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Date: 03/07/2013 | By: Heather

The best Micro Four Thirds lenses for your Olympus or Panasonic

NEX-3N, 1/30, f/ 35/10, ISO 800

The best Micro Four Thirds lenses for your Olympus or Panasonic

Just as every car needs good tyres and every boat needs a good sail, every camera, no matter how technologically advanced, is in need of a quality lens for its true potential to be fully realised.

This fact was proven to me when I went to Wales with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 accompanied only by a kit zoom on which I had hurriedly spent $90. The resulting photographs are pleasant to look at, yes, but I give credit to the incredibly diverse and colourful landscape, not to the lens.

Since then, we have invested in a number of quality lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system, including the M.Zuiko 45mm portrait lens, the M.Zuiko 12mm wide angle lens, and the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 zoom, but these are far from the only choices out there.

In this article, we’ve drawn up a list of the best Micro Four Thirds lenses available as of 2013. Some we own, some we’ve tried, and others … well, let’s just say we’d love to get our hands on them!

Please note: For the moment, we have only included autofocus lenses in this list.

Wide Angle Lenses for Micro Four Thirds

Olympus M. Zuiko 12mm f/2.0

The Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm f/2 lens
The Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm f/2 lens

The M.Zuiko 12mm f/2 was the first MFT lens we bought along with the 45mm. 12mm is one of our favourite focal lengths for wide-angle shots. The image quality is superb: it remains sharp, even at its fastest aperture of f/2.0, and only becomes slightly soft at f/22. It is super compact, making it a great lens for the already-compact Olympus PEN series or the OM-D E-M5. The only thing missing from the box is a lens hood which can be useful for reducing flares. To see our full review, you can head over here.


Olympus M. Zuiko 17mm f/1.8

E-M5, 1/1250, f/ 22/10, ISO 200
The 17mm f/1.8 on the new Pen E-P5

We recently tried the 17mm at the Olympus Show in Turin, and were very pleased with it. It has an equivalent field of view of 34mm on 35mm format, which makes it ideal for street photography. It looks very sharp at f/1.8 but as with any wide angle lens, you will need to get close to your subject in order to achieve a shallower depth of field. We don’t have a lot of example pictures to show you at the moment, but we will review it later on.


Standard Lenses for Micro Four Thirds

Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4

This is one of the lenses that we haven’t had the pleasure of trying yet, but I have only read good things about it. (Update: you can find our review here!) It is one of the fastest lenses available for MFT at f/1.4, is great for low light situations, and is a Panasonic Leica branded lens, which should guarantee quality. With its 50mm equivalent on a full frame sensor, it gives you a standard focal length – great for street photography or portraits.

Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7


This lens has been recently been announced as a replacement for the previous version of the 20mm f/1.7, known to be one of the most compact lenses for MFT. Panasonic has added a metal build and has given you the choice between black or silver. As for the quality, we must wait to judge, but we can only hope to see an improvement on the previous version, which was already great. Furthermore, its small size makes it ideal if your goal is to keep the overall size of your camera as small and lightweight as possible.

Portrait Lenses for Micro Four Thirds

Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm f/1.8

The M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8
The M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8

The 45mm is our favourite portrait lens for a number of reasons. First of all, it produces a lovely bokeh (background blur), has an excellent AF motor, and remains sharp even at its fastest aperture. Secondly, it is very lightweight to carry around, even though its plastic build feels a little cheap. Finally, it is fairly inexpensive compared to the other MFT portrait lenses on the market. In fact, the 75mm mentioned below costs twice the price of the 45mm. To see our full review, head over here!


Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8

The 75mm f/1.8 mounted on the new Olympus Pen E-P5
The 75mm f/1.8 mounted on the new Olympus Pen E-P5

Here is one of the MFT lenses we admire the most! The 75mm f/1.8 is considered the best MFT lens for portraiture, period. It has an aperture of f/1.8, which is extremely fast, and remains insanely sharp from edge to edge. Despite being one of the largest lenses for Micro Four Thirds, it is fairly compact and lightweight with a solid aluminum build. It also has an extremely fast autofocus and produces a stunning bokeh. We tried it recently and it is definitely a lens we’d like to add to our collection in the future!

