You can’t create bokeh with Micro Four Thirds cameras, scream those who have never used the system; however, M4/3 portrait photography is easy, and you don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of money on lenses to create portraits with nice bokeh.
The whole Micro Four Thirds platform is bad for bokeh myth is about as old as they get. Yes, Micro Four Thirds cameras have smaller sensors. Yes, creating a shallow depth of field isn’t as easy as with full-frame cameras. However, to say that M4/3 portrait photography is impossible or that the bokeh that can be produced is not pleasing is ridiculous.
I have used Micro Four Thirds cameras for years for professional and personal work. I can tell you that if you can’t produce bokeh with M4/3 cameras, it’s not the camera or the lens’ fault. Sure, having fast lenses helps, but if you don’t know how to place your subject correctly, you’re not going to have a good time with any camera system when it comes to bokeh. M4/3 portrait photography is a piece of cake.
While there are some very fast — and very expensive — prime lenses for Micro Four Thirds cameras, there are also fast and very inexpensive options, too. You don’t have to break the bank to create gorgeous portraits with nice out-of-focus areas if you use Micro Four Thirds gear. All of the lenses listed here are incredibly sharp, they render beautiful natural tones and colors, they’re all fast focusers, they’re reliable, and yes, they can create smooth bokeh. So, without further ado, let’s jump in and look at the affordable primes you should pick up for M4/3 portrait photography.
Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 — An affordable nifty fifty
I’ve used a lot of nifty fifties in my years as a photographer, and none of them have brought as much joy to my life as the (50mm with a two times crop factor) Olympus M. Zuiko 25mm f/1.8. It’s compact, lightweight, and has incredible optics. It’s also under $400, which makes it very affordable. This prime lens is superb for many reasons and is hard to beat.
This lens lends itself well to portrait photography. You can easily shoot full body length, half body and three-quarter body length portraits. The lens features speedy autofocus motors that work incredibly well with eye autofocus. At f/1.8, you’ll be able to create sharp images that also exhibit smooth bokeh. This lens is an absolute steal for the price and should be one of the first you pick up for M4/3 portrait photography.
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN — Great optics, wonderful build, smooth bokeh
The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 is a fantastic affordable prime lens that makes M4/3 portrait photography a doddle. With Micro Four Thirds’ crop factor of two times, this 30mm lens essentially becomes a 60mm lens. At 60mm, you’ll get extra compression over a 50mm prime lens, making this option a desirable lens for portraits.
This fantastic little lens from Sigma is sharp, fast to focus, sports great build qualities, and weighs just 0.58lbs. It should go without saying that the bokeh you can create is creamy and smooth. At under $300, this lens is an absolute steal. Read all about it in our full review.
Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.7 ASPH — A M4/3 portrait photography lens for the masses
If you’re a portrait photographer on a budget who’s looking for an affordable 85mm equivalent Micro Four Thirds lens, look no further than the Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.7 ASPH. This lens is a stunner. This f/1.7 lens will magically disappear backgrounds in your image while making your subject look beautiful for under $400.
The seven rounded aperture blades will help you produce smooth out-of-focus areas, making your portraits pop. Like other Panasonic lenses, this one produces nice colors. Skin tones are particularly pleasing. The Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.7 ASPH also has optical image stabilization. As a result, you can shoot in very low-light situations with slow shutter speeds and still get razor-sharp images. If 85mm primes are your favorite for portrait photography, this could be the lens for you.
Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN — One of the best M4/3 portrait lenses. Period.
Portrait photographers who like telephoto lenses rejoice. This 112mm equivalent Micro Four Thirds lens won’t require you to sell a kidney to buy it, but it will make you and your client’s jaws drop when you use it. This Sigma lens renders gorgeous bokeh. Put an image created with this lens up against a full-frame equivalent, and you’ll have a hard time telling them apart. Thanks to the telephoto focal length, the lens also creates incredibly flattering facial features thanks to extra compression.
Like the Sigma 30mm f/1.4, this lens has a small amount of weather sealing at the mount. The optics are exceptionally sharp and render gorgeous images. Autofocus is incredibly fast and accurate and works perfectly with face and eye detect autofocus. Honestly, it doesn’t get much better than this when it comes to lenses for M4/3 portrait photography. You can pick one up for around $400!
Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 — A must-own lens for M4/3 portrait photography
For those who like shooting portraits with longer lenses, the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 (a 150mm equivalent lens) is for you. This lens is stunning in every area. It comes in both black and silver finishes. The optics in this lens are up there with Olympus Pro lenses. Many in the industry — including our own reviewer — call this lens one of the best portrait lenses on any system. It’s that good.
On top of being stunning optically, the lens is made well too. However, the lens weighs just 0.67lbs (305g). This option from Olympus is the most expensive on this list at $699. However, if you shoot with Panasonic or Olympus/OM SYSTEM Micro Four Thirds cameras and you want your portrait images to wow anyone who looks at them, grab the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 and never look back. It’s perhaps the best M4/3 portrait photography lens outside the f/1.2 Olympus primes that cost more than $1,000. You can read our full review here.