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The best Olympus camera in 2021: for Instagrammers, enthusiasts and pros

Best Olympus camera

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)…

• Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M10 III vs E-M5 III vs E-M1 II

The best Olympus cameras in 2021

(Image credit: Olympus / Amazon)

1. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

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

Specifications
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
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 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

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2. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III

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

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

(Image credit: Olympus)

3. Olympus OM-D E‑M10 Mark IV

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 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

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4. Olympus PEN E-PL9

Fashion, form and function all in one chic package

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Stylish design+4K video
Reasons to avoid
-No viewfinder-Same 16.1MP count as E-PL8

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

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5. Olympus PEN E-PL10

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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Looks great and shoots well+Simple, intuitive controls
Reasons to avoid
-Minimal upgrade over E-PL9-Viewfinder an optional extra

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

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6. Olympus OM-D E-M1X

Olympus aims for the pros and heavy duty shooters

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
Reasons to avoid
-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. 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

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Olympus PEN E-PL7

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Olympus PEN E-PL7

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Olympus PEN E-PL7

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7. Olympus PEN E-P7

A fantastic return to form for the PEN series, but it's not yet available worldwide

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Micro Four Thirds
Megapixels: 20.3MP
Screen: 3.0-inch 1,037k vari-angle touchscreen
Viewfinder: N/A
Lens: Micro Four Thirds
Continuous shooting speed: 15fps
Max video resolution: 4K at 30p
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic stabilization+Two control dials+Profile Control switch+180° Selfie screen+USB charging
Reasons to avoid
-No viewfinder-Awkward power switch-Not yet available in all markets

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 new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV. The result is the best non-OM-D camera we've seen since the PEN-F. 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 that packs the power of an OM-D into your pocket. The only catch is you can't yet buy the PEN E-P7 in all world regions, with North America yet to see an official launch.

Read more: Olympus PEN E-P7 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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Tough build with 25-100mm zoom lens+Fast 20fps continuous drive
Reasons to avoid
-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
Olympus sale agreed – meet OM Digital Solutions Corporation

James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-PhotoDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show. An Olympus (Micro Four Thirds) and Canon (full frame) shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a particular fondness for vintage lenses and film cameras.