The Micro Four-Thirds format was a pioneer of the mirrorless revolution. Initially adopted by Olympus and Panasonic in 2008, there is now a huge lens choice of zooms and primes across focal lengths from 7.5mm to 400mm. This is a guide to the best lens choices across a range of budgets for both photography and video.
A good standard zoom lens must be versatile, reliable, and efficient, since it is likely to be on your camera more than any other lens. It will also probably be your first lens purchase. So whether it is bundled with a camera body or not, here are my three recommendations for standard zooms in three unscientific categories that I shall label “budget,” “value for money,” and “professional.”
For a great budget option, look no further than the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 EZ lens. It’s a super versatile lens with some neat features. It’s got a little more extra reach than the regular kit lenses which will come in handy with street and travel photography. There is a macro button on the lens which enables close-focusing as close as 7.8 inches away. But what I love most about this lens is the electronic zooming mechanism which provides super smooth zooming for video content. It’s not the sharpest or the brightest lens in the world so will struggle in low light, but for all this versatility inside a single lens, you’ll be hard pressed to spend $500 any better on a standard zoom for a Micro Four-Thirds camera.
Value for Money
For value for money, it’s got to be the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 ASPH. POWER O.I.S. lens. It’s got a full frame equivalent range of 24-120mm, but is relatively small and lightweight compared to its full frame counterparts. It’s double the price of Olympus 12-50mm, but you’re getting a much brighter, sharper, and faster lens. What’s more, it has some pretty darn impressive lens stabilization, and if it’s paired with an O.I.S.-enabled camera body like the Panasonic GH5, handheld video work will be delightfully steady. This is the ultimate walk around lens for your Micro Four-Thirds kit.
For professional photo or video production, you’ll want the sharpest, fastest, most reliable, and brightest standard zoom available. Both Panasonic and Olympus have standard zooms that maintain f/2.8 across the whole zoom, with the Olympus option having 5mm more focal length at the long end. Both are super sharp for a zoom lens with fast autofocus. But I am going to recommend the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 II ASPH. POWER O.I.S. lens for two reasons. First, it embodies exactly what the Micro Four-Thirds format is all about: compact quality. At just 305 grams, it’s about 25 percent lighter than the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens. This means it’s easier to rig up on a glide-cam and takes up less room in your bag. Second, its built-in lens stabilization is just awesome when on a Panasonic body. If you already own an Olympus body like the E-M1 Mark II then you may consider the Olympus PRO option, it does have more reach after all, and it’s a marvelous lens in its own right.
But the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 II wins in my opinion partly because the GH5 is the most well-rounded Micro Four-Thirds camera to date, and this lens is the perfect companion. It offers extreme portability, is bright all the way through the focal length, and its built-in stabilization will help get rid of nasty camera shake for your video content demands.
If you’ve owned Micro Four-Thirds cameras before, feel free to share your feelings on these standard zoom recommendations, and if there are any that you swear by to further help those photographers looking to dip their toe in the Micro Four-Thirds format. Next week we’ll discuss the best Micro Four-Thirds lens options in the long zoom and telephoto zoom categories.