If you’re looking for the most compact and worry-free way of traveling with your Olympus camera, it’s best to get an all-around zoom that will allow you to shoot pretty much everything.
Or, 1-2 good prime lenses if you don’t like zooms. It depends on how much gear you want to bring with you. Most people buy a zoom with plenty of reach, a couple of prime lenses, or a combination of both. It all depends on how you want to travel.
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. 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 Travel 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 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. Olympus 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 Olympus 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/1.8 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, Olympus 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 Olympus 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 compensate for moving in any direction while taking the picture. Luckily, all Olympus cameras have IS built into the body itself.
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. Certain Olympus lenses in this guide are weather resistant, and we’ve made sure to mention it in the description. 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 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 use with OM-D and PEN mirrorless 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.
Olympus M. Zuiko 25mm f/1.8
The Olympus M. Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 is a must have for any photographer! It is an excellent choice for portraits, documentary, weddings and more general everyday shooting. Thanks to f/1.8, it also offers top low-light performance for those on a budget. Small, lightweight, and featuring Olympus’s ZERO lens coating for sharper rendering, this is a great little lens that is also particularly suited to travel photography, where compact size and versatility are real advantages.
As with Olympus’ similar but more expensive 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens, the f/1.8 is sturdily built and extremely sharp even wide open. While bokeh is perhaps not as smooth as with the f/1.2, it’s nonetheless impressive thanks to a seven-blade diaphragm. Sadly though, the f/1.8 does not feature the “snapfocus” ring for manual focus that has now become pretty much standard with many of the more expensive M. Zuikos.
If you’re looking for your first lens, or just something better than the one you got with your camera, this is where you should start. This is an inexpensive way to enter a more professional world and really make a big difference in your pictures. Aperture f/1.8 allows you to make your subject stand out and make the colors look rich, and also to shoot in low light. No more blurred indoor birthday/party/event shots, and no need for a flash anymore.
While at f/1.8 this is already a relatively fast lens, its much more expensive f/1.2 PRO sibling of course offers the ability to shoot in even lower light, and with a shallower depth of field. Optically, though, there’s little to differentiate between the two lenses, and the f/1.8 has the advantage of being considerably smaller. The only other major difference between these two primes is that the f/1.2 is weather-sealed, whereas this one is not. This means that if you can live without the extra stop of light and the all-weather durability offered by the f/1.2 PRO lens, the f/1.8 is a great buy.
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, ruggedly built and weather sealed. 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 landscapes, interiors, night sky photography, 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. Pair the 7-14mm with its 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO sibling, and you are prepared for almost any photographic situation conceivable.
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 14-42 f/3.5-5.6
The Olympus M. Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ is a highly portable electronic pancake lens for Micro Four Thirds cameras. Although you might be forgiven for thinking that an “electronic pancake” is what cyborgs eat for breakfast, Olympus is actually referring to a certain type of short-barrelled lens. And according to the manufacturer, this is the thinnest such lens in the world – making it ideal for street photographers, and indeed anyone who regularly needs to carry a more serious camera than the one in their smartphone.
As the lens extends just 22.5mm when retracted, and weighs a mere 93g, obviously the primary advantage here is being able to slip a camera in your pocket and carry it everywhere, without it being a drag. Nonetheless, there would be little point in taking the camera with you at all if the lens itself wasn’t up to scratch optically: and the 14-42mm holds its own in this department.
While the best bokeh will generally not be produced by a lens with merely five aperture blades, rendering of defocused areas is actually surprisingly good. Similarly, center sharpness is impressive – although you’ll get the best results when shooting between f/5.6 – f/8. However, there’s some slight chromatic aberration – specifically fringing – and minor vignetting. Yet neither are serious enough to be of real concern.
Nonetheless, while optical compromise is minimal, clearly Olympus could only keep weight down by using lighter materials. So although the lens is sturdily built, the barrel is unfortunately plastic. Thankfully though, the lens mount is metal. No weather-sealing at this price level though, which is expected.
Our Top Olympus Travel Lenses:
You can also check out Panasonic landscape lenses for your Olympus camera here.