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The best Olympus camera in 2020: for Instagrammers, enthusiasts and pros

The best Olympus camera in 2020: for Instagrammers, enthusiasts and pros

The best Olympus cameras take the iconic style of the firm's rich heritage and history and give it the shooting power of the newest digital cameras of the 21st century! Offering a sublime shooting experience in a portable body at an attractive price tag, Olympus cameras are the best of all worlds and photographers at all levels – from beginners to pros – will find them to be capable machines.

Olympus is famous for its development of the Micro Four Thirds format alongside Panasonic. The MFT sensor is a little smaller than the APS-C sensors in rival cameras, but this means the whole system – both cameras and lenses – is lighter and more compact. Indeed, Olympus makes some of the best mirrorless cameras you can get, all of which come equipped with the Micro Four Thirds sensor. It also continues to produce not only some of the best cheap cameras, but also some of the most affordable professional cameras and Micro Four Thirds lenses. The firm is busy, busy, busy, and that's great news for photographers and videographers alike!

Olympus cameras are divided into three main categories. The OM-D line are the flagships, harking back to the OM line of film cameras, featuring SLR styling and up-to-date mirrorless functionality. These cameras are aimed at professional and enthusiast photographers. 

The other main category is the PEN series of cameras, which are particularly stylish, making them coveted by the fashion-conscious. Great at stills and video alike, these cameras are ideal for the new breed of social-oriented content creator. 

Olympus's third category is the Tough line of cameras, also included in our list of best waterproof and underwater cameras. These don’t have interchangeable lenses, as they are designed to be near-indestructible cameras that can be used in any environment; they're dustproof, crushproof, waterproof, shockproof and freezeproof.

We've included representatives from all of these lines in our list of the best Olympus cameras, meaning it's highly likely you'll find the model for you somewhere on the list. So let's get to it!

The best Olympus cameras in 2020

Best Olympus camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

(Image credit: Olympus / Amazon)

1. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

Rugged, fast and packed with features... this new Olympus is amazing

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: MFT | 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

Stunning Pro Capture mode
Exceptional 152 raw file buffer
Size and handling
Range of lenses
MFT sensor smaller than APS-C
'Only' 20.4MP

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is an exceptional camera and a worthy successor to the highly regarded Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. This new camera uses Olympus's latest 20.4 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, and while this might put some people off – these sensors are smaller than APS-C – the image quality is very close, and it allows Olympus cameras and lenses to be especially small and portable. This new camera's abilities are amazing, including excellent 5.5EV in body stabilization, an amazing 30fps Pro Capture mode with 14-shot pre-buffering, C4K and 4K UHD video, Live Composite and Live Bulb modes and more.

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

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2. Olympus OM-D E‑M10 Mark III

It's our favourite entry-level Olympus but packs in a lot of power too

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16.1MP | Screen: 3.0-inch 1,040k tilting touchscreen | Viewfinder: Electronic 2,360k | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Continuous shooting speed: 8.6fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Intermediate/Enthusiast

Smart styling with tilting touchscreen
Clear, high-res electronic viewfinder
Modest 16.1MP count
Mediocre AF tracking for moving objects

There’s a lot to love about the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III, from its high-res electronic viewfinder and tilting touchscreen, to its 5-axis image stabilization, simple yet effective controls and 4K movie capture. It lacks the E-M1 Mk II’s advanced phase-detection autofocus system and can struggle to track moving objects, but focusing is still pretty fast for stationary subjects. Like the E-M5, the latest edition of the E-M10 retains a 16.1MP sensor but that still enables richly detailed images, in conjunction with the wide range of high-quality Micro Four Thirds lenses on the market from both Olympus and Panasonic. Compact and lightweight yet immaculately engineered, this is a camera that’s easy to take anywhere and everywhere, and it’s great value at the price. Always get this with the Olympus 14-42mm EZ 'pancake' kit lens if you can.

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

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3. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III

One of the most versatile professional cameras ever made

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

80MP shooting
60fps burst
7.5-stop stabilisation
Same sensor since 2016(!)
Unimpressive screen and EVF

If anyone thought Olympus couldn't compete on the professional stage, the OM-D E-M1 Mark III well and truly put them in their place. There are many dedicated cameras that can do various things better than the E-M1 Mark III, it's fair to say. However, there are very few that can do everything it can do. If you're a professional who shoots a lot of different types of images and finds yourself in lots of different shooting situations, it's an amazingly good choice.

Industry-leading 7.5-stop image stabilisation? Check. 60fps continuous burst shooting? You bet. 80MP high-resolution shooting? Oh yes. Let's imagine a hypothetical day of photography: you get up early and trudge up a hill to shoot a gorgeous landscape in the morning light, making use of enough megapixels to make for a gorgeous print. You then travel to a sport event to get some fast-action shots, needing both a fast burst rate and an AF system that can keep up. In the evening you finish off with some astrophotography, and do it handheld since you accidentally left your tripod on top of the hill in the morning. With the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, your day will be a resounding success as the camera will produce sublime images in all of these situations. There are very few other cameras we can say that about.

