Review: The Olympus M.Zuiko 17/1.2 PRO

Firstly – Happy New Year! I hope 2018 proves to be fruitful and fulfilling – both photographically and otherwise. Now on to the business at hand…

The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO lens was launched in September 2017 and together with the Olympus 25mm and 45mm F1.2, completes the PRO F1.2 lens trinity. My review unit of the Olympus 17mm F1.2 was on loan from Olympus Malaysia during the final week of 2017. I acknowledge that 35mm (equivalent) is a classic, popular and highly revered focal length especially for environmental portraits, documentary and journalism work as well as traditional street photography.  Frankly, 35mm is not my favourite focal length to work with – I generally prefer either the wider or longer end for my photography needs. Therefore, this review was exceptionally challenging for me and required more effort than usual.

Some disclaimers before we move on – the Olympus 17mm F1.2 lens was on loan from Olympus Malaysia solely for review purposes only and will be returned soon after. Neither myself nor MT are associated with Olympus in any way, and this review was conducted independently. This review is based off user-experience and presented from my point of view and is therefore, subjective. All images were shot with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and post-processed with Capture One Pro.

A gallery of all the images shown in this article with EXIF data intact can be viewed on Google Photos Album here.

F1.2, ISO200, 1/1600

The Olympus 17mm F1.2 shares similar specifications with its other F1.2 PRO siblings. According to Olympus, the aim was to deliver critically sharp images even while shooting wide open at F1.2, while maintaining smooth buttery bokeh (with a feature called “feathered bokeh”). The lens construction is quite complex, consisting of 15 elements in 11 groups (1 Super ED lens, 3 ED lenses, 1 ED-DSA lens, 1 EDA lens, 1 Super HR lens, 1 aspherical lens). The lens is capable of a maximum magnification of 0.15x, nowhere near macro levels but useful enough for general close up shooting. The lens is by no means small or light, weighing in at 390g and similar in size to the Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 lens. For full product specifications, you can check out the official product page here.

The first impression of the Olympus 17mm F1.2 lens in hand is how similar it looks and feels like the 25mm F1.2 and 45mm F1.2 lenses. All three F1.2 lenses are about the same size and have the exact same design. I wouldn’t be able to tell the lenses apart, unless I looked for the focal length markings. Design uniformity is not necessarily a bad thing, but a little differentiation would be appreciated. Imagine working in a dark environment with these three lenses at hand – I’m sure some precious time will be lost just looking for the focal length marking.

The lens may look huge in the product images, but it does not feel unbearably large in the hand. I am used to handling the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 lens, so the 17mm F1.2 (similar size and weight) felt right at home. A genuine concern, however, is the diminishing benefit of Micro Four Thirds systems having smaller, more portable lenses. These new F1.2 PRO lenses are no smaller or lighter than their DSLR counterparts. I can’t deny that the size advantage is questionable now, but before we jump to conclusions, let’s take a pause and look at what the lens can do. After reviewing the results from this F1.2 lens, I can safely say I don’t wish the lens to be any smaller or lighter if it means a compromise in image quality.

F1.2, ISO200, 1/400

Crop from previous image

F5, ISO200, 1/2500

F3.2, ISO200, 1/6400

I never liked the original Olympus 17mm F1.8 lens, and it wasn’t just me showing a lack of enthusiasm. I remember in Ming Thein and Steve Huff’s original reviews, they were both unimpressed with it. Before diving into the different aspects of reviewing the lens, if the lens works for you, it just works when you are shooting with it. With the older 17mm F1.8, no matter how much effort I put into getting a good shot, I always came home with lackluster results. I have given that lens many a chance at redemption over the years, but it just did not manage to work out.

The new Olympus 17mm F1.2, on the other hand, is a completely different lens altogether. From the moment I shot the first image, I was smitten by it, and as much as I dislike the 35mm equivalent focal length, I hope my images do justice to the “a-hah!” moments I had during my time with the 17mm F1.2 lens.

