Best Micro 4/3 cameras - Full guide
Finally, here it is! My comprehensive guide on Micro 4/3 cameras (also known as MFT, for “Micro Four Third”)! Whereas APS-C and Full Frame cameras had dominated the market until then, Panasonic and Olympus joined forces in 2008 to introduce the Micro 4/3 camera mount in order to offer mirrorless cameras to everyday people. This system, which combines mirrorless electronic viewfinder cameras with a sensor that is even slightly smaller than APS-C, quickly became known for its compactness and lightness, while guaranteeing superior image quality to the then compact and bridge cameras. While Olympus sold its photography division in 2020, the company that bought it carries on producing the gear (for now), and has even released new products under the brand name OM SYSTEM (which I’ll talk about below).
Check out my practical photography packs. It's a simple, fun and entertaining way to learn and improve in photography, especially in the field!
With a 19.25mm flange focal distance (FFD), the micro 4/3 mount offers the possibility of adapting many lenses designed for larger FFD, notably those designed for DSLR cameras. This allows you to adapt lenses from Nikon, Canon, Pentax and others. But to take advantage of the smaller sensor size and mount dimensions, Panasonic and Olympus have developed several lens ranges designed for this format, with no less than 60 lenses available nowadays. One of the main advantages is that the same lens can be used on both brands’ cameras, since Olympus lenses can be mounted on Panasonic cameras and vice versa. It should be noted, however, that with this configuration, certain restrictions may apply, notably the inability to combine stabilization from the two items. You can find most of these lenses on the page featuring all micro 4/3 or MFT lenses.
Currently, brands offering APS-C are also transitioning towards mirrorless cameras as exemplified with the recent introduction of the first APS-C Nikon Z-mount and Canon RF-mount cameras (although the latter were already manufacturing mirrorless cameras with the M-mount). Also, micro 4/3 faces a lot of competition and preconceived ideas spread by some do not help it incarnate “fair value for money”. Indeed, although smaller, the micro 4/3 sensor is still large enough to ensure remarkable image quality, even at relatively high sensitivities. Size difference with APS-C is mainly noticeable through its 4:3 ratio. The sensor is not particularly smaller, it is just narrower. Its incompatibility with larger formats, unlike Sony, Nikon and Canon APS-C which are compatible with full-frame lenses, is also seen as a hindrance. However, in my opinion, this compatibility is rather an advantage. Indeed, manufacturers do not need to adapt some lenses to APS-C format, since they already offer a full frame compatible yet more expensive version.. Moreover, being designed for full frame, these lenses do not benefit from the weight and size advantages procured by the use of a smaller sensor.
I already wrote an article on our blog explaining the importance of sensor size in photography. So, I won’t go into details on that here. Let’s see now which cameras, Panasonic and Olympus offer in the micro 4/3 format. I decided to talk about the two brands in the same article as they use the same mount. This is a peculiarity that deserves to be underlined because it is quite rare. Indeed, you can have Olympus lenses and choose to go for a Panasonic camera if it fits better to your tastes. Whereas if, for example, you have Fujifilm XF lenses and you find the Canon R7 interesting, you can forget about your Fujifilm lenses or give up on the idea of getting the R7!
Panasonic Micro 4/3 cameras
In this format, Panasonic offers several ranges of cameras, from 650 to 1800€, with very different designs and obviously very different performances and functionalities. Some of these references are getting old but are still the latest productions, although the phase AF recently introduced by the brand on its full frame S5 II may give hope for a renewal in the micro 4/3 format. By the way, we also have a page dedicated to L-mount full-frame cameras, of which Panasonic (Leica and Sigma) is part of.
Released in February 2018, the GX9 is currently one of the cheapest micro 4/3 options from Panasonic. It borrowed the GX8’s design but is not quite a replacement as many things were downgraded, including the less defined and narrower viewfinder.
Equipped with a 20MP sensor, like most other recent micro 4/3 cameras, it delivers very good image quality. Although its ISO range goes up to 25,600 natively, it is better to limit its range to 6400. Its burst mode and sole contrast detection AF do not allow it to become a camera suitable for action photography, but that is not its purpose. It is designed to be light and compact. On these points, it does fit the bill.
When it comes to video, it does the bare minimum with 4K30p and a tilting but not swiveling rear screen. So, it will be a good companion for everyday photography in normal conditions. Its build is not all-weather but still sturdy. However, it will be a bit limited in more sporty conditions or in advanced video use.
All in all, it’s a good camera for still or slow-moving subjects that can rely on efficient stabilization. On the minus side, the performance of its viewfinder is poorer than that of the GX8 and it has a rather weak autonomy.
