Welcome to my Buyer’s Guide for Olympus and Panasonic lenses! Both companies share the same Micro Four Thirds standard for their mirrorless cameras, which means you can use lenses from either company on either body, or indeed any other lens designed for Micro Four Thirds. Having two major camera companies produce lenses for the same system coupled with being the first to launch a native mirrorless system means Micro Four Thirds also enjoys more lenses than any other mirrorless rivals. With multiple options available at each popular focal length, the choice can sometimes be bewildering, but on this page I’ll help you choose the best models.
I’ll start with a quick guide of what to look out for, followed by my personal suggestions for building a variety of systems, and finally a list of all the models I’ve reviewed or tested and can recommend.
So if you’re looking for a lens for an Olympus or Panasonic camera, you’ve come to the right place! For more information on bodies, check out my Olympus Camera reviews and Panasonic Camera reviews pages.
Olympus and Panasonic lens terminology
The Four Thirds sensors used in Olympus and Panasonic mirrorless cameras mean the field-of-view of all lenses is effectively reduced by two times compared to a full-frame system – so a 25mm lens will deliver a 50mm equivalent field-of-view. If you’re looking to compare depth-of-field with full frame, then you’ll also need to double the f-number – so a 25mm f1.4 lens will deliver images with coverage and depth-of-field equivalent to a 50mm f2.8 lens on full frame. In terms of exposure though, an f-number on one system is the same as on another – the difference here refers only to equivalent coverage and depth-of-field.
The end result though is you’ll need to choose lenses with very small f-numbers if you want to achieve very shallow depth-of-field effects with Micro Four Thirds. Conversely, with a larger inherent depth-of-field, you won’t need to close the aperture as much if you want to get more in focus.
Stabilisation is another major selling point for Micro Four Thirds: Olympus pioneered body-based stabilisation (which shifts the sensor) and has long built it into every body. Panasonic more recently adopted sensor-shift technology and now offers it on most new Lumix G bodies apart from the cheapest ones. Both will stabilize any lens you attach, even if the lens doesn’t have optical stabilisation. Panasonic does however sell many lenses with optical stabilisation, partly to support older Lumix G cameras without built-in stabilisation, but also to work alongside newer bodies which do have built-in stabilisation to improve the result.
Panasonic’s so-called Dual IS technology exploits both optical stabilisation in the lens with body-based stabilisation in the camera to deliver improved results, especially for filming video or shooting at longer focal lengths; now most of its lenses support Dual IS when mounted on recent bodies, although they may need a firmware update. Olympus also has a similar technology called Sync IS, but it’s only exploited on a handful of lenses; that said, the Olympus built-in stabilisation is so good, it rarely needs further enhancement.
Dual IS and Sync IS may employ similar techniques, but are proprietary to Panasonic and Olympus respectively. To exploit Dual IS, you’ll need to mount a Dual IS lens on a Dual IS body, which means sticking with Panasonic pairings. Similarly to exploit Sync IS, you’ll need to mount an Olympus Sync IS lens on an Olympus body. So while you can mount any Panasonic lens on an Olympus body and vice versa, each now offers slightly improved stabilisation if you match their own company’s technologies. This may influence some of your lens decisions, but I personally feel other aspects play a bigger part.
Beyond this, you may find manual aperture rings on some higher-end Panasonic lenses which become redundant on Olympus bodies – you can still adjust the aperture on an Olympus body by using one of the camera control dials, but the aperture ring on the lens is ignored.
Finally in terms of quality, both companies divide their lens ranges into various categories. Olympus divides its range into three groups: its basic lenses are labelled M.Zuiko, its mid-range ones M.Zuiko Premium, and its high-end ones M.Zuiko Pro. Panasonic brands all its mirrorless cameras and lenses as Lumix G, but co-develops a series of high-end lenses with Leica, labeled Leica DG; these are designed by Leica, but manufactured by Panasonic.
Now for my recommendations and as always I’ll only cover models that I’ve personally tested to some degree; I’ve linked each lens in the next section to their product page at B&H for pricing, and in the section following that I’ll provide links to my reviews and samples galleries. Note there’s so many great MFT lenses available that I can’t cover them all, but these are my personal favourites.
