The best Olympus cameras (OM System, as the lineup is gradually being renamed) combine iconic style, immaculate image quality and impeccable design. While they're geared more toward stills than video, they offer everything you could ask for whether you're a beginner, enthusiast, content creator or working professional.
While the brand name has now been changed to OM System, the best Olympus cameras and best Olympus lenses still work exactly the same as they always did – and the Micro Four Thirds standard is still going strong, with the best Micro Four Thirds lenses offering arguably the richest and most diverse range of any lens ecosystem.
And since Micro Four Thirds sensors are a even smaller than APS-C sensors, this means that the whole system is lighter, more compact and generally more affordable than rival camera set-ups (where even though APS-C bodies might be small, the lenses are still pretty big).
So here's a look at the best Olympus cameras across its three product categories: the flagship OM / OM-D bodies (harking back to the OM film cameras, aimed at professionals and enthusiasts), the PEN line (super stylish, and ideal for street shooting, social media and travel), and the Tough cameras (fixed lens compacts that are near-indestructible, for use in any environment)…
Best Olympus cameras: Top picks
If you're a working professional or a top-tier enthusiast, I wholeheartedly recommend the OM System OM-1 – which may well be the best all-around camera for general practice photographers, professionals included. I simply can't fault it, and trust it whether I'm working on a commission or shooting for my own pleasure.
The Olympus PEN E-P7 is a tricky recommendation, as it's not available in some territories, but I'm picking it for good reason: this camera literally comes everywhere with me, from the supermarket to my summer vacation. It's effectively an Olympus PEN-F Mark II, but it's got enough in common with the Olympus PEN E-PL10 that I would recommend that if the E-P7 isn't sold in your region.
My final recommendation is the touch-as-nails Olympus Tough TG-6. How tough is this camera? I've taken it in the sea. I've taken it to a burn in the middle of the desert. I've deliberately thrown it on the ground, stomped on it and poured soda on it – and it's still going strong. Need something rugged to go where you daren't take your main camera or phone? This is it!
The best Olympus cameras (OM System)
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Best Olympus cameras: OM / OM-D cameras
Don't let the "OM-1" name fool you into thinking this is a camera from yesteryear – this packs the technology of tomorrow. The world's only IP53 weather-sealed camera, with the world's first Cross Quad Pixel AF, it is also packed with bleeding-edge computational photography tech, image stabilization that blows everything else out of the water, and ISO performance that promises parity with full frame sensors.
The caveat is that this is only a 20.4MP sensor – albeit a stacked one, which can deliver 120fps shooting, 80MP pixel-shift stills and 4K 60p ProRes Raw video. This is quite simply one of the finest and most capable cameras I've ever used. You won't find this much across-the-board firepower in another camera, even one twice the size.
The OM System OM-5 was the first camera not to bear the Olympus logo, but it bleeds the technological legacy of the brand. Technically it's a successor to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, but truthfully it has more in common with the flagship OM System OM-1 – except where the OM-1 is built for advanced photographers, the OM-5 is built for adventurers.
While the familiar 20.4MP sensor may seem conservative in pixel count, it offers 50MP handheld shooting (or 80MP on a tripod) for when you need a resolution boost. The in-body image stabilization is now a base 6.5 stops, hitting 7.5 when used with the company's Sync-IS lenses, and an upgraded processor powers the brilliant Live ND Filters, giving you up to 4-stops of ND simulation.
Autofocus systems are improved, with better face and eye recognition along with Starry Sky AF mode to make astrophotography a doddle. And the OM-5 is weatherproof to the IP53 standard, making it the official leader in its class when it comes to withstanding water, dirt and dust in the field. I've used this camera line ever since the original Olympus OM-D E-M5, and the OM-5 remains my personal favorite of the OM System lineup.
The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV's predecessor, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 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. I'm also a big 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! One of the best cameras for beginners, and a great travel camera too.
Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV review
Olympus raised a few eyebrows (mine included) when it launched the E-M1X, a big new professional camera aimed squarely at the sports and wildlife market, but with what looked like very similar specs to the existing Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. A DSLR-sized Olympus camera? Isn't the whole point of Olympus cameras that they're the most compact on the market?