The vlog trend and the proliferation of what is now called “content creators” (whoever they’re talking about, lol!) could not escape Panasonic, a well-known brand in the video world. So, they decided to release a new camera specifically designed for this purpose in the middle of 2020: the G100.
It differs from some cameras designed for vlogging, such as the Sony ZV-E10, in that the Panasonic has an electronic viewfinder and effective stabilization, which is very useful for vlogging. Its screen is, of course, adjustable, and it offers 4K30p, a must have for a camera designed for video in this day and age. We could have hoped to reach 4K60p, but in such a compact and light body, it would have been complicated without quickly overheating.
Shooting videos gives you a result on par with the GX9’s performance, with a sensitivity of up to 25600 ISO, an identical AF system and a 5-fps burst rate compared to 6 fps for the GX9. It will be more interesting than the GX9 for vlogging, with its better grip on the handle, but basically doesn’t offer much more for the same price.
It is therefore a camera offering a fairly classic Panasonic performance, with the same shortcomings such as a rather short battery life, and sometimes erratic AF tracking skills. However, it is lightweight and small, which is ideal for lenses such as the 20mm f/1.7 or the recent Panasonic 9mm f/1.7 wide-angle lens. Having said that, some people may find it difficult to hold due to the lack of grip on the handle.
A year and a half after releasing the G9, the brand’s flagship micro 4/3 camera, Panasonic released the G90 in 2019, a blend of both the performance of the GX9 and the more expert ergonomics of the G9. Presented by Panasonic as a versatile photo/video adventurer, it takes advantage of an all-weather build and more advanced video functions. It can even record without time limit, unlike the G9.
The GX9’s AF system and 20MP sensor are still here, with a sensitivity range of up to ISO 25,600—although I would advise you not to go over 6400—, and a burst rate of 6ips with AF tracking. On this camera, the goal is no longer to be light and compact but to be durable and ensure serious grip. We therefore have a much more prominent grip and the viewfinder, located on the top and not on the side, also makes it become quite tall.
The video mode remains limited to 4K30p, but without any time limit. Stabilization is a bit more efficient. It also has better battery life, although the numbers give it almost as limited as the other two cameras mentioned above. It also has an “eco mode” which allows you to extend battery life significantly (from 280 to 900 shots).
Although it is close in size compared to an APS-C or even a Full Frame camera, the G90 combines good photo and video performances with advanced ergonomics and build, making it a good balanced companion, whether with small, light and compact or heavier lenses.
In November 2017, Panasonic released its flagship camera: the Panasonic G9, a camera with supposedly exceptional capabilities and an ability to meet the demands of action photography such as sports or wildlife.
Its sensor offers the same 20MP resolution as the others, but image quality seems slightly better and you can go up to ISO 12,800 with less loss. Its 9-fps burst rate and much higher frame count suggest that it can indeed meet the highest demands of action photography. However, it is limited by contrast detection AF which makes tracking subjects, sometimes complicated. The minimum shutter speed has been increased from 1/4000th of a second on previous cameras to 1/8000th of a second on this one.
The G9 offers 4K60p videos and very advanced features, although recording is still time-limited. With a swiveling and touch-sensitive rear screen, as found on the G90’s, is very practical for video. Panasonic has made few compromises on the camera’s physical characteristics. It is therefore as large and heavy as some fairly high-end full-frame cameras.
Even if some people like the grip on these kinds of cameras, I am not a fan of their bulk. If I must choose a smaller sensor, I might as well have a camera with a matching size! But that’s a very personal comment, and should you be a fan of large, sturdy and powerful cameras, able to do both photography and video, the G9 is still a very interesting choice.
The GH range holds a special spot in the Panasonic line. The brand being very well known in video and, in particular, in cinema, it was necessary to create a camera dedicated to this use. Particularly since, at the beginning, micro 4/3 was its only available format.
With the GH6, you get a professional camera, designed for long video recording at 4K and C4K60p in 4:2:2 10-bit which you can push up to 6K. The video features are very advanced and worthy of professional cameras. A new sensor has been developed, offering a 25MP resolution and a dynamic range boost that allows it to reach 13EV+, which is almost as good as the best APS-C cameras, and not far behind recent FF cameras.
Although not designed for photography, it has good image quality with good definition thanks to this new sensor, and can reach a 8ips burst rate. It can, therefore, do the job perfectly well. Having said that as far as photography is concerned, the above-mentioned cameras will be more interesting considering their price and size.
