Top 10 micro 4/3 lenses

Mirrorless cameras have gained a respectful base of followers in less than 4 years since first introduction. Panasonic and Olympus were first to break the ice and remove the mirror from interchangeable lens cameras. It proved to be a successful idea, quickly gaining market shares and other manufacturers soon followed with their own systems. One of the main early criticisms was toward the lack of native lenses, but those day are long past. Today, 38 lenses are available for use on Panasonic and Olympus micro 4/3 bodies. If you are tired of heavy DLSR cameras or lenses and ready to jump into mirrorless world, micro 4/3 system is your best gamble.

Therefore, I’ve assembled this guide of the best micro 4/3 lenses. Please note that this is not a music chart and the first on the list is not necessarily the best one (just like J.B.) :) . All of the lens here recommended are excellent performers and you should choose them regarding your shooting style.

1. Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F/1.8

Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F/1.8 is small, light, cheap and sharp even wide open. When closed to F/2.8-4 it is flawless. It can produce reasonably acceptable DOF separation of subjects and is best suited for portrait or street candid photography shot under natural light. Kit lenses (like Olympus 14-42 or Panasonic 14-45) have very slow and dim F/5.6 at 45mm and Olympus 45mm F/1.8 is a huge step forward in terms of light gathering (3 EV steps more light!)  and image quality. You can read more about it in my review and check current prices over here.

2. Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F/1.7

Panasonic 20mm F/1.7 is a pancake lens with an equivalent of 40mm field of view (in 35mm terms). It is what one might describe a “normal” lens; suitable for almost anything. I would use it as a walk around lens shooting anything from landscapes, street photography, pets, flowers, low light scenarios up to portraits, but don’t expect significantly thin DOF – Olympus 45mm lens is better suited for that. Check prices here

3. Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F/2.5

Panasonic 14mm F/2.5 is another pancake, but this time with a wide angle view (28mm in 35mm eq.). F/2.5 might not look particularly special at the first glance, but compared to kit lenses which all have F/3.5 at 14mm, this pancake is a full stop faster. That means you will be able to keep ISO speed a full stop lower with this lens (less noise). It is best suitable for land or cityscapes and tight interior shots. Check prices here

Holy Trinity

Let me make a quick deviation and introduce you to a Holy Lens Trinity concept. There is a photography school of thought stating all you will ever need are three lenses to shoot almost anything you might encounter. Of course, this varies depending on your shooting style and preferences, but for most part it can be applied to a vast number of photographers out there, especially amateurs. In case of micro 4/3 cameras, I believe the three lenses introduced above are the ones to make the Trinity. They cost around $ 900 together and can be used for almost any shooting scenarios, providing better IQ and light gathering capability than kit lens you ptobably bought with your camera. Image quality is excellent to the point you could use them professionally if you know your business. Yes, they are primes, so you’ll have to zoom with your feet or change them often, but this will only make you think more about the compositions and light and result in overall better images.

4. Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35 F/2.8 O.I.S.

Let’s jump to zoom lenses now. Panasonic 12-35 has a constant F/2.8 aperture and equivalent FOV of 24-70mm. This lens is what you might consider a jack of all trades. It costs and covers almost the same zoom range as the Holy Trinity lenses previously described. So if you consider yourself as a zoom-type photographer, get his one. Image quality is superb and some respectful photographers compare it with Olympus 12-60 lens which is a benchmark for price/IQ ratio performance. It has environmental seals (dust and water proof) which make it a perfect companion for Olympus OMD E-M5 camera. Check prices here

5. Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100 F/2.8 O.I.S.

Another excellent water and dust sealed zoom comes also from Panasonic; the 35-100 F/2.8 tele-zoom. It is only 10cm (4″) long and weighs a mere 360g. For comparison, full frame zooms with constant F/2.8 aperture and optical stabilization of the same viewing angle weigh around 1600g and are 20cm (8″) long. This is the reason that truly makes micro 4/3 system so appealing. This lens is probably best suited for portraiture, sport or photojournalism. Check prices here

6. Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F/4

Panasonic 7-14 has a truly impressive wide-angle coverage. At the widest setting of 7mm it covers 114-degree angle of view, equivalent to 14mm on full frame. This is THE lens to have for breathtaking landscape and interior shots. Still, be careful when using it; shooting at such wide angle requires a little practice to get horizon or converging verticals in architecture photos straight. Check prices here

Holy trinity, once again. :)  

Combine the 7-14, 12-35 and 35-100 lenses and you are ready for anything. Travel, landscape, weddings, photojournalism, portraits, cats, hurricane season… you name it. But beware; the combined value of these beauties will eat a $ 3,500 hole in your wallet.

7. Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm F/2

Olympus 12mm is a pretty interesting lens. It not only provides wide shooting angle (24mm in 35mm eq.) combined with large F/2 aperture, but has a unique manual focusing mechanism. At the slide of the focus ring, manual focus is activated and the lens reveals subject distance scale and DOF markings. Therefore, it’s easy to set hyperfocal distance or use zone focusing which will appeal to anyone shooting street photography. The lens can also be very useful for landscape or interior shots. Optics is superb, and you can read my review of Olympus 12mm here. Check prices here

8. Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm 1.8

Olympus 75mm F/1.8 lens is primarily meant to be used for portraits, studio work, stage or sports photography. I haven’t had the opportunity to use it yet, but all reviews suggest this is the sharpest lens ever made for micro 43 system. Check prices here

9. Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 60mm F/2.8 Macro

No system is complete without a 1:1 macro lens, and this is the one to have if you own Panasonic or Olympus micro 4/3 camera. This lens is dust and splash proof allowing safe operation in poor conditions. It is perfect for bugs, spiders, flowers or any other small object you might encounter. It can also be used as a longer portrait lens if you find 75mm F/1.8 to expensive; 60mm macro is 50% cheaper. Check prices here

10. Voigtlander (Cosina) 25mm F/0.95 Nokton

No, it’s not a typo. This lens has F/0.95 aperture. Lenses such as this one are very rare and usually quite expensive. Nokton 25mm can produce a very thin DOF and allows shooting under extremely low light conditions. The lens has 10 aperture blades which produce very smooth bokeh. It is completely made of metal and feels like a tank – something very unusual for today’s standards. Only manual focus is available so it’s definitely not for everyone, but more of a specialty product for low light and shallow DOF enthusiasts. Check prices here

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4 thoughts on “Top 10 micro 4/3 lenses

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