Are you trying to decide which Micro Four Thirds camera to buy, but you just can’t figure it out? Do you want to know the best Micro Four Thirds cameras currently available in 2021?
Because while it can seem daunting to choose from dozens of cameras, it doesn’t have to be hard. There are a few key Micro Four Thirds cameras that rise above the rest–and that will be enough for anyone, no matter your budget, no matter your needs.
And that’s what this article is all about. I’m going to tell you all about the strongest Micro Four Thirds options available today, covering price points from bargain to mid-priced to high-end. In fact, this list has something for everyone, from beginners to hobbyists to pros.
Let’s get started.
The Best Micro Four Thirds Cameras: Our Top 9 Picks
- Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
- Panasonic Lumix G7
- Olympus PEN-F
- Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV
- Panasonic Lumix G9
- Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III
- Panasonic Lumix GH5s
- Olympus OM-D E-M1X
- Olympus E-PL9
1. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is powerful, it’s compact, and it captures stunning images. Use it for street photography, casual photography, travel photography, and so much more.
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is the absolute best Micro Four Thirds camera on the market today, thanks to its combination of excellent image quality, compact build, useful in-body image stabilization, blazing-fast continuous shooting speeds, and reasonable price point.
In other words, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, while not a stand-out in any one area, manages to get pretty much everything right – making it perfect for hobbyists looking to take their photography to the next level, or even pros looking for a compact option.
So what, specifically, does the OM-D E-M5 Mark III have to offer?
First, there’s the sensor:
20 megapixels, which is on par with every pro-level Micro Four Thirds sensor on the market. This will net you enough resolution to print large or crop, without sacrificing on high-ISO capabilities. And for those of you who worry that 20 MP isn’t enough, bear in mind that the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III also offers a high-resolution mode that allows you to capture 50 MP images (though you’ll need to use a tripod for it to work).
Personally, one of my favorite things about the OM-D E-M5 Mark III is its compactness:
It’s small without becoming tiny, which means that it feels perfect when connected to one of Olympus’s medium-length lenses (the 12-40mm f/2.8, for instance). The handgrip isn’t huge, so if you’re used to larger cameras then you might struggle a bit at first–but I really do feel that the E-M5 Mark III offers a nice balance between size and ergonomics.
Also note the price, which sits in that nice sub-$1000 range. It’s cheap enough to be affordable, but expensive enough to know that you’re getting a high-quality product.
So if you’re after a compact, reasonably-priced, high-performing Micro Four Thirds camera that offers a lot of potential, even for professionals, then check out the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III.
2. Panasonic Lumix G7
The Panasonic Lumix G7 offers a beautiful EVF, a lightweight build, and impressive video capabilities into an affordable package. If you’re looking for a well-priced camera to take your photography to the next level, the G7 is a great choice.
The Panasonic Lumix G7 is an old camera–it debuted way back in 2015–yet it still manages to pack a lot of punch, especially for the hobbyist photographer looking for a serious interchangeable lens camera (or serious interchangeable lens video camera, because the G7 performs very well in that regard).
First, it’s hard to ignore the G7’s price:
You can purchase it brand-new, camera body plus kit lens, for just $597.99, which is insanely cheap for the functionality you get.
While the DSLR-style body prevents the G7 from being labeled as truly “compact,” it’s still relatively small, and could easily work as a travel or street photography camera. In terms of weight, the G7 is just 410g, so you’ll be able to handhold it for hours without becoming fatigued, assuming you use a smaller, lightweight lens.
The G7’s core feature set is quite decent, especially for a camera of its age. You get a 16 MP sensor, which should be enough for most beginners (and remember that plenty of professionals work with models in the 20-24 MP range, so 16 MP is hardly tiny in comparison). You also get 7 frames-per-second shooting; this just pushes into “action” territory, so you should have no problem doing the occasional sports or wildlife photography.
There’s also a surprisingly nice electronic viewfinder, which even manages to compete with some of the EVFs coming out today.