Recommended Olympus and Panasonic lenses
Panasonic and Olympus have both done a great job with their kit zooms which all generally deliver very respectable quality for their prices; indeed I’d say for most Panasonic and Olympus owners, I’d recommend complementing the kit zoom rather than replacing it.
One of the best second lenses for any system is a fixed focal length ‘prime’ lens that’s equivalent to 50mm. These are normally small, light, relatively affordable and most importantly offer much brighter apertures than a kit zoom, allowing far greater potential for background blurring. There are many 25mm lenses available in the Micro Four Thirds catalogues (delivering 50mm equivalent coverage) and I’ll mention some higher-end options later, but to kick-off this guide I’m going to recommend the Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f1.7, one of the cheapest lenses available for Micro Four Thirds, and a no-brainer for anyone wanting to start exploring creative photography. If you love the idea of a 50mm equivalent prime but fancy something higher-end, I’ll have more recommendations for you in a moment.
If you prefer something a little wider, perhaps for street photography, I can also highly recommend a 17mm prime or thereabouts and again there’s lots of options, albeit at a higher price than the 25mm above; I’m going to suggest either the Panasonic Leica DG 15mm f1.7 or the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8, both in a similar ballpark price-wise; I personally prefer the Leica, but love the more compact size of the Olympus when mounted on a smaller body.
But if you’d still prefer a premium zoom lens with an upgrade in range, brightness, build or overall quality over a kit model, or are perhaps choosing a first zoom for a higher-end body, there are plenty of compelling options available. Remember if you have a Panasonic body without built-in stabilisation, then you’ll need a lens with optical stabilisation to iron-out the wobbles.
My favourite three high-end general-purpose zooms are the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO (which offers a useful 24-80mm equivalent range with a constant f2.8 aperture but no optical stabilisation), the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f2.8-4 OIS (costing a tad more and losing the constant aperture, but extending the range to 24-120mm equivalent and including optical stabilisation), and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f4 IS PRO (which costs around 50% more, but boasts an even longer 24-200mm equivalent range, as well as being one of the few Olympus lenses with optical stabilisation).
If you’re after a new lens to extend your reach, then there’s no shortage of telephoto zooms available. At the budget-end and designed to complement a kit zoom, I’d suggest either the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f4-5.6 or the Panasonic Lumix G 45-150mm f4-5.6 OIS. These are two of the most affordable lenses in the catalogue and ideal partners for a basic kit zoom on a budget body; if you have a Panasonic body without stabilisation, go for the Lumix G 45-150mm model which has optical stabilisation. If you’d like even longer reach without breaking the bank, I’d recommend the Panasonic Lumix G 100-300mm f4-5.6 II OIS that takes you to 600mm equivalent coverage at a relatively affordable price.
Beyond this, prices increase significantly as you enter the realm of professional zooms with higher quality, tougher build and brighter apertures. My favourite pair are the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 40-150mm f2.8 PRO (boasting a constant f2.8 aperture but without optical stabilisation), and the Panasonic Leica DG 50-200mm f2.8-4 (which sacrifices the constant aperture for a slightly longer range and a much smaller body for greater portability, and also includes optical stabilisation). Both lenses also make ideal pairings with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 and Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm f2.8-4 respectively.
If you photograph distant subjects like birds, then the best overall option for Micro Four Thirds owners in my view is the Panasonic Leica DG 100-400mm f4-6.3 OIS with its long 200-800mm equivalent coverage and optical stabilisation; I’ve used it on both Olympus and Panasonic bodies very successfully. There’s also the Olympus 100-400mm to compare. If you think you can work with a fixed focal length long telephoto, then also consider the Panasonic Leica DG 200mm f2.8 OIS or Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 300mm f4 IS, both of which offer optical stabilisation
Portrait photographers are also very well-served with a wide variety of short telephotos with bright apertures to blur the backgrounds. The cheapest decent option is the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f1.8, a tiny lens that punches well above its weight, although if you need optical stabilisation, consider spending a little more on the Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm f1.7 OIS which also manages to focus much closer – this may in turn eliminate the need for a dedicated macro lens in the future if your close-up work isn’t too extreme.
