Olympus cameras are excellent for sports photography due to their small sensor and compact size.
However, sports photography can be a tricky subject to shoot, mostly because of the lenses.
If you are photographing indoors, you need to freeze the action by selecting a fast shutter speed, but you’re often limited by the low amount of light available. Most lenses don’t have apertures big enough to let in more light so you’re left with raising the ISO speed and this doesn’t always look good on every camera. Your only option would be to get yourself a lens with a bigger aperture, which would drastically change the quality.
For outside sports, it’s a lot easier since the sun provides plenty of light. Shooting with shutter speeds over 1/250 is not a challenge, even if the lens you use has an aperture of f/5.6.
In this guide, we went through all Olympus lenses and selected the 7 best ones, which is more than enough whether you’re a beginner or a professional.
However, both Panasonic and Olympus lenses fit on Olympus bodies. The good thing is, since Olympus bodies are stabilized, any Panasonic lens will also be stabilized (even the lens itself has none). Since this guide would be too big if we included all options, this one only has Olympus lenses. If you want to see what lenses Panasonic offers for your Olympus camera, check out our guide below.
Because there are so many Micro Four Thirds lenses on the market (this is a good thing), we didn’t want to confuse you with a ton of options. Both companies produce amazing lenses, and in this guide we made sure to focus on great image quality, sharpness, versatility and what you get for the price.
Best Olympus Sports Lenses:
We discuss all of these lenses below, but first let’s go through what matters when buying a lens for landscape.
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What’s Important for Sports Photography?
Here are the 5 most important factors that make a good sports lens. We focused on these points when selecting the lenses for this guide.
Auto Focus – The lens needs to have fast and reliable auto focus. While this also depends on the camera you use, Olympus’ latest mirrorless models have AF systems that can handle action very well. The majority of lenses we talk about are extremely quick!
Focal Length – Most of the time, sports photography means long telephoto lenses. While this is true in the majority of cases, don’t forget that there are plenty of sports where you as the photographer can be very close to the subject. In such cases, having a 35mm – 135mm lens is the best. For bigger sports, or where you know you won’t be a few feet away from the action, stick to 150mm and higher.
Aperture – This is where it gets tricky. If you’re going to shoot indoors most of the time, you will really want at least f/2.8, or even bigger (f/2, or f/1.4). Why? Because to you it may seem like there’s plenty of light, but it’s not the same for your camera. Raising the ISO is a possibility, but this would often have to be above 3,200 and your shots might be too noisy. Outdoors, all Olympus’ lenses are big enough, but for indoors you’ll either have to buy a more expensive zoom, raise the ISO, or invest in prime lenses.
Weight & Size – We recommend you to bring a monopod or a tripod. Mirrorless or not, holding a lens for hours will get you tired and result in blurred shots. You can check out our guide on best monopods.
Image Stabilization – Olympus puts stabilization into the camera body, which is perfect, but useless in 99% of sports situations. IS only helps when your subject is still!
Olympus M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO
The Olympus M. Zuiko ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO is a great all-purpose, go-to lens for daily use. It is part of Olympus’s range of constant aperture f/2.8 “PRO” zoom lenses for the Micro Four Thirds format, covering everything from 7mm through to 300mm. It’s weather sealed (dust and splash proof), and ruggedly built to withstand the rigors of professional use, this is pretty much the only lens you need: regardless of the genre of photography you shoot, the 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO will have you covered.
As with many lenses in this series, the 12-40mm features Olympus’s signature manual focus “clutch” selection ring, allowing you to quickly switch between AF and MF modes without taking your eye off the subject. Selecting manual mode provides excellent control by means of a satisfying grip, and there are stops at either end of the focus range.
The lens also has a custom function button, to which you can assign any one of many tasks, to quickly switch between preferred shooting modes. Indeed this is a lens designed for ease of use. And while for a similar price you could purchase two separate primes covering the two extremes of the 12-40mm’s focal range (35mm equivalent: 24-80mm) – this wouldn’t provide the same degree of flexibility as the zoom.
Unusually for a zoom, there appears to be no compromise on image quality: Olympus’s ZERO coating has pretty much done away with ghosting and aberrations altogether, and keeps flare to a minimum. If you’re less in need of a fast aperture and more interested in a convenient, all-in-one, solution, consider the 12-100mm f/4 IS PRO instead.
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 landscape shooters who don’t want to be weighed down by a bag full of heavy prime lenses as they trek off into the wilderness.
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.
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.
Olympus M. Zuiko 40-150mm f/4-5.6 R
Want a telephoto lens under $150? With fast auto focus and excellent resolution for the low price, the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/4-5.6 R zoom lens makes for a much more affordable alternative to the brand’s 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens. Offering coverage equivalent to 80-300mm (35mm format), this is a great lens for isolating a subject against a background, or for capturing action from a distance. It will be of interest to sports and nature enthusiasts, as well as portrait and performing arts photographers. Similarly, silent auto focus means it’s an equally good choice for video.
