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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
• 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