Micro Four Thirds cameras have exploded over the past few years, with a wide variety of options now on the market from professional to budget. Our picks of 14 great Micro Four Thirds lenses below cover the leading models from Olympus and Panasonic from wide angle to telephoto, also taking into account the third-party options. All Micro Four Thirds lenses are fully compatible on either brand of camera, so it’s easy to use a Panasonic lens on an Olympus body or vice versa (and you have the flexibility to switch camera brands or upgrade down the road). Keep in mind that Micro Four Thirds has a 2x crop factor, so we’ve included the 35mm equivalent in the specs as a point of reference. For more background information, see our buying advice below the picks.
Category: Travel zoom
35mm equivalent: 24-80mm
Weight: 13.5 oz.
What we like: Impressive build quality and low light performance for a zoom.
What we don’t: No image stabilization for Panasonic users.
For professional photographers using full-frame cameras, one of the most popular lens choices is the 24-70mm f/2.8. For Micro Four Thirds, a close approximation and then some is the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro. This lens was built with enthusiasts in mind: it’s fast for a zoom at f/2.8, has a durable metal construction that is weather sealed, and nifty manual focus ring for composing your own shots. And with a focal length equivalent to 24-80mm, this is an ideal travel and walk-around lens. The biggest hurdle for most people is the price, but it’s hard to knock the image quality or build, both of which are superb. For Panasonic users who want image stabilization, try the 12-35mm f/2.8 below.
See the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8
35mm equivalent: 50mm
Weight: 7.1 oz.
What we like: Great sharpness and low light performance.
What we don’t: Expensive for a 50mm prime.
Leica makes some of the best lenses on the planet, and the Summilux 25mm f/1.4 is one of the premier portrait lenses for Micro Four Thirds. With a focal length equivalent of 50mm on a 35mm camera, the lens produces outstanding photos and video, offers the best low light performance on this list, has fast and accurate autofocus, and excellent sharpness, even when wide open. It also has very little distortion to speak of. The only real issues here are the price, which exceeds the comparable DSLR options from both Canon and Nikon, and the weight, which is a bit hefty for a prime lens.
See the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4
35mm equivalent: 40mm
Weight: 3.5 oz.
What we like: Good optics and an extremely low profile.
What we don’t: Autofocus can be slow.
Due to it small size and reasonable price, the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 II is one of the most popular Mirco Four Thirds lenses on the market (the original version had banding issues with high ISO images, which is why you see the improved “II”). This pancake-style lens is extremely light at only 3.5 ounces yet boasts impressive sharpness and bokeh. One shortcoming is that the autofocus is slower than other prime lenses on this list. In addition, a 40mm equivalent isn’t something you see all that often, but it works here between more traditional 35mm and 50mm focal lengths. For street photography and portraits, this is a relatively inexpensive way to get far better low light performance than your kit zoom.
See the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 II
Category: Wide angle
35mm equivalent: 14-28mm
Weight: 18.8 oz.
What we like: Premium image quality.
What we don’t: Expensive and heavy.
Wide-angle lenses are an expensive bunch, and the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 certainly is no exception to the rule. This lens will cost you as much or more as many Micro Four Thirds camera bodies, but it’s the best wide-angle option in terms of image quality and build. It’s fast at f/2.8, sharp, and weather sealed. And at 18.8 ounces, the lens is heavy by Micro Four Standards but still lighter than comparable DSLR lenses.
Who should buy the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8? We like it for serious outdoor photographers and high-end Micro Four Thirds cameras like the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and Panasonic GH-4, but it’s rather expensive to pair with entry-level models. If you do shoot landscape photography frequently, we think it’s well worth the investment. For a cheaper wide-angle zoom option, see the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4 below.
See the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8
35mm equivalent: 34mm
Weight: 4.3 oz.
What we like: Fast autofocus and metal build.
What we don’t: Expensive for a prime lens.
