Micro Four Thirds cameras are known for their small sizes, making them a top choice among enthusiasts and beginners. Nonetheless, they also have a lot to offer to professionals without the overwhelming price tags you see in their full-frame counterparts.
Now that the two competing MFT companies, Olympus and Panasonic, keep on concocting new MFT models, we can expect more from this category in the coming years. Nonetheless, even the ones available now are enough to please any kind of audience. Some of them even break the old rules of the MFT world to give you a better experience and to blue the lines between MFT and other bigger sensors. For instance, Olympus OM-D E-M1X can shoot high-resolution stills up to 80 MP using its High Res Shot mode. It also comes with a big camera body, making it appear as huge as a full-frame model.
However, if you are looking for that ‘conventional size’ containing bombastic features, OM-D E-M1 Mark III is a pleasing option. This includes the brand’s latest processor, the TruePic IX, which grants it new capabilities. This includes the same 80 MP High Res Shot, the improvement in its autofocus, and the Pro Capture mode that can capture up to 120 frames with just a full push of the shutter.
The Panasonic, on the other hand, offers us the Lumix GH5 II which has a lot to give both in stills and videos. It has an outstanding buffer capacity of up to 108+ RAW files or 999+ JPEGs. As a video camera, it can also attract serious videographers. At a low price, it offers video features such as 4K/60p resolution, C4K availability, V-Log L profile, and 4:2:2 10-bit recording ability.
With all that, it is true that the Micro Four Thirds cameras can be beautiful and vigorous in their own ways. And opposed to what others believe, it is not dying as Olympus and Panasonic continue to design more MFT that will certainly surprise us in 2022. But for now, let us have a peek at the best Micro Four Thirds cameras we tested and rated with our SolidSmack Photography Editor Evangeline Summers. By highlighting their best features and the downsides you must be aware of, we hope to enlighten you before you decide on your purchase. Nonetheless, whatever your decision might be, we know none of these entries will disappoint you...
1. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III
E-M1 Mark III doesn’t have the big sensors of other models on the market but in the world of Micro Four Thirds, it is the tyrannosaurus. It is small, yes, and some of its features are quite old. But this is pretty much a small gripe as E-M1 Mark III still offers the best combination of features, making it an extreme all-rounder.
“Yes, it still has that old screen, EVF, and even the aging 20.4 MP image sensor but these things are nothing compared to the things Olympus has added to E-M1 Mark III including the new TruePic IX,” said Summers. “The good thing about this new processor is that it equates to the power of two TruePic VIII of E-M1X to perform at this level. It enables Mark III to do more and to offer new features such as the handheld 50 MP High Res Shot, Starry Sky AF, Intelligent Subject Detect AF, and Live ND filters.”
According to Summers, the processor has also helped to improve the autofocus system of the E-M1 Mark III which explains the enhanced ability of the Face Priority / Eye Priority AF.
“The Face Priority / Eye Priority AF now comes with a more aggressive and faster tracking, making it a good choice for moving subjects. Regardless of the movement of the subject’s head, the AF follows. With this, it is still a reliable professional camera even if your subject stands next to two or more people. This also makes it as powerful as the famous AF system of Canon. This improvement can also be experienced with the old features it has inherited such as the Focus Stacking / Bracketing autofocus.”
E-M1 Mark III also inherited the finest genes from its predecessors, making it truly powerful: weather-sealed body, AF target modes, 4K/30fps, and C4K/24fps. Some of the things we thank it still got are 80 MP High Res Shot and the 7 stops of image stabilization that can be bumped up to 7.5 with Sync-IS lenses (which, by the way, works like magic). It also still comes with the brand’s 60fps burst. Even better, it has the unbeatable Pro Capture mode that can record up to 120 frames with a full press of a shutter and an astounding total number of 35 frames with a half press. With this, it is pretty much as competitive as other high-end models designed for fast shooting purposes. As a matter of fact, it can even outperform some of the entries of Canon and Sony, especially with the help of its excellently fast and precise AF employing 121 cross-type phase-detection points.
2. Panasonic Lumix GH5 II
Lumix GH5 II is not the best upgrade if you already have the original GH5 but if you are new to MFT and planning to buy your first without breaking the bank, this is a better choice. Nonetheless, some might find the improvements in GH5 II and that might be just true.