The 17mm F1.2 is super sharp, even wide open, and if my shooting experience was accurate, this could be the sharpest of all the three F1.2 PRO lenses. It is so sharp, that stopping down to F1.8 or F2.8 doesn’t yield that much more benefit, besides more depth of field control. Although sharp, the lens is still capable of rendering naturally pleasing looking images, and there is a sense of realism that the old 17mm F1.8 couldn’t deliver. The images just look right.

The sharpness is consistent across the frame, from corner to corner. At F1.2, the extreme corners are still very good, though stopping down a bit can help get better uniformity. Considering that Micro Four Thirds is not the best system for shallow depth of field, having sharp and usable F1.2 results is extremely important, and the 17mm F1.2 delivers just that.

F1.2, ISO200, 1/320, “Feathered Bokeh”

F1.8, ISO200, 1/160, Normal Bokeh

F1.2, ISO200, 1/1600

Bokeh rendering comparison with a busy background: F1.2, F1.8, F2.8, F4, F5.6, F8. All original individual images can be found here

The 17mm F1.2 renders excellent looking bokeh. Olympus claims that when shooting at F1.2, the lens can produce “feathered bokeh”, which are softer looking bokeh balls that fall off beautifully into the background instead of the typical solid, blocky looking bokeh balls from ordinary lenses. Whatever Olympus is doing, the bokeh from the 17mm F1.2 lens is pleasing and addictive to look at.

It’s worth noting that you need to move in considerably close to the subject to be able to achieve sufficient subject isolation, as depth of field is still not that shallow with the smaller sensor size on a Micro Four Thirds camera. There is no contest to larger sensor cameras that can render blurrier backgrounds (shallower depth of field), but we are not talking about the amount of bokeh here, but the quality.

As expected from a PRO grade lens from Olympus (based on experience with their other PRO lenses), distortion, chromatic aberration and flare are all well managed. Wide open, the chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is evident in high contrast, out of focus areas. This can be eliminated in post-processing if required. Stopping down to F4 removes all traces of chromatic aberration.

The images are completely corrected for any barrel distortion, and most RAW converters should be able to read the lens profile and apply automatic corrections. This should not be an issue if you shoot JPEG, as barrel distortion is non-existent and all straight lines should be perfectly straight.

F1.2, ISO200, 1/20,000, Corner Sharpness Test. Electronic Shutter used

F1.2, Corner crop from above image

F4, in comparison to F1.2 Crop

F5.6, ISO200, 1/160, Barrel Distortion Test

F5, ISO800, 1/500, Barrel Distortion Test

F5, ISO200, 1/250, Barrel Distortion Test

F5.6, ISO200, 1/400, Chromatic Aberration Test

F1.2, Crop from top edge to show Purple Fringing

F5.6, crop from previous image, purple fringing mitigated.

For my usual portraits, I normally use either the wide angle 12mm F2 lens for environmental portraits, or a medium telephoto or longer lens such as 45mm F1.8 or 75mm F1.8 to produce more flattering, natural looking results. I was curious to see what the new 17mm F1.2 can do when shooting people, so instead of just shooting strangers on the street as usual, I was fortunate to have my friend Carmen model for me again. And she looked stunning in that yellow dress!

If you are thinking of shooting portraits with subject isolation using the 17mm F1.2, simply because it has an F1.2 aperture, I’d caution you to manage your expectations. Do not overestimate the capability of the F1.2 lenses, you can only create sufficient background blur if you are close enough to the subject. Being so close to the subject also creates another problem – perspective distortion that will result in disproportionate looking human subjects. Therefore, the 17mm lens is suitable for mostly half body or more coverage when shooting portraits. If creating shallow depth of field is a priority, I highly recommend the 45mm F1.8, 45mm F1.2, 75mm F1.8 and 40-150mm F2.8 (you’ll notice that they’re all on the telephoto end).

