Best M43 Sports Photography Cameras and Lenses

Sports Photography
Watch Angela Nicholson explain Sports Photography with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Micro four thirds have become a firm favorite for many sports photographers due to their compact nature.

When you’re following the action around the field, the benefits of a lightweight setup cannot be overstated.

But what other essential features will your camera need to ensure you score images which capture the excitement and all the thrills and spills common to fast-action sports.

Best Micro Four Thirds Cameras for Sport

Earlier model micro four thirds cameras didn’t have what it takes to capture sporting moments because they lacked the fast and accurate autofocus.

You could still achieve fantastic shots with a decent m43 system, but it required experience, forethought, and planning to bring it all together.

In general, though, a sports photography session with an m43 would involve setting up the camera’s focus on a single location and hoping for the best.

However, the later models are a lot more capable than their forebears. The Olympus E-M1X, for example, is a serious camera suitable for a wide range of applications, including sports.

Much improved image stabilization, weather sealing, and fast autofocus make it a strong contender for when you want to capture all the action out on the oval or pitch.

Its biggest downfall is that it’s one of the heavier m43 models available, but all that tech must squeeze in somewhere.

Plus, a cleverly designed body means the weight is evenly balanced, and the camera is comfortable to hold for hours on end.

Five-axis sync gives you 7.5 EV stops of compensation, which equates to incredible stabilization for pixel-perfect shots. The innovative multi-selector joystick gives you rapid access to your AF points.

You get an AF joystick on both orientations of the camera, so your thumb always knows what to do when you’re in the thick of it.

You get a lot of camera in the E-M1X and its priced accordingly. Another Olympus model, the OM-D E-M1 also gives the sports enthusiast plenty to think about, and at about half the price.

The OM-D E-M1 isn’t as loaded as the E-M1X, but you still get great AF, and a 20.4 MP Live MOS sensor.

Lens Choices for Micro Four Thirds Sports Photography

Aperture – You will want a lens capable of f/2.8 if shooting indoor sports, but f4-5.6 is good enough for outdoor sports. Fast shutter speeds are essential so expect to be raising your ISO to accommodate them.

Focal Length – get as long a lens as you can afford. You can rarely get close to the action during sports shooting so you will appreciate the extra reach of a decent zoom lens.

If you’re shooting from the stadium, a 300mm will be ideal, but 24mm – 60mm is an excellent general-purpose lens that will suit most situations.

Fast Auto Focus – Both of the cameras we mentioned above already have decent AF, but a lens with fast autofocus will give you an advantage if you’re using it on a lesser model m43 camera.

Things move quick out on the field, so you will need a lens that can keep up.

Weather Sealing – If your camera has weather sealing, then your lens should be just as robust.

The weather can change in an instant while sports shooting, and you don’t want to be forced to run for cover at the first sign of rain.

Lenses to Consider for Sports Photography

Now that we know what sort of performance we need from our lenses, it’s time to check out a few of the latest models that will be up to the task.

Panasonic Lumix G 35-100mm f/2.8 Power OIS

The Lumix G is a pro-level telephoto zoom for micro four-thirds. An f/2.8 aperture throughout its entire range gives you tons of versatility in a fast lens.

Being a versatile lens means you will be grabbing this one out of the kit for a variety of tasks in including wildlife, nature, and the odd landscape or two.

The Nano Surface Coating almost eliminates chromatic aberration with minimal distortion. Autofocus is superfast; blink, and you will miss it.

And if you enjoy a spot of wildlife photography, you will appreciate the silent operation of this superb lens.

Panasonic Lumix G 100-300mm f/4-5.6 Power OIS II

Aimed squarely at the mid-priced market, the Panasonic Lumix G Power OIS II provides the equivalent 35mm zoom of 200-600mm. This zoom is a lens you can take anywhere so it may have a permanent place in your kit.

The lens is dust and splash-proof so it’s a perfect companion for fieldwork and the AF performs well even while the sun dips toward the horizon or during indoor work.

Images are sharp enough at every zoom level, but you may notice that the best performance occurs in the shorter ranges. Out of focus rendering is pleasantly smooth.

The Lumix G is a compact lens, but it’s worth noting that the front element will extend quite a bit when you take advantage of its full range.

Olympus M. Zuiko 40-150mm f/4-5.6 R

If your budget doesn’t extend to a PRO level lens, then the Olympus M. Zuiko 40-150mm will appeal to budding sports photographers looking for an affordable way to get in on the action.

The lens offers an 80-300mm 35mm equivalent, which gives you great separation of your subject from the background, and for shooting the action from the sidelines.

If you ever feel the need to shoot video footage, then you and the rest of the audience will appreciate the silent zooming action.

It may be a budget lens, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold its own against more expensive variants, especially when you see how well it retains sharpness at the center of the image.

As to be expected in a budget model, there are compromises to be made.

You may notice that corners are distinctly softer than higher-end lenses and rendering from defocused areas to focused is a little harsher than some would like.

Summing Up

As you can see, there’s no reason to focus your search solely on the full-frame or DSLR range when considering a move into sports photography.

Micro four thirds, when combined with a decent zoom lens, has proven itself as a format that is more than capable while also being lightweight, compact, durable, and portable.

John Eather

I'm an Aussie living in Japan who enjoys traveling and photography. Please visit this website and explore the wonderful world of micro four thirds photography. Discover the advantages of carrying a small yet powerful camera system.

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