Related Post: Panasonic GH5S vs GH5
Generally speaking, Panasonic cameras do well when it comes to video, and the G7 is no exception. While you won’t find any of the 4K/60p (or 4K/120p) capabilities of today’s top-notch video mirrorless cameras, you do get very respectable 4K/30p recording, which is perfect for anyone looking to capture high-quality video or do a bit of vlogging–and at a very reasonable price, no less.
So if you’re on a budget and you’re after your first serious video and stills camera, the Panasonic Lumix G7 is an absolute steal.
3. Olympus PEN-F
The Olympus PEN-F looks beautiful, and it’s also a very smooth performer. If you’re a fan of the retro design, then you’re going to love this mirrorless model.
There’s no other way to say it:
The Olympus PEN-F is cool.
It offers a truly retro design, so you get a flat body, an exposure compensation dial, plus a viewfinder (an EVF, of course!), as well as an all-around gorgeous feel that more traditional photographers will absolutely love.
In truth, if you’re not interested in the retro aesthetic, you should probably check out an alternative Micro Four Thirds camera on this list, because other options are similarly capable and a bit cheaper. But that’s not to say that the Olympus PEN-F isn’t a great camera, because it is.
For one, you get blazing-fast shooting speeds, which reach up to 20 frames per second–more than enough for any type of shooting, including serious action photography. And while you generally wouldn’t expect a camera like this one to offer impressive autofocus, the Olympus PEN-F does a surprisingly good job, allowing you to quickly lock focus on stationary subjects and even get some nice shots of moving subjects with Olympus’s continuous AF.
You also get a 20 MP sensor, which is surprisingly high-resolution for a hobbyist Micro Four Thirds camera. And you also get a decent, 2.36M-dot resolution electronic viewfinder, which works alongside a fully-articulating touchscreen LCD.
Overall, the Olympus PEN-F is as much about the aesthetic as it is about the performance. But the performance is quite impressive, and if you can afford the steeper price ($899) and you like the retro design, it’s certainly a compelling option.
4. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV
The E-M10 Mark IV is very cheap, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. Image quality is good, and while the EVF isn’t class-leading, it’ll give you a great first impression.
Hold it in your hands, and the first thing you’ll notice is the size and weight; the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is simply tiny, especially when you compare it to Canon and Nikon competitors. This makes it ideal for anyone hoping to do walkaround photography, casual photography, or simply carry a camera around their neck constantly. Honestly, you could probably store it in a purse or even a big pocket, then have it ready to whip out whenever the need might arise.
But despite its small size, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV packs a surprising amount of power. You get a tilting rear touchscreen LCD (which is especially useful for vlogging, shooting video, or capturing images at odd angles), as well as an electronic viewfinder, a nice 16MP sensor, and in-body image stabilization.
As you might expect, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV struggles to compete with its more expensive siblings–for instance, continuous shooting speeds only reach 4.5 frames per second, compared to the 18 frames per second shooting on the OM-D E-M1 Mark III–but this shouldn’t be a huge deal for the beginner photographer, and you can still capture some action, as long as you time it right.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 is one of the cheapest mirrorless bodies you can buy, coming in at around $500 USD (a price that includes a kit lens you’ll be able to use for casual photography).
While you shouldn’t expect the OM-D E-M10 Mark IV to blow you away, it’s a nifty little camera that’s perfect for hobbyist shooters.
5. Panasonic Lumix G9
The Panasonic Lumix G9 offers a gorgeous electronic viewfinder, dual card slots, and lightning-fast autofocus–not to mention 4K/60p video. If you do serious photography and videography, the G9 is a near-perfect pick.
The Panasonic Lumix G9 is an all-around excellent Micro Four Thirds camera–one that manages to combine both video and still capabilities into a $1200 USD package.
In almost every way, the G9 manages to impress, from speed to image quality to video capabilities, which is why it’s a fantastic option for any hybrid shooter out there, but also for more generalist still shooters.
For one, you get a nice 20 MP sensor, one that’s equivalent to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III (as well as the other Olympus 20 MP options). You also get a high-resolution option, which allows you to shoot 80 MP images through some clever sensor-shift technology, so if you occasionally find yourself in need of a megapixel boost, the G9 has got you covered.
