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Best Micro Four Thirds cameras in 2021: MFT models from Olympus and Panasonic

Included in this guide:

Best Micro Four Thirds cameras: Panasonic Lumix G100
(Image credit: Panasonic)

The best Micro Four thirds cameras are split evenly between Olympus and Panasonic. Olympus has had a torrid time over its sale and acquisition by a Japanese investment group, and Panasonic has been distracted by its full frame Lumix S models. And yet Olympus is pressing on with business as usual (under its new brand, 'OM Digital Solutions'), and Panasonic has made it clear that it regards the MFT format as having its own very distinct advantages and benefits next to full frame. 

One of the key advantages to this format for both companies, and their fans, is not just that the cameras are small, but the lenses are too. For this reason, other manufacturers such as Blackmagic Design has also joined Olympus and Panasonic in making Micro Four Thirds cameras. These are not just small cameras lumbered with big lenses, which is what so many full frame users face. 

Olympus cameras are pretty hot on still photography features and not bad at video, whereas Lumix G MFT cameras are pretty hot on video, and pretty good for stills. That's a bit of a simplification, but it gives and indication of where these different brands' strengths lie.

2021 has been an interesting year for both companies - with Olympus now under new ownership, and Panasonic having announced two new Micro Four Thirds cameras; the new Panasonic GH5 II is already on sale, with the new flagship Panasonic GH6 has been promised for later in the year

So let's take a look at the best Micro Four Thirds cameras today. We've split these into sections, with top-end cameras first, enthusiast models next and budget/beginner cameras in our third section. Whichever group you fall into, Micro Four Thirds cameras still have a lot to offer!

Best Micro Four Thirds cameras in 2021

Top-end cameras for stills and video

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One of the most versatile professional cameras ever made

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 20.4MP
Screen: 3.0-inch 1,037k articulating touchscreen
Viewfinder: Electronic 2,360k
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Continuous shooting speed: 60fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast/Professional
Reasons to buy
+80MP shooting+60fps burst+7.5-stop stabilisation
Reasons to avoid
-Same sensor since 2016(!)-Unimpressive screen and EVF

It's a close run thing between the E-M1 Mark III and the E-M1X. The E-M1 Mark III has much of the power of the E-M1X but in a smaller, cheaper body. The 20MP resolution might not sound much by current standards, but it's the same as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, Canon EOS R6 and Nikon D6, and fine for many professionals. The E-M1 III does have an awesome Pro Capture mode, probably the best in-body-stabilisation of any camera and a vari-angle screen.

Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III review

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Panasonic Lumix GH5 II

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Panasonic Lumix GH5 II

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Panasonic Lumix GH5 II

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Panasonic Lumix GH5 II

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The ultimate hybrid Panasonic stills/4K video camera for many

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 20.3MP
Screen: 3-inch, 1,840k pivot touch
Viewfinder: Electronic, 3,680k
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Continuous shooting speed: 12fps (6k 30fps, 4k 60fps)
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Professional/Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Excellent all-rounder for both video and stills+Superb electronic viewfinder+Good layout of controls
Reasons to avoid
-ISO range comparatively limited

The Panasonic Lumix GH5 II is a new version of the GH5, a camera that was ahead of its time when it was launched in 2017. You still get the same 20MP stills, 4K 60p video, and 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 video recorded internally, as well as a 6K Photo mode for ultra-fast burst shooting. 4K video at up to 60p is not unusual by today’s standards, but this is still a very powerful, very rounded camera that is likely to appeal to serious filmmakers who can look past the headlines. The GH5 is ideal for videographers who also need a good stills camera. If stills are less important, the GH5S (below) might be better still.

Read more: Panasonic Lumix GH5 II review

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Olympus aims for the pros and heavy duty shooters here

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 20.4MP
Screen: 3.0-inch 1,037k vari-angle touchscreen
Viewfinder: Electronic 2,360k
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Continuous shooting speed: 15fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Professional
Reasons to buy
+Pro build quality+Next-generation AF+Good value for a pro camera
Reasons to avoid
-Smaller MFT sensor-Bulky for an MFT body

The E-M1X is a lot bigger than the E-M1 Mark III, which seems to contradict the compact size argument of Micro Four Thirds, but it's built to balance better with Olympus's bigger lenses, such as the 300mm f/4 or 40-150mm f/2.8. It's easy to criticise the size of the smaller MFT sensor, but when you add up the cost of pro lenses for a fully-kitted out sports and wildlife system, the Olympus system is a fraction of the price of its full frame rivals.

Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M1 X review

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Best Micro Four Thirds cameras: Panasonic GH5S

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A real video-focused powerhouse for the MFT user

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 10.28MP
Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds mount
Screen: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 1,620,000 dots
Viewfinder: Electronic OLED viewfinder, 3,680,000 dots
Max burst speed: 11fps
Max video resolution: 4K (DCI)
User level: Professional
Reasons to buy
+Stellar video specs+Excellent electronic viewfinder
Reasons to avoid
-No sensor-based stabilisation-Battery life

The Lumix GH5S has half the resolution of the GH5 II and costs more, so what's all that about? It's because the GH5S is built almost exclusively for video, with a multi-aspect, dual native ISO sensor with better low light performance and faster readout. High powered video cameras don't come cheap, and the GH5S will always look expensive next to the GH5 II, but for pro filmmakers it will be worth it. Perhaps the key point about the GH5 II and GH5S is that these are two relatively affordable cameras with video specs that full frame mirrorless cameras are still trying to catch up with.

Read more: Panasonic Lumix GH5S review

MFT cameras for enthusiasts

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Rugged, fast and packed with features – an all-round ace

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 20.4MP
Lens mount: NFT
Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,037,000 dots
Viewfinder: Electronic
Continuous shooting speed: 30fps (Pro Capture mode), 10fps (mechanical shutter)
Max video resolution: c4K/4K
User level: Enthusiast/Expert
Reasons to buy
+Stunning Pro Capture mode+Exceptional 152 raw file buffer+Size and handling+Range of lenses
Reasons to avoid
-MFT sensor smaller than APS-C-'Only' 20.4MP

The E-M5 sits between the pro-level E-M1 and the beginner-orientated E-M10 and for enthusiasts it offers the best of both worlds. The previous E-M5 Mark II was highly regarded amongst MFT fans for its small size and powerful features, and the Mark III takes it to the next level with a 20MP sensor (previously 16MP), a vari-angle screen, a pretty amazing Pro Capture mode (and raw buffer capacity), a huge array of Art Filter effects, 4K video, weatherproofing and perhaps the best in-body stabilisation on the market.

Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III review

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A formidable flagship camera at bargain prices

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 20.4MP
Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,037,000 dots
Viewfinder: Electronic
Max burst speed: 60fps
Max video resolution: 4K
Reasons to buy
+60fps at full resolution+Superb image stabilisation
Reasons to avoid
-Convoluted menu system-Some awkward controls

When the E-M1 Mark II was launched it was certainly a professional camera, but prices have fallen as it has stayed on sale alongside the newer Mark III version, making it a very attractive proposition for enthusiasts. You get a 20MP sensor, vari-angle screen, 4K video, 60fps Pro Capture, Live Composite and Focus Stacking features, weatherproofing and – if you team it up with the Olympus 12-100mm f/4 Pro lens which has its own stabilisation – possibly the most stable platform for handheld shooting or video anywhere.

Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II review

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Photo flagship with a price tag almost half what it was

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds
Resolution: 20.3MP
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Viewfinder: EVF, 3.68million dots
Monitor: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04million dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: xfps
Movies: 4K
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+80MP option in Raw and JPEG+Excellent viewfinder
Reasons to avoid
-Some may want more than 20MP-Small sensor

Where the Lumix GH5 II and GH5S are top choices if video is your speciality, the Lumix G9 is perfect for stills photographers first and videographers second. It's a hefty DSLR style camera that handles well with bigger lenses, and it's weatherproof too. There's an 80MP composite mode if the regular 20MP isn't enough, plus 4K video at up to 60p, 20fps continuous shooting, a 6K Photo mode producing 18MP images from high-speed image capture, and a zero-black OLED viewfinder. You get a lot for your money.

