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Date: 04/02/2015 | By: Heather

The Best Micro Four Thirds Lenses – A Personal Recommendation


The Best Micro Four Thirds Lenses – A Personal Recommendation

Micro Four Thirds is the mirrorless system with the widest variety of lenses to choose from, period. Even Fujifilm, which has been pumping out new glass at a brisk and steady pace, has a long way to go before it can catch up with its rival in the mirrorless sector.

So why does the system have so many lenses? It all comes down to a few factors. Firstly, there aren’t one but two camera manufacturers (Olympus and Panasonic) who have chosen this mount for their mirrorless cameras. Secondly, there are many third party lens manufacturers who have taken an interest in producing lenses for the system including Tamron, Sigma, Voigtlander, Kowa and Samyang, to name a few. Finally, Olympus and Panasonic were two of the first camera companies to start producing mirrorless cameras and lenses.

While we are fond of many of the lenses for Micro Four Thirds, there are a few that have found a permanent place in our collection and one or two we wholeheartedly wish we could own. Here we’ve made a list of our five favourites–which are yours? :-)

Cheap and Cheerful – The M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8

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

The M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 may be one of the least expensive primes in the Micro Four Thirds line-up but don’t let that deceive you into thinking that it is third-rate. This little portrait lens is seriously a keeper.

Not only does its fast aperture of 1.8 allow you to take beautiful sharp portraits with a lovely creamy background blur, but it also facilitates low-light shooting at lower ISO values. Plus, due to its tiny dimensions, you can easily decide to pop it into your bag or slide it into your jacket pocket at the last minute as it won’t take up any space.

It is true that the body is made of plastic rather than metal, but it weighs less as a result.

One of the most important points in the 45mm’s favour is that it perfectly represents the ethos of the Micro Four Thirds system: the combination of compactness and high quality. The fact that it costs less than most other MFT lenses is the proverbial cherry on top.

Check out our full review of the 45mm f/1.8 for more information and images.


  • very light and compact
  • one of the least expensive MFT primes
  • fast aperture
  • nice out-of-focus rendering
  • excellent for low-light shooting
  • available in black and silver


  • not weather-sealed
  • not stabilised on MFT bodies that do not have IBIS
  • no lens hood included

Jack of all Trades I – The M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO

E-M10, 1/8, f/ 2/1, ISO 200
M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Though usually a derogatory expression, in the case of the 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens, the fact that the lens can do many things quite well is actually a good thing.

It isn’t a macro lens, but it can take excellent close-up shots with wonderful background rendering. At 2.8, its aperture isn’t unbelievably fast, but it is constant, meaning that low-light shooting and subject isolation aren’t an issue. It isn’t particularly small like other MFT lenses either, but where it lacks in compactness it gains in excellent optics and sharpness. It is no wonder that many professionals who shoot events and weddings have given up using two different primes in favour of the 12-40mm on its own. It is just that versatile.

Check out our full review of the 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO for more information and images.


  • very versatile focal range (wide angle to portrait length)
  • weather-proof build
  • all metallic construction
  • excellent optics
  • good close focussing capabilities
  • very nice out-of-focus rendering
  • 2.8 constant aperture
  • useful manual focus clutch mechanism
  • Fn button on lens body
  • comes with lens hood


  • a little expensive
  • larger than most MFT lenses
  • only available in black
  • not stabilised on MFT bodies that do not have IBIS

Jack of all Trades II – Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8

E-M10, 1/13, f/ 28/10, ISO 200
The Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8 next to the M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO

The second “Jack” of MFT lenses is the wonderfully versatile Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8. For the longest time, it was the only professional zoom with a constant aperture for Micro Four Thirds, and despite the subsequent appearance of the M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8, it remains the most compact option of the two. (In fact, it is less than half the size and weight of an equivalent DSLR lens!)

So, its compact nature aside, what else do we love about the 35-100mm? Well, as we mentioned, it has a 2.8 constant aperture across the entire zoom range, making it useful for shooting in low light and isolating subjects from the background. It also has a splash and dust proof body and includes Power O.I.S. for use on non-stabilised camera bodies. And most importantly, the image quality and sharpness are nothing short of excellent.

If you are accustomed to using primes, this lens could technically replace most of your lens collection with the exception of a wide angle, macro and super telephoto. For everything in between, the 35-100mm has got you covered.

Check out our full review of the 35-100mm f/2.8 for more information and images.


