Okay – maybe that title was a little over the top. But these are MY favorite seven lenses for mirrorless cameras. Whether or not these are your favorites, you can rest assured that they are all spectacular lenses. If you buy (or are lucky enough to own) one or more of them, you can’t go wrong. By the way, these are typically expensive to very expensive lenses. You get what you pay for. It’s ALWAYS a great idea to buy the best lens you can afford. Lenses last longer in the photography eco-system than camera bodies, so if you have to choose one over the other, pick the best lens.
Lens selection for mirrorless camera owners has done nothing but improve over the last five to 10 years. As I look at that landscape I am really impressed with the wide selection, quality and flexibility of these lenses. There are legitimate reasons NOT to choose a mirrorless camera, but lens selection isn’t one of them.
By the way, all the lenses on this list are specifically designed for mirrorless cameras, but some of them would be on my “best lenses for ANY camera” list. They are that good.
Let’s start (in no particular order) with one of the first mirrorless camera lenses I ever tested that knocked my socks off.
1. The Olympus M.Zukio 75mm f/1.8 ED Lens is a mid-range, metal, super fast, super sharp, telephoto lens for the Micro Four Thirds cameras that is light as a feather, very well made and has superb image quality. It focuses down to about two feet, delivers good autofocus, top-notch image quality and nice bokeh.
There is no equivalent full frame lens for Nikon or Canon.
Oh and one more thing – Did I mention this lens is super sharp? Cause it is.
2. The FUJINON XF90mm f/2 Lens offers the nicest bokeh I have ever seen on a mirrorless camera lens. (Nicer bokeh than offered by many portrait length lenses on even full frame cameras.) If you want creamy backgrounds, this is your lens. It’s weather-sealed and provides a 35mm equivalent focal length of 137mm. Despite its long reach, the XF90mm weighs only 20 ounces. Minimum focusing distance is just two feet. And it autofocuses really quickly because it has four linear motors dedicated to the autofocus function. It is probably my favorite lens for the Fuji system. If you make portraits for a living (or are just darn serious about portraiture) you owe it to yourself to try this lens.
3. The LUMIX G Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH Power OIS Lens offers a 35mm focal length equivalent of 85mm and a fast aperture of f/1.2 making it another lens that is very well-suited for portraits. It features Power O.I.S. for optical image stabilization, ensuring sharp images by decreasing the effect of movement and camera shake. On the GX8, this lens works with the new Panasonic dual optimization features. It too is very sharp and has lovely bokeh. (Pretty amazing for the M43 system.) This is probably the best portrait lens for the micro four thirds system and if not, it’s very close.
4. The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f4.0 PRO Lens is my favorite M43 super telephoto lens. It is built like a tank, but compared with a 600mm f/4 lens for a full-frame camera it is light as a feather. It is made of metal, weather-sealed, sharper than a knife, contrasty, offers super clear image quality and offers good bokeh for a M43 lens. It has on-lens image stabilization that works with Olympus or Panasonic cameras. I shoot it with a Panasonic Lumix GX8 with no problem. There are a few extraordinary features to this lens. It has a close focusing distance of about four and a half feet which is astonishing. No full-frame super telephoto can come close. It has a very functional built-in lens hood. Also, in a very nice touch, it has a built-in Arca-Swiss comparable lens foot. Why doesn’t every manufacturer do that? It eliminates the need for a costly (bulky) lens plate.
Lastly, I found no chromatic aberration, vignetting or distortion using the Oly 300. (At least not that I can see.) This lens is sharp wide open and autofocuses very quickly. Given the fact it’s one half the size and weight of a comparable 600mm lens for full-frame cameras, at one fourth the price, it’s a top-pick.
5. The Panasonic/Leica 12mm f/1.4 ASPH Leica DG SUMMILUX Lens is the newest lens on this list. It just started shipping last week and I was lucky enough to get one of the first production copies. I had played with a pre-production version of the lens and was very excited to see if the production model was as good as the pre-production version. It is and it’s amazing.
This new 12mm Summilux has an equivalent focal length of 24mm on a M43 camera, and at that focal length, the 12mm is the widest angle lens in the Panasonic lineup (short of fisheye lenses.)
Like all lenses that contain the word Leica, it’s expensive. Great stuff usually is. At just under $1300 it’s one of the most expensive M43 lenses you can buy. Why so expensive? You can surmise all the usual reasons but let’s start with the basics. It’s a 12-ounce, small, well-built, piece of glass offering supreme optical performance with a fast f/1.4 aperture that is sharp corner-to-corner and wide open and THAT will get you a higher price tag every time.
In my initial tests, (not using scientific machines but just my highly-trained eye) I can see almost no chromatic aberration, very minor vignetting and no noticeable distortion. Even wide open! That is remarkable in a lens of this focal length. Oh yeah – it’s STUPID sharp.
On my test camera (a Panasonic GX8,) autofocus is blindingly fast and also very quiet. The quiet bit will be important to those who use their M43 camera for video.
6. If you want super wide-angle (and fast) glass on the Fuji X-system, look no further than the Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 WR Lens.
This lens produces very, very sharp images, but its sharpest stopped down to ƒ/2.8 and beyond. It’s acceptably sharp wide open. It produces a “filmic” look and quickly found a way into my heart over the excellent Fujinon 14mm f/2.8 wide angle lens.
It’s a very well-built lens, that matches the lenses of old when we used metal rangefinder cameras. It’s significantly larger and heavier than the other prime lenses available for this camera system, but the lens still handles well. I wish I could give you a scientific reason for why the images that come from this lens look so special but I can’t. Suffice it to say that you just need to shoot with it to see for yourself.
7. While it may surprise a lot of people, my last (but not least) selection is the Panasonic 20 1.7 II Lens. With an EFL of 40mm on a 35mm FF camera, it’s a unique but very cool “normal” lens that doesn’t weigh much or take up much room and one which stays on my GX8 at all times. It makes the GX8 handle more like a Fuji X100T than an ILC camera and while it’s not the fastest lens on this list, it’s plenty fast enough at f/1.7 and it’s super sharp – especially for a pancake lens.
It’s unique for a pancake lens in that it has a metal barrel and mount (always a plus.) It’s very well built as you would want it to be, especially if it’s going to be your standard “walk around” lens.
It has good contrast and controls flare quite well for a pancake design. I would say it’s perfect if it autofocused a little faster but it’s as close to perfect as you can get for the size and the money.
The really great news is that mirrorless camera systems now can lay claim to working with some of the very best glass money can buy. In the old days, when lens selection on mirrorless was limited, you might find someone with a reasonable complaint about the lack of choice in the lineup. But now, that’s simply not an issue in any way, shape or form. The lenses on this list are simply superb and if you’re lucky enough to own any of them you’re very lucky indeed.
If you haven’t tried some of these contact my pal Chase at Lensrentals.com and take one for a spin. You’ll be glad you did.