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

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4. Olympus PEN E-PL9

Retro chic design meets sensible form and function in the PEN E-PL9

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16.1MP | Screen: 3.0-inch 1,040k tilting touchscreen | Viewfinder: None | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Continuous shooting speed: 8.6fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Stylish design
4K video
No viewfinder
Same 16.1MP count as E-PL8

Wait, this isn't the newest 'PEN' fashion camera from Olympus. Why is it here? Well, while the E-PL10 is a really good camera in its own right (as you'll see when we get to it below), the fact is that it's a disappointingly minor upgrade over the E-PL9, so much so that the older camera arguably offers better value for money. A highly capable street, vlogging and fashion camera, the E-PL9 comes with a 180-degree selfie/vlogging screen and 4K video, though on release we were a little disappointed that Olympus has stuck to its older 16.1-megapixel sensor instead of swapping to its latest 20.4MP sensor. 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. Better still, this camera is a thing of beauty in its own right, as well as being able to deliver beautiful image quality. Always get this with the Olympus 14-42mm EZ 'pancake' kit lens if you can.

Read more: Hands-on Olympus PEN E-PL9 review

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5. Olympus PEN E-PL10

It's better than the E-PL9 – but not by much

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16.1MP | Screen: 3.0-inch 1,037k tilting touchscreen | Viewfinder: None | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Continuous shooting speed: 14.1fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner

Looks great and shoots well
Simple, intuitive controls
Minimal upgrade over E-PL9
Viewfinder an optional extra

Let's make something abundantly clear – the Olympus PEN E-PL10 is an excellent camera. It shoots at a super-fast burst rate of 14.1fps; it can produce 4K video at super-slow 120fps HD; it's got manual silent shooting; and there's also 3-axis in-body image stabilisation. But, as mentioned above, the reason it tucks into this list beneath its older sibling is because it's simply not that much of an upgrade, and that makes it more difficult to justify its 2020 price tag. It's got the same 16MP sensor that we were a little disappointed not to see upgraded on the E-PL9! If you're a do-it-all content creator who wants a camera that'll shoot great stills and pristine video, and ideally look good while doing it, the E-PL10 is all of the above. At the same time, we wish it were a little more.

Read more: Olympus PEN E-PL10 review

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6. Olympus OM-D E-M1X

Olympus aims for the pro sports market with its new flagship camera

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

Pro build quality
Next-generation AF
Smaller MFT sensor
Pricey next to E-M1 II

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. But dig deeper 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 and a dual processing system that dramatically ups the game for autofocus tracking, with a new AI system for recognising and tracking subjects. What many won't realise, too, is that Olympus has a very compelling pro lens line-up, especially for telephoto lenses, and while the Olympus MFT sensor is smaller than the full frame sensors used by Canon, Nikon and Sony pro cameras, it will cost a lot less to build a full professional system – and it will be a lot lighter to carry around. Sure, the camera has been a little superseded by the E-M1 Mark III, but it's still a highly capable machine.

Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M1X review

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7. Olympus PEN-F

The PEN-F is a beautiful retro design, but it's getting harder to find

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 20.3MP | Screen: 3.0-inch 1,037k vari-angle touchscreen | Viewfinder: Electronic 2,360k | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast

20.3MP image sensor
Retro chic design
No 4K video
Prices have stayed high

Olympus PEN film cameras date all the way back to 1959 and have followed a long evolutionary path. The Olympus PEN-F is a homage to the original PEN cameras, which grabs many of the best bits from the range-topping OM-D E-M1 Mark II and shoehorns them into a more compact PEN-style build. You therefore get a 20-3MP image sensor, 5-axis image stabilisation, advanced controls and, for the first time in a PEN digital camera, a built-in electronic viewfinder. The result is a truly enthusiast-level PEN camera with terrific performance, functionality and handling, adding real clout to its stylish good looks. There are just two reasons it's not right up near the top of our list. The first, is that it doesn't offer 4K video capture (not a deal-breaker, to be honest), the second and most important is that it looks like Olympus has decided to stop making it. That's a huge shame – though it can still be found new if you look around.

Read more: Olympus PEN-F review

Best Olympus camera: Olympus Tough TG-6

(Image credit: Walmart)

8. Olympus TG-6

A camera with attitude, The Olympus Tough TG-6 knows no fear

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3-inch | Megapixels: 12.0MP | Screen: 3.0-inch 1,040k dots | Viewfinder: None | Lens: 25-100mm f/2-4.9 (effective) | Continuous shooting speed: 20fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner

Tough build with 25-100mm zoom lens
Fast 20fps continuous drive
Small sensor/average quality
Expensive to buy

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

Read more:
The best Micro Four Thirds lenses for your Olympus or Panasonic camera
The best Panasonic cameras