For travel and street photography, the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 is a terrific lens with a focal length equivalent of 34mm on a 35mm camera. It’s sharp, focuses quickly for both stills and video, produces creamy bokeh, and has a metal build despite a weight of just over 4 ounces. We love the low profile as well, which makes it easy to carry around and snap photos without thinking about the lens. Another option at this focal length is the Olympus 17mm f/2.8, which has a notable drop-off in image quality and price.
See the Olympus 17mm f/1.8
35mm equivalent: 90-400mm
Weight: 7.4 oz.
What we like: Lightweight for a telephoto zoom.
What we don’t: Low light performance.
With a focal length equivalent of a whopping 90-400mm on a 35mm camera, the Panasonic 45-200mm f/4-5.6 has a longer range than almost all comparable lenses for digital SLRs. You get a lot of bang for your buck here—the autofocus is fast for a telephoto zoom, distortion and light falloff are within reason, and the lens is sharp at the heart of its zoom range (it does have a tendency to soften toward the ends). The Panasonic Lumix 45-200mm also weighs only 7.4 ounces and features optical image stabilization to offset camera shake. For the longest available zoom range for Micro Four Thirds, try the Panasonic 100-300mm f/4-5.6.
See the Panasonic 45-200mm f/4-5.6
Category: Travel zoom
35mm equivalent: 24-70mm
Weight: 10.8 oz.
What we like: Compact and great image quality.
What we don’t: Expensive.
Olympus released its 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom first, but Panasonic came to the plate in a big way with its 12-35mm f/2.8 X (“X” essentially means pro). This versatile zoom lens has you covered from 24mm wide-angle shots all the way to 70mm portraits. It’s sharp, fast, and lighter than the Olympus at under 11 ounces. We do appreciate the extra 10mm of zoom on the Olympus, but both are excellent from an optical perspective and the choice mostly comes down to brand preference and the need for image stabilization (the Panasonic has it and the Olympus does not).
See the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8
35mm equivalent: 90mm
Weight: 4.1 oz.
What we like: Lightweight and inexpensive for a lens of this quality.
What we don’t: Plastic build.
For those who shoot close-up portraits and head shots, the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 is a great lens option. For under $300, you get a fast maximum aperture of f/1.8 along with excellent bokeh, sharpness, and color rendition. This lens also focuses quickly and is lightweight at only 4.1 ounces. Keep in mind it does not have image stabilization like the Panasonic Leica 45mm f/2.8, but is less than half the price and better in low light. For our money, it’s the best macro Micro Four Thirds lens in its focal length range.
See the Olympus 45mm f/1.8
Category: Wide angle
35mm equivalent: 14-28mm
Weight: 10.6 oz.
What we like: Cheaper than the Olympus 7-14mm above.
What we don’t: Slower too.
For wide-angle enthusiasts, the Panasonic Lumix 7-14mm f/4 is a cheaper wide-angle option than the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 above. From an optical perspective, it offers good sharpness and build quality, and we like that it’s significantly lighter than the Olympus at only 10.6 ounces. However, the maximum aperture of f/4 certainly isn’t optimal for those who frequently shoot in low light (the lens does have image stabilization). And at nearly $800, it’s less expensive than the Olympus but still rather pricey. If you’re a serious wide-angle photographer, we recommend going with the Olympus. If not, you may want to consider a more versatile lens like the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 above that still hits a 24mm equivalent at the wide end.
See the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4
Weight: 6.7 oz.
35mm equivalent: 80-300mm
What we like: A must-have Mirco Four Thirds lens for those on a budget.
What we don’t: Plastic build and poor in low light.
The Olympus 40-150mm is the leading budget telephoto lens for Micro Four Thirds and one of the best values on this list. For about $100, you get great coverage equivalent to 80-300mm, decent sharpness, and reasonably good autofocus (it will hunt on occasion). In addition, the lens is light at only 6.7 ounces, in large part because of the plastic build and mount. This lens is not a good low light option and isn’t as durable as metal, but it’s a nice option for those wanting a telephoto lens at a reasonable price point.