“There are some improvements in GH5 II which can be unnoticeable just with the look of the camera’s body,” said Summers. “But when it performs, it will justify the upgrades it boats of. First is the inclusion of the eye-tracking focus and animal eye AF tracking. Generally, the face, body, and eye AF of GH5 II employing DFD contrast shows better performance than GH5. The autofocus also has a great improvement in low lights that is down to EV -5.”
However, Summers pointed out that given the nature of DFD contrast, it has no match with its rivals employing phase-detect AF. Thankfully, users always have the option to manually select their AF points using the screen or the joystick.
Besides the improved in-body image stabilization that is effective to compensate for vibration up to 6.5 stops, it comes with a new Venus processor.
“As you know, a new processor means wider possibilities for the camera,” Summers said. “This affects GH5 II’s video experience that now offers better video modes. It also has other video features worth mentioning, making it a powerful piece of video equipment that can interest videographers. This includes the 4K/60p resolution, C4K availability, V-Log L profile, and 4:2:2 10-bit recording ability.”
Another good news about the Venus processor is that it also improved the stills section of the camera. While it still has the same 12.0fps continuous shooting, GH5 II’s buffer capacity has dramatically improved.
“From the 60+ RAW files or 600+ JPEGs of the original model, you can now enjoy up to 108+ RAW files or 999+ JPEGs buffer depth. As for the quality of the stills, it can meet expectations despite having its MFT sensor. It can still create beautiful bokeh and can still deliver crisp and sharp details at impressive levels,” added Summers.
3. Olympus OM-D E-M1X
Given the size of MFT sensors, cameras in this category commonly come with relatively small bodies and that is normal. This makes the unique attribute of Micro Four Third cameras we are enjoying today. Yet, here comes OM-D E-M1X defying that conventional idea.
“OM-D E-M1X is designed for a very specific kind of user,” said Summers. “And this is probably one of its biggest assets as most MFT models come in a very compact shell. Now, MFT users can experience the same weight and handling of cameras with bigger sensors. Also, it means a good thing when it comes to pairing with bigger professional lenses as it can now hold their weight pretty well.”
Further, according to Summers, holding E-M1X feels like gripping a high-end system due to the complete ergonomics integrated into its body. This includes the C-lock lever, twin joysticks, and even a vertical grip and dials.
As for the performance, it won’t disappoint. It has a 121-point cross-type AF system that you can resize, shape, and even group, making it sophisticated compared to other systems. According to Summers, this doesn’t just allow you to “draw” or “customize” the points according to your preferences, but it gives you the versatility to highlight multiple subjects in the shots.
But besides this brilliant AF system, its resolution can now compete with higher models through the brilliant technology Olympus has injected into this model. Just like OM-D E-M1 Mark III, it can shoot up to 80 MP tripod-mounted shots and 50 MP handheld shots using the High Res Shot mode. With the right settings (especially ISO), it can capture sharp images and deliver an appealing dynamic range.
There is also a tempting buffer of 286 RAW shots and a burst rate at 60fps (locked AF and 18fps burst for AF tracking) which can be enjoyed by those who looking for a fast camera system for wildlife shooting. There is also the seductive Pro Capture mode (35 frames) you also find in E-M1 Mark III which will ensure you won’t miss a single beat of the moment.
It can also shoot 4K at 30fps, C4K at 24fps, and 1080p at 120fps. It also sports a divine 7.5 stops image stabilization which can be achieved using compatible Sync-IS lenses. And now that it cates to log shooting using OM-Log400 profile, it can be a tempting choice for videographers, too.
4. Panasonic GH5S
It isn’t one of the best choices when it comes to shooting stills due to its 10 MP sensor. It also doesn’t have an in-body stabilization which might disappoint a lot of users. Nonetheless, when it comes to other sections, it is more than enough. Everything starts with its video capabilities.
“GH5S can shoot in C4K or 4K UHD at up to 60 frames per second,” said Summers. “Those who are in need of serious videography equipment will also love its 240fps frame rate in Full HD. It can even record 10-bit 4:2:2 footage which is truly inviting for a lot of videographers.”
