The best Olympus cameras embody everything great about the brand: iconic style, immaculate image quality and impeccably compact design. From beginners to professionals, for both stills and video, they are formidable imaging machines.
Olympus recently agreed the sale of its imaging division, but its cameras and lenses will continue to be manufactured, sold and serviced by new company OM Digital Solutions (which Olympus retains an ownership stake in). Still, you might be wondering whether you should still consider buying an Olympus camera – and as far as we're concerned, you definitely should!
Olympus still makes some of the very best bodies in the business, across multiple categories; the E-PL9 and E-M5 Mark III are among the best cameras for vlogging, the E-M10 Mark III is our pick for the best travel camera as well as one of the best cameras for beginners, the E-M1 Mark III is arguably the best professional camera for general practice photography, and the Tough TG-6 is the best waterproof camera.
Those cameras are still every inch as good, regardless of who owns the brand name. And the Micro Four Thirds lens ecosystem is one of the richest out there, meaning that you'll have no shortage of outstanding optics to choose from.
And since Micro Four Thirds sensors are a little smaller than APS-C sensors, this means that the whole system – both cameras and lenses – is lighter, more compact and more affordable than rival cameras set-ups.
So here's a look at the best of Olympus' three product categories: the flagship OM-D bodies (harking back to the OM film cameras, aimed at professional and enthusiast photographers), the PEN line (super stylish and ideal for social shooters and content creators), and the Tough cameras (fixed lens cameras that are near-indestructible, for use in any environment)…
The best Olympus cameras in 2021
The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is an exceptional camera and a worthy successor to the highly regarded E-M5 Mark II. This new camera uses Olympus' flagship 20.4MP Micro Four Thirds sensor, and while this might put some people off (these sensors are smaller than APS-C) the image quality is top notch – particularly when this camera can shoot 50MP images via pixel shift. Its other abilities are equally amazing, including 6.5 stops of in body stabilization, 30fps burst shooting (including via Pro Capture mode with 14-shot pre-buffering), C4K and 4K video, Olympus' brilliant Live Composite modes and plenty more.
Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III review
Think Olympus can't compete on the professional stage? Think again. There are many dedicated cameras that can do individual things better than the E-M1 Mark III; however, there are none that can do everything it can do. If you're a general practice professional who shoots a lot of different genres, it's an amazingly good choice. Industry leading 7.5-stop image stabilization, 60fps burst shooting, 80MP high-resolution imaging, handheld astrophotography, 4K video with great phase detect autofocus that doesn't overheat… and all in a package that's smaller, lighter, and cheaper than other DSLRs or mirrorless systems. Pro tip: this camera is a beast.
Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III review
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV's predecessor, the Mark III, was a great camera with plenty to offer. However, its aging 16MP sensor and contrast AF left room for improvement. Luckily the Mark IV is a great update, with the same 20.3MP sensor as the PEN-F and improved Continuous Autofocus. While some improvements are incremental, the Mark IV brings some interesting new offerings to the table including a zippy 15fps continuous burst mode. We're also a fan of the extra-tiltable screen, which is capable of flipping 180° down to create the perfect selfie screen. And Olympus has thankfully returned silent shooting to manual mode!
Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV review
While the newer E-PL10 is a good camera in its own right, it only offers a minor upgrade over the E-PL9 – so much so that the older camera offers better value for money. A highly capable street, vlogging and fashion camera, the E-PL9 comes with a 180° selfie screen and 4K video. The Olympus E-PL9 has excellent build quality despite its compact, lightweight construction; the diminutive build is ideally suited to travel photography, especially when the body is paired with the remarkably small Olympus 14-42mm EZ ‘pancake’ kit lens – you should definitely opt for a kit with this brilliant little optic.
Hands on: Olympus PEN E-PL9 review
The Olympus PEN E-PL10 is an excellent camera. It shoots at a super-fast burst rate of 14.1fps, 4K 30fps video (with 120fps if you drop down to 720p), it's got manual silent shooting (unlike the E-PL9) and super-steady in-body image stabilization. However, it doesn't do that much more than its predecessor (and, disappointingly, still has the same creaky 16MP sensor). If you're a do-it-all content creator who wants a camera that'll shoot great stills and pristine video, and make you look good while doing it, the E-PL10 does all the above – but the E-PL9 can sometimes be cheaper.
Read more: Olympus PEN E-PL10 review
Olympus raised a few eyebrows when it launched the OM-D E-M1X, a big new professional camera aimed squarely at the sports market, but with what looked like very similar specs to the existing E-M1 Mark II. Dig deeper, though, and you find the E-M1X is a very different beast, with an integrated grip for bigger battery capacity and duplicated horizontal / vertical shooting controls, dual processors that dramatically up the game for autofocus, and a new AI system to recognize and track subjects. It also pairs perfectly with Olympus' lineup of f/1.2 Pro lenses and super-small telephotos. If you need a big body for big lenses, and big battery life for big shooting sessions, this is the Oly for you.
Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M1X review
Olympus PEN film cameras date all the way back to 1959, and have a long and loyal following. The Olympus PEN-F pays homage to the original Pen F half-frame film camera with its gorgeous design, but combines it with the company's powerhouse tech, including a 20.3MP sensor, 5 stops of in-body image stabilization, a front dial to switch between creative shooting modes, and an electronic viewfinder (a first for the PEN line). The only thing it really lacks is 4K video, but the real kicker is that it has been discontinued and is getting harder to find – so if you do, we highly recommend that you grab it. Today it's a capable camera; in years to come, it will be remembered as a classic camera.
Read more: Olympus PEN-F review
At first glance, the Olympus Tough TG-6 seems indistinguishable from its predecessor, the TG-5. However, with a screen that's double the resolution, high speed video options and a new underwater mode, the TG-6 packs some worthwhile new features. They may not warrant an upgrade if you already own the TG-5, but if you have an older Tough or you're looking for an outdoor camera that can go in the sea, get covered in sand, be dropped onto concrete, and still take pictures and video even in freezing temperatures, this is the best everything-proof camera out there.
Read more: Olympus Tough TG-6 review
The best Micro Four Thirds lenses for your Olympus or Panasonic camera
Olympus sale agreed – meet OM Digital Solutions Corporation