Best lenses for your Olympus OMD E-M5 / Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3

By Kevin Carter - Thursday, August 01, 2013

Lens Recommendations
Introduction | General Overview | Technology Overview | Best performing prime lenses for the OM-D E-M5 and GH3 | Best performing zoom lenses for the OM-D E-M5 and GH3

As a relatively new and evolving system, the lens range isn’t as extensive as the 35mm based  offering for DSLR cameras, such as Canon or Nikon, obviously, but when combined together the Olympus and Panasonic lenses outnumber those of rival mirrorless systems. Third party lens makers Tokina, Tamron, Schneider Kreuznach, Voigtlander, Samyang and Sigma have since joined the MFT lens alliance, but, of those, only the latter three have introduced a small number of models with a suitable mount. We’ve analyzed 27 lens models in total, mostly from Panasonic and Olympus.

Best performing prime lenses for the OM-D E-M5 and GH3:

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75mm F1.8 899 27 24
Panasonic Leica Summilux DG 25mm F1.4 579 23 21
Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f1.8 389 23 21
Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f1.8 500 22 20
Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f2.0 769 21 19
Sigma 60mm F2.8 DN A Micro 4/3 239 21 19
Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm F2.8 Macro 499 19 17
Sigma 30mm F2.8 DN A Mount 43 199 18 16
Panasonic Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm F2.8 ASPH OIS 668 17 16
Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f2.8 300 15 14
Olympus 15mm 1:8.0 Body Cap 79 5 5

As one of the most expensive models available for MFT cameras, the $899 Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75mm f/1.8 is the best performing lens of the range that we’ve had in our labs. As the equivalent to a 150mm (in 35mm format) it’s a rather specialized model, where the longer focal length and fast aperture are ideal for  indoor sports or even outdoor portraiture. Not to be outdone by the Tatsuno-based maker, Panasonic’s Leica branded Summilux DG  25mm f/1.4 is the next best in terms of optical quality and is a more conventional and versatile 50mm equivalent. At $579, it’s another high-end model, but it’s an excellent performer nonetheless. If a moderate telephoto is required and the 75mm is a bit steep, then $389 45mm f/1.8 can be easily recommended. It shares the same ranking as the 25mm Leica Summilux model for IQ, focuses to just 50cm and is both light in weight and compact. Wide-angle primes are still a bit thin on the ground but as the equivalent to a 24mm, the compact metal-bodied 12mm f/2.0 is ranked fifth in our database and performs very well.

With similar sensors, the ranking of the lenses remains unchanged between the Panasonic flagship GH3 and the OM-D E-M5. There is a difference in DxOMark score, however, with the OM-D E-M5 delivering slightly better results, in some case by as much as three points for the best performing lens  gradually falling  toward equal scores for the lower-end optics. Differences in the choice of anti-aliasing filter between the two manufacturers  are the most likely reason for the disparity between the two cameras.

Best performing standard lenses for the OM-D E-M5 and GH3:

Panasonic Leica Summilux DG 25mm F1.4 579 23 21
Sigma 30mm F2.8 DN A Mount 43 199 18 16

With a DxOMark lens score of 23 on the OM-D E-M5, and 21 on the GH3, the best performing standard lens in our database is the Panasonic made Leica-branded Summilux DG 25mm f1.4. Not only is a good performer optically, it’s a well specified lens suitable for both stills and video capture as it features fast and smooth focusing with a linear type AF motor.

Compared with the sensitively priced ($199) Sigma 30mm f/2.8, which is our budget choice, the Leica is the better of the two optically. While the overall DxOMark score of 18 points for the Sigma looks close to the 21 points of the Leica (above), the Sigma’s performance is enhanced in this comparison by the slight differences in the sensor of OM-D E-M5; mounted on the GH3 the score is a little lower (at 16 points). Mounted on either the E-M5 or the GH3, whichever way you look at it the Leica is the better performer. It has higher levels of sharpness and lower chromatic aberration (though still not particularly great), while the Sigma has better control of vignetting and distortion. It’s worth remembering though that as with some rival camera systems, the Panasonic cameras rely on in-camera correction of distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration, not only during live view and playback but also in the resultant JPEG images and Raw files (with suitable raw conversion software). Olympus cameras do the same, except they don’t correct lateral chromatic aberration, so many of these aberrations are unlikely to be really noticeable by users.

Best performing wide-angle prime for the OM-D E-M5 and GH3:

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f1.8 500 22 20
Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f2.0 769 21 19
Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f2.8 300 15 14
Olympus 15mm 1:8.0 Body Cap 79 5 5

Of the wide-angle primes analysed (and we’ve yet to test the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 and 14mm f2.5), the best performing of those in the database is the new $500 Olympus 17mm (35mm equivalent) f1.8 with a DxOMark lens score of 22 points. The firm’s high-speed 24mm equivalent narrowly misses the top slot at 21 Points. With respectable IQ and seriously small dimensions, the 17mm f/2.8 is the value proposition at $300, though bear in mind it’s an early model and the AF system is somewhat noisy and not particularly suited to video.