Olympus and Panasonic compatibility
Can I use an Olympus lens on a Panasonic body and vice versa? – Yes, you can. Both Olympus and Panasonic adhere to the Micro Four Thirds standard, so that M.Zuiko lenses can be mounted on Lumix bodies and Panasonic-Leica or Lumix optics can be attached to an OM-D or PEN camera. The camera-lens combinations will be able to exchange exposure and shooting information and autofocus will function properly. Indeed, it is arguably one of the strengths of MFT that both manufacturers have been supplying cameras and lenses for a common system, so that there is a wide choice of alternatives available for MFT shooters.
However, the MFT standard only concerns the camera-lens mount, while other design aspects are left to the discretion of the manufacturers. As a result, a number of differences have emerged between the Olympus and Panasonic systems that you might want to be aware of before mixing gear. Some of these are mere nuisances, while others might have a more profound impact on your photography and its results. Some affect particular lens-camera combinations, while others apply to a broader range of equipment.
Here are the nine compatibility issues that you should pay attention to:
1. Image stabilization
The technology to reduce image blur from camera shake is manufacturer-specific. This means, for example, that the optical image stabilization of some Panasonic OIS-lenses will not work when mounted on selected Olympus bodies. The affected camera-lens combinations are described in Panasonic's compatibility tables. Moreover, the in-body and in-lens stabilization systems of Olympus and Panasonic do not cooperate with each other. The combined body-lens-stabilization mechanisms that are available in the most recent MFT cameras when used with their own stabilized lenses – called Dual-IS by Panasonic and Sync-IS by Olympus – will not work when the camera is used with the other maker's OIS-optics. In the menu of some MFT cameras, you can choose whether you prefer to use the in-body stabilization of the camera or the optical stabilization of the lens (for details, see Guy Parson's Stabilisation Rules), but you can not have both working together. As a result, a mixed camera-lens combination will have a less effective shake reduction and might in some circumstances require a faster shutter speed to obtain sharp images.
2. Aperture ring
For most lenses from Olympus and Panasonic, the lens aperture is controlled through the camera. Yet, some Panasonic-Leica lenses (1.4/12mm, 1.7/15mm, 1.2/42.5mm) feature an aperture ring, which makes it possible to set the aperture either through the camera or directly on the lens. This control feature is reminiscent of lens handling during pre-digital times and provides an often appreciated "click feel". The aperture ring works only on Lumix cameras, though, and is without effect when mounting the respective lenses on Olympus cameras.
3. Lens function button
Some Olympus lenses, including most of the company's PRO-line, have a customizable "L-Fn" button that can be used to easily change shooting settings without taking the eye off the viewfinder. The default function of the L-Fn button is AF Stop, which temporarily suspends continuous autofocus when an object suddenly appears in front of the lens. On Olympus bodies, this default behavior can be changed via the camera menu to any other programmable lens or camera function, such as the activation of the digital tele-converter or focus peaking. On Panasonic Lumix cameras, however, the L-Fn button cannot be programmed, so that it can only be used in its default behavior as a focus stop button.
4. Depth from defocus
In the early years of MFT, both Olympus and Panasonic relied on contrast detect autofocus (CDAF), which is fast and reliable, but not very good at tracking moving subjects in continuous AF mode. Over time, Olympus addressed this issue by complementing CDAF with on-sensor phase detect pixels in its flagship cameras in order to achieve better tracking-AF. Meanwhile, Panasonic developed the Depth-from-Defocus (DFD) technology, which takes advantage of detailed knowledge of lens characteristics to determine the direction and magnitude of focus adjustments that are necessary to follow a moving subject. DFD relies on comprehensive lens profiles that are stored as part of the camera and lens firmware. Since Olympus does not use DFD and does not store respective information in its lens firmware, continuous AF of Panasonic cameras fitted with Olympus lenses is relatively slow and less confident. On the other hand, there is no performance penalty regarding AF-C when using Panasonic lenses on Olympus bodies.
