In this guide, you’re going to see the 9 best travel lenses for your Micro Four Thirds camera.
Whether you have a Panasonic, Olympus or some other brand’s system, the beauty of these lenses is that they fit on all different cameras. If you’re new to photography, this can easily be overwhelming since you have so many options to choose from.
For our guide, we focused on image quality, sharpness, size of the lens and value for money. Basically, everything you need in a travel lens without it being overly expensive; plus something you can use for all types of photography; sports, casual daily stuff, portraits, landscape etc.
We go through each lens specifically and talk about its strengths, and before that we quickly summarize what the most important factors are when it comes to travel photography.
Best Micro Four Thirds Travel Lenses:
We discuss all of these lenses below, but first let’s go through what matters when buying a lens for traveling.
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What’s Important for Travel Photography?
Here are the 6 most important factors that make a good travel lens.
Focal Length – Traveling is a very broad term, so you want to be fully prepared. A zoom lens with plenty of reach is an excellent way to go if you want to keep it simple, and be re ready to photograph anything from landscape, nature, to portraits and interiors. Many photographers also use prime lenses, but rarely above 50mm. Panasonic has plenty of good options, and we recommend you to stick between 12mm and 100mm, depending on what you prefer to take pictures of. A combination of both, a good zoom and a high quality prime for low light, is also fantastic.
Aperture – The bigger the aperture, the bigger the lens, especially if it’s a zoom. For this reason, we didn’t include Panasonic 40-150mm f/2.8 because it is most likely too heavy/big for you to consider it a travel choice. Prime lenses on the other hand, can go up to f/1.7 and still be extremely compact. A big aperture will allow you to shoot in low light and indoors and get reasonably fast shutter speeds. For portraits, it also makes your background appear nicely blurred. For outdoor photography, smaller apertures are normal and you’ll be perfectly fine with zoom lenses that are at f/4 or even f/5.6.
Auto Focus – Good, reliable and accurate auto focus is a must. When traveling, you don’t always have the time to do it manually or take a few different shots. Thankfully, Panasonic cameras and lenses all focus very quickly.
Weight & Size – Photographing is fun, carrying a ton of heavy gear is not. Make sure to look at how big and heavy a lens is, especially if you always travel with lots of other stuff as well. While Panasonic Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras and lenses are great for travel photography due to their compactness, some people may still prefer carrying 1 zoom instead of a few primes, or simply just a pancake lens.
Image Stabilization – When traveling, you rarely bring a tripod with you. We are rarely 100% stable when taking pictures, and turning on IS will help when shooting with super slow shutter speeds, or photographing with longer focal lengths (over 25mm). Panasonic calls their stabilization O.I.S (Optical Image Stabilization). If you have an Olympus body, then every Panasonic lens will be stabilized, since they put the IS into their camera bodies.
Weather Resistant – Having a weather resistant lens helps when traveling, since you’re usually in unpredictable situations. Dust, water, sand, these are just some of the possibilities. However, just because a lens isn’t resistant, it doesn’t mean a little water or dust will damage it. It simply means you don’t have to worry that much when shooting in difficult weather conditions.
Olympus M. Zuiko 12mm f/2
The Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm f/2 is a premium quality wideangle lens for the Micro Four Thirds system offering excellent image definition coupled with sturdy construction. Equivalent to a 24mm focal length in the 35mm format, the M. Zuiko 12mm is well suited to walk-around and landscape photography. However, thanks to its great manual focus features, rugged weather-sealing, and a durable all-metal build, it clearly also begs to be used for candid street shots.
Olympus’s advanced still and movie compatible autofocus system guarantees you won’t miss a moment, while excellent image stabilization rules out camera shake. Pulling the focus ring backwards instantly switches the lens to manual focus mode and simultaneously reveals a clear distance scale. This feature makes it simple to set focus at a predetermined distance, in order to rapidly capture subjects “from the hip”.
The lens does not suffer from any noticeable color aberrations and only at the widest of apertures does some slight blurring become detectable in the corners. What’s more, lens flare and ghosting have largely been eliminated thanks to Olympus’s low-reflection “ZERO” lens coating.
Featuring a rounded seven-blade diaphragm, this lens produces pleasing bokeh when used wide open. However, at 12mm this will never be your first choice of lens for portraiture. Instead, with such a wide field of view, the 12mm f/2 is better suited to fast shooting in crowds, or capturing sweeping vistas of either the night sky or more terrestrial landscapes.
Olympus M. Zuiko 17mm f/1.8
The Olympus M. Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 is a discrete and fast lens for Micro Four Thirds cameras. Boasting excellent optics and weighing just 4.23 oz/120g, it’s a great choice for everyday shooting. Fast maximum aperture, silent AF, and compact dimensions also make it well suited to unobtrusive documentary and snapshot photography in low light conditions.