See the Olympus 40-150mm f/4-5.6
Category: Travel zoom
35mm equivalent: 24-100mm
Weight: 7.5 oz.
What we like: A good value, particularly as part of a kit.
What we don’t: Low light performance and distortion.
The Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 is just over half the price of the two pro zooms above, and much less if you get it in a kit. This versatile zoom lens covers a healthy range of focal lengths from an equivalent of 24 to 100mm. One weakness is its maximum aperture range of f/3.5-6.3—those who frequently shoot in low light should consider one of the pro zoom lenses or faster prime lenses. And like most zoom lenses, it has some distortion at the ends. Aside from these issues, the Olympus 12-50mm is nice walk-around option that will capture good images without breaking the bank. As part of a kit, it can be a decent value too.
See the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3
35mm equivalent: 120mm
Weight: 6.5 oz.
What we like: Cheaper and lighter than the Panasonic Leica 45mm lens.
What we don’t: Not quite as sharp.
The Olympus 60mm f/2.8 is a cheaper Micro Four Thirds macro alternative to the Panasonic Leica 45mm lens below. It offers similar optical quality but with less sharpness and more plastic in the build (it does have a metal mount). We aren’t crazy about its focal length of 60mm, which is equivalent to 120mm on a 35mm camera and longer than some photographers prefer for macro. But all things considered, the Olympus 60mm is a good lens and weather sealed (the Panasonic 45mm is not).
See the Olympus 60mm f/2.8
35mm equivalent: 80-300mm
Weight: 31.4 oz.
What we like: Serious performance for serious telephoto photographers.
What we don’t: Very heavy and too expensive for most consumers.
With the continuing rise of professional-grade Micro Four Thirds cameras, it’s no surprise that we would see ultra high-end lenses hit the market. The Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro is a beast of a telephoto lens, offering a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture throughout its long zoom range that reaches an equivalent of 300mm. We also like the optical performance of the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8, but that lens is shorter on zoom and only a couple hundred dollars cheaper. At the extreme end of the market, the Olympus 35-100mm has a very fast maximum aperture of f/2 but costs nearly $2,500.
See the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8
35mm equivalent: 90mm
Weight: 9.8 oz.
What we like: Works well for both macro and portraits.
What we don’t: Autofocus can be slow on moving subjects.
Nearly $800 is a steep price to pay for a macro lens, but there just aren’t very many options for Micro Four Thirds. If you’re a macro specialist and demand high performance, the Panasonic Leica 45mm Macro lens is sharper than the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 above and has a slightly more workable focal length equivalent of 90mm. Some photographers have complained that the autofocus can be slow, particularly for moving subjects. But the optics of this lens are impressive overall, and we like that it can be used as a medium telephoto option too (you could skip the Olympus 45mm above and get this lens for both portraits and macro).
See the Panasonic 45mm f/2.8
- Focal Length Equivalents
- Prime Lenses vs. Zoom Lenses
- Pancake-Style Lenses
- Image Stabilization
- The Voigtlander Collection
Mirrorless cameras haven’t been around as long as DSLRs, and therefore the lens offerings generally are more limited. However, the Micro Four Thirds format is flush with lens options and you can choose between any model manufactured by Olympus or Panasonic. To further clarify, Micro Four Thirds lenses are cross compatible, meaning you can use a Panasonic lens on an Olympus camera without an adapter and vice versa. Keep in mind that Olympus OM-D cameras have built-in image stabilization, and therefore many Olympus lenses do not offer this feature.
Some people decide to use an adapter for their Canon or Nikon DSLR lenses, or even other mirrorless set-ups like Sony e-mount. We think adapters are an okay solution if you have a big collection of lenses from another brand that you really want to use on your Micro Four Thirds camera. However, when using an adapter autofocus can suffer or even be non-existent, and DSLR lenses will be bulkier on a small Micro Four Thirds body than a native lens. If possible, we recommend sticking to Olympus or Panasonic lenses (or third-party brands like Tokina that make lenses with a designated Micro Four Thirds mount).