  • extremely compact and light (in line with MFT ethos)
  • very versatile focal range
  • splash and dust proof
  • silent AF
  • comes with a lens hood


  • a little expensive
  • plastic body instead of metal
  • only available in black

The Bokeh Beast – Lumix Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2

Heather, the E-M1 and the Nocticron.
Heather, the E-M1 and the Nocticron.

It’s big. It’s heavy. It’s hella expensive. It’s everything a MFT lens shouldn’t be but …

… the Lumix Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 produces some of the most fantastic image quality you can get for the system. We’re talking a fast aperture of 1.2 that allows the lens to gobble up light like hardly any other MFT lens on the market, no distortion, extreme sharpness from edge to edge, and a bokeh so soft and beautiful that even full-frame users will sit back and admire the results. Let’s just call it the Leica touch!

Is it worth the investment? If you are anything but a portrait photographer, probably not. But that doesn’t stop us from appreciating the craftsmanship that went into designing this lens. If we had the extra cash to spend, it would definitely be in our collection.

Check out our full review of the Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 for more information and images.


  • outstanding image quality
  • 1.2 aperture delivers beautiful bokeh
  • excellent sharpness even at the fastest aperture
  • includes I.O.S. for non-stabilised bodies
  • tough metal build
  • comes with metal lens hood
  • aperture ring with automatic operation and full-stop markings
  • useful physical switches on barrel for I.O.S and AF/MF


  • big, heavy and expensive
  • aperture ring does not function on Olympus bodies
  • only available in black

The Close Shooter – M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8

The 60mm f/2.8 without the lens hood.
The 60mm f/2.8 without the lens hood

Anyone who follows this site knows that I am an unabashed macro photography fan, which is partly why the M.Zuiko 60mm f/2.8 has found a spot on this list.

Once again, here we have a lens that embraces the spirit of the Micro Four Thirds system. The lens barrel already very small, but even cleverer is the fact that you can reverse the lens hood and slot it onto the barrel when not in use. In short, this means that the lens remains compact even with the lens hood attached.

As for the image quality, it’s nothing short of excellent. With its maximum reproduction ratio of 1:1, the lens does a great job of isolating small subjects with great sharpness and detail. The bokeh is very nice, as are the colours. It even includes a focal limiter switch on the side to help you select your desired focus range for faster focussing. I often use it to jump right to 1:1 magnification. My only real complaint is that 60mm can be a little short for skittish insects, especially with the lens hood attached.

Like the Nocticron mentioned above, the average photographer probably won’t want or need this lens, but true macro buffs will certainly prefer it to extension tubes or lenses with close focussing capabilities.

Check out our full review of the 60mm f/2.8 macro for more information and images.


  • very small and compact
  • solid build
  • fast aperture of 2.8
  • lens hood can be stored on barrel
  • great image quality
  • inclusion of focal limiter switch


  • not stabilised on MFT bodies that do not have IBIS
  • only available in black
  • 60mm is a little short for skittish insects
List Price: $499.00
Current Price: $399.00
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Which are your favourite Micro Four Thirds lenses? Tell us about them below!

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

    I tested the 25mm and found it too soft at 0.95. The 17,5mm and 42,5mm should have better performances and the new 10,5mm left me with a very positive impression when I saw it at Photokina.

  • Roberto Dokonal

    Has anyone ever used the Voigtländer lenses? That f/0.95 is really impressive.

  • gatesbuster

    I agree with your choice. Although I am not sure I would have added the 60mm. I have a bunch of primes but I end up using the 12-40mm f2.8 and a 14-150mm f4-5.6. I barely use the panasonic 25mm f1.4 or the new 40-150mm f2.8 Olympus that I find way too big and heavy.

  • Guido Gloor Modjib

    I actually only own three of the lenses on your list – neither the Noctiron 42.5 f/1.2 nor the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 made it into my collection.

    My own favorite 5 lenses out of the 14 I owned / own to date are probably something like…

    1) Olympus 75mm f/1.8. The bokeh is wonderful, it’s brilliantly sharp even without stopping down, and while the focal length takes some getting used to, it’s still pretty versatile. And the best lens I know for portraits.

    2) Olympus 17mm f/1.8. I replaced the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 with it, and the prime reason for that was that this one promised to focus a lot faster while also improving image quality and giving me the nice manual focus ring. It did both those things, and it also looks awesome on my silver E-M1 body.

    3) Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8. I agree with you, it’s such a lovely and very versatile lens. I used to own the 12mm f/2.0 prime, and there’s almost no reason to have that any more with this great zoom.

