Both brands use the same MFT lens mount and in principle you can use any MFT lens on any camera. But each company still makes its own range of lenses, and given that most users would probably prefer to stick to own-brand lenses, who’s got the best range?
Let’s find out by splitting lenses into a series of common categories to compare the offerings from the Olympus and Panasonic lens range. All prices are approximate as of December 31 2018 and in UK £ rather than US $, but they are still good points of comparison.
1. Fisheye lenses
Both Olympus and Panasonic make 8mm fisheye lenses and they cost pretty much at the same at around £599 in the UK right now. But there is one significant difference: the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm 1:1.8 FISHEYE PRO has a maximum aperture of f/1.8, but the Panasonic Lumix G Fisheye 8mm f/3.5 has a maximum aperture of f/3.5, so it’s two stops slower but costs the same.
• Round one goes to Olympus with a much faster fisheye for the same money
2. Ultra-wide lenses
Olympus and Panasonic both make two ultra-wide zoom lenses each, at two different price points. The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7‑14mm 1:2.8 PRO is slightly wider than the corresponding Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8-4 Asph. though it doesn’t go quite as ‘long’ (14mm vs 18mm) – but who buys an ultra-wide zoom for its longer focal lengths. The clincher is that the Olympus lens has a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture (it’s f/2.8-4 on the Panasonic Leica lens) and is up to £100 cheaper.
Panasonic makes its own Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4 Asph. which is up to £200 cheaper than the Olympus lens but a full f-stop slower across its zoom range. It’s the cheapest ultra-wide zoom in the Panasonic range, but Olympus has the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 9‑18mm 1:4.0‑5.6 for almost £300 less. It doesn’t go as wide and it’s a bit plasticky, but it’s far more affordable for beginners and novices.
• Round two goes to Olympus with a better-specified ‘pro’ lens and a much cheaper ‘consumer’ lens
3. Wideangle primes
Both Olympus and Panasonic offer 12mm (24mm equivalent) prime lenses. The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12mm 1:2.0 has a maximum aperture of f/2, but that’s beaten by the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 Asph. which is a full f-stop faster. However, this is a larger lens costing twice as much at over £1,000.
Panasonic also makes a 14mm (28mm equivalent) prime. The Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 II Asph. is very affordable at around £300. The Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 Asph. (30mm equivalent) is one f-stop faster and about 50% more expensive.
Olympus makes two 17mm (34mm equivalent) primes. The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm 1:1.8 is the cheapest at around £370, but there’s also a Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 17mm 1:1.2 PRO which is much more expensive at around £1.200.
• Round three is a split decision. Panasonic has a faster 12mm lens, Olympus has a faster 17 and a slightly wider spread of focal lengths.
4. Standard zooms
Both companies offer a constant f/2.8 standard zoom, but the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12‑40mm 1:2.8 PRO is slightly cheaper than the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 II Asph. Power O.I.S and has a longer focal range, at 24-80mm equivalent vs 24-70mm equivalent.
Panasonic does offer two 12-60mm standard zooms, including a cheaper Panasonic Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 Asph. Power O.I.S at around £360 and a more expensive Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Asph. Power O.I.S at around £800. The Leica lens, however, meets its match in the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12‑100mm 1:4.0 IS PRO which costs around £100 more than the Leica lens but has a much longer focal range – though it is one f-stop slower at the wide-angle end of the zoom range.
Olympus and Panasonic both make affordable kit zooms usually bundled with cameras rather than sold separately, and there’s little to choose between them.
• Round four is a split decision: Panasonic’s 12-60mm lenses offer a good zoom range at two price points, but Olympus’s two Pro lenses are first class
5. Standard primes
Panasonic offers a handy Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II Asph. pancake prime, but otherwise both Olympus and Panasonic slug it out with two 25mm (50mm equivalent) lenses each at two price points.
The Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Asph. easily wins on price against the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1:1.8, costing only half as much. The Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 Asph. is also half the price of the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 25mm 1:1.2 PRO, though it’s also around half an f-stop slower.
• Round five goes to Panasonic. Regardless of the optical quality of these lenses, the Panasonic 25mm primes are much cheaper to buy
6. Superzoom lenses
The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14‑150mm 1:4.0‑5.6 II has a slightly longer focal range than the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 Asph. Power O.I.S and also costs a little less, but given that lenses of this type rarely perform particularly well anyway, it’s probably a toss-up which is least worst…
• Round 6 goes narrowly to Olympus, just, on price and focal range
7. Portrait primes
The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 45mm 1:1.8 is very cheap at just £200, whereas the Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm f/1.7 Asph. Power O.I.S costs around £300.
Moving upmarket, the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 45mm 1:1.2 PRO is much more expensive at around £1,050, while the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 Asph. Power O.I.S costs £100 more.
If you count the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75mm 1:1.8 as a portrait lens, that splits these two groups at around £700 with a much longer focal length.
Round 7 goes to Olympus, just, but that’s only based on small price differences
8. Telephoto lenses
Olympus makes an M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40‑150mm 1:4.0‑5.6 R that corresponds roughly to the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 35-100mm f/4-5.6 Asph. Mega O.I.S but offers longer focal lengths. These are both low-cost ’consumer’ lenses.
Further up the scale, the Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40‑150mm 1:2.8 PRO goes head to head with the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 II Power O.I.S. The Olympus lens is only slightly more expensive, but offers a much longer telephoto ‘reach’.
Round 8 goes to Olympus, which offers a longer range flagship lens for similar money to Panasonic’s
9. Super-telephoto lenses
Olympus covers the consumer market with the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75‑300mm 1:4.8‑6.7 II (150-600mm equivalent). It’s cheap enough, at around £370, but this is not a great lens, especially at longer zoom settings.
Panasonic offers four super-telephoto zooms. The cheapest is the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 45-200mm f/4.5-5.6 II Power O.I.S at about the same price as the Olympus above but with shorter focal lengths. There’s also a Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 II Power O.I.S at around £490.
Moving up-market, the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 50-200mm f/2.8-4 Asph. Power O.I.S offers a 4x zoom range but costs a whopping £1,600, while the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 Asph. Power O.I.S goes further, but only at the cost of a slow f/6.3 maximum aperture at full zoom, and still costs around £1,270.
Both companies make super-telephoto primes. The impressive Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 300mm 1:4.0 IS PRO (600mm equivalent) costs around £2,000, while the Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S (400mm equivalent) is shorter but faster, but also costs almost £200 more.
Round 9 goes narrowly to Panasonic if only for the greater choice… though the Olympus 300mm f/4 towers above them all
10. Macro lenses
Both companies make cheap 30mm macro lenses. The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 30mm 1:3.5 MACRO is cheapest at around £10 but the Panasonic Lumix G Macro 30mm f/2.8 Asph. Mega O.I.S is a little faster and costs only around £60 more.
You can also get ‘premium’ macro lenses from both companies. The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 60mm 1:2.8 MACRO is far cheaper at around £360 and also offers a longer working distance than the £600 Panasonic Leica DG Macro Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 Mega O.I.S.
Round 10 goes to Olympus because both its consumer and ‘premium’ macro lenses are cheaper.
It feels as if Olympus’s lens line-up is both more consistent and better value than Panasonic’s. Its Pro lenses are typically cheaper than corresponding Panasonic/Leica premium lenses, many of which still have variable rather than constant maximum apertures.
Many Panasonic lenses incorporate image stabilisers, adding to the cost, whereas these are not used or needed for Olympus bodies (though both makers are moving towards dual I.S. systems).