Having said that, the images from the Carmen shoot were better than I originally anticipated. The lens managed to render really natural looking images – something that surprised me. Maybe I was conscious about not getting too close and the wider composition helped maintain the natural look in the images. Despite the harsh lighting, the lens managed to pull in good amount of contrast and the images pop even without much post-processing.

F1.2, ISO200, 1/400

F1.2, ISO200, 1/400

F1.2, ISO200, 1/640

F1.2, ISO200, 1/4000

F1.2, ISO200, 1/8000

F1.2, ISO200, 1/5000

For an F1.2 lens, focus accuracy is more crucial than speed, and the Olympus 17mm f1.2 is both extremely fast and accurate at the same time. The few out of focus shots I did have were a result of user error (such as placing the focus point in the wrong area). I shot a few fast moving subjects, and the AF managed to lock on almost instantly. I briefly tested this 17mm F1.2 lens on a Panasonic GH4 as well, and the AF performance was speedy and accurate too.

Considering that 35mm is such a classic, popular focal length, I am sure many would treat this as the one do-it-all lens, replacing the standard zoom or kit lens. Having good close up shooting capability (0.3x maximum magnification) helps in shooting everyday subjects, such as food and simple wide angle product shots. You know, those “Instagram-Hipster-Looking” shots of a coffee by the window, or a plate of overly colorful food that people spend 15 minutes photographing and 5 minutes eating. Oh dear, I may be just one of those people, unfortunately.

Having brought the Olympus 17mm F1.2 around with me almost everywhere, I did try to shoot as many ordinary, every day subjects as I could. Did I find the 17mm lens to be versatile enough? Personally – no. I prefer to use the 25mm lens as my do-it-all solution. I can see the importance of and use for the wider coverage that the 17mm provides. If you can deal with the perspective distortion (not tilting your shots too much), you can get really good shots with the 17mm F1.2 lens, especially with the ability to shoot at F1.2.

F5.6, ISO200, 1/30

F5.6, ISO500, 1/80

F8, ISO200, 1/60, Flash used

F5.6, ISO200, 1/30, Well, since a cup of coffee is so mainstream, why not coffee beans instead?

F5.6, ISO200, 1/80

The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO changed my perspective of working with this focal length, especially considering I did not expect to fall in love with this lens.

The lens is incredibly sharp even when shooting wide open. The sharpness is uniform from edge to edge. The bokeh is beautiful and soft, resulting in pleasing and natural looking images. Technical flaws are well controlled with no noticeable distortion, minimal chromatic aberration and good flare control. AF is speedy and reliable. the lens just works and it exceeded my expectations.

Of the three F1.2 lenses, I am surprised to conclude that this 17mm F1.2 is my personal favourite.

If you are a 35mm focal length shooter, this could be the only strong choice available for you within the Micro Four Thirds family. There are other close alternatives, such as the Panasonic Leica 15mm f1.7 and 20mm F1.7, but these do not give you a 35mm equivalent field of view. I personally would not recommend the older 17mm F1.8, unless a budget is holding you back and you absolutely need to work with a prime.

I have a few more days before I return this Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO lens to Olympus. I plan to roam the streets of Kuala Lumpur and do my usual street shooting with the lens! More sample photographs, this time street photography images will be available soon.

The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO Lens is available from B&H
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Is available from B&H

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Images and content copyright Robin Wong 2017 onwards. All rights reserved

Comments

  1. Robin, thanks for the review. I read your other post on your blog about feathered bokeh, and Olympus’s explanation makes sense, but the tradeoff is that front bokeh starts to get bad when back bokeh is optimized (and vice versa). This comes about from the geometry of the light rays that Olympus shows in their explanation. Do you have any images for front bokeh? I see there’s the photo with the blue wall, but that’s probably not the most difficult subject for bokeh.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Unfortunately I have returned the lens to Olympus. I won’t be able to do further tests until I get my hands on them again. I generally do not have anything in my foreground, and I prefer clean, simple and straightforward composition.