Micro Four Thirds cameras have an easy-to-calculate 2x crop factor, meaning that a 25mm lens will behave like a 50mm lens would on a 35mm camera. The history behind crop factor is long, but what you need to know is that lens focal lengths are described using 35mm film as the reference point. Because the diagonal of a Micro Four Thirds image sensor is 2 times smaller than a 35mm camera, you multiply the listed focal length of the lens by 2 to determine its equivalent.
If you’ve used a full-frame camera before, crop factor can be very helpful in choosing your lenses. For example, the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 is equivalent to 24-70mm on a Micro Four Thirds camera, which is much more useful than the listed range (enthusiasts and professionals love fast 24-70mm lenses for their tremendous versatility). Because of the importance of focal length equivalent in choosing lenses, we’ve provided it both in the product specs and in our lens comparison table.
This debate can be endless: prime lenses generally are faster, lighter, and have less distortion, but zooms are much more versatile by covering a range of focal lengths. The good news for Micro Four Thirds camera users is that you have strong options in both categories. For example, we absolutely love the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro, which is fast for a zoom, weather resistant, and covers a very useful 24-80mm focal length range. The same goes for the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8, which has slightly less reach but comes with image stabilization. On the other side of the spectrum, you have a number of quality prime options like the Olympus 17mm f/1.8, Panasonic 25mm f/1.4, and more. Unlike other types of mirrorless cameras that have limited lens offerings, you can go either way with Micro Four Thirds.
In the same vein as lenses for DSLRs, cost goes up as optics improve and aperture gets faster. We aren’t huge fans of the kit zoom lenses like the Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6, which is small and covers a nice range but won’t make your images really pop like a great prime or zoom. If you can afford it, getting a fast lens (we make the “pro” cutoff at f/2.8 and faster) with good sharpness and autofocus will be well worth your while.
One of the great advantages of Micro Four Thirds cameras—and mirrorless in general—is their compact size. To find the right match for your small camera, pancake-style lenses can be very attractive. Their low profile and low weight can make for just about the smallest interchangeable-lens set-up you can find.
Many pancake lenses come with some optical sacrifice. Generally, the image quality is good but not great. Pancakes can be less sharp than their larger counterparts, and sometimes the autofocus is slower than you might expect for a prime. There are, however, some strong pancake lens options for Micro Four Thirds like the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 and Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 II. All things considered, we think these low-profile lenses are great when you find a good match at your desired focal length but it’s not worth forcing it.
Image stabilization helps to offset camera shake when shooting handheld photos in low light, and often is found on large zoom lenses slower than f/2.8. As we mentioned above, Olympus OM-D and PEN cameras have built-in image stabilization, which means Olympus lenses do not. This is an important distinction for those who have a Panasonic Micro Four Thirds camera: Olympus lenses are less desirable unless you’re using a fast prime that doesn’t need image stabilization.
We appreciate the upsides of image stabilization and it’s certainly a desirable feature on a camera or lens. It’s really nice that Olympus cameras have built-in image stabilization in the camera body—Sony only recently made the jump with its rather pricey Sony a6500. If you frequently shoot in low light and don’t use a tripod, make sure to get image stabilization on either your camera or slower lenses.
Just for fun, we wanted to mention the Voigtlander lenses for Micro Four Thirds. Theses super high-end models have maximum apertures of f/0.95 (that is not a misprint), making them among the brightest and fastest on the market for any type of camera. They’re also manual focus like some of the more traditional Zeiss lenses, which some amateurs dislike but soon learn is fun and more accurate. Among the available Voigtlander lenses for Micro Four Thirds are the Voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95 (35mm equivalent), Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 (50mm equivalent), and Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 (90mm equivalent).