When you buy a mirrorless/compact system camera — you're going to want a great lens. Each brand has its own range of lenses, but alternatively you can use adapters to give you more options to choose from.
We've put together a quick overview of each brand's offerings, to show you what's what in the mirrorless camera lens world. Got any questions? Ask us in the comments.
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Olympus was one of the first entrants into the mirrorless camera market, with the E-P1 in 2009 kicking off the trend. And as you'd expect, with a few years under its belt, Olympus has a comprehensive line-up of mirrorless lenses.
Both amateurs and enthusiasts are catered for; there are affordable and compact zoom lenses like the M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm and 40-150mm, more specialised zooms like the weather-sealed 12-50mm and constant aperture 12-40mm F2.8 PRO. Beyond that, Olympus has one of the largest line-ups of mirrorless prime lenses, from super-wide to telephoto focal lengths — these fixed-zoom lenses are super-compact and let a huge amount of light in for low-light or creative shooting. We're equally tempted by the 12mm F2.0 and the 75mm F1.8.
Olympus's PEN compact system interchangeable lens cameras are also able to use a huge array of older lenses through an adapter that lets Four Thirds lenses be mounted on a Micro Four Thirds body — with autofocus and aperture control built in. There are currently 22 Four Thirds lenses and accessories and a bunch of older ones, filling basically every niche you could want.
And, of course, you can buy a lens mount adapter to attach hundreds of third-party lenses. And Olympus's cameras have great image stabilisation built in, so every lens is shake-free.
Samsung's Smart NX cameras, of which there are four, have eight lenses available to them. There are some surprisingly powerful and versatile lenses from a company that doesn't have a rich history outside of the lower-end consumer camera market.
Most of Samsung's lenses are versatile, relatively simple zooms, but there are some nifty draw-cards, too, like the super-thin 30mm F2 pancake and the 85mm F1.4 telephoto, one of the largest, fastest, brightest portrait lenses you'll find on mirrorless.
Sony's mirrorless cameras use the E mount, with a grand total of six zoom, six prime, and one macro lens available. Sony's mirrorless lenses are generally quite affordable, apart from a few squarely premium models like the Zeiss 24mm F1.8 prime.
And, of course, you can buy a lens adapter to use older lenses from dozens of brands on your NEX camera.
But that's not all. Sony has fully committed itself to the mirrorless camera market. It's the only camera maker with a full-frame mirrorless option — the Alpha A7 and A7R, with massive 24- and 36-megapixel sensors.
The full-frame cameras use their own lens mount, and currently only have a few exclusvely premium lenses available, like the 55mm F1.8 and 24-70mm F4 zoom. Compatibility is boosted to all previous Sony A-mount DSLR lenses with this adapter.
The Nikon 1 camera line-up uses a comparatively small imaging sensor, but that means its lenses can be tiny and light. Nikon's 1 NIKKOR lenses are mostly collapsible zooms, which means they're easy to carry around alongside the camera.
There are some stand-out prime lenses, though, like the incredibly bright 32mm F1.2, and the weatherproof wide-angle AW 10mm F2.8. You can also get an adapter to mount any Nikon F lens (that's basically any Nikon lens since 1959, with a few caveats), giving you hundreds of extra options.
Pentax's pint-sized Q hybrid cameras aren't your regular mirrorless model. They're closer to a proper, pocketable point-and-shoot, with the distinct advantage of interchangeable lenses from the Pentax Q line-up.
Pentax's Q System is an odd one. There are eight lenses in total. Three are extremely compact zooms, two are 'toy' lenses, one is a super-wide angle fish-eye, one is a standard prime, and one is a body cap that just so happens to have a lens in the middle. You can invest in Pentax's Q System cameras and lenses if, for you, photography is a bit of fun rather than anything too serious.
Pentax also makes an adapter to fit the (relatively enormous) K-mount from its DSLR line-up to the Q7 and Q10 cameras, giving you dozens more lenses to choose from.
You can dramatically boost the number of available Canon lenses, though, with this bad boy, which will let you use any Canon DSLR lens seamlessly.
Olympus's half-brother in the Micro Four Thirds family, Panasonic jumped into the market at roughly the same time, with roughly the same product. The two brands have diverged since then; Panasonic has a great DSLR-esque bridge camera in the GH3, and a nifty retro shooter in the GM1. Its lens line-up is also a little more no-nonsense — G Series lenses pack in some serious tech.
Panasonic's lens line-up is a lot more mature now than it was at launch. The family is split between prime (fixed-zoom) and zoom lenses, and equally split again into pro and non-pro. The fancy X Series includes some great power-zoom standard and telephoto options, as well as fast, weather-sealed constant aperture zooms like the 12-35mm F2.8 and 35-100mm F2.8 — all with optical image stabilisation. A Leica partnership also means a fantastic 25mm F1.4 prime is available.
It's important to note that you can put any Olympus lens on a Panasonic camera, and vice versa. You might run into reduced focus speed performance, though, so do your research beforehand. And, of course, you can buy a lens mount adapter to attach hundreds of third-party lenses.
Fujifilm is a relatively new entrant in the mirrorless camera market compared to the stalwarts like Olympus and Panasonic. The Fujifilm X camera system, currently with four cameras, has nine lenses.
If you're looking for super-fast, wide-angle and standard prime lenses, Fujifilm has you covered. The XF 23mm F1.4R is one of the widest F1.4 lenses we've seen on any camera system, let alone mirrorless APS-C, in which Fujifilm has the equally largest sensor size of any mirrorless camera.
The standard focal length is admirably covered by the XF 35mm F1.4R, and close-up photos come courtesy of the XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro. If it's a zoom you want, Fujifilm has a variable aperture 16-50mm, a 18-55mm, and a telephoto 55-200mm — all of which have in-built optical image stabilisation.
And, of course, you can buy any of a dozen different lens adapters to give you manual focus mounting of hundreds of classic, high quality lenses.
Honorary mention: Leica
We feel a bit odd including Leica in this list, but their digital cameras certainly don't include mirrors, so they're definitely eligible. Leica has a small but elite range of digital rangefinders — the M8, M9, M-E, M, and M Monochrome — but since 1954 the M lens mount has developed an unsurpassable series of prime lenses.
That's right — no zooms, unless you count the brilliantly odd 16-18-21mm Tri-Elmar. Some of our favourites (that we've never touched, only lusted after) are the 35mm and 50mm F1.4 ASPH, and the truly amazing 50mm F0.95 Noctilux. Every Leica lens is a feat of optical engineering and industrial design — if you can afford it.
Got any questions? Ask us in the comments.