This GH6 reaches the top of video functionalities without exceeding 2000€ while being also very convincing compared to other cameras should you also want to practice photography. We just lament the absence of Panasonic’s phase AF.
Olympus/OM SYSTEM Micro 4/3 cameras
Despite the sale of Olympus’s photography division, new cameras have still recently been released under the OM SYSTEM name. These can be found at the same price but are generally better than Olympus versions. That’s why I would advise you to go for these ones. Consequently, I won’t detail the Olympus versions.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 IV
Although there are entry level cameras below the E-M10 IV, such as the E-P7 and E-PL10, these are rarely sold in shops and are on special order only. I will therefore start with the cheapest but most readily available camera. Although released quite recently in 2020, it is likely that OM SYSTEM will release an OM-10 to replace it. However, for the time being, this will be the first one detailed here.
While equipped with the 20MP sensor widely used on most micro 4/3 cameras and even though the E-M10 IV has a higher number of AF points than with Panasonic’s ones, its AF performance remains limited as it only uses contrast AF. Its 9-fps burst rate, faster than most same price Panasonic cameras, is therefore not a great action photography sales pitch. The electronic viewfinder, as with most Olympus cameras, is rather narrow and not very well defined. We could have hoped for more in 2020.
While video recording is not Olympus’ forte, it remains acceptable with 4K30p, a standard in this price range. Olympus’ stabilization is renowned for its efficiency, even if the E-M10 IV’s is amongst Olympus’s least efficient ones. The screen is tiltable but can be turned towards the camera from below.
Its design, as is also the case with all OM-Ds and inherited from the brand’s film cameras, coupled with a small size and controlled weight, make it a pleasant camera to handle. I even think that its grip is more comfortable than that of the Panasonic GX9.
OM SYSTEM OM-5
Released 3rd quarter 2022, the OM-5 is OM-SYSTEM’s latest camera and was somewhat of a disappointment. Following the OM-1 and its impressive features, we had been hoping for a more powerful OM-5 at least more advanced than its predecessor, the E-M5 III. Unfortunately, it ended up with most of the latter’s specifications. We can still find comfort in both the fact that its older brother was indeed very powerful, and that there were still some notable improvements.
The same 20MP sensor has been used again but with a new processor that increases the camera’s reactivity and autofocus compared to the previous model, albeit with the same AF module. It also gets better stabilization, amongst the best in the market. Inherited from the E-M5 III and, before that, the E-M1 II, but unlike the E-M10 IV, the phase AF is a much more effective subject tracker which, combined with its 10fps burst rate, provides convincing performance for sports photography.
Video shooting is still limited to 4K30p, but there are some new features, such as vertical format, aimed at those who share their stories on social networks which are mostly watched on smartphones. The phase AF is also a good buddy to have when shooting with autofocus to avoid the undesirable pumping effects found on cameras with only contrast AF (Panasonic? It’s time to add phase AF to other cameras than FF cameras costing more than 2000€! Lol!)
the Olympus/OM SYSTEM bodies shine when it comes to dimensions and weight. The OM-5 takes up the shape of the E-M5 III with a very pleasant handle and a design inherited from Olympus film cameras. It is probably the best choice when it comes to micro 4/3 cameras under 1500€, nowadays. The E-M5 III can still be found here and there, mostly kit versions, but at a price very near that of the new OM-5. I would therefore advise you to get a new OM-5 instead.
OM SYSTEM OM-1
When JIP Group acquired the Olympus photography division, considering that they are not renown for keeping what they buy “alive” (who remembers the Sony VAIO laptops?), fear spread out among micro 4/3 users. However, the first camera released by the “new” OM SYSTEM brand turned out to be quite reassuring. This OM-1 has the latest technology, including a stacked sensor. It is also, currently, the only micro 4/3 camera to have that.
The OM-1 possesses a bunch of exclusive features. Its sensor, in particular, while remaining at 20MP, has a stacked memory that allows it to reach much faster reading speeds o improve reactivity. Its AF has almost 10x more collimators than the OM-5, providing a mechanical burst of 10ips but mostly an easier to use 50ips (!)electronic burst. Non-stacked sensors are more prone to distortion and banding, defects that can be prohibitive in many cases. The ISO ranges from 80 to 25,600 ISO.
Video mode doesn’t lag as we can count on 4K60p with the stacked sensor and phase AF guaranteeing more discreet rolling shutter effects and a powerful AF tracking, albeit not reaching the best efficiency offered by a larger sensor for roughly the same price. The electronic viewfinder is also on a par with the competition, with a definition and magnification worthy of this type of camera, and therefore much more comfortable than that of the E-M10 IV and OM-5.
