Olympus Micro 4/3 KitI get a lot of questions about my techniques and equipment, and try my best to respond when I have time. Generally these dialogues stay hidden in emails, Facebook messages and Twitter DMs. Yesterday as I was responding to a question my friend John sent me  about my choice of lenses for my Olympus Micro 4/3 system (my light and fast kit for long human-powered missions), I figured that there might be more people who would be interested in the discussion. Therefore, I introduce the Q&A concept on my blog, where I share questions and answers about my approach to photography. Without further ado, here’s the skinny on my lens selections for my Olympus E-M1 Micro 4/3 system.

Q: Hey Scott, How’s it going? Hope all is well. Hey I wanted to ask you something about the Olympus gear you have. I am looking at getting my wife one of the the Olympus mirrorless cameras (well maybe myself too and sell my D600) and wanted to ask want lenses you have, use or have used for yours and any opinions on them. I am looking at a few of them and have read all the reviews and what not but nice to get some input from someone who uses them. The ones I am looking at the the 9-18, the 12-50, the 12-40 2.8 and the 14-150. Thoughts? Others I should consider? Thanks. John


A: Hi John, Here’s my Olympus Lens kit:

Olympus 9-18 – Super small and lightweight, a little bit of a pain to extend the lens to shoot, not the sharpest, but not bad. It’s fast enough, small enough and useful enough that I bring it everywhere I bring my Olympus camera.
Olympus 12-40 2.8 – Badass. Tough, sharp, fast, weather sealed. The best zoom lens they have by far. This lens stays attached to the camera and is my go-to.
Panasonic 35-100 2.8 – Very sharp and quick to focus, but for some reason, the camera motor drives slower with the Panasonic lens. I’ll replace this with the Olympus 40-150 2.8 lens when it’s released early next year. I almost always carry this lens with the kit.
Olympus 14-150 – This used to be my go-to lens before they released the 12-40. It’s an incredible tool if you want to keep one lens on your camera 90% of the time, which has a huge speed benefit. It’s not as sharp as the 12-40, nor as fast to focus, but for what it is, the utility is amazing. It mostly stays in my gear locker, but when I need to go super light, I bring it out.
Olympus 75-300 – With the 2x crop factor you get on a Micro 4/3 camera, this lens is the 35mm equivalent of a 150-600 and is smaller than my Nikon 24-70. Again, not the fastest or the sharpest lens in the world, but a 600mm lens that you can toss in a jacket pocket is a beautiful thing. Mostly reserved for special outings because even though it’s small for a 600, it’s big for a micro 4/3 kit.

I’ve published photos in commercial and art environments with all of these lenses, so you needn’t be excessively concerned about issues with sharpness, etc.
For the best bang for the buck, you may well be very happy with the 9-18 and 14-150. I was for years.

If you’d like to keep the conversation going or are looking for more info on this equipment, drop a note in the comments below. Also, let me know if you’d like me to keep sharing this type of content.

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15 thoughts on “Q&A – Best Micro 4/3 Lenses

  1. Great post, Scott! I have been curious to hear your thoughts on the E-M1 and 12-40 2.8 since it was released last year. I switched out my E-P3 and picked up the E-M1 and 12-40 kit and love it. It still fits in my little chest pack for skiing and hiking, and the performance and image quality gains over the E-P3 / 14-150 (my old go-to) are amazing. I also like shooting the Pany 7-14, the Oly 17 2.8 and the Pany 25 1.4. I really only use these lenses for special situations now (all acquired before the 12-40 was released). The 75-300 is high on my list, and I think the 40-150 2.8 will be a must have. With only enough room and budget for one camera system, I rarely regret not having easy access to my old Nikon gear. Thanks for being an early advocate of this system and encouraging us adventurous types to check it out!

    1. I’ve seen some photos of there new 40-150 and my first thought was the size of the lens. Looks quite large especially for wanting a system that is smaller. Is it really as bog as it looks in the photos? I personally dnt have a need for this lens (well at least right now) so not a big deal but just curious.

  2. Scott,

    Thanks for answering my questions, very helpful. Sharing this type of content is always helpful. I kind of knew the direction I wanted to go, but it always nice to hear what someone who actually shoots with the gear what their opinion/recommendations are.

  3. I’d love to see some examples of photos you’ve taken from your Olympus with various lenses and depths of field, esp. shallow. I’ve seen an occasional outstanding portrait shot from the Olympus OMD EM1 but I haven’t been impressed with what I’ve seen overall with portraits. For deep depths of field/landscape it’s amazing. I just haven’t seen many examples yet that lead me to believe the Olympus can produce the same beautiful imagery for portraits that the Canon and Nikon full-frames produce. It either lacks the creaminess or you just can’t get enough in the image (too cropped) to compare with the full-frame without getting wide-lens distortion. I know portraits isn’t your focus but if you’ve taken any shots that might work as examples, I would certainly love to see it. In almost every other way (esp. size of camera/lenses & price), I’m sold on this camera but this is what’s holding me back from making the switch. I’d be thrilled to be convinced otherwise!

    1. Just thought I’d clarify two things…
      1. I’ve seen your amazing gallery but I don’t know which shots were with the Olympus. I know you’ve used more than one camera.
      2. Because the Olympus is not as common as Canon/Nikon with professionals (yet anyway) a good percentage of the images available are not done by pros. I’m curious if my concerns are actually operator issues, not the camera itself. That’s why I’d love to see what you’ve shot with it and see what this baby can really do!

      1. Hi Jenny,

        Thanks for the questions. At this point, my current website has probably 50% images created on an Olympus EM1 or EM5, the remainder being from my Nikon D4s or D610 or my Sony A99. I must admit, the majority of my portraits I present on my site were shot with Nikon cameras at a shallow DOF, but there are a few exceptions:




        The good news is that there are a ton of new prime lenses for the m4/3 platform that have huge apertures and are great focal lengths for portraits. Namely the 45mm 1.8 and 75mm 1.8 lenses from Olympus and the awesome Voightlander 42.5mm f0.95. Amazing! These lenses open up a new realm of portrait photography, I’m sure you’ll be impressed!

  4. Thanks for the review. I am almost ready to pull the trigger on purchasing a OM-D E-M1 with the 12-40mm f/2.8. I’ll miss my DSLR…but I’ve been really looking for that one camera that can do (just about) everything and be small enough to be travel friendly.I think I found it…I hope.

  5. Thanks for the insight into your lens setup. I recognized, that you only mentioned zoom lenses. How about the prime lenses for Micro 4/3? Do you use any of those? What are your experiences?

    1. Oliver,

      Great question. I don’t use any prime lenses for M4/3, although there are now some very impressive offerings. My subject matter tends to vary quite a lot and I find myself using the whole range of all of my zooms, so for the weight, I’m addicted to the versatility of zoom lenses.

  6. I’ve got a topic question for the next round.

    How far away are we from the motor drives on still cameras being able to take 24 pictures per second, for extended periods of time?

    If it’s possible, and if it happens, I’d see that becoming a main method for shooting motion. All of a sudden, everyone would have 6k video at their fingertips.

    People are already going through the file org flow with the 4k hack on the 5d3. It just makes a picture file for every frame.

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