In terms of ergonomics, the G9 offers dual card slots, a fully-articulating touchscreen, and an excellent 3.69M-dot electronic viewfinder. The EVF is on the same level as the Nikon Z6, the Canon EOS R, and better than the Sony a7 III, so you’re guaranteed an excellent shooting experience even if you’ve never used a mirrorless camera before.
You also get impressive autofocus capabilities, especially for a Panasonic camera; you can quickly acquire focus on still subjects, and you’ll also have little trouble tracking people or wildlife as they move through the frame. Combine the G9’s autofocus speed with its 20 frames-per-second continuous shooting capabilities and you have yourself an action photography winner. I wouldn’t hesitate to use the G9 in most sports situations, and serious sports (and nature) photographers will also appreciate the weather-sealing, which allows for shooting in the rain, snow, and damp conditions.
If you like to shoot video as well as stills, then the G9 is a fantastic choice. You get 4K/60p recording, as well as an inbuilt mic jack and headphone jack, so you’ll have no problem achieving pro-level videos.
Here’s the bottom line:
While the Panasonic Lumix G9 certainly isn’t the cheapest Micro Four Thirds camera on this list, it’s powerful. And for the serious hybrid shooter, it’s probably worth it.
6. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III can do it all, from split-second action shooting to low-light event photography and more. It’s one of the best all-around mirrorless cameras out there, so it’s certainly worth a look.
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III is hardly cheap, but it’s quite possibly the best professional Micro Four Thirds camera available. It’s bound to satisfy pros looking for an all-around, generalist MFT camera.
First, check out the build:
Solid without becoming bulky, the Olympus E-M1 Mark III isn’t exactly compact, but it’s certainly small for a professional camera. At just 580g, it’s significantly lighter than pro-level competitors (both mirrorless and DSLR), and you can easily store it away in a backpack or handbag when traveling.
Plus, the E-M1 Mark III is weather-sealed, which makes it an excellent choice for photographers who frequently shoot in rain or snow.
Like all other pro-level mirrorless competitors, the OM-D E-M1 Mark III offers an electronic viewfinder. Unfortunately, this is one of the few areas where Olympus struggles, and I’m not a huge fan of the lower-resolution look that this EVF offers. However, it’s far from bad, and you may not notice if you haven’t spent time shooting on a higher-resolution electronic viewfinder.
In terms of autofocus and shooting speeds, the OM-D E-M1 Mark III doesn’t disappoint. Autofocus is quite fast, and you can push the camera to 18 frames-per-second when using the continuous AF, which is insane, and approaches that “Do I really even need this?” level for all but the most serious sports-shooters. As you’d expect from a pro-level body, you get dual SD card slots.
You also get Olympus’s best-in-class in-body image stabilization. Olympus promises stabilization in the area of 7.5 stops, and while it’s difficult to confirm this exactly, the IBIS does a great job, and will let you handhold your setup at shutter speeds that’ll impress even the most seasoned pros.
While the OM-D E-M1 Mark III is far from cheap, it’s also surprisingly inexpensive given its capabilities. You can grab it for just $1399 USD, which comes in below the Sony a7 III, the Nikon Z6, and the Canon EOS R6.
So if you’re a professional looking for an excellent all-around Micro Four Thirds camera, make sure you look at the truly impressive OM-D E-M1 Mark III.
7. Panasonic Lumix GH5s
If you want to create beautiful videos, then the Panasonic Lumix GH5s is one of the absolute best options on the market. You get 4K/60p recording, 1080p at 240 fps, and a beautiful shooting experience–assuming you’re willing to pay the price.
Before you even consider the Panasonic Lumix GH5s, you should know:
It’s a video camera, not a stills camera.
Sure, the GH5s can shoot decent stills, and it even offers a nice 11 frames-per-second continuous shooting speed and impressive handling.
But the GH5s is a video camera that can shoot stills, not the other way around, so unless you’re a serious video shooter, I’d recommend looking elsewhere.