For more distant portraiture, I’m a big fan of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 75mm f1.8 with its compact barrel, 150mm equivalent coverage and ability to really separate the subject from the surroundings. If you’re into very high-end lenses, the pair to aspire to are the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f1.2 PRO and the Panasonic Leica DG 42.5mm f1.2 Nocticron. Both deliver approximately 85mm equivalent coverage, the classic short telephoto beloved by portrait shooters, combined with very bright apertures and attractive rendering. Both cost around five times more than their f1.8 counterparts though and are of course much larger and heavier too, but once you’ve shot with them you’ll love the results; the Leica version also has optical stabilisation. Before moving on, I’ll also give a quick mention to one of my favourite lenses in the system, the Panasonic Leica DG 25mm f1.4, a lens that’s arguably a little short for classic portrait work but one that can still work well at closer distances and which delivers very attractive rendering; it’s also a classy general-purpose prime lens.
If you’re into ultra-wide angle photography for big landscapes and architecture, there are again a lot of decent options available. The most affordable is the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 9-18mm f4-5.6, which may not be as wide as the others I’ll mention but is compact, low-cost and includes a filter thread lacking from many wider options. Next-up is the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 7-14mm f2.8 PRO, which costs around twice the price and lacks a filter thread, but boasts much wider coverage, weather-proofing and a constant f2.8 aperture. My personal favourite though is the Panasonic Leica DG 8-18mm f2.8-4 which may lack the constant aperture and not be quite as wide, but delivers a broader total range that makes it more useful for general work, includes a filter thread (which also works fine with the Lee Seven5 ND system at 8mm), and crucially also comes in a little cheaper. There’s also the high-end Panasonic Leica DG 10-25mm f1.7 to consider with its bright fixed aperture and enjoyably flexible general-purpose range that’s skewed to the wider-end; perfect for videographers too, see my Leica DG 10-25mm f1.7 review for more details.
Micro Four Thirds is so established, there’s even a wide choice of fisheye lenses available. My personal picks are the Samyang 7.5mm f3.5 Fisheye at the affordable-end for those who want to have fun with this extreme coverage without breaking the bank, and at the higher-end, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 8mm f1.8 Fisheye PRO, which boasts a far brighter aperture than most lenses of this class; I often shoot light festivals at night with this lens and find the combination of the ultra-wide coverage and bright aperture mounted on a body with stabilisation allows me to successfully handhold in unusually dim conditions.
Moving onto Macro, there’s again a wide choice available and sensibly the manufacturers have tried to avoid stepping on each other’s toes by duplicating focal lengths. My picks are both in a similar ball-park price-wise: the Panasonic Lumix G 30mm f2.8 Macro OIS and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 60mm f2.8 Macro. Both will deliver 1:1 magnification, so the choice boils down to which focal length suits you best and whether you prefer the optical stabilisation of the Panasonic or the weather-sealing of the Olympus.
Regulars to Cameralabs will know I’m very fond of putting together groups of prime lenses rather than relying on one or two zooms, and if you’re after shallow depth-of-field effects, this is definitely the way to go on Micro Four Thirds due to the sensor size. A great combo on a budget are the Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f1.7 and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f1.8, giving you a standard 50mm and short telephoto 90mm at an affordable price. If you have more to spend, consider adding a wider option with the Panasonic Leica DG 15mm f1.7 or the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8, and if you love the standard 50mm length, you may want to swap the budget Lumix G 25mm f1.7 for something nicer like the Panasonic Leica DG 25mm f1.4 or one of the higher-end models. Speaking of which, those with much bigger budgets and higher expectations would be delighted with the Olympus triplet of f1.2 primes: the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.2 PRO, Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f1.2 PRO and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f1.2 PRO. If you’re not worried about having an all-Olympus f1.2 collection, remember the Panasonic Leica DG 42.5mm f1.2 Nocticron too which also has optical stabilisation.
Fancy putting together a triplet of top-end zooms? How about the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 7-14mm f2.8 PRO, Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 12-40mm f2.8 PRO and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 40-150mm f2.8 PRO, giving you an equivalent range of 14-300mm with a constant f2.8 aperture. Or if you’re willing to sacrifice the constant f2.8 aperture for a smaller and lighter triplet with f2.8-4 apertures, I’m very fond of the Panasonic Leica DG 8-18mm f2.8-4, Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm f2.8-4 and Panasonic Leica DG 50-200mm f2.8-4, giving you an equivalent range of 16-400mm.
Keep reading for my detailed reviews of selected Micro Four Thirds lenses and sample image galleries!Check prices at Amazon, B&H, Adorama, eBay or Wex. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!