There’s no flare, purple fringing, or other chromatic aberrations, and in this respect the budget 40-150mm actually stands up very well when compared to even quite expensive Zuiko lenses. Image sharpness towards the center of the frame is also excellent. However, corners are notably softer than with top of the range Olympus glass. Likewise, if smooth rendering of defocussed areas is a priority, you’ll need to consider other options: bokeh is harsh, with noticeable double-edging.
While the f/4-5.6 R may be at the budget end of Olympus’s telephoto range, optically it holds up well and is conveniently light and compact. Nonetheless, build quality is clearly not on a par with that of its PRO series cousins. Likewise, for those who do a lot of low-light shooting, the constant aperture f/2.8 PRO will be a much more practical choice than the relatively gloomy maximum aperture of f/4-5.6 that this lens can muster.
Olympus M. Zuiko 300mm f/4 PRO IS
The Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO is the first Olympus interchangeable lens for the Micro Four Thirds format to include on-board (as opposed to in-camera) image stabilization. A focal length of 300mm is equivalent 600mm on a full frame camera, so that’s some serious magnification. Combine all this with high-speed precision AF, and excellent image quality, and it’s obvious that this lens will be a great choice for handheld action shooting – such as in sports or wildlife photography.
Traditionally, telephotos have always been prone to aberrations and “color bleeding.” With the 300m f/4 IS PRO, Olympus has worked hard to keep these issues to a minimum. This has been achieved by using extra-low dispersion and extra-high refractive lens elements. Additionally, use of Z Coating Nano technology also makes for a much sharper image.
Closest focusing distance is 115 cm from the end of the lens, meaning that this can also double up for shooting detailed close-ups or headshots with a totally blurred background. Although 300mm is a lot of telephoto capability, the lens is surprisingly slimline and lightweight, weighing only 1270 g. It’s also hermetically-sealed against dust, splashes and freezing temperatures, so you can take the lens to the extreme, safe in the knowledge that it’s up to the challenge. Weather sealing is expected at this price range!
And if 300mm of magnification doesn’t bring you close enough to the action, this lens becomes a super-telephoto with the addition of a converter, offering the equivalent of a 840mm lens in 35mm format.
Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm f/1.8
If you are looking for a fast, compact and lightweight close sports lens for the Micro Four Thirds format, the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8 makes for a convincing choice. Equivalent to a 90mm lens in the 35mm format, this is widely considered to be an ideal focal length for portraiture, allowing you to isolate a subject from their surroundings. What’s more, the bright f/1.8 aperture permits shooting in low light and lets you achieve the shallow depth of field and blurred background that is so desirable in portrait photography.
The 7 blade circular diaphragm makes for smooth, rounded bokeh, and Olympus’s ZERO lens coating helps keep ghosting and flare to a minimum, even when pointing directly into the light. Indeed, the lens generally performs very well in high contrast situations, retaining excellent sharpness and detail.
Although a nearest focusing distance of 50cm may not sound especially close, on a 45mm lens this is more than sufficient for shooting tightly-framed portraits. Fast, snappy and silent auto focus makes the 45mm a similarly good choice for head-and-shoulder video interviews, or other movie scenarios where a close-crop is desirable. The lens is ideal for simple sports where you can be very close to the action.
The 45mm f/1.8 comes in a rugged black or chrome metal barrel. However, despite being one of Olympus’s “premium” lenses, it is sadly missing the fast-select manual focus ring of other lenses in the same series. More surprisingly still – for a lens billed as “premium” – is that the 45mm lacks weather-sealing.
It’s ideal for concerts, weddings, portraits or any other situation where you can’t be close to your subject.
Olympus M. Zuiko 75mm f/1.8
Marketed by Olympus as a “high-grade portrait lens”, the Olympus M. Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8 is a sharp, well-made piece of glass offering a longer-length alternative to more traditional choices for portraiture. However, owing to it’s excellent auto focus and fast maximum aperture, this is also a lens that could be put to good use shooting nature, wildlife, concert, theater and sports photography.
Equivalent to a 150mm lens in the 35mm format, the 75mm f/1.8 exhibits excellent sharpness across the entire image area and throughout all aperture settings. Olympus’s ZERO lens coating helps to keep flare, ghosting and aberrations at bay – even when shooting in high contrast or backlit conditions – and the lens renders out of focus areas of the image beautifully. Indeed, pleasing circular bokeh and feathered edges further boost the 75mm’s portrait lens credentials. Nearest focusing distance is 84cm, which at this degree of magnification makes for some intensely close-up portraits.
Auto focus with the 150mm is fast and silent, owing to Olympus’s gearless MSC (Movie and Still Compatible) focus mechanism. The lens features solid metal construction in either silver or black, with a nicely grippable manual focus ring. On the downside, this is a fairly costly lens, and unlike the more standard 60mm portrait lens, 75mm is not a focal length that will appeal to all users. Additionally, despite the price, the lens is not weather sealed.
Our Top Olympus Sports Lenses:
You can also check out Panasonic landscape lenses for your Olympus camera here.