Although the body is larger than that of its little brother, given the performance, the OM-1 is still relatively light and the more prominent handle is unobtrusive, while offering a much more comfortable grip. The E-M1 III and E-M1 X can still be found here and there, but they are increasingly rare, and their prices are not much lower than that of the OM-1. Given its performance, I would advise you to get the latter.
Summary of micro 4/3 camera specifications
Here are the main points to remember about the above-mentioned cameras.
|MFT Camera||Release date||ISO||Weight (g)||Dimension||Range||AF points||Burst rate (fps)||Autonomy||Wifi (BT)||All-weather construction||Video||MP|
|E-M10 IV||Aug. 2020||200-6400||383 (SD+batt)||121.7x84.6x49||amateur||121||9||360 (LV)||yes (yes)||no||4K30p||20MP|
|OM1||Feb. 2022||80-25600||511||138.8x91.6x72.7||pro||1053||10 (50)||520||yes (yes)||yes||4K60p||20MP (stacked)|
|OM5||Oct. 2022||200-6400||366||125,3 x 65,2 x 49,7||expert||121||10||310||yes (yes)||yes||4K30p||20MP|
|DC-GH6||Feb. 2022||100-25600||739||138.4x100.3x99.6||pro||315||8 (AFC)||380||yes (yes)||yes||4K60p (6K60p)||25MP|
|G9||Nov. 2017||200-25600||586||136.9x97.3x91.7||semi-pro||225||9 (AFC)||400||yes (yes)||yes||4K60p||20MP|
|G90||Apr. 2019||200-25600||481||130.4x93.5x77.4||semi-pro||49||6 (AFC)||290||yes (yes)||yes||4K30p||20MP|
|G100||Jun. 2020||200-25600||303||115.6x82.5x54.2||vlog||49||5 (AFC)||250||yes (yes)||no||4K30p||20MP|
|GX9||Feb. 2018||200-25600||407||124x72.1x46.8||amateur||49||6 (AFC)||260||yes (yes)||no||4K30p||20MP|
Which micro 4/3 camera should you choose?
The micro 4/3 mount shared by Panasonic and Olympus/OM SYSTEM allows a wide variety of choices, since you have access to both brands’ optical gear. You will have to decide what your requirements are, according to your use. Having said that, reason can also leave space to nostalgia or just varying tastes.
If you are a photographer shooting static subjects, you can go for cheaper cameras like Panasonic’s GX9 or Olympus’s E-M10 IV, depending on which one you like the most, as you will see very little difference in performance. If you’re more into action photography but don’t have a huge budget, OM SYSTEM’s OM-5 delivers the most compelling performance. Let’s hope that Panasonic updates its micro 4/3 cameras soon to have a cheaper option. If you have a very big budget, I can only recommend OM SYSTEM’s OM-1, with unparalleled innovations and performance, at least in this format and for the moment (and even in other formats as far as some points are concerned). The main disadvantage of the OM-1 stems from its competitor, the Fujifilm X-H2s, which is just a tad bit more expensive but comes with even better photographic and video performances.
For occasional video use, most of these cameras will be sufficient but I would recommend the Olympus E-M10 IV for its flip screen or the Panasonic G100 for its video and vlog functions. On a bigger budget, the Panasonic G90 will be a step above, especially considering its very good stabilization abilities. If you shoot videos intensively and have a sizeable budget, the G90 and the OM-5 are a good choice, but the palm goes to the Panasonic GH6. The OM SYSTEM OM-1 is a better choice but for a higher budget and is more photo-orientated.
If you’re looking for a versatile camera, comfortable with both photo and video, I’d recommend the Panasonic G90 and G9 or the OM SYSTEM OM-5, with the latter having a small advantage when it comes to photo shooting, and the two former having a small advantage when it comes to video shooting; the G9 being handicapped by its bulk, though. However, once again, it would still be a matter of taste. If a micro 4/3 format camera with a 650g+ body with battery and card, as much as a Sony A7 IV or a Fujifilm X-H2 but bulkier, doesn’t put you off, so be it!
There we come to the end of this article on micro 4/3 cameras. Don’t hesitate to read the tests performed on some micro 4/3 lenses such as the Panasonic 15mm f/1.7, the Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.7 OIS or the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 to appreciate the quality that can be obtained and the advantage of having lenses dedicated to the format. You can also check out the articles on other hybrid brands such as Sony’s E-mount hybrids, or Fujifilm’s X-mount.
See you soon,