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 primes and super-small telephoto zooms, which can feel unbalanced on smaller bodies without a grip. If you need a big body for big lenses, and big battery life for big shooting sessions, this is the Oly for you – I took it with me to Africa on a photo safari, and it was a phenomenal performer.
Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M1X review
While it has been superseded by the OM-5, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is still an exceptional camera. It uses Olympus' former flagship 20.4MP Micro Four Thirds sensor and, while the resolution might put some people off, the image quality is top notch – and this camera can shoot 50MP images via pixel shift.
Its other abilities are equally amazing, including 6.5 stops of in-body image 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. This has been my primary workhorse camera for years, and remains so. With the OM-5 having been out for a while, there are some good deals to be had on the E-M5 Mark III right now.
Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III review
The best Olympus cameras: PEN cameras
The Olympus PEN E-P7 combines the finesse and form factor of its predecessor, 2013's Olympus PEN E-P5, with the Profile Control switch inspired by the fan-favorite Olympus PEN-F, and the features and functionality of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV. The result is the best non-OM-D camera I've seen since the PEN-F. In fact, it's basically a PEN-F without an EVF.
The E-P7 is so stylish that you can take it anywhere, so simple that beginners can use it, and so capable that experts can get sensational results from it. It's perfect for stills, while IBIS makes recording video a breeze. This is an ideal take-anywhere, shoot-anything camera – and that's why it's literally the camera that's on my shoulder everywhere I go. The only catch is you can't yet buy the PEN E-P7 in all regions, with North America yet to see an official launch.
Read more: Olympus PEN E-P7 review
It's the most junior member of the Olympus / OM System family, but the PEN E-PL10 is an excellent camera. It shoots at a fast burst rate of 14.1fps, captures 4K 30fps video (with 120fps if you drop down to 720p), it's got manual silent shooting and super-steady in-body image stabilization.
However, it still has the same decade-old 16MP sensor as its predecessors – I've shot magazine spreads with that sensor, but these days it's very stingy on the pixels. Still, if you want a pocket-sized camera that'll shoot great photos and pristine video for social media and online use, the E-PL10 does it in spades. I'd pick the E-P7 over it, if it's available in your territory, but I still love using this camera.
Read more: Olympus PEN E-PL10 review
The best Olympus cameras: Tough cameras
It's simple: are you going to an environment where you don't feel safe taking your main camera or camera phone? Then you need the Olympus Tough TG-6. It's crush-proof, drop-proof, water-proof, freeze-proof, and works in extreme temperatures and inhospitable climates. I've used mine in the desert and in the sea, for heaven's sake. I've stomped it and hurled it on the ground, too. This thing takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
It isn't just a tough cookie, though. Despite its small 1/2.3-inch sensor with just 12MP resolution, it delivers great image quality. Indeed, having fewer megapixels means that each on is larger and gathers more light – which is perfect for taking this camera into tough lighting environments, such as underwater. It has amazing macro and microscope modes for incredible close-ups, and its 25-100mm zoom covers you for most situations. This is the best everything-proof camera out there – and a great little camera in its own right.
Read more: Olympus Tough TG-6 review
How we test cameras
We test cameras both in real-world shooting scenarios and in carefully controlled lab conditions. Our lab tests measure resolution, dynamic range and signal-to-noise ratio. Resolution is measured using ISO resolution charts, dynamic range is measured using DxO Analyzer test equipment and DxO Analyzer is also used for noise analysis across the camera's ISO range.
We use both real-world testing and lab results to inform our comments in buying guides, and continue testing these cameras over the long term to gauge their ongoing performance.
Do professional photographers use Olympus cameras?
Yes, many professional photographers use Olympus / OM System cameras. They are particularly popular among pro wildlife shooters, where the dramatically reduced size and weight compared to DSLRs or other mirrorless cameras means they can go further with less kit – or carry more kit than would be possible with a larger camera system.
Are Olympus cameras good quality?
Not only do they produce great image quality, Olympus / OM System cameras also feature perhaps the best build quality in the industry. Their weather sealing, for example, is regarded as the best in the business, with IP53-rated cameras and lenses alike – the highest you'll find in this category.
What is the easiest Olympus camera?
In terms of ease of use, the Olympus PEN E-PL10 comes out on top. In addition to simple, guided menus that help you find shooting modes easily, it is heavily touchscreen-driven and only features a single exposure dial, so as not to overwhelm and confuse photography novices.