  2. Thanks for the excellent review. I have the Panasonic Leica 15mm and note that it is a very small and light lens. The Olympus 17mm f1.2 is of course faster, and for this reason it is much bigger in size (both length and width) compared to the 15mm. For those who value compactness, the 15mm is ideal. The Olympus 17mm f1.2 seems to be more suited for those who want slightly faster glass and are willing to carry around a much bigger lens.

    • Robin Wong says:

      I understand that 15mm and 17mm may be close in terms of focal length, but 15mm is not exactly that close to the 35mm classic lens. I have personally used the 15mm extensively and I loved it too. I just would not really do a direct comparison with the 17mm, because they are different lenses.

      • Yes, but. It is 15mm and 17mm. In full frame terms 30mm and 34mm. It is close. If you crop a bit from the 15mm image, it is identical with 17. And no, there is no effect on perspective or anything else. Depth of field is a bit more. It is one stop faster. One stop in digital is not much as one can usually crank up the iso. In reality the differences are small and for 99+% of people not worth the extra cost and size/weight.

  3. I really enjoyed your review, and your honesty. The 35mm (equiv) has always been my favorite focal length, unlike you. 🙂 I have the 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens mounted on my E-M1 Mk2 and don’t find the weight / size too bad so if the 17mm f1.2 about the same that would be fine with me.

    I’ve found with these very small cameras, a little extra mass actually helps in the stabilization department.

    Your images were excellent. For someone who doesn’t really care for that focal length, you really stepped up to the plate!

    Happy New Year to you and Ming!

    Rick

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks Rick for the kind words, and Happy New Year to you too! I do agree that the extra weight can help with steadying the shot better.

  4. Jose Kuhn says:

    While the output of the f1.2 lenses are outstanding being a Panasonic GH5/G85 user not having a DFD autofocus is problematic when shooting action shots. however theses lenses are still stellar for portraiture. I do rent them for special occasions.

    However the next prime lenses I may get are the new f1.4 lenses from Sigma. The corners are a tad softer wide open but it’s 1/3 the price of the Olympus f1.2’s.

    If Olympus only updated their FT 150mm f2 lens. A MFT version of that I would buy in a minute.

    • Robin Wong says:

      I will not comment on the action shooting part, because most of the subjects that I shoot are either static, or do not move that fast. Single AF is sufficient for all that I do, including my moving subjects.

  5. Certainly great photos, as always. You should mention that stunners like that don’t only depend on the lens, but also on the photographer!

  6. lightexpression says:

    The 1.2/25 Pro is one of the finest lenses I have used on any system and I don’t doubt the 1.2/17 and 1.2/45 are just as good. I’m not sure many people are going to want all three, but slotting one or even two of these fast primes into your kit makes a lot of sense to me. I often carry the 2.8/12-40 with the 1.2/25, for example. The zoom gives me focal length flexibility, the prime gives me subject isolation. They complement each other perfectly and still make for a nice light, compact travel kit. I applaud Olympus for making these lenses. They are giving us choice and pushing the boundaries of what micro four thirds can achieve. Thank you for the review, Robin, and for sharing your images, which are always a pleasure to see.

  7. Hi Robin
    I ‘converted’ to MFT from a DSLR 18 months ago, because I am getting older and travelling more, so share your concerns as to where the concept is going. I switched because of the advantage of size, weight, portability and the increased functionality now offered by the latest models. (I have an OLY Mk5 II).
    Olympus seems to be spending a lot of development and marketing resources on their (heavier/bigger) ‘PRO’ glass, the outcome of which is, as you say, counter to the original principle of MFT.
    Having raised this issue in the UK Oly Forum, the only comments I get is that a ‘Pro’ offering is good for the Brand. OK in standard marketing terms that is true, but think that, at least for Olympus, the emphasis has gone too far.
    I would be grateful if would expand your original thoughts so I could perhaps use them in future ‘discussions’.
    Many Thanks -ISO

    • I’m not Robin, but my 2c speaking from the point of view of another manufacturer: no matter what we do, people will complain. It’s impossible to make everybody happy: small lenses = too slow. Fast lenses = too big. Perfect optics = too expensive. No company can a) offer everything and stay in business, and b) cheat the laws of physics (there can never be a decently performing 17 f0.95 the size of the old 17 pancake, for example). In the case of Olympus, there’s the f1.8 line and the f1.2 line – pick your size/ poison, fortunately both with excellent optics. It would seem logical to focus development on f1.2 pro lenses simply because the consumer lineup is complete (two 17mm options already, for instance).