At 17mm, focal length is equivalent to a 34mm lens in the 35mm format. I.e. field of vision is moderately wide, but not so wide that you must be standing on your subject’s toes in order to frame their face large in the shot. Housed in a solid, stylish, all-metal casing, optical quality is identical to Olympus’s “premium” 12mm f/2 lens, producing ultra sharp, high contrast images from f/1.8 through to f/22.
The 17mm also comes with the same handy AF/MF focus selection mechanism as its wider sibling. This allows you to rapidly snap the lens into manual mode, estimate distance, and then quickly set focus and fire off a shot before the subject is even aware. Silent autofocus makes the 17mm well suited to video too.
This is faster and more versatile than the 12mm, and also costs sightly less. Meanwhile, staying within the 17mm range, the f/1.8 is way more affordable than Olympus’s slightly faster “PRO” f/1.2 offering. However, what you save in money you lose in the form of the PRO lens’s superior optics and weather proofing.
Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7
The super-slim Panasonic Lumix G II 20mm f/1.7 is a fast pancake lens for the Micro Four Thirds format. An all-metal barrel and lens mount update the cheaper build-quality of the Mark 1, making it a sturdy and compact choice for all-round shooting. Mounted on a suitably small body, it can easily be thrown in a coat pocket for quick and candid photography without compromise on image quality: ideal for travel, street, documentary and other discrete low-light uses.
In addition to being extremely sharp and displaying no color fringing, the lens is fast, compact, lightweight and well-built. It’s also quite cheaply priced. What’s more, 20mm is identical to a 40mm lens (35mm format equivalent): making it an excellent compromise between a standard and a wide angle lens. All in all then, this is a handy little all purpose piece of glass you can rely on to pull something out of pretty much any imaginable shooting situation.
On the downside though, autofocus in low light is really quite slow. To make matters worse, the focus mechanism is also quite noisy, meaning that for video use you’ll need to focus manually. Furthermore, if camera shake is a concern, you’ll have to use this on a body with on-board image stabilization, as the lens itself does not offer any of its own. Those looking for better spec within a similar focal range (but willing to spend a little more) should investigate the 15mm f/1.7 Leica Summilux as an alternative.
Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7
The Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 lens is a cheap and versatile workhorse suitable for a wide variety of photographic uses. Unlike many Panasonic Micro Four Thirds lenses – which often can only manage a minimum aperture of f/16 – the 25mm f/1.7 shuts right down to f/22. This makes it an excellent choice for when maximum depth-of-field is a priority, such as with landscape, architectural or interiors photography.
At the opposite end of the scale, f/1.7 makes it equally appropriate for handheld low light shooting. Panasonic’s nano coating helps to keep flare and ghosting under control, and there’s no noticeable color fringing. Similarly, the lens displays good across-frame sharpness, even wide open, performing best beyond f/2. As with other lenses in this series, the barrel features a super-smooth grip-ring for focus-by-wire “manual” focusing. Similarly, autofocus is excellent.
A 25mm lens is ideal for daily photography, portraits, weddings, indoor shooting, traveling etc. If you’re looking for your first lens, or just want something better than your current kit zoom, this is it.
While the plastic build doesn’t inspire the same confidence as Panasonic’s higher range MFT offerings, the 25mm f/1.7 is nonetheless well made. And on the upside, the inferior materials make this a very lightweight and compact lens. However, unsurprisingly at this price point, there is no weather sealing.
There are very few photographers who won’t need a lens of this focal length, so ultimately the choice comes down to minor differences between this and its more upmarket competitors. For those with a bigger budget and hungry for an extra half stop of light, the Leica-branded Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 is a faster, sharper alternative.
Olympus M. Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 ED PRO
The Olympus M. Zuiko ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens is an excellent ultra wideangle zoom lens for the Micro Four Thirds format. Despite being relatively lightweight, the lens is satisfyingly solid and ruggedly built. Meanwhile, hermetic sealing keeps it protected when shooting in difficult terrain. Its wide field of view, sharp optics and constant fast aperture of f/2.8 throughout all zoom settings makes this an ideal lens for travel, interiors, night sky photography, landscape and street shooting.
Equivalent to a 14-28mm lens in the full frame 35mm format, this is the only wide angle lens you will really need. There is a little softness detectable at the image corners, and some flare is still occasionally present when shooting into the light, but there’s no noticeable ghosting or color aberrations and overall this is an extremely crisp, high resolution lens. What’s more, Olympus’s ZERO Coating means that the lens performs well even under challenging conditions, such as when pointing directly towards a strong light source.
With the addition of Olympus’s separately available waterproof housing, this lens can be used underwater for shooting spectacular wideangle sub-aqua seascapes.
Panasonic Lumix G 12-35mm f/2.8 II OIS
Equivalent to a 24-70mm lens in the 35mm format, the Panasonic Lumix G 12-35mm f/2.8 II is a great all-round zoom covering all the main focal lengths the average photographer will need for general shooting. With a constant aperture of f/2.8 across all zoom settings, this is a lens that is fast enough to satisfy everyone except the most demanding of low light shooters, while also being versatile enough to deal with nearly any photographic style or situation.
