a lot more expensive too. If you love the 24mm equivalent focal length - and who doesn't? - and can afford it, the 12mm f1.4 comes highly recommended. If it's too pricey though, the older Olympus 12mm f2 remains a good choice and its compact size more appropriate for smaller bodies or aerial use.




Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 Pro
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Specifications

Focal length:
12-40mm
Aperture: f2.8
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 24-80mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 200mm
Filter thread: 62mm
Hood: LH-66
Optics: 14 el. / 9 groups
Diaphragm blades:7
Weather-sealed:Yes
Weight: 382g
Dia x Length: 70x84mm

     
The Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 Pro is a general-purpose zoom lens with a useful 24-80mm equivalent range. As a member of the Olympus Pro series, the aperture is constant throughout the range, the focusing is quick, the build features weather-proofing. It's a high quality option if you want a flexible walk-around range that goes from wide to short telephoto, although like all f2.8 lenses on MFT bodies, don't expect a particularly shallow depth-of-field - remember in terms of blurring potential, this is not the same as shooting with a 24-70mm f2.8 full-frame lens on a full-frame body. If you do want more blurring, aim for a prime lens with an f1.8 focal ratio or faster still. If you need optical stabilisation, consider Panasonic's Lumix G 12-35mm f2.8 which also features a constant aperture and weather-sealing, albeit lacking a little reach at the long end.


Panasonic Lumix G 12-60mm
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Specifications

Focal length:
12-60mm
Aperture: f3.5-5.6
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 24-120mm
Anti-shake: Yes
Closest focus: 200mm
Filter thread: 58mm
Hood:
Optics: 11 el. / 9 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weather-sealed: Yes
Weight: 210g
Dia x Length: 66x71mm

     
If you're looking for a step-up in build and range over a basic kit zoom without breaking the bank, Panasonic's Lumix G 12-60mm is a good option. It delivers a 24-120mm equivalent range, taking you wider than most kit zooms and comfortably longer into mid-telephoto. As a Panasonic lens, it's not surprising to find optical stabilisation, but refreshingly for a fairly affordable lens, the Lumix G 12-60mm is also weather-sealed, making it an ideal choice for a weather-sealed body without splashing out on a pro zoom. The average f3.5-5.6 focal ratio may not have any benefit over a typical kit zoom in terms of light-gathering, but allows it to hit a fairly affordable price tag. Remember the key here is having a step-up in range plus the weather-sealing. If you want a brighter zoom, you'll need to splash-out on one of the Pro lenses, but if you're only going down that route for shallower depth-of-field effects, I'd skip an f2.8 zoom and go for an f1.8 or f1.7 prime lens instead - more affordable and much shallower effects.


Panasonic Leica 15mm f1.7 review
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Specifications

Focal length:
15mm
Aperture: f1.7
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 30mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 200mm
Filter thread: 45mm
Hood: Included
Optics: 9 el. / 7 groups
Diaphragm blades:7
Weather-sealed: No
Weight: 115g
Dia x Length: 58x36mm

     
The Leica Summilux 15mm f1.7 is a high quality general-purpose prime lens for Panasonic and Olympus bodies, and one that's also priced fairly compared to alternative options. Its focal length, equivalent to 30mm in full-frame terms, may be unique in the range, but it's ideally-suited as a versatile walk-around lens. A little wide for traditional portraits, but landscapes, architecture, even detail shots with a shallow depth of field are all comfortably within its grasp, and the optical quality is a step-up from alternatives with a similar focal length. If you don't already own any of the similar focal length primes, I'd say go for the Summilux 15mm if you can afford the premium over the Olympus 17mm f1.8. This especially applies if you're a GM1 or GM5 owner as it's a better physical match. If you already own the Olympus 17mm f1.8 though, it's a tougher sell. Sure it's optically a little better, but not enough for most to consider an upgrade.  Ultimately the Olympus 17mm f1.8 remains a superb general-purpose lens that I can highly recommend, but it's wonderful to also have a slightly better alternative available at a small premium for those who can justify it.


Olympus M Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8
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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 Leica 25mm f1.4 review
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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. Note there are now a number of 25mm options for Micro Four Thirds, but I continue to be drawn to the rendering of this oldie but goodie.


Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm f1.7 review
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Specifications

Focal length:
42.5mm
Aperture: f1.7
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 85mm
Anti-shake: Yes
Closest focus: 310mm
Filter thread: 37mm
Hood:
Optics: 10 el. / 8 groups
Diaphragm blades: 7
Weather-sealed: No
Weight:130g
Dia x Length: 55x50mm

     
Panasonic's Lumix G 42.5mm f1.7 is a short telephoto prime lens that goes up against the hugely popular Olympus 45mm f1.8. In my tests the Lumix was sharper in the corners at large apertures and usefully could focus much closer, allowing it to perform double-duty as a basic macro lens; it also offer optical stabilisation for owners of unstabilised Panasonic bodies. While it out-performed the Olympus in many of my tests though, the Olympus delivered slightly better rendering of out-of-focus areas and is typically sold at a higher discount. Both are great options though and highly recommended.



Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 review
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Specifications

Focal length:
42.5mm
Aperture: f1.2
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 85mm
Anti-shake: Yes
Closest focus: 500mm
Filter thread: 67mm
Hood: Included
Optics: 14 el. / 11 groups
Diaphragm blades: 9
Weather-sealed: No
Weight: 425g
Dia x Length: 74x77mm

     
The Leica Nocticron is an unashamedly high-end portrait prime lens with superb performance. The 42.5mm focal length becomes equivalent to 85mm in full-frame terms, making it a classic for portrait work, while the f1.2 focal ratio ensures very shallow depth of field effects are possible. What's really impressive though is how sharp the lens is right into the corners even at the maximum aperture, making it an extremely flexible option in low light. Suffice it to say the rendering of out-of-focus areas is also exemplary. The only downside, other than sheer size, is the price which matches the high-end performance. Luckily there are many wonderful short telephoto primes available for Micro Four Thirds if you can't reach the Nocticron, but for those who demand the best, here it is.



Olympus M Zuiko Digital 75mm f1.8
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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
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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.



Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro review
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Specifications

Focal length:
40-150mm
Aperture: f1.8
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 80-300mm
Anti-shake: No
Closest focus: 900mm
Filter thread:58mm
Hood: LH-76
Optics: 12 el. / 9 groups
Diaphragm blades:7
Weather-sealed: Yes
Weight: 220g
Dia x Length: 66x72mm

     
The Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro is a high-end telephoto zoom with a constant f2.8 focal ratio. With equivalent coverage of 80-300mm, it's ideal for portraiture and street photography, along with nearby sports and wildlife. It handles quickly, shrugs-off inclement weather, and delivers very sharp and high contrast images right into the corners even at the maximum aperture. The focal range is also comfortably longer than the rival Lumix 35-100mm f2.8, although it is physically larger too. Personally speaking I prefer to shoot with brighter primes for a shallower depth of field, but if you're happy with the blurring capabilities of the Olympus 40-150mm, it's a powerful lens to have in your collection.


Panasonic Lumix G 100-300mm f4-5.6
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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 without spending a fortune, 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 without breaking the bank. Once again though, don't expect miracles with moving subjects. Got more to spend? Check out the Leica 100-400mm.



Panasonic Leica 100-400mm review
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Specifications

Focal length:
100-400mm
Aperture: f4-6.3
Lens mount: MFT
Equiv: 200-800mm
Anti-shake: Yes
Closest focus: 1300mm
Filter thread: 72mm
Hood: Included
Optics: 20 el. / 13 groups
Diaphragm blades: 9
Weather-sealed: Yes
Weight: 985g
Dia x Length: 83x172mm

     
The Leica DG 100-400mm f4-6.3 is a high quality super-telephoto zoom for the Micro Four Thirds system. With an equivalent range of 200-800mm, it boasts a longer reach than any other native lens in the catalogue and making it ideal for wildlife and sports shooters. It also offers a step-up in optical and build quality over the existing telephoto zooms in the system, albeit at a comfortably higher price too. If your budget is tight, then the Lumix G 100-300mm remains your best bet for a long reach at a low price. If your budget will stretch to the Leica, you should also consider whether it's worth reaching further to the Olympus 300mm f4 - it's a stop brighter at 300mm and delivers crisper results too. But if you want the flexibility of a zoom with top quality optics, build and features, the Leica 100-400mm is the way to go. Like other Leica / Panasonic collaborations, it's priced at the premium-end, but you're getting a step-up over budget zooms in almost every regard: range, sharpness, contrast, focusing, stabilisation, weather-sealing, zoom lock and tripod mounting options.


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