by Alex W.
We’ve already talked about the best lenses for Nikon and the similar options for Canon, and we’ve covered the increasingly popular Fuji X Series lenses. Now we delve into the tiny world of the best Micro Four Thirds (4/3) lenses.
The best thing about the Micro 4/3 system is that abundance of lenses available. Olympus and Panasonic both share the same lens mount, which means no matter what Micro 4/3 camera you have you can still use lenses from any manufacturer.
The result? Micro Four Thirds has a bigger range of lenses than any other mirrorless manufacturer.
However, with an abundance of choice comes indecision. With so many lenses out there, how do you know which Micro 4/3 lens is the best for your needs?
That’s what we’re answering here. But first:
Micro Four Thirds refers to the size of the image sensor. It’s 4/3 of an inch, making it a smaller sensor than APS-C and Full Frame. This does have an impact on overall image quality due to the smaller pixel size, but it has plenty of benefits too.
The main advantage in Micro 4/3 systems is the size. Many Micro 4/3 cameras can fit in your coat pocket even with a lens attached. It makes them perfect travel cameras and many, like myself, use a Micro 4/3 camera as a second shooter that takes up barely any space.
The smaller sensor size also results in smaller lenses, increasing the reasons for using it as a backup camera.
It’s also important to note the difference in relative focal length. An APS-C sensor has a ‘crop factor’ of 1.5x compared to full frame, but a Micro 4/3 lens has a crop factor of 2.0x. Basically, a 20mm focal length on a full frame sensor will be equivalent to 40mm on Micro Four Thirds.
It’s almost unthinkable that a superzoom lens can lay a claim to the overall winner spot, but here it is!
The Olympus M.Zuiko 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 could be the only Micro Four Thirds lens that you ever need. It’s got a gigantic effective focal range of 24mm to 400mm but it still retains very good levels of sharpness.
Of course, this drops off as you get to the longer end of the range, but it’s far better than the vast majority of superzooms out there and considering it covers such a wide range it’s actually very well priced. Not only that, but it retains the trademark lightness of the Micro 4/3 system, weighing in at around 300 grams.
Of course, you do have to sacrifice a fast maximum aperture but, if you use a Micro 4/3 system as a easy-to-carry backup camera like I do, it’s a lens that will rarely be taken off your camera.
It might not be the best value when compared to the rock-bottom prices of DSLR 50mm lenses, but the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.8 still offers the best bang for your buck on the Micro 4/3 system.
The image quality is second to none in this price bracket and we all know how versatile the effective 50mm focal length is.
It comes with another advantage as well – it’s absolutely tiny. It weighs just 137 grams and is 42mm long, so it’s easily pocketable when attached to most Micro 4/3 camera bodies. Considering the minuscule sizes are one of the main pulling points of Micro 4/3 systems, this is a big tick in the pros column.
With an equivalent focal range of 24-70mm lens, the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 is among the best of Micro 4/3 lenses.
It’s a perfect replacement to a standard kit lens, offering professional grade performance along with weather sealing and a fast f/2.8 aperture. Its overall sharpness is excellent throughout the aperture range and, along with the image stabilization, it makes the 12-35mm perfect for low light shooting.
Obviously with this being a Micro 4/3 lens the size is also incredibly impressive. It weighs in at just 305g and is only 74mm long. It’s not cheap, but it’ll probably be your most used lens thanks to its versatility and optical quality.
If you’re looking for ultra wide-angle viewing, look no further than the professional grade Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO.
Going as wide as a 14mm equivalent viewing angle the 7-14mm is one of the best there is when it comes to optical quality and the fast f/2.8 constant aperture adds to its already impressive feature list.
It also has excellent build quality and a manual focus clutch. That being said, this is one of the more expensive Micro 4/3 lenses out there, plus the in built lens hood means attaching filters is a real problem. It’s also a tad on the heavier side, weighing in at over 500g.
Another of the Panasonic Lumix holy trinity of lenses takes the biscuit when it comes to Micro 4/3 telephoto lenses.
