Best Olympus Cameras

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

13 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
280 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best Olympus cameras

Last Updated December 2019

Among camera manufacturers, Olympus may not be as well known as some of its counterparts. However, Olympus probably deserves more consideration, as it has created a niche in the camera marketplace by shifting its focus away from DSLR cameras.

Olympus has been manufacturing cameras for several decades, dating back to the days of film photography. After the market migrated from film to digital photography, Olympus continued making cameras, starting with digital SLRs, or DSLRs.

With Canon and Nikon dominating the world of DSLRs, however, Olympus eventually shifted its attention in another direction. And Olympus has found its niche with mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs) and waterproof point and shoot cameras.

These cameras have proven to be extremely popular, delivering excellent style and performance in a fun-to-use design. If you want a camera that’s quite a bit different in look and feel from the typical DSLR camera, Olympus cameras are worth considering.

Although you may find an occasional used Olympus DSLR camera for sale, the manufacturer no longer actively makes that style of camera.

Key considerations

When shopping for an Olympus camera, you’ll select between two designs of cameras. These two are extremely different styles with different strengths, so it’s important to think about how you plan to use the camera.

Mirrorless

A mirrorless ILC is a camera that uses interchangeable lenses. This means you can attach a different lens to the camera body to gain new features.

Mirrorless cameras have quite a few advanced features, making them more powerful than simple point-and-shoot cameras. They have larger image sensors, allowing them to create higher quality photographs.

The majority of cameras that Olympus sells today are mirrorless cameras.

Waterproof

Waterproof cameras from Olympus can be used underwater. They also are protected should they be inadvertently dropped in water.

You can’t open a battery compartment or a memory card compartment while under the water. But as long as everything is closed tightly while the camera is exposed to the water, it will remain safe from water damage.

Olympus waterproof cameras also are protected from dust penetrating the case. They operate in low temperatures and can survive being dropped a few feet to the ground. Because these cameras are so rugged, some people give them to children as a first camera.

These waterproof cameras are fixed-lens models. This is different from the mirrorless ILCs Olympus manufactures, as a fixed lens camera has the lens built into the camera body. It cannot be removed.

Older designs

Occasionally, you may find some other Olympus camera designs on the market, such as DSLRs and simple point-and-shoot fixed-lens cameras. These are older cameras that Olympus no longer actively manufactures.

Olympus PEN cameras borrow their design from vintage Olympus film cameras, also called PEN cameras, from the 1960s.

Features

When comparing Olympus cameras, you’ll want to pay attention to the following features.

Image sensor

The image sensor is the silicon chip inside the camera that measures the light in the scene and records the photo. Image sensors that are larger in physical size will generate the best image quality, especially in low light. Mirrorless ILCs have larger image sensors than waterproof cameras.

Resolution

The camera’s resolution, measured in megapixels (MP), designates the number of pixels the image sensor can record. Larger numbers of megapixels will give you better image quality. However, resolution is not quite as important as image sensor size in determining image quality.

Zoom lens

Zoom lens measurements tell you how much magnification the lens can apply to the scene, denoted by a number followed by an “x.” A mirrorless camera lens will not have a zoom measurement, but a waterproof camera lens will.

Shooting modes

A mirrorless camera from Olympus should provide both automatic and full manual control shooting modes. A waterproof camera only has automatic modes or automatic and very limited manual control modes.

LCD screen or viewfinder

Mirrorless Olympus cameras sometimes provide an electronic viewfinder that you can use to frame the scene. Otherwise, you can use the LCD screen to frame the photo with either design of camera.

Video recording

Any Olympus camera can record videos as well as still image photographs. Can typically choose from a few video recording resolutions with the camera. Some models have a maximum video resolution of full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels), while others can record in 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160 or 4,096 x 2,160 pixels).

During the early days of digital photography in the mid-1990s, Olympus’ first digital camera had 0.8MP resolution, which was double that of any camera on the market at the time.

Olympus camera prices

Several years ago, Olympus manufactured quite a few inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras. Because this is no longer the case, Olympus doesn’t really offer any types of cameras that cost less than $350.