Whether you shoot portraits, landscapes, travel, documentary, sports, or events, if you only have space to pack a single lens in your bag, this will likely be the one you’ll reach for.
The lens is pin sharp at the center, with only slight softness detectable towards the corners. Meanwhile, Panasonic’s nano surface coating keeps flare, ghosting and color aberrations to an absolute minimum. Bokeh appears very pretty, with nice rounded light-circles.
When it comes to shooting video, image stabilization has been much improved compared with the Mark 1 version of this lens. There’s also a handy switch on the side of the barrel to toggle OIS on or off, allowing you to change modes mid-take.
The 12-35mm f/2.8 is highly portable and reasonably compact, at least when contracted. Aside from the metal mount, the lens is largely made of plastic, so it’s not as rugged as some of Panasonic’s other lenses for the MFT format. However, it is dust and splash proof.
Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm f/2.8-4
If you’re looking for the all-around super zoom, the Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm f/2.8-4 is a solid workhorse for serious photography at a huge range of focal lengths. It’s got a relatively good aperture range, although this is not something you will use in really low light situations. For this reason it will be of most interest to photographers producing landscapes, architecture, interiors, and even portraits – provided ultra-shallow depth-of-field is not required.
Panasonic’s Nano Surface Coating means that there’s almost no flare whatsoever, at least when shooting stills, and only the subtlest of chromatic aberrations are visible. Sharpness is generally excellent, although there is some detectable fall off at corners – particularly when used wide open at around the 50mm zoom setting. A nine-blade aperture makes for some very nice bokeh, and color rendering is highly attractive.
The exterior, mount, and lens hood are of metal construction, and the overall build inspires confidence. As does the fact that the lens is dust-, splash- and freeze-proof right down to -10c.
On the negative side, the 12-60mm’s widest aperture of f/2.8 is only available when zoomed out to the 12mm setting. Nonetheless, the Leica 12-60mm is faster than Panasonic’s otherwise comparable f/3.5-5.6 Lumix 12-60mm. The Leica is also optically superior to the Lumix, however for those concerned about either price, weight, or size, the Lumix offers some advantage in all three areas.
Olympus M. Zuiko 12-100mm f/4 PRO
The Olympus M. Zuiko ED 12-100mm f/4.0 IS PRO is a great all-round workhorse for those less concerned with fast glass and more in need of a single dependable lens they can take everywhere. If you’re the kind of photographer who strives to get each image crystal sharp from background to foreground, it’s likely that you rarely ever shoot with the diaphragm at wider settings anyway. Offering an enormous choice of focal lengths in one single compact and portable zoom, this a great solution for travel shooters who don’t want to be weighed down by a bag full of heavy prime lenses as they trek off into the world.
If you’ve used any of the other lenses in Olympus’s PRO series, you’ll know that the optics are generally top notch. That’s also the case here, despite the wide range of magnification that the 12-100mm has to deal with. Providing equivalent coverage to a 24-200mm lens in 35mm format, it is nonetheless surprisingly compact, especially when compared to a similar setup on a full frame DSLR.
The barrel is of sturdy metal construction and is hermetically sealed against the elements. It also features Olympus’s signature manual focus snap selection ring and comes with a well-designed and securely-fastening lens hood that will not fall off as you pull the lens out of your bag.
Admittedly the 12-100mm is not cheap. But who would expect a professional lens to be cheap anyway? It’s still likely less expensive than a set of primes to cover an equivalent range of focal lengths. For those in need of a wider maximum aperture than this can provide, Olympus’s 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO is the lens to look at.
Olympus M. Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO
The Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 40-15mm f/2.8 PRO is an obvious choice for portraiture, stage, sports and wildlife photography. With a constant aperture of f/2.8 at all zoom settings, this a fantastic solution for photographers who frequently need to shoot in low light but who don’t wish to compromise on either portability or image quality.
It’s not your typical choice when you hear the word travel, but being equivalent to an 80 to 300mm lens in the 35mm format, the 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO allows you to get right into the heart of the action. And super fast auto focus means you’re unlikely to miss a shot when you do. Present, too, is the ever popular AF-MF clutch ring, allowing you to quickly switch between focus modes while shooting.
The lens is also very well suited to producing portraits, with beautiful circular bokeh backgrounds, and at a wide range of focal distance settings. Olympus’s ZERO lens coating keeps flare and ghosting well contained, and purple fringing is minimal. Image sharpness at the corners is excellent, while at the center it’s outstanding.
The sturdily built lens barrel features a user-assignable custom function button, and a twist-and-slide extendable lens hood. What’s more, as it’s splashproof, freezeproof, and dust proof, this is a lens you can rely on. This is a lens you buy and use forever, for anything; a true workhorse. It’s bigger than the rest on our list (yet still relatively compact), so keep that in mind.