5. Zoom ring rotation
The zoom rings on Olympus and Panasonic lenses turn in opposite directions. A clockwise turn zooms a Panasonic lens from wide to long, but an Olympus lens from long to wide. The Olympus handling is similar to Canon, while the Panasonic way of zooming is the same as that of Fujifilm, Leica, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony.
6. Purple flare
Apparently, Panasonic uses stronger UV filters in its cameras than Olympus does, and some Panasonic lenses are designed in accordance with this strong UV filtration at the camera level. As a result, selected Panasonic lenses when used on an Olympus body can produce marked purple flare and fringing. These purple blobs tend to be difficult to correct ex-post. The detrimental impact can occur when shooting into bright light notably with the 4/7-14mm, 2.8/12-35mm and 1.7/20mm, while other Panasonic lenses show only minor or no image quality deterioration at all under the same conditions (see Alan Watson's article for a more extensive discussion). As a remedy, Anders W has suggested using UV front or rear filters on the affected lenses to eliminate the purple flare artefacts. – There have been no reports of corresponding image degradation when using Olympus lenses on Panasonic bodies.
Both Olympus and Panasonic have released tele-converters to enhance the reach of selected tele-photo lenses. The Olympus MC-14 is intended for use with the 2.8/40-150mm and the 4.0/300mm lenses, and the Panasonic TC-14 and TC-20 with the 2.8/50-200mm and 2.8/200mm Panasonic-Leicas. Due to protruding front elements, these converters cannot be used with other lenses. Moreover, the converter mount design is slightly different, so that the MC-14 does not fit on the Panasonic 50-200mm and 200mm lenses, and the TC-14 and TC-20 cannot be mounted on the Olympus 40-150mm and 300mm lenses.
8. Focus Stacking
Recent cameras from Olympus and Panasonic support focus bracketing and focus stacking. They thus make it possible to capture multiple photos from slightly different focal positions (focus bracketing) and combine them into an image with a greater depth of field (focus stacking). This technique can be particularly useful in macro photography where DOF tends to be very shallow. However, on Olympus cameras that support in-camera focus stacking, the function is only available with selected Olympus lenses (PRO-lenses and the 60mm macro). It does not work with Panasonic lenses. – Panasonic cameras that support the 4K Post Focus feature can use their in-camera focus stacking function with both Olympus and Panasonic lenses, but the output comes at the relatively low 4K resolution (6K with the G9, GH5, GH5s). Focus bracketing with these cameras (for post-processing) works at full resolution, though.
9. In-camera lens correction
Modern MFT cameras apply corrections for lens distortion, vignetting, and color aberration when generating jpg-files. These corrections are based on data tables stored inside the camera and lens. Prior to 2013, Olympus cameras only corrected for distortion and vignetting, but not for chromatic aberration (CA). This means that when using a Panasonic lens – designed to be corrected for CA in a Panasonic camera – on an early Olympus camera, the JPG-images can show strong color fringing. So if you are using a pre-2013 Olympus camera in combination with a Panasonic lens, you might want to shoot in RAW rather than in JPG in order to be able to clean up the image files more easily during post processing.
So what is the bottom line?
Despite the issues mentioned above, many MFT shooters mix cameras and lenses from Olympus and Panasonic and are very happy with the handling of their gear, the focusing performance, and the imaging results. Micro Four Thirds has the most extensive lens catalog of any mirror-less system and the camera line-up of the two main MFT companies caters to a variety of photography and video interests. That said, the system would be even stronger if there were a little bit more coordination between Olympus and Panasonic around the MFT standard. In particular, closer cooperation might make it possible to address some of the compatibility problems listed above or at least avoid that more issues emerge going forward.
You can find an overview of all MFT-lenses from Olympus, Panasonic and other manufacturers in the Micro Four Thirds lens compendium. Similarly, comprehensive listings of Olympus MFT cameras and Panasonic MFT cameras are available on separate pages on this site. Finally, there is the MFT-glossary, which might be helpful for cutting through some of the technical terms and marketing jargon.