      • Robin Wong says:

        Hey Paul,
        The PRO F1.2 lenses certainly are not made for everyone, and if the Micro Four Thirds users need the F1.2 wide aperture then they have that option. Like Ming Thein have mentioned, there are available F1.8 options (and F1.7 options from Panasonic) to choose from, and these smaller, lighter F1.8/F1.7 lenses are all really good lenses, sharp even at wide open, and perform well. I fully understand your concern that the lenses now are getting unreasonably bigger and heavier but that was also in response to the demand for better/faster/sharper lenses. It is not physically (at least not at this moment) to make compact F1.2 lenses for Micro Four Thirds.
        I do appreciate what the F1.2 PRO lenses can do, the image quality speaks for itself. Like everyone else, for practical use, and watching our limited budget, I’d be happy with the F1.8 options (12mm, 17mm, 25mm, 45mm, 75mm lenses from Olympus).

      • Smaller fast lenses are indeed possible to build, however they require manual focus. Voigtländer and Venus Laowa have proved this and are satisfying a segment of the market. I think it’s unfortunate that Olympus and Panasonic have abandoned MF prime lenses, which in many ways are ideal for the format.

        • Frank/Impulse says:

          Samyang is carrying that torch too (12/2, 7.5 fisheye, etc)… I can understand why first party brands would focus on AF lenses only tho. Personally I wouldn’t buy anything too long without AF and plenty of people will not even consider a lens w/o AF. I did buy both the two native/manual 7.5mm that the system has tho! (Laowa/Samyang)

    • Hi Paul, I’m not Robin either. But here are my thoughts. I’ve been shooting Four Thirds DSLR since the E-510 in 2007, the PEN series with the E-PL1 since 2010.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_Four_Thirds_system

      Olympus / Panasonic pioneered the sensor size way too early and with no participation from Canon or Nikon, they had a hard time. The sensor tech needed until 2012 to be “good enough” and then the challenge was to also downsize all the primes and the zooms, yet battle against initially zero market presence and share, problematical financial position etc…. From 2012, they hit big time, the magic formula, small lenses, small bodies. But this is 2018, you can’t use one approach forever, especially in a competitive market. It’s not the same people buying the gear, we now have new people buying this gear, refugees from DSLRs (which, before 2012, MFT could not get respect from that crowd at all).

      The small, light, good enough primes are already established. Mark 2 versions aren’t going to enlarge that market. Putting weather sealing, focus clutch (one of the most commonly requested features) is going to increase the price premium and size. The DSLR refugees want small size gear but they continually harp on the lack of background blur compared to their 5D / D750 or even their 7D. They want zooms because they are used to zooms, not primes. They want birding lenses. In other words, all these lenses they want are no longer the value for money, lower cost lenses, they want “halo product”, And short of doing nothing, Olympus is giving them that. Now, the subject of interest is return of investment. Will these f/1.2 primes and f/2.8 big zooms allow Olympus to recover costs and make a profit given the smaller volume, higher price sales. That we don’t know. And if they don’t make money, is it still worth doing because they are halo product?

      • Hi Ananda,
        Thanks for your reply. Have just responded to Robin’s Post which I hope answers yours.
        ISO (Paul)

    • Hi Paul,
      I’m not Robin, Ming, nor Ananda, either 🙂 I just purchased my first m4/3 camera, an OMD E-M1 MkII, and the 12-40mm Pro lens. I completely understand your frustration. I have been taking pictures for over 45 years and have owned a bunch of gear. I’m in the same situation as you, I’m older now, 65yrs, and need something light, small and stabilized. Its just one of those things as you get older.