If you are serious about capturing video, however, then you’re going to love the Panasonic Lumix GH5s, which offers 4K/60p recording, excellent low-light capabilities (with a maximum extended ISO of 204,800!), a beautiful (3.69M-dot) EVF, and 1080p recording at a whopping 240 frames per second.
In other words, you’ll be able to capture beautiful slow motion, you’ll get an excellent shooting experience via the electronic viewfinder, and you’ll be able to shoot comfortably in low light.
Not a bad package, right?
You also get solid, DSLR-like handling, as well as access to the excellent Micro Four Thirds lens lineup.
If you’re not used to shooting with a proper video camera, you may wonder at the resolution, which just barely pushes double-digits (the GH5s only offers 10 megapixels). But this is pretty standard for a video camera of this caliber; consider the 12 MP sensor of the Sony a7S III for comparison.
Now, the Panasonic Lumix GH5s is pretty pricey. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive cameras on this list, coming in at just under $1800 USD.
But if you’re a serious videographer looking for your next top-notch camera, then the GH5s is your best Micro Four Thirds option.
8. Olympus OM-D E-M1X
The Olympus OM-D E-M1X is designed for sports, wildlife, and bird photographers, and in those areas, it performs admirably. You get blazing-fast continuous shooting, incredible image stabilization, and a rugged body.
What does this mean?
It means that you should only consider the OM-D E-M1X if you’re a professional or aspiring action photographer. Yes, it’s an amazing camera, but it’s also a lot of camera, which means that regular photographers (including regular pro photographers!) will quickly find the OM-D E-M1X too excessive for their needs.
Here’s what you get in the Olympus OM-D E-M1X:
- A 20 MP sensor
- A 2.36M-dot electronic viewfinder
- Dual SD card slots
- 60 fps shooting
- 7.5 stops of in-body image stabilization
- Dual grips
Honestly, you can tell that the Olympus OM-D E-M1X is a camera of a different kind when you first see it; the dual grips don’t exist anywhere but on professional sports cameras, and the body is chunky, despite the Micro Four Thirds form factor.
The key features on the Olympus OM-D E-M1X are the continuous shooting speeds, which reach up to 60 frames per second (though this drops to 18 frames per second if you want to focus continuously), as well as the Olympus Pro Capture option, which is one of my favorite Olympus features, that allows you to start capturing images the moment your finger half-presses the shutter button. Then, once you’ve depressed the shutter button completely, your camera saves the last handful of frames–so that you get a series of shots taken moments before you even pressed the shutter. This is insanely useful for action photography where you’re always going to be a split-second behind your subject.
As you’d expect from a niche professional body, the Olympus OM-D E-M1X is pretty expensive. You can currently grab it for around $2000 USD, though bear in mind that you get a whole lot of camera for that price, and that other sports bodies–such as the Canon 1D X Mark III and the Nikon D6–are far, far more costly.
9. Olympus PEN E-PL9
The PEN E-PL9 caters to former point-and-shoot or smartphone photographers looking to take their photography up a notch. It’s easy to use, it takes great pictures, and it’s well-priced; what more could you want?
Here’s your final Micro Four Thirds camera to consider:
Like many point and shoot cameras, the PEN E-PL9 offers no viewfinder, neither electronic nor optical. But you get a nice 3-inch LCD, one that tilts and includes touchscreen functionality.
What I love about the Olympus PEN E-PL9 is how casual it is; you can carry it around with you, slip it in your pocket, wear it around your neck, and nobody will look twice, because it’s discreet and stylish at the same time. Even with an Olympus kit lens mounted on the front, it stays very compact, which makes the E-PL9 a great option for casual photographers, travel photographers, and street photographers alike.
The Olympus PEN E-PL9’s sensor is on the lower end in terms of megapixels (it offers 16 MP and no high-resolution mode). But 16 MP is good enough to allow for some larger printing, even if you’ll need to be very judicious with your cropping.
Also bear in mind that you get some nice in-body image stabilization, which will allow you to handhold the E-PL9 even in low light. You also get 4K/30p video, so you’ll be well-equipped to capture the occasional video or vlog.
