Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My View On The Micro 4/3s System: Part 3

In  part 1 of the series I talked about why I considered m4/3s as a viable option for many photography enthusiasts or as a backup camera for a DSLR user. In part 2 of the series I talked about the type of m4/3 cameras I was looking at, and the one that I chose. In this part of the series I'm going to talk about lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system. Unlike a year and a half ago there is now a wide range of m4/3s lenses on the market, which can cover the needs of most casual photographers.


When it comes to lenses the Micro Four Thirds standard is a little different from DSLRs and other ILC (interchangeable lens compact) cameras. Why is m4/3s different? Most brands use a proprietary lens mount that means you can only mount lenses that work what that brand (Nikon F mount, Canon EF/EF-S mount, Pentax K mount etc). On the other hand, both of the current players in the m4/3s camp, Panasonic and Olympus, use the same Micro Four Thirds lens mount.

What is the advantage of both brands using the same standard lens mount? To put it simply, Olympus and Panasonic lenses work with both brands of cameras, which means that you are not stuck with only Panasonic lenses if you have a Panasonic m4/3s camera. You can use Panasonic lenses on an Olympus camera or Olympus lenses on an Panasonic camera, not to mention the ability to use third party lenses from Sigma or Voigtlander

Both Olympus and Panasonic offer standard kit lenses, in the form of 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 zooms. These lenses are somewhat different. The Olympus zoom is designed to be compact, while the Panasonic one is not. Part of the reason that the Panasonic 14-42mm zoom is larger is due to the inclusion of optical image stabilization (O.I.S). Olympus has sensor based image stabilization that works with any lenses that is mounted on the camera, while Panasonic does not. That means that only O.I.S lenses are stabilized on Panasonic cameras. I haven't used either of these lenses, but I suspect image quality is about the same.

In the telephoto range there are a few options, first Panasonic offers the 45-200mm F4-5.6, and the 100-300mm F4-5.6. Olympus simply offers the 45-150mm F4-5.6. Then both makers have super zooms, the Panasonic 14-140mm F4-5.6 and the Olympus 14-150mm F4-5.6. The Olympus lenses are often less expensive, partly because they do not have the extra optics for image stabilization.

Once you get past the basic kit zooms there are several higher quality lenses available. If you want a truly light and small package there are wide angle primes that enable you to do just that. Panasonic has two pancake primes, the 14mm F2.5 and the 20mm F1.7, while Olympus offers a 17mm F2.8. You can also buy bigger heavier primes such as the Olympus 12mm F2, Panasonic (Leica Designed) 25mm F1.4, Olympus 45mm F1.8, or the Panasonic (Leica designed) 45mm F2.8 macro. For landscape and urban  shooters there are the Panasonic 7-14mm F4 and Olympus 9-18mm F4-5.6. Panasonic also sells a 8mm F3.5 fisheye.

When you look at the micro four thirds lens lineup today you can see that there are a number of lenses to cover the needs of just about any photographer. As a result the system can no longer be considered incomplete. There are some areas where the lineup could use some improvements, but considering that part of the idea behind these micro four thirds cameras is to keep the system compact and light weight, it alright.