    After that, things get a little less clear-cut…

    4) Probably the Olympus 45mm f/1.8. I just love my Olympus primes, and this one feels like it still has a place beside the 12-40mm zoom because of its tiny size and fast aperture.

    5) Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro. I used to own the Panasonic 45mm macro before the Olympus one came out, and it always felt really silly to own two 45mm primes. The image stabilization of the Panasonic lens also felt wasted with the in-body stabilization of Olympus bodies. Otherwise, the lenses are rather comparable to me (apart from their focal length, of course) – similar great optical characteristics.

  • Heather Broster

    I think it’s become quite common for photographers to replace their primes with the 12-40 for all the reasons you’ve stated. It may be larger than other lenses but it’s the only lens you really need for basic landscape, macro and portrait work. Olympus really deserves a pat on the back!

  • Heather Broster

    I’ll definitely keep that in mind! Thanks David!

  • Joe Turic

    Great selection of lenses. I was using 3 primes — the 12, 25 and 45 before I moved to the Olympus 12-40, and it was one of the best choices I made. On landscape shoots, I was constantly changing out my 12 to the 25 to the 45 and then back again. Throwing the 12-40 on the E-M5 was tough…it seemed so large compared to the primes, but it’s just so versatile. You can put on for the day and capture landscapes on the wide end as well as a nice portrait at 40mm.

    I would love to try a couple others on this list, especially the 60mm macro. I never had much luck with macro when I used a DSLR, but something tells me the smaller sensor will give me less dof problems and the in body IS of the E-M5 will make shooting with that 60mm macro a lot of fun :)

  • David Stahl

    The more recent Tamron 16-150 should get a look-see at your next MFT lens round up — since I got it, it’s on my E-M1 90% on the time — great walkaround lens — produces execellent IQ.

  • Mirrorless Journey

    I’m sure too , but my bank account would not like that as much… hehe

  • speltrong

    I *love* the 7.5 Samyang. Super sharp, focuses really close, excellent build quality and tiny – it matches really well to the GM1. Just have to be careful not to get your fingers in the frame when focusing 😉

  • speltrong

    I spent a lot of time comparing the Oly 60mm to the Panasonic-Leica 45mm, and finally decided on the Panasonic. The 45mm focal length seemed to be a lot more useful when not shooting macro, and I like the character of the images a lot more. If the 42.5 was out at the time, it’s possible that it would have swayed me to get that + the Oly 60, since carrying around two lenses of nearly the same focal length seems ridiculous. I’m still coveting the 42.5, but can’t justify it and I love the 45 too much to trade it in :)

  • Heather Broster

    With there being so many choices, it is hard to choose. I’m pretty sure you’d love the 42.5 for the portrait work you do.

  • Heather Broster

    A completely different list to ours – I like that! :) I’ve never tried the 7.5mm but it looks like an interesting option. Aren’t you using the Sony FF system now?

  • Heather Broster

    The two are so close that I found it hard to choose. In the end, the Nocticron took gold. :)

  • Mirrorless Journey

    My choice might be the 45mm f/1.8. So light, small and sharp. It’s a joy to use. I like the Panasonic 20mm too even if it is a bit slower to focus. Like Henrik mentioned, the Fisheye 7.5mm is a great lens and so fun to use. The Olympus 75mm is amazing too.
    The micro 4/3 lens line-up is so great. So many choices. There are plenty I did not try yet like the 42.5mm and the 60 macro.

  • Henrik Fessler

    Nice sum up of your favorites … here’s my favorites when I was into MFT in “my days of MFT back then” (only a couple of months agi, after I switched to another system):
    * The 60mm Macro was one of my faves as well, pretty sharp lens and so compact, especially now I miss the switch to click to instantly go to a 1:1 magnification
    * Compactness rules: In retrospective the Olympus 9-18mm is a small jewel, however flawed a little bit with a plasticky and wobbly body, and a tendency towards chromatic aberrations (which can be dealt with in post). But from the form factor size I have never seen again such an ultra wide lens comparable to the 45mm Oly lens
    * The 7.5mm Samyang fish eye lens is also a “no brainer”, if you’re into panoramic photography. It now continues to be used in my lens collection, however equipped with an eMount (where it makes senses even more to be used, as you can get a spherical image with only 4 round shots, instead of the 6 + zenith + nadir shot on MFT)
    * And at last, I found the tiny 12-32mm to be quite capable
    …. you see, I miss the small lenses of MFT a bit by now …

  • Dallas

    The Oly 75/1.8 is amazing. I haven’t used the 42.5, but if it beats this 75mm then it’s worthy.

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