It's not without reason that Micro-43 is becoming increasing popular among ambitious amateur photographers:
The micro-43 cameras from both Panasonic and Olympus as well as most micro-43 lenses are remarkably smaller and lighter than SLR cameras and lenses. That comes from the lack of a mirror and from the shorter focal length that you need as a result of the crop factor with a slightly smaller sensor. Panasonic and Olympus first focused on micro-43 cameras for starting photographers because it was thought that this group of photographers would be the most charmed by good, compact camera equipment. Currently, there are more than 50 lenses for micro-43 cameras available, and micro-43 is a mature system. The image quality is so high that micro-43 cameras and lenses are now also used by professional photographers and ambitious amateur photographers.
Best micro-43 lenses for amateurs:
Micro-43 is the "sweet spot" for optimal image quality and compact dimensions.
The micro-43 platform has grown in the surprisingly short period of just a few years into a mature system with a build and image quality that is even good enough for professionals. That means that there is an extensive selection for amateurs who want to indulge their love for photography at a high level. That is also expressed in the lenses that we recommend: we tend to lean towards bright zoom lenses for the best micro-43 lenses for starters, and in this article, we recommend more lenses with a fixed focal length. These are also more expensive lenses than we recommend in the best micro-43 lenses for starters. Especially for the real fans, we now even recommend the most expensive micro-43 lens. Because it's so good.
A special lens cap and optional sun cap make the Oly 75 mm really complete.
Panasonic 35-100 mm f/2.8 + Olympus OM-D E-M1
Micro-43 = Mirrorless system cameras with a lot of lenses
Of the 33 micro-43 lenses that we have reviewed, we chose the best lenses for amateurs.
In How do I choose a lens? Subjective roadmap for purchasing a lens, we make a list of the criteria that we use in our hunt for the perfect lens for—in this case—micro-43 cameras like the Panasonic GX7, GM5 or the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (II). Where for the best micro-43 lenses for starting photographers we kept a sharp eye on the price, weight and dimensions for the (primarily zoom) lenses that we recommended, photo enjoyment, creativity and image quality now stand higher on the list of priorities. This automatically results in more bright, more specialized lenses, and thus a bit more costly lenses with a fixed focal length come to the fore. For amateur photographers, who want to spend less on a lens, we also name less expensive alternatives here. For micro-43, it is true that there are many attractively priced, high-quality lenses, but that you pay the highest price for the very highest quality.
Kit lens? Choice enough!
Some zooms are practically indistinguishable from the fixed focal lengths in terms of image quality. But the difference in brightness is clear.
Every advanced amateur photographer should, in my eyes, at least have a Panasonic 12-35 mm f/2.8 or an Olympus 12-40 mm f/2.8 in the photo bag or on the camera. Bright lenses are always a bit larger and they are never cheap. The Panasonic LUMIX G VARIO 12-32 mm f3.5-5.6 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S is somewhat less bright, but it is less expensive, has built-in image stabilization (a plus-point for Panasonic cameras) and is also exceptionally compact. In the end, we chose the Panasonic 12-35 mm f/2.8. Compact and yet bright, high image and build quality and built-in image stabilization as well. The somewhat larger and heavier Olympus 12-40 mm f/2.8 (which performs better in the corners) shows up in our article with the best micro-43 lenses for pro(-sumer) photographers.
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10x zoom is ideal for video and vacation
We count all zoom lenses with a zoom range of 5 or more as super zooms. If you do not want to change lenses, you could consider a bridge camera with a (smaller) 1-inch sensor like the Panasonic FZ-1000, because it has a shockingly good 25-400 mm zoom lens. If you choose a micro-43 camera with a super zoom, then choose the most recent Panasonic 14-140 mm. In this category, we still have some homework to do. We recommend only lenses that we we have reviewed, and we have not yet reviewed an Olympus super zoom. Next year, we hope to rectify that.
The Olympus 60 mm macro is surprisingly light, good, and attractively priced. But if you want to go even less expensive, then think about a set of extension tubes. An extension tube is so small and light that you can always take it along (in your photo bag). Because macro extension tubes only change the distance of your lens from the sensor—and thereby the enlargement—without adding any extra glass, we expect that the image quality of your lens will remain practically unchanged if you use an extension tube. We have already purchased the extension tubes in order to review the influence of the extension tubes on the image quality in 2015. For a real macro fanatic, an Olympus 60 mm macro with extension tubes is naturally the ultimate.
