It was an interesting year in the mirrorless market in 2018. As Sony pushed its Alpha 7 series range further with innovative technologies, we saw Panasonic make the stunning announcement of its jump into the full-frame market. Meanwhile Fujifilm grew its mirrorless medium format range, and both Canon and Nikon released their long-awaiting full-frame mirrorless options.
Which brings us to Olympus. As other manufacturers have moved into full-frame and medium format markets, Olympus has remained steadfast in its commitment to the Micro Four Thirds format it helped develop and grow alongside Panasonic.
And save for a handful of new cameras in its beginner and intermediate ranges, Olympus kept its new launches to a minimum in 2018. Which makes us pretty confident that 2019 will bring a host of new additions to the upper echelons of its OMD and PEN camera ranges.
Rumours are swirling about an OMD E-M1X, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see an update to the old workhorse that is the OMD E-M5 Mark II. In the meantime, these are the best Olympus cameras you can buy today for your specific photographic needs.
Best Olympus camera for video
Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II
- 5-Axis Image Stabilisation
- Full HD at 50, 30, 25, 24p
It’s often overlooked as such, but the OM-D E-M5 Mark II is a surprisingly capable video camera, and it’s one that we use regularly here at Camera Jabber. As well as its brilliant 5-Axis Image Stabilisation, the E-M5 Mark II offers Full HD recording at frame rate options of 50, 30, 25 and 24fps, and you can record 1080p footage at 60fps which can be converted to 24fps in post-production for hi-res slow motion playback.
The compression settings allow footage to be recorded in MOV(MPEG-4AVC/H.264) or AVI(Motion JPEG) format, with bitrates up to 77 Mbps allowing greater scope for post-production processing.
Yes, we know, we’re now firmly living in the age of 4K and many people now expect their camera to record video at this resolution. But do you need to record at 4K? Is your computer capable of processing 4K?
If your professional needs demand you record 4K video, then we’d advise you look elsewhere, but if you want a highly capable video camera that records Full HD which you can purchase on a budget, there’s little out there better than the OMD E-M5 Mark II.
Best Olympus camera for travel and street photography
- 20.3-megapixel sensor
- 3-inch, 1,037k-dot tilting touchscreen
The Olympus PEN-F is one of the more unique cameras in the company’s line-up. Boasting a small, retro-styled body design along with some of the features from Olympus’s flagship cameras, the PEN-F is an ideal camera for travel and street photography.
Because of its size, the PEN-F is small and discreet. You can work unnoticed and carry it around in your coat pocket. Yet its 20.3-megapixel resolution and 5-Axis Image Stabilisation mean you can capture high-quality images on the move.
We also love its built-in electronic viewfinder and high-res tilting touchscreen for working quickly in crowds.
Best Olympus camera for professional photography
Olympus OMD E-M1 Mark II
- Fast and accurate focusing with moving subjects
- Superb stabilisation system
This is a no-brainer. If you shoot wildlife, sports, landscapes or portraits, and if you take your work seriously, the OMD E-M1 Mark II is the Olympus camera for you.
Its predecessor, the E-M1, was very good – and can still be found at budget prices – but E-M1 Mark II brings a higher resolution (20.4Mp) sensor, significantly improved autofocusing, High Res Shot mode, 4K video capability and twin SD card slots along with an enhanced Image Stabiliser (IS) system that works across 5 axes. The screen is also now a fully-articulating unit for added versatility.
This is Olympus’s best camera to date, and it’s capable of capturing a high level of detail, noise is controlled well up to ISO 6400 and in the default settings colours look natural while exposures are good.
The autofocus system is also very fast and versatile. It’s even able to keep fast moving subjects sharp when shooting at 18fps. The IS system really impresses, even delivering sharp hand-held images with 2sec exposures and smooth hand-held video footage.
Add in a high quality viewfinder and a vari-angle touch-screen that helps you shoot from more creative angles and you have a very attractive camera. Further good news is that the range of compatible lenses is now extensive with pro-quality optics delivering superb results.
Best Olympus camera for low light
Best Olympus camera for wildlife
Best Olympus camera for landscapes and portraits
Rarely does a camera tick so many boxes, but we have to give the Olympus OMD E-M1 Mark II the gongs for these categories as well. The speed of its superb autofocusing system and Tracking AF is so good that wildlife photographers or anyone shooting or filming action will be impressed by its hit rate, even in gloomy conditions.
Which brings us to low light. Olympus’s 5-Axis Image Stabilisation in the E-M1 Mark II breaks new ground.
In our tests, when shooting at the 100mm end of Olympus’s 12-100mm f/4 lens we were able to get consistently sharp images at 1/2sec, proving the 6.4EV shutter speed extension claim to be true. What’s even more impressive, however, is that at the 12mm we were able to get sharp images with 2sec exposures.
And switching to the camera’s High Res Shot mode allows you to capture 50-megapixel scenes with stunning amounts of detail. The E-M1 Mark II can do it all.
Best Olympus camera for beginners
Olympus Tough TG-5
- 25-100mm f/2.0 zoom lens
- Can shoot raw files
We all know the Olympus Tough cameras’ credentials for ruggedness, but the latest in this range takes a big step forward in image quality. Combining a 12-megapixel sensor with Olympus’s flagship processing engine, the TruePic VIII, the TG-5 can capture much better image quality than its predecessors.
Add in the capability to shoot raw files and more manual controls, and the Tough TG-5 becomes a brilliant little camera you can grow with.
While a compact camera with a relatively small sensor can’t quite replicate the image quality that you’ll get from a DSLR or mirrorless system camera with a Four Thirds, APS-C or full-frame sensor, the TG-5’s tough credentials allow you to take shots that just wouldn’t be possible with these cameras without very expensive housings.
Furthermore, the TG-5’s image quality is very good in many situations so the shots of your most exciting moments won’t disappoint.
If you fancy getting some shots of fun times on the beach or in the pool (or ocean) during your holiday, the TG-5 is a great choice. It’s easy to use, has a great collection of features and can deliver nice images in more standard conditions than the average smartphone.
Best Olympus camera for vlogging
Olympus PEN E-PL9
- 4K video at 30, 25, 24p
- 3-inch articulating touchscreen
The PEN E-PL9 is the entry-level model in Olympus’s range, and offers 4K video recording at 30, 25 and 24p, and Full HD video can be recorded at 60p.
To go along with that 4K video recording is a vlogger-friendly 3-inch, 1,040k-dot touchscreen that articulates 80 degrees up or 180 degrees down on its bracket for shooting selfies and vlogs.
Video is an essential feature in 2018, especially for vloggers, so the E-PL9’s 4K at 30fps is quite impressive for a camera of this size and price.
There’s also a new High Speed Video mode for capturing slow-motion movies, a Clips video mode for capturing 4sec movies and you can also add the camera’s Art Filters and a wide range of other effects to your videos.
You’ll also find the addition of Bluetooth connectivity (a first for Olympus cameras), new art filters, more AF points and Oympus’s new TruePic VIII image processor, inherited from the company’s flagship E-M1 Mark II.
As well as popular Olympus stalwarts Live Composite and Live Bulb modes, the E-PL9 also adds new Focus Bracketing (shoot up to 999 frames at different focus differentials, which you can merge into a focus stack in your photo editing software), Sweep Panorama, HDR Backlight and Keystone Compensation (for correcting converging lines in-camera) modes.