Zoom Lenses for Micro Four Thirds

Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8

The Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8 mounted on the OM-D E-M5
The Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8 mounted on the OM-D E-M5

We decided to invest in the 35-100mm f/2.8 principally for Mathieu’s work at the cinema museum to replace his old Nikkor AF-S 80-200mm f/2.8. Since his work often requires him to take shots of people from afar, a good MFT zoom was indispensable. The 35-100mm features a splash and dustproof sealed body and has a constant aperture of f/2.8 across the entire zoom range (the only one currently available for MFT). It is very compact and remains sharp even at f/2.8. Our full review is coming soon, so stay tuned!


Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8

, , f/ , ISO

The above-mentioned 35-100mm is best complemented by the 12-35mm, a lens we are planning on buying in the very near future for Mathieu’s work. It is one of the larger lenses in the MFT series, but still remains smaller than most DSLR lenses. It features a sturdy weather-sealed body, and comes with a fast constant aperture of f/2.8, which many say make it a dream come true for video. The AF is also silent and fast.

Is there a particular Micro Four Thirds lens you enjoy using? If so, tell us about it in the comments section!

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About the author: Heather Broster

Heather Broster was born in Canada, has lived in Japan and Italy but currently calls Wales home. She is a full-time gear tester at MirrorLessons. You can follow her on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • Mathieu

    Which camera body would you use with the 12-35 or 12-40mm?

  • capitalphotog

    How does the Panasonic 12-35mm stabilisation work for video (I use a GH4)? If it’s not that great, I’m seriously considering the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 as an alternative just for that extra 5mm – plus I’ve heard that it’s closer to being parfocal than its Panasonic competitor (can you confirm).

  • bubba

    I am surprised you did not include the Voigtlander 25mm f0.95. Admitted, its a bit pricey but if you want bokeh…

  • Heather

    This is indeed something people should be aware of when deciding which lenses to buy. Thanks for sharing the tip!

  • Irene

    Thanks for this great post, Heather. I have been shooting CD covers for over 35 years and am now exclusively using M43. I have The E-M1, Zuiko 12-40mm (2.8), Zuiko 25mm (1.8), and Zuiko 45mm (1.8). They are all beautiful lenses. However, I later decided to get the Panasonic GH3 to serve as a video camera and a backup camera. Now I wish I had purchased Panasonic lenses because of the difference in the image stabilization. EM-1 is in the body. GH3 depends on lenses with image stabilization. So, now I need to buy new lenses to shoot video. My local Berkeley camera store doesn’t sell Panasonic, so I was unaware. Part of the learning curve for me, so I thought I would share this in case someone else can use the info.

  • Mathieu

    The 9-18mm is a “plastic” lens and is very similar to standard kit lenses regarding build quality. If you are using the Seven5 kit, I think you will be fine as the adaptor isn’t really heavy.

  • John Arthur

    I notice you used the m.zuiko 9-18mm in a recent article. I am considering this for my e-m5 but I use the lee filter system and was concerned about the construction build and strength of this lens when the lee filter holder and filters are attached. any views?

  • Heather

    Small plugs are always welcome as long as they provide value. 😉 We’re still in the process of getting in contact with Sigma but as soon as we do, it’ll be the first lens we’ll try. Thanks!

  • David Mantripp

    An mFT lens you might overlook but REALLY, REALLY should try is the Sigma 60mm DN f2.8. Even ignoring the value for money it’s fantastic, but for the price it’s incredible.

    If I might be permitted a small plug, I reviewed it – subjectively – here.

  • Mathieu

    Yes, my E-M1 should arrive soon and I ordered it with the 12-40mm. I haven’t compared the two lenses side by side but I love the build quality of the Olympus lens.

  • Geir

    Have you considered the m.zuiko 12-40 as an alternative to the Panasonic 12-35?

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