Waterproof cameras from Olympus cost anywhere from $350 to $550, making them popular among beginners and younger users.

The OM-D Mark mirrorless cameras from Olympus range in price from $500 to $1,500. This is the price for the camera body only. To use these cameras, you’ll have to purchase some lenses separately.

PEN mirrorless cameras from Olympus cost between $400 and $750. Again, this is the cost for a PEN model camera body only.

Sometimes, the OM-D Mark and PEN cameras come with a kit lens. This means the camera body ships with a beginner-level lens that allows you to start using the camera immediately. The addition of a kit lens usually adds $75 to $150 to the cost of buying the camera body only.

A mirrorless camera design, such as Olympus offers, is smaller and lighter than DSLR cameras.

Tips

Here are some tips to help you gain the most from your Olympus digital camera purchase.

  • Waterproof cameras aren’t limited to use in water. If you purchase an Olympus waterproof camera, you can use it both in and out of the water. This versatility makes a waterproof camera a good value.
  • Read the usage rules of a waterproof camera. Any Olympus waterproof camera has certain rules about how you can use it under the water. These cameras are restricted to a certain water depth and can be exposed to water for a limited amount of time. Read the instructions for the camera to figure out these limitations ahead of time.
  • Change the lenses of your mirrorless camera carefully. When you remove a lens on a mirrorless ILC, you’ll notice that you can see directly into the center of the camera case. This is where the image sensor and other important components exist. You don’t want to introduce dust and particles into this area if you can help it, so try to avoid changing lenses in dusty or windy conditions.
  • Buy lenses over time. Don’t feel like you need to purchase several lenses right when you buy your Olympus mirrorless ILC. Instead, purchase a camera with a kit lens. After shooting photos for a few weeks, you should have a better understanding of which lens features and capabilities you need most. You can then purchase one or more lenses to match those needs, getting the most value by choosing lenses that complement your needs.

Other products we considered

The majority of digital photographers looking to purchase an Olympus camera will find a great model in our matrix. However, if you’d like something a little different, we did consider a few other Olympus digital cameras. The E-M10 Mark II mirrorless camera from Olympus has a lot of the same photography features as the Mark III, but it is limited to HD video recording instead of 4K. If you like the design of the PEN E-PL9 but you’d like to save a bit of money, you can still purchase its predecessor, the Olympus PEN E-PL8. It’s available in three different color options while still sporting the retro style. For a tough, waterproof camera, the Olympus TG-5 is a nice pick. It’s easy to use with a rugged design.

With a waterproof camera, before each use, you should inspect the rubber rings that protect the compartments from water leakage. Old rings may stiffen and crack, leading to leaks.

FAQ

Q. How do I know if I need a waterproof camera?

A. If you plan to take underwater photos or shoot photos while boating, a waterproof camera is a necessity. Some people choose to use a waterproof, tough camera when hiking in rough areas, where you might drop the camera inadvertently.
 

Q. Will a mirrorless ILC compare in power and performance to a DSLR

A. Although high-end DSLRs are the most powerful cameras on the market, mirrorless cameras have quite a bit of power too. In the early days of mirrorless cameras, DSLRs had a large advantage in power and features. However, new mirrorless ILCs are comparable to entry-level DSLRs.
 

Q. Are there hidden costs with Olympus cameras?

A. If you purchase a mirrorless ILC from Olympus, you may have some extra costs involved. You may need to purchase add-on lenses with your mirrorless ILC, although some cameras ship with one kit lens as a starter. Extra lenses can cost anywhere from $100 to $500 apiece. You also may need to purchase a memory card ($10 to $30), a tripod ($30 to $100), or an external flash unit ($40 to $75).


Q. Can I use lenses from other manufacturers with my Olympus mirrorless camera?

A. Yes. Olympus mirrorless cameras must use a style of interchangeable lens that is compatible with the Micro Four Thirds format. A few different companies manufacture lenses that fit this format (Nikon and Canon do not), Before purchasing any Micro Four Thirds lens, check its compatibility with your particular Olympus camera model.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Kyle
    Kyle
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer
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