Best micro-43 lenses for starters
Micro-43:compact, light and good.
While the sale of SLR cameras is currently significantly decreased, the worldwide sales of system cameras with mirrors remains constant. If we look at the CIPA numbers from last month, there were, in absolute numbers, even more mirrorless system cameras sold in Europe, and in Europe the market share of mirrorless system cameras is growing. Micro-43 cameras from Olympus and Panasonic are enjoying, partly thanks to the enormous selection of compact and good lenses, great popularity among enthusiastic amateur photographers.
Best micro-43 lenses for starters:
Compact zoom: Panasonic 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH MEGA O.I.S. Lumix G Vario
Walkaround zoom: Panasonic 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH POWER OIS LUMIX G VARIO
Wide-angle: Panasonic 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH MEGA O.I.S. Lumix G Vario
Portrait: Olympus 45 mm f/1.8 ED M.Zuiko Digital
Standard: Olympus 25 mm f/1.8
Telephoto: Panasonic 45-150 mm f/4-5.6 ASPH MEGA OIS LUMIX G VARIO
Bokeh: Olympus 45 mm f/1.8 ED M.Zuiko Digital
That is not only due to the compact dimensions and the large selection of micro-43 lenses, but certainly also due to the high image quality. The dynamic range—the camera property that in our last readers' poll was indicated as the most important—of a micro-43 is at least as good as the dynamic range of a camera with an APS-C sensor. Because micro-43 cameras usually have 16 megapixels—more than enough for a fantastic A3/30x40 cm print—the signal-to-noise ratio is also close to that of larger full-frame or APS-C sensors with 36 or 24 megapixels. In some cases, the signal-to-noise ratio of a micro-43 camera is even the same as that of a camera with a full-frame sensor.
I can imagine that it is not easy to choose the right lens from the enormous selection of micro-43 lenses. Hopefully, we can help you out with that a bit with this first article of a series of lens advisories for micro-43. We've consciously recommended a couple of lenses multiple times. With smart choices, you thus have a broadly applicable set of lenses for very little money. In a subsequent article, we'll go into the best micro-43 lenses for more experienced amateur photographers. It will be clear that those lenses also have a higher price tag. And obviously, we will update these articles with some regularity, on the basis of our new review results.
|Most micro-43 cameras are currently equipped with a 16-megapixel sensor. That's sufficient for a sharp print in A3 format. At the same time, it places high demands on the lenses that you use. In "How do I choose a lens? Subjective roadmap for the purchase of a lens," we provide a list of which criteria we use in our hunt for the perfect lens for—in this case—a starter or an amateur photographer with a modest budget and a micro-43 camera. |
Micro-43 cameras; ideal starter cameras
Where all micro-43 lenses shine is in the compact dimensions and the low weight in comparison with lenses for SLR cameras. That makes them ideal starter cameras. Just as with SLR cameras, it is true that, in terms of budget, it's more attractive to buy a kit including lens, if this is your first camera with interchangeable lenses. If you're switching from a compact camera or a smartphone, then the Panasonic GM1—shown here—is the smallest micro-43 camera, while the image quality of this camera is just as good as that of its larger brothers. The body without a lens costs 600 euros, and the body including the 12-32 mm zoom lens costs 650 euros. This small lens with fantastic image quality costs 300 euros separately.
|For those who prefer a slightly larger camera, but still much smaller and lighter than an SLR, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 with the 14-42 mm 1:3.5-5.6 II kit lens is an attractive option. The camera body without a lens is 100 euros less expensive, while this lens can be purchased separately for 200 euros. Count your profit. |
Compact zoom lens? Panasonic 12-32 mm
The Panasonic 12-32 mm LUMIX G VARIO 12-32 mm/F3.5-5.6 ASPH. /MEGA O.I.S. is the smallest kit lens with built-in image stabilization. It offers a zoom range that in terms of field of view is comparable with a 24-64 mm zoom lens on a camera with a full-frame sensor. A kit lens with a real wide-angle (24 mm instead of 28 mm) is not as common. We reviewed the Panasonic 12-32 mm on the Panasonic GM1: the most compact Panasonic system camera. This combination fits in a good-sized pocket. Just try that with an SLR camera with a kit lens.