Olympus 14-40 mm f/2.8 + Olympus OM-D E-M1
The brightest micro-43 lens with built-in image stabilization and AF is simultaneously the most expensive micro-43 lens: the Panasonic 42.5 mm f/1.2. This is a lens for the real enthusiast. Both the build and image quality of this lens are really flawless. Anyone who has this lens is a lucky duck. For those who are accustomed to Leica prices, 1500 euros is not that much money. Most photographers will think that it's a lot of money, though, and that's why we chose another lens as the best portrait lens. With its high brightness, fast AF (it will surprise you how you can still focus in low light) and flawless image quality, this lens is evenly matched with many at-least-as-expensive lenses on an SLR with a full-frame sensor.
Panasonic 7-14 mm f/4 + Panasonic GX7
Anyone who has always photographed with an SLR camera knows how big and heavy extreme wide-angle zoom lenses are. SLR photographers are accustomed to high distortion, high vignetting and less sharpness in the corners of the image. For an extreme wide-angle lens, the Panasonic 7-14 mm offers high image quality with extremely little distortion in a remarkable compact, exceptionally solidly built lens. A jewel. A less expensive alternative is the Olympus 9-18 mm, which has been named as the favorite by many of our readers. If you want to have the characteristic Fish-eye distortion, then buy a Panasonic 8 mm f/3.5 LUMIX G Fisheye.
Best micro-43 portrait lens?
Rules are made to be broken. This portrait was made at a 14 mm focal length. Panasonic 7-14 mm f/4 + Olympus OM-D E-M5
A micro-43 portrait lens has a focal length of between 42.5 mm and 70 mm. The best micro-43 portrait lens is the Panasonic 42.5 mm f/1.2. But as beautiful as the image quality of this lens is and as enthusiastic as we are about it, we realize that this is a lens with a price tag that's not within reach for everyone. If you want a beautiful portrait lens without paying the associated price in weight, size and euros, then the Olympus 45 mm f/1.8 is the obvious candidate. Compact, light, bright, high image quality and a beautiful bokeh united in an affordable lens with a fixed focal length. This lens is ideal for portrait photography.
The best micro-43 telephoto lenses
This shot, made with the Panasonic 35-100 mm f/2.8, demonstrates beautifully how you can compress the perspective by using a short telephoto lens.
For amateur photographers with a limited budget or a small photo bag, the Panasonic 35-100 mm f/4-5.6 and the Panasonic 45-150 mm f/4.0-5.6 are attractive telephoto zoom options. Of course, the Olympus 40-150 mm f/2.8 and the Panasonic 35-100 mm f/2.8 stand out here in terms of brightness, build quality and image quality. Because the Panasonic 35-100 mm f/2.8 is lighter and more compact, we chose it in the end as the best telephoto zoom: high brightness, build and image quality and yet terrifically compact. Not without reason Ivo's choice in 2013. If you want an even greater zoom range, which can also be extended even further with a 1.4x teleconverter, then the Olympus 40-150 mm f/2.8 is naturally also a good buy.
Best fixed-focal-length standard lens
Amateur photographers who photograph more often and have been doing so longer often do that with a lens with a fixed focal length. It used to be that was just because the lenses with a fixed focal length offered the very highest image quality. Even today, some lenses with a fixed focal length score a bit higher than the zoom lenses. The differences, however, are much smaller than they used to be. And lenses with a fixed focal length are also brighter than zoom lenses. That offers you the ability to play more with the focal depth. And the limitation to a fixed focal length also means that you approach the composition more deliberately. I often photograph with a bright wide-angle (12 mm) lens, and enjoy doing so. But most photographers choose a 17 mm documentary lens or a 25 mm standard lens. In particular, the Olympus 25 mm f/1.8 offers exceptionally even, high sharpenss from corner to corner, in combination with high build quality and fast AF.
Micro-43 and bokeh?
Tastes differ. There are full-frame enthusiasts who like it if the background in their street or nature photo looks like a colored sheet of background paper from the studio. They think it's beautiful or artsy if only one eye of a street musician is in focus and the rest of the face is not. I'm not part of that group. For me, it's best if there's some detail visible in the background. And I prefer that the subject be completely in focus. If you want a beautiful bokeh, then f/1.8 on a micro-43 can be enough. And at a longer focal length, f/2.8 is more than enough. The Olympus 45 mm f/1.8 is very inexpensive, but it loses out to the Panasonic 42.5 mm f/1.2 and the Olympus 75 mm f/1.8 when it comes to bokeh. All three lenses are also remarkably sharp starting at full aperture.
Due to the longer focal length—limiting the focal depth helps to isolate a subject from the background and thus strengthens the woolly bokeh—we chose the Olympus 75 mm f/1.8. The optional lens cap, which I find much handier than the standard, included lens cap and the optional sun cap (in order to prevent flares), make the Olympus 75 mm f/1.8 a complete pleasure with which to work. Razor-sharp and butter-soft in one lens.
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.
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