Of course, the E-PL9 isn’t for everyone. I wouldn’t recommend you grab the E-PL9 if you’ve already worked with a viewfinder, for instance–the lack of an EVF will just be too limiting.
But if you’re looking for your first interchangeable lens camera, the E-PL9 is a great choice. You can purchase it for around $700 USD (with a kit lens), or just $600 USD (body only).
The Best Micro Four Thirds Cameras: Buying Guide
If you’re trying to pick the perfect Micro Four Thirds camera for your needs, then you’ll want to think about a few key features:
- Size and build-quality
- Autofocus and speed
- Image quality
- Video capabilities
Not all of these factors matter to every shooter.
Depending on the type of photography (or videography) you like to do, some of these factors will be irrelevant to your needs–and some of these factors will be of great importance. So try to consider the factors that matter most to you based on your own shooting style.
Let’s take a closer look at each key feature, starting with:
Size and Build Quality
If you’re thinking about purchasing a Micro Four Thirds camera, one of your chief considerations is almost certainly camera size.
This is because Micro Four Thirds systems are known for their compact sizes relative to other cameras, even other mirrorless cameras. Four Thirds sensors are smaller than APS-C sensors, and way smaller than full-frame sensors.
Which means that Micro Four Thirds cameras are smaller, too.
That said, not all Micro Four Thirds cameras are equal in size. Some of them (like the Olympus OM-D EM-1X) are relatively large, whereas others (such as the Olympus PEN E-PL9) are tiny. So you’re going to want to pay careful attention to sizing specifications before buying a camera, especially if you’re planning to do a lot of hiking, traveling, or other activity that requires a compact option.
You’ll also want to pay careful attention to build quality. If you plan on using your Micro Four Thirds camera in heavy rain or snow, you’ll need a weather-sealed option (though you’ll want weather-sealed lenses, too!). But if you’re going to be using your Micro Four Thirds body as a casual walkaround option, then build quality is going to matter far less.
Related Post: The Best Micro Four-Thirds Lenses On The Market in 2021
Some cameras are easy to use. They feature simple menus, simple buttons, and an easy-to-hold body.
Not so much.
In fact, the ergonomics is, for some photographers, the most important aspect of a camera to consider before buying. After all, if you don’t like how a camera feels, then will you really enjoy doing photography with it?
Now, ergonomics tends to come in a few different flavors. Some cameras are extremely small, but offer little in the way of a body grip, like this:
Others tend to be larger with a big grip, but are much less “travel-ready”:
And both options come with trade-offs.
You’ll also want to think about the camera features, such as touchscreen capabilities and an articulating screen (if you plan to do vlogging with your camera, this last one is essential).
Viewfinders are another big feature to consider. DSLRs automatically come with optical viewfinders, but not all mirrorless Micro Four Thirds cameras will have a viewfinder of any kind–and when they do, it’s an electronic viewfinder. Electronic viewfinders come with additional features to think about, such as resolution, refresh rate, and type (OLED vs LCD).
In other words, ergonomics is a very big deal–so I don’t recommend you purchase a new camera until you’ve thought long and hard about it.
Autofocus and Speed
Unfortunately, the two main Micro Four Thirds brands–Olympus and Panasonic–aren’t known for their autofocus technology.
That said, there’s quite a range of autofocusing capabilities across the Micro Four Thirds market, and you’ll find something for everyone–including high-speed, tracking-intensive cameras such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1X, as well as slower, more deliberate options such as the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV.
Before you purchase an autofocusing speed-demon, however, I recommend you ask yourself:
How much speed do I really need?
Because here’s the thing:
Plenty of photography genres don’t require fast autofocusing. Most landscape photographers focus manually. Same with pretty much all astrophotographers, most architectural photographers, and even some street photographers.
In other words, autofocus doesn’t always matter.
However, if you’re planning on capturing action, such as birds in flight or athletes in motion, then you absolutely need the best autofocus you can afford. That’s when autofocus really becomes critical: when you’re trying to track a fast-moving subject while firing off a series of shots.