Offering a 70-200mm equivalent focal range and a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8, this is the best Micro 4/3 offering when it comes to that most popular of telephoto lens focal ranges.
Just like the 12-35mm featured above, optical quality is excellent throughout the whole aperture range and bumps up to almost impeccable at f/4 and above. It’s only 50g heavier than its little brother as well, weighing in at a measly 357g and measuring just 100mm in length.
Combine that with optical image stabilization and a weather sealed construction and you have a lot of performance in a relatively small package.
Okay, so it doesn’t have a fast aperture, image stabilization or weather sealing, but this is an absolute bargain! It’s currently under $100 on Adorama below!
Seriously, you’ll do well to find a more reasonably priced Micro Four Thirds lens, and the 80-300mm equivalent focal length provides plenty of reach. Image quality is impressive for the price point, although admittedly this does start to drop off as the focal length increases.
Still, if you don’t use a telephoto lens often and don’t mind the relatively slow aperture (a landscape photographer, for example), this is almost too good to pass up.
Light travelling wildlife photographers, rejoice!
Boasting a mammoth equivalent reach of 800mm, this optically stabilized super telephoto is perfect for aviation, bird and wildlife photography.
The Panasonic 100-400mm is fairly sizeable compared to other Micro Four Thirds lenses, but it’s far from unmanageable and is actually lighter than I expected at 985g. To put that into perspective, it’s still only half the weight of a standard 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on a DSLR.
Despite the bulk, it does balance fairly well and the included tripod foot is a welcome addition.
I absolutely love a good nifty fifty, and this is the Micro Four Thirds equivalent to that most perfect of focal lengths!
The Olympus 25mm f/1.8 bears all the hallmarks of a classic nifty fifty. Relatively cheap price tag? Check. Excellent image quality? Check. Exceptionally fast aperture? Yep, check.
The size factor is also worth considering. The Olympus 25mm weighs in at a tiny 137g and is only 42mm long. Attached to the right Micro 4/3 camera body and it becomes almost invisible and will easily fit in a jacket pocket, making it the perfect street photography setup.
While it’s cheap compared to some of the other lenses out there and is miles better in terms of optical quality to other lenses in the price bracket, it’s worth noting that this isn’t quite as good value as its DSLR counterparts.
Maybe you’re looking for a more portrait oriented prime lens than a nifty fifty can offer, in which case the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN is the perfect option.
It’s slightly more expensive than the Olympus 25mm, but the 112mm equivalent focal length is perfect for portraiture and the ultra-fast f/1.2 aperture helps to counter the difficulties in achieving a shallow depth of field, which is an inherent problem with the smaller Micro 4/3 sensor.
This is without a doubt the best macro lens around for the Micro Four Thirds system, offering a usable 120mm effective focal length and 1:1 reproduction ratio it does all the things you’d expect a macro lens to do.
It’s weather sealed and has a fantastic build quality despite weighing in at under 200g and, like most macro lenses, it brings stunning optical quality to the table. It also has a very handy focus distance/magnification window and is in a reasonable price bracket.
The best thing about macro photography on Micro 4/3? The 2.0x crop factor means that it effectively provides 2:1 magnification, twice that of a macro lens on a full-frame sensor!
It’s not often I’ll recommend a superzoom lens above more specialist options, but this really is some achievement.
The Olympus 12-200m, offering a quite frankly ridiculous equivalent focal range of 24mm all the way up to 400mm, actually works as a serious photography lens.
Of course there are some optical issues, especially at the longer end of the focal range, but all things considered it performs exceptionally well.
Not only that, but it’s weatherproof and still only weights in at a smidgen over 300g. All this for a relatively affordable price tag.
The lack of optical stabilization and the narrow maximum aperture are compromises, but if you’re using your Micro 4/3 setup as a backup to your bigger camera then the Olympus 12-200mm might actually be the only lens you ever need!
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About Alex W.
Alex is the owner and lead writer for Click and Learn Photography. An avid landscape, equine, and pet photographer living and working in the beautiful Lake District, UK, Alex has had his work featured in a number of high profile publications, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and Amateur Photographer Magazine.