Further, it boasts a 3.2” vari-angle touchscreen LCD which can aid users in shooting at awkward positions. On the other hand, while it isn’t the best camera for stills because of its low sensor resolution. Yet, in terms of the speed at shooting 12-bit RAW stills, it comes with a decent 12fps in AF-S mode and down to 8fps with the continuous AF on. Even better, it can provide 14-bit RAW files at 11fps with AF-S and 7fps with AF-C.
5. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
C4K and 4K
OM-D E-M5 Mark III might be a small camera with a small sensor but it can offer a lot of features that can amaze you. In our previous reviews, we even hailed it as one of the best mirrorless and vlogging cameras.
“Mark III basically retained some of the features of its predecessor such as the silent operation, 5-Axis Sync IS, and the weather-sealed body,” said Summers. “Nonetheless, it also added some huge boost especially in terms of resolution. From the 16 MP sensor and Full HD of Mark II, it now boasts a 20 MP sensor and C4K and 4K UHD video resolution. It also supports in-camera Focus Stacking capability, allowing you to combine 8 images for better depth of field.”
According to Summers, it can produce images with an excellent level of details and vibrant colors. Even better, the tone of the skin it produces looks very natural and true to life. Compared to the older model, there is improvement in the low-light performance and dynamic range.
Olympus also gives it extra teeth for action photography with the option for the 30fps Pro Capture burst aside from the 10fps mechanical burst. On the other hand, with the right lens, its 5.5EV shake compensation can jump to 6.5EV. All of these things are packed inside its small weather-sealed body, allowing it to be an ideal travel camera.
Further, E-M5 Mark III comes with a 121-point phase-detection AF system. Besides the fact it is 40-point higher than its predecessor, the points come in a cross-type form and are well spread across the frame which ensures extra vigor in the AF performance. Using it on the screen by manually selecting the point feels very satisfying and fast.
Best Micro Four Thirds Cameras - Buyer's Guide
Given the fact that MFT sensors are already small compared to APS-C and full-frame types, it is important to check the resolution of the camera. While most of them only come at 20 MP resolution, there are models that employ some tricks to deliver images at higher resolution. For instance, the OM-D E-M1 Mark III can shoot up to 80 MP using its High Res Shooting mode.
Normally, the audience of the MFT category expects cameras with a compact system. Nonetheless, there are also models like Olympus OM-D E-M1X that come in a huge shell, allowing it to be as huge as other full-frame cameras. This isn’t a disadvantage at all as some MFT users prefer to have a camera with a chunky body like this.
It is important to identify your main reason for buying a Micro Four Thirds unit. Do you want it for stills? For videos? Or as an all-rounder camera? While there are lots dedicated to stills, there are models like the Lumix GH5 II and GH5S that are meant to excel more in the videography section. For an all-rounder MFT camera, we would definitely suggest Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III.
Micro Four Thirds cameras are commonly cheaper than APS-C and full-frame models. Nonetheless, there are specific MFT models that are much pricier than its other competitions in the same category. One example is the Olympus OM-D E-M1X. Nonetheless, it doesn’t make it less worthy than others, especially if it has the things you are looking for such as its chunky body for an MFT model, powerful AF, and high-res photo capability.
Best Micro Four Thirds Cameras - FAQs
While Micro Four Thirds cameras offer small-sized sensors, they can still be a handy tool for professionals. Some can even shoot up to 80 MP of stills such as the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III. There are also models like the Panasonic Lumix GH5 II offering advanced video features such as 4K/60p resolution, C4K availability, V-Log L profile, and 4:2:2 10-bit recording ability.
While there are only two active companies creating MFT camera models, Olympus and Panasonic, there is a continuous stream of audience patronizing this section. With this, the two companies continue to produce new MFT cameras and lenses, allowing the said section to continuously grow. Panasonic has even promised to strengthen its MFT line in the future. By the end of 2021, it will also release its new MFT product, the GH6.
Apparently, APS-C is smaller in size and has a smaller crop factor. Micro Four Thirds double this crop factor which can affect the performance of the camera. Nonetheless, in terms of features, MFT models have some tricks that allow them to be as competitive and effective as the current APS-C units.