If you do photograph action, you’ll want to pay close attention to continuous shooting speeds, as well. For fast-moving subjects, I’d recommend a continuous shooting speed of at least 7 frames per second, and I’d really recommend you go higher, if possible. Plenty of cameras on the list above offer 10 frames per second, 20 frames per second, or more.
You have to be careful, however. Plenty of cameras offer blazing-fast shooting speeds, but can only autofocus when you reduce your speed considerably. So keep an eye out for that, and make sure you don’t get drawn in by a camera that can’t track your subject and shoot fast at the same time!
One more feature worth looking for is some sort of “buffering capture” option (Olympus calls this Pro Capture).
It works by capturing images when you press the shutter button halfway, then discarding all but the most recent images when you finally hit the shutter button. That way, you can react before you even know what’s happening. For instance, you may not know exactly when a diver will spring off the diving board, but if you’re using Pro Capture, it won’t matter; you can half-depress the shutter button in anticipation of the jump, then press down the shutter the rest of the way as soon as you see the diver leave the board. Then, when you review your images, you’ll see that you’ve captured a series of images from before the diver leaped, as well as shots of the diver starting to move and then springing off the diving board.
You can’t use a feature like this all the time–it’ll fill up your memory cards, fast!–but you can definitely take advantage of it in critical action moments!
Related Post: Best Street Photography Cameras for any Budget
Because Four Thirds sensors are smaller than full-frame and APS-C sensors, Micro Four Thirds image quality struggles to compete with the likes of Nikon, Sony, and even Canon.
But MFT manufacturers have come up with clever ways to get around these “small sensor” limitations, which is why you’ll often find high-resolution features on Micro Four Thirds cameras. This allows you to shoot 50+ MP images via sensor-shift technology, where the camera fires off a series of frames and moves the sensor slightly during each one, then combines all the shots into one final, high-resolution image. Of course, you cannot use a high-resolution feature while shooting action, but it’s certainly useful for landscape photographers if you like Micro Four Thirds cameras but are bothered by the limited resolution.
When it comes to choosing the perfect Micro Four Thirds camera, I would recommend paying attention to the megapixel count. While megapixels aren’t everything, they will constrain your ability to crop and print large; 16 MP is on the low end for MFT cameras, while 20 MP is on the high end.
As for high-ISO capabilities, it’s worth looking at ISO range (because broader ranges generally correspond to better performance, though this isn’t always true!). Note that, if you use a tripod, you’ll rarely need to worry about ISO, anyway–but if you’re a frequent handholder or low light shooter, ISO becomes a much bigger deal.
In truth, pretty much all the cameras on this list will offer pro-level images if you use it right. So you don’t need to get too hung up on image quality; instead, appreciate what your camera can offer, and learn the skills you need to get your images looking great.
Micro Four Thirds cameras tend to offer impressive video capabilities, especially in the Panasonic lineup, which includes the pro-level GH5s.
But if you’re looking for a camera that can capture nice videos, I’d recommend keeping an eye out for a few key features.
First, you’ll want at least 4K/30p recording capabilities (which ensures that you get high-resolution footage at a decent frame rate). 4K/60p is even better, because you’ll be able to use it for slow-motion shots. Ideally, you’ll be able to record 4K/30p internally, which prevents you from having to route your footage to an external recorder while in the field. Also make sure you grab a camera with mic jacks and headphone jacks; that way, you can add an external microphone (for improved recording quality), and you can monitor audio quality as you listen.
Second, in-body image stabilization is always useful for videography, because it’ll allow you to keep your footage smooth when handholding.
And third, I’d recommend choosing a Micro Four Thirds with a fully-articulating screen; that way, you can maneuver it around when shooting from odd angles, and you can even see yourself when vlogging (which is always useful!).
The Best Micro Four Thirds Cameras: The Next Step
Choosing a Micro Four Thirds camera is hard.
Fortunately, this isn’t due to a lack of options. Instead, there are quite a few excellent choices, and it can be tough to decide on the best one for your needs.
So I’d recommend you begin by asking yourself:
What is my budget? And what do I really need in a Micro Four Thirds camera?
From there, you can decide which cameras fit the bill.
And you can ultimately grab the perfect camera!
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