Absolute top quality micro-43 lenses
After the best micro-43 lenses for starters and the best micro-43 lenses for amateur photographers, we now point our attention to professional photographers. Ever-more professionals are convinced of the high image quality of bright micro-43 lenses. And the number of lenses sealed against dust and splashwater and micro-43 telephoto lenses is still growing. That micro-43 lenses are still compact and light, certainly in comparison with professional lenses for SLR cameras, also makes them extra attractive. Which set of micro-43 lenses should a professional choose?
Micro-43: Time to switch?
Of the 35 lenses that we have reviewed on a micro-43, we only name the very best here.
Micro-43 has developed in a couple of years into a platform that, since the introduction of the Panasonic GH4 and the Olympus OM-D EM1 of sufficiently high quality to satisfy even the most demanding professional. The lens selection of good micro-43 lenses is so great that there is a suitable lens to recommend for most applications for professionals. Only if you are searching for a professional micro-43 telephoto lens focal point above 300 mm (converted to a camera with a full-frame sensor), then we still owe you an answer. We are very curious about the professional 300 mm telephoto that Olympus is releasing this year.
In “How do I choose a lens? Subjective roadmap for purchasing a lens,” we have explained the criteria that we have used for the choice of the perfect lens for—in this case—a professional micro-43 camera. Lenses for professional photographers is perhaps a concept that does not completely cover it. We mean in this case the lenses in which we have found, without compromise, the very highest build and image quality, without bothering about weight, dimensions or purchase price, since these properties are less decisive for professional photographers than build and image quality. It goes without saying that these “professional lenses” are also a very attractive option for ambitious amateur photographers.
The Olympus 12-40 mm f/2.8 is such a good lens that shows that you can take professional-quality shots with the micro-43 system. Our review shows that these bright, robust, dust- and splashwater-tight micro-43 zoom lenses can be a high-quality alternative for a much larger and more expensive 24-70 mm f/2.8 zoom lens. The sharpness is already very high starting at f/2.8 from center to corners. The bokeh is a bit less woolly than that of an f/2.8 lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor, but as a counterweight, there is a very great insensitivity to flare, low chromatic aberration and a high sharpness in the corners at full aperture. Absolutely recommended.
We count all zoom lenses with a zoom range of 5 or more as the super zooms. If you choose a micro-43 camera with a super zoom because of video, then choose the most recent Panasonic 14-140 mm. In this category, we still have some homework to do, because this is a lens that will not fulfill the build and image quality requirements of all professionals. But you do have a small and silent lens with which you can shoot video very well. Therefore, this lens will also be sold as a kit lens with the Panasonic GH4. A review of the newest Olympus 40-150 mm Pro zoom, which is extra well sealed against dust and splashwater, will appear shortly. We are very curious about the image quality.
We have not yet found any micro-43 macro lens that is extra well sealed against dust and splashwater. Thus, where the build quality is concerned, there remains something to be desired for the professional where macro lenses are concerned. But as far as image quality is concerned, it’s another story.
The Panasonic 45 mm f/2.8 macro and the Olympus 60 mm f/2.8 macro lenses are both outstanding lenses, as it appears from our test results. Our choice for the best macro lens falls on the Olympus, in particular because it is easier with a longer focal distance to photograph living subjects (the bees on the flowers), because, thanks to the longer focal distance, you are somewhat further away from your subject. If that is not a point for you, then both the Panasonic 45 mm and the Olympus 60 mm macro are recommended.
Not only does the Panasonic 42.5 mm f/1.2 Leica Nocticron offer an unequalled build quality, which is strongly reminiscent of much more expensive Leica lenses. The image quality is also unmatched. The sharpness at full aperture is surprising. The beautiful bokeh is as well. The accuracy of the AF in low-light situations, where the AF of SLR cameras entirely stop focusing, is exceptional. A price of above a thousand euros is high in comparison with most other micro-43 lenses. In comparison with Leica lenses and professional lenses for SLR cameras, it’s a steal. Absolutely recommended.
If a professional photographer were to ask me in the street which micro-43 wide-angle I would recommend, then three lenses occur to me immediately. First of all, the Olympus 12 mm f/2: bright, compact and used by many professionals. Then the Panasonic 15 mm f/1.7 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX for its beautiful bokeh and its aperture ring. And almost simultaneously, the Panasonic 7-14 mm f/4, which might be replaced this year by an Olympus 7-14 mm f/2.8 Pro. The Panasonic 7-14 mm offers you enormous creative freedom in all small spaces or a gruesomely wide view of the rest of the world. The image quality of this—in comparison with professional wide-angle zooms for SLR cameras—super-light dwarf is a revelation. A pleasure to work with.
The Panasonic 42.5 mm f/1.2 Nocticron is an outstanding portrait lens. With its high brightness, fast AF and flawless image quality, this lens is a match for many—at least as expensive—lenses on an SLR with a full-frame sensor. For a professional photographer who wants to distinguish himself or for anyone who is accustomed to Leica prices, one and a half thousand euros is not a lot of money. Anyone who has this lens is a lucky duck.
For a long time, the Panasonic 35-100 mm f/2.8 was the only bright telephoto zoom for micro-43. Surprisingly high image quality in a—in comparison with professional, bright telephoto zooms for SLR cameras—tiny, super-compact jacket. Since 2014, the selection has expanded with the Olympus 40-150 mm f/2.8 Pro, for which a supplemental 1.4x converter is also available. Anyone who is accustomed to working with a 70-200 mm f/2.8 for an SLR camera will be charmed by the—in comparison with the Panasonic 35-100 mm—heavier build quality and the high finish level of the Olympus. Add in the longer telephoto range and the supplemental telephoto converter, and it will be clear why we recommend an Olympus 40-150 mm f/2.8 to professionals.
My personal preference for a lens with a fixed-focal point runs from 12 mm, 42.5 mm, 17.5 mm, 75 mm to 25 mm. I somehow enjoy using a focal point that differs from what my eyes see. But for many—perhaps most—photographers, it’s different. It is generally accepted that a bright 25 mm lens—with a field of view that corresponds with a 50 mm lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor—is at home in every photo bag. For professional photographers, the bright, high-quality Panasonic 25 mm f/1.4 Leica is a must.
Certainly for the more expensive micro-43 lenses, a very high sharpness is realized starting at full aperture. You can therefore take beautiful pictures with a limited focal depth, a blurred background and a razor-sharp subject. It might be obvious to select the Panasonic 42.5 mm f/1.2 Nocticron as the best bokeh lens for micro-43, but due to the longer focal distance, we chose the Olympus 75 mm f/1.8. But it is a neck-and-neck race, so let your budget (the Olympus 75 mm is 30% less expensive) or your preference for a particular focal distance determine your choice.