Micro 4/3 Lens Recommendations

Panasonic 25/1.4

At this point, I’ve either owned or tried most of the micro 4/3 lenses, and I’ve seen samples from virtually all of them.  As a result, I’ve got plenty of opinions as to which of them are worth buying. Which are those?

No-brainers:

  • Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0 – one of the best ultra wide lenses, on any system
  • Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 – great fisheye
  • Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 – perfect carry-everywhere prime
  • Olympus 45mm f/1.8 – excellent in every respect
  • Panasonic 45-150mm f/4.0-5.6 – light, sharp, fast-focusing and inexpensive

Well worth looking at:

  • Panasonic 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 – the smallest kit zoom is also one of the best
  • Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 – the best m4/3 standard zoom is also better than many primes
  • Olympus 25mm f/1.8 – great fast normal lens for a reasonable price.
  • Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 – fast tele-zoom in a very compact package
  • Olympus 60mm f/2.8 – great at macros, but good at lots more besides
  • Olympus 75mm f/1.8 – incredible optics, if you need the focal length

A complete listing of all current autufocus m4/3 lenses, and my comments, below:

Primes Brand

FL (mm)

Max
aperture

Price Rating (1-5) Comments
Panasonic Lumix G Fisheye 8 3.5 $640 ** The (manual focus) Samyang 7.5/3.5 is a better lens at half the price.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 12 2.0 $800 *** While mechanically excellent, the optics don’t quite live up to the price-tag.
Panasonic Lumix G 14 2.5 $325 *** Tiny and fast focusing, but not any sharper than the various 14-xx kit zooms.
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15 1.7  $600   Unless the optics are stellar, the odd focal length and price are probably deal breakers.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 17 1.8 $500 *** Best option for 35mm afficionados, but could be sharper for the price.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 17 2.8 $300 * The only thing going for it is its size.
Sigma Sigma EX DN 19 2.8   *** Replaced by the functionally identical DN Art version.
Sigma Sigma DN Art 19 2.8 $200 *** Great bang for the buck, but f/2.8 isn’t all that fast, especially for a lens of this size.
Panasonic Lumix G 20 1.7 $350 **** Replaced by the functionally identical mk2 version.
Panasonic Lumix G II 20 1.7 $430 **** Sharp, tiny, fast aperture and affordable. If only the AF speed didn’t drop like a rock in low light.
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25 1.4 $630 *** The best option for low light shooting with m4/3, but for other things, the Olympus 25/1.8 is a better compromise.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 25 1.8 $400 **** The happy medium of m4/3 normal lenses in terms of price, size and AF speeds. The optics are excellent too.
Sigma Sigma EX DN 30 2.8   *** Replaced by the functionally identical DN Art version.
Sigma Sigma DN Art 30 2.8 $200 *** Same story as the 19/2.8. Focal length is sort of odd though on m4/3.
Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5 1.2 $1600 ***  Perfect lens, aside from the price which is hard to swallow when the 45/1.8 gives you 80% of the performance at 1/4 the price.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 45 1.8 $400 ***** Small, sharp and fast-focusing – what’s not to like?
Panasonic Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45 2.8 $900 *** No glaring flaws but also no strong reasons to choose over the Olympus 60/2.8 for $400 less.

Sigma

Sigma DN Art 60 2.8 $240 **** For the focal length, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better lens, even at 4x the price.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 60 2.8 $500 **** The best macro for m4/3.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 75 1.8 $900 **** Superb optics, albeit for a slightly unusual focal length (long for portraits, short for other stuff)
Zooms Brand

FL (mm)

Max aperture

Price   Notes
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14 4.0 $970 **** Ultra-wide zooms don’t get wider, or better. Only hitch is that newer Olympus cameras suffer excessive purple flare with this lens.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 9-18 4.0-5.6 $700 *** Unless size or filters are a big priority, the 7-14/4 is the better choice.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-32 3.5-5.6  $350 **** Other m4/3 kit zooms may be modestly sharper, but none are smaller or cover a more useful range.
Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35 2.8 $1000 **** Not quite as sharp as the 12-40/2.8, but smaller and inclusive of OIS for the same price.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 12-40 2.8 $1000 ***** A 3.3X zoom that beats or matches every m4/3 prime from 12mm to 25mm and gives 1:3 magnification at minimum focusing distance.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 12-50 3.5-6.3 $500 **/*** The optics don’t quite convince, but it’s small, weather-sealed and has a great range and a macro option. Possibly worth it if you buy secondhand to avoid the insane list price.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 14-42 3.5-5.6   * Olympus’s first m4/3 lens was unfortunately a dud – avoid it.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital II 14-42 3.5-5.6   **/*** Identical to the II R version.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital II R 14-42 3.5-5.6 $300 **/*** Not a bad deal if purchased as a kit with a body, but there are better kit m4/3 14-4x lenses.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital EZ 14-42 3.5-5.6 $350 *** Performs similarly to the II R, but has the advantage of collapsing down to half the size.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-42 3.5-5.6 $170 ** Larger and less sharp than the II version, though it can often be found very cheaply.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario II 14-42 3.5-5.6  ~$150 *** Thoroughly superior its predecessor, but unfortunately only available in the US via a kit or eBay.
Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 14-42 3.5-5.6 $350 ** Small and optically decent, but slow to zoom (it’s a power zoom) and highly susceptible to shutter-shake (avoid unless your camera has an electronic shutter option).
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-45 3.5-5.6 $295 *** A bit better than the 14-42 II but also larger and more expensive.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140 3.5-5.6 $695 *** Sharper and smaller than its 14-140/4-5.8 predecessor, making it the best superzoom for m4/3.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 14-140 4.0-5.8 $500 *** Quite good optically at the wide end, but like every superzoom things get softer as you zoom in.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 14-150 4.0-5.6 $600 ** Get the Panasonic 14-140/3.5-5.6 instead – it’s a better lens.
Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100 2.8 $1500 **** For now the best m4/3 fast tele-zoom is also the only one, though that may change when Olympus’s 40-150/2.8 comes out later this year. Only real downsides are price and performance at 100/2.8.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 40-150 4.0-5.6   *** Identical to the R version.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital R 40-150 4.0-5.6 $200 *** Slightly softer than the 45-150, but frequently less expensive when purchased in a kit.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario HD 45-150 4.0-5.6 $240 **** The best inexpensive telephoto zoom for m4/3 is also the smallest.
Panasonic Lumix G X Vario PZ 45-175 4.0-5.6 $360 *** Compact with good optics, but the price is a tad high as is the frequency of shutter-induced blur.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-200 4.0-5.6 $270 ** The range is quite attractive given the size, but the optics don’t quite convince.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital 75-300 4.8-6.7   *** Identical to the II version.
Olympus m.Zuiko Digital II 75-300 4.8-6.7 $550 *** Now that the price is no longer an insane $900, it’s a much more attractive option, but f/6.7 is just a bit too restrictive.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300 4.0-5.6 $495 *** Still the best long telephoto choice, although the size does not compare well with the 75-300/4.8-6.7.

 

Last update: May 20, 2014