Panasonic 14-140 mm II: best super zoom for micro-43
|We regularly get the question of a single lens for a system camera, with which you can work throughout your entire vacation without having to change lenses. You then quickly come to super-zooms, vacation zooms, or an all-in-one zoom. We consider all zoom lenses with a zoom range of 5 or more as super-zooms. So far, we have reviewed two 14-140 mm zoom lenses from Panasonic, of which we recommend the more recent, less expensive version. The less expensive version (Panasonic 14-140 mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH POWER OIS LUMIX G VARIO) is not only recognizable by the smaller filter size (58 mm instead of 62 mm), but also by a 200-euro lower store price. |
This lens will also be offered as a kit lens with various Panasonic cameras. If you want to buy your first micro-43 camera, in part due to the high video quality, then choose a kit with the 14-140 mm lens.
Wide-angle lenses on SLR cameras are known for their high distortion: bulging and dipping horizons and buildings. It's good for a laugh, but not when it's your photo. With micro-43 cameras, ay distortion from wide-angle lenses (with a focal distance of 12 mm or less) is automatically corrected in jpg files in the camera. The shot above gives a wide view—despite the vertical-format—thanks to the short focal distance, while the straight lines remain nicely straight without the photographer having to utilize Photoshop. The Panasonic 12-32 mm is not only attractive as a compact zoom lens. At the 12 mm focal distance, you make much more beautiful wide-angle shots than at 14 mm.
|On a micro-43 camera, you make great portraits with a bright (<f/2.8) lens, with a focal distance between 40 and 100 mm. The first lenses that come to mind are the Panasonic 42.5 mm f/1.2 and the Olympus 75 mm f/1.8. This illustrious duo scores phenomenally in terms of image quality, but they also have a price tag that exceeds the budget of most starters. Miles away in terms of price, yet surprisingly close by in terms of image quality is the Olympus 45 mm f/1.8lympus 45 mm f/1.8. |
|For shots of far-away subjects, you need a telephoto lens—a lens with a long focal distance. Due to the 2x crop factor of a micro-43 camera, a focal distance of 150 mm is nearly always sufficient. For making sharp pictures at a long focal distance, a short shutter time is very important, and you'd do best with a bright (f/2.8) telephoto lens. But that falls outside the budget of starting photographers, because these kinds of lenses are difficult—and thus expensive—to make. Fortunately, there's an attractive alternative: The Panasonic 45-150 mm f/4-5.6 is less bright, and the brightness becomes even less as the focal distance increases. Therefore, the shutter time at 200 mm—with a consistent amount of light—is twice as long as at the shortest focal distance. Even so, for about 250 euros, you have a compact, light telephoto zoom with surprisingly good image quality for this price. |
Best fixed-focus lenses
Experienced photographers often work, due to creative considerations, with a fixed focus. Lenses with a fixed focus are often brighter than zoom lenses and usually more suited to manual focusing. Those are advantages that will weigh more heavily for the somewhat more experienced amateur photographers than for starters who have just purchased their first micro-43 camera. Because you can't zoom in or out, a lens with a fixed focus forces you to think better about the composition of your photo. You thus learn to make better compositions and therefore more beautiful photos as a starter.
Far from everyone needs a big arsenal of expensive (zoom) lenses in order to make fantastic photos. Henri Cartier Bresson photographed almost exclusively with a 50 mm fixed focus. This focal distance is universally applicable. There are many—usually more experienced—photographers who leave zoom lenses behind, follow the example of Henri and work exclusively with a 50 mm (on a camera with a full-frame sensor) lens with a fixed focus. On a micro-43 camera, you need a 25-mm focal distance to get the same image in your viewfinder or on your screen. The Olympus 25 mm f/1.8 offers very high image quality, with which you still experience a lot of pleasure when you've outgrown the beginner's stage. It's yours for about 400 euros.
Bokeh is the name for background blur, as you see in the image above, which was made with a micro-43 camera. When the background is nicely blurred, attention isn't drawn away from the subject.