In part two of our Micro Four-Thirds lens guide, we focus on some of the best telephoto lens options. The 2x crop factor of this format offers photographers and videographers some seriously impressive reach which is compact and affordable compared to full-frame alternatives.
Once again, I shall shine a light on lens options in some unscientific and self-explanatory categories I have labeled “budget,” “value for money,” and “professional.”
So you’ve acquired your first Micro Four-Thirds camera, and you’re looking for more reach at a steal. Initially I was going to suggest checking out the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 35-100mm f/4-5.6 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. lens. At $247.99 new, it’s decent value, compact, and sharp for a zoom lens at this price point. But the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-150mm f/4-5.6 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. lens is $100 cheaper and has 50mm further reach, so this would be my suggestion for a budget telephoto zoom. The Olympus alternative is even cheaper, but there is no image stabilization built in, so it can struggle on Panasonic bodies.
To put it into perspective, you’re looking at 90-300mm equivalent lens on a 35mm camera in a lens smaller than a tea mug for $150. It’s a wonderful companion for casual sporting photography provided it’s outside for great price.
Value for Money
There are plenty of candidates for the “value for money” award of telephoto zooms, and personal preference over your preferred genre of photography will determine your own selection. I’ve read some great things about the Tamron 14-150mm f/3.5-5.8 Di III lens for cameras with built-in stabilization, but sadly I’ve not actually checked this one out myself. So I’m going to pin my colors to the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4-5.6 II POWER O.I.S. lens. At $647.99 it’s not cheap, but you’re getting an incredible 200-600mm equivalent reach in a lens which fits into a shoulder bag. The lens does get a little soft on the long end of the zoom, and you may find that you simply don’t need this kind of reach. But, if you’re interested in upgrading your kit for some casual wildlife, sports, or safari photography, you won’t find better value.
These are possibly my two favorite lenses of the entire native Micro Four-Thirds range, and there is no way of picking a number one as they are used for very different things. Firstly, it’s the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens. It’s noticeably larger than most other Micro Four-Thirds lenses, and you may want to go for the Panasonic equivalent if you’re mainly shooting on Panasonic bodies, but Olympus 40-150mm PRO is the lens that lives on my E-M1 Mark II more than any other. Firstly it has 50mm more reach than its Panasonic counterpart. It has excellent build quality including a tripod collar which doubles as a convenient hand rest for the zoom ring, and an ingenious collapsible lens hood. It’s nice and bright across the whole zoom range at f/2.8 which generates gorgeous bokeh for portrait photography. It’s nicely balanced on the E-M1 Mark II, but not so much on anything smaller.
The other lens I have to recommend is the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 ASPH. POWER O.I.S. At $1797.99, it’s one of the most expensive native Micro Four-Thirds lenses, and its uses are quite specific given its focal length, but to me, this is the lens which encapsulates everything that is great about the Micro Four-Thirds format. The video below is an example of I mean. Shot with no tripod at the longest end, it can capture footage that you’ll otherwise miss whilst keeping images free from camera shake and video steady. For sports, photo-journalism, wildlife, and safari, it’s an excellent choice.
The great thing about the Micro Four-Thirds format versus other mirrorless formats is the wide choice you have available at different price points, and this is apparent in the choices available for telephoto zooms. If you feel like 150mm is enough reach for your needs, but would like something in the bag relatively affordable to cover up to 300mm, then there are some great options. Alternatively, wildlife and sports photographers/videographers might want to invest heavily in an extreme telephoto lens and have 45-100mm covered with something light and cheap. Once again, you’re covered with some great choice.
If you’ve owned Micro Four-Thirds cameras before, feel free to share your feelings on these telephoto zoom recommendations, and if there are any others that you use, join the conversation to help those photographers looking to dip their toe into the Micro Four-Thirds format. Next week we’ll discuss the best Micro Four-Thirds prime lenses for videography.