Read more: Panasonic Lumix G9 review

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Panasonic's new vlogging camera is pretty good at stills too

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 20.3
Lens mount: MFT
Screen: 3-inch vari-angle, 1,840k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 3.69m dots
Max continuous shooting speed: 10fps
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
User level: Beginner/enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Quality video and stills+Audio-recording capabilities+Bright EVF and articulated LCD
Reasons to avoid
-No in-body stabilization-No headphone jack or USB-C

We like what Panasonic has done with the Lumix G100, making a camera designed for vloggers rather than just offering 4K video to a conventional camera design. We like the vari-angle screen, built-in viewfinder, high-tech three-mic array, the small size and the optional remote tripod grip. We're not so keen on the crop factor when shooting 4K video (the viewing angle becomes narrower) and there's no in-body stabilisation. But this is still a cute and affordable tool for content creators just starting out.

Read more: Panasonic Lumix G100 review

Entry-level MFT cameras

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Our favorite entry-level Olympus gets a great update

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 20.3MP
Screen: 3-inch tiltable touchscreen, 1,037K dots
Viewfinder: Electronic 2,360K dots
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Continuous shooting speed: 15fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Intermediate/Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Updated 20MP sensor+Flip-down monitor
Reasons to avoid
-Plastic build-No mic port for vloggers

The E-M10 range is priced for beginners and amateurs, though these are really quite powerful cameras with a good selection of features and dual control dials for more hands-on photographers. The Mark IV version brings some modest but important improvements over its predecessor, including a 20MP sensor and a 180-degree flip-down rear screen for selfies and vlogging. Serious enthusiasts should probably look at the E-M5 III instead, but keen novices will find this camera has plenty to keep them busy.

Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV review

Tiny body with some impressive stills and video features

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 16.1MP
Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
Autofocus: 121-point contrast-detect AF
Viewfinder: EVF, 2,360,000 dots
Screen type: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Max burst speed: 8.6fps
Movies: 4K UHD
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Built-in five-axis image stabilisation +Great to have 4K video at this price
Reasons to avoid
-16MP sensor somewhat dated-No huge upgrade over Mark II version

The older E-M10 Mark III remains on sale alongside the Mark IV version, for now. It is cheaper, but not dramatically so, and while the tech is a little older the differences, again, are not large, making this quite a difficulat choice. The Mark III does have Olympus's older 16MP sensor, which is a great performer but could leave many users feeling a little twitchy – the Mark IV's 20MP sensor has a more reassuring resolution for this day and age. Otherwise, though, the older Mark III model is a pretty good deal right now.

Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III review

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Rangefinder styling in a small, easy-to-use body

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 20.3MP
Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds
Screen: 3in tilting, touchscreen, 1,240,000 dots
Max burst speed: 9fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+4K Photo modes+Tilting electronic viewfinder
Reasons to avoid
-Reliance on digital menus-Small physical controls

Panasonic has made Micro Four Thirds Lumix G cameras with larger DSLR style bodies and smaller rectangular 'rangefinder' style bodies like this one. The GX9 is a nicely made little camera and pretty powerful too, and current prices don't really reflect its quality. If you want to make te most of its small size, get it with the Panasonic 12-32mm retracting kit lens. It's also available with Panasonic 12-60mm lenses, but both versions of these are quite big – perhaps a little too big for this camera.

Read more: Panasonic Lumix GX9 review

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12. Panasonic Lumix GX80 / 85

A great pocket-friendly entry-level Lumix G that also has a viewfinder

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 16.0MP
Screen: 3.0-inch, 1,040k tilt touch
Viewfinder: Electronic, 2,765k
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Continuous shooting speed: 8fps (40fps elec shutter)
Max video resolution: 4k
User level: Intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Compact yet has an electronic viewfinder+Advanced features but good value+8fps continuous shooting
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively modest 16MP sensor

The GX85 (GX80 in some territories), is a predecessor to the GX9 with an older, lower-resolution 16MP sensor but a similar combination of small size and powerful features. Panasonic has clearly taken the decision to keep this camera on as a low-cost entry level option, and you certainly do get a lot of camera for your money, especially with some twin-lens deals we've seen in the US. If you're not put off by the 16MP resolution, this is a decent little camera that's being sold at some pretty tempting prices.

Read more:

Best Micro Four Thirds lenses
Best Olympus cameras
Best Panasonic cameras
Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
Best cameras for beginners
Best cameras for travel
Best mirrorless cameras

Rod Lawton

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio, with decades of experience with cameras of all kinds. Previously he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more.