      I’ve shot professionally since 2006 and need very high quality glass to go with this camera system. The chip (sensor) has many draw backs for professional work due to it’s small size so quality lenses are crucial. The lenses in the Olympus line are almost legendary for their quality. This lens, I believe, was designed for people like me, a professional, not the general enthusiast. The price alone will be a huge deterrent.

      As to why Olympus is going this direction, well, I agree with Ming on this. You do have other choices. I’m coming from Nikon to Olympus. I have a Nikon D500 and love the camera but Nikon will not update / improve / develop any pro level DX lenses. I love the size of the camera and can shoot at pretty high ISO’s to get my shutter speed up there but I have very few options when it comes to fast lenses.

      I would love to see camera makers “update” their older lenses, especially the more consumer oriented line, like the 17mm f1.8. Certainly they could perhaps engineer some of the tech that goes into the Pro lenses while keeping the price reasonable. The major reason for not doing it is probably cost vs benefit in added sales for the company.

      Bottom line, I feel your pain, but, those responses on the forum about it’s good for the brand, well, they’re right. It is good for the brand and I don’t see this changing.

      • Robin,
        Thanks for that. Yours and other comments have cleared my mind that Olympus is at least giving a choice, albeit in a range beyond my pocket and weight needs. May be my point is more about a question of balance. I have the 25/45/75mm 1.8’s and they are great – but how about a TC for them, say x 1.5? or say a 300mm prime with a lower spec? As for the Marketing stance, I still think that Oly is in danger of appearing ‘too too’. They imply too often that a ‘PRO’ is only a ‘Pro’ if their PRO glass is used. As we all know that is nonsense, and no one likes to be ‘talked down to’.
        If you have the time it would be great to discuss more about the positioning of MFT – and indeed whether the camera, as we know it, will sometime be a minority tool, given the rising quality, and ease of use, of phone platforms.
        Paul

        • Hi Paul,
          > I have the 25/45/75mm 1.8’s and they are great – but how about a TC for them, say x 1.5?

          From what I see the digital world is reluctant to make a universal TC like when I had my Minolta XE-1 days of film. Yours is the first thread I’ve come across asking for a TC for those short focal lengths by the way – most people want a TC for 150mm and longer – for shorter lenses, they just buy the next progression, i.e. if they have a 25, they buy the 45, if they have a 45, they buy the 75. To my mind there are several reasons to avoid a TC for shorter lenses –
          a. the next focal length in the progression is there
          b. they bought the prime because it was small, they don’t feel they want to add more bulk by adding a TC
          But, in general the 45-150 etc… was designed from the start to mate with a custom TC – these three primes weren’t so they would have to re-design all three lenses. For a TC that they can’t ask premium price for.
          The other difference is that we are in the digital world and Olympus has a 2x digital magnification which can be optionally switched on, in the body. Yes, I know digital zoom loses throws away pixels but in the film world, there was nothing like that available. This 2x digital zoom culture has permeated from the camera phone, compact and bridge compact camera market so it adds to the reluctance for manufacturers to make a TC for short lenses. By the way, these are just my off hand thoughts.

          >or say a 300mm prime with a lower spec?

          Again, a case of saleability. I would guess that in the 100-300 arena, and for volume sales (lower price) the typical buyer is willing to forgo performance and brightness for zoom. Remember that 300mm is by reach, 600mm on full frame – that is a lot of reach and in the urban scene, not commonly used (again, I am guessing that urban scenes account for the bulk of photo gear sales). For many purposes, the lower spec 300mm prime is already covered by the M.Zuiko 75-300. Panasonic 100-300, Panasonic 100-400 zooms. With the convenience of the zooms, a lower spec 300mm to me, is not very saleable.

          >As for the Marketing stance, I still think that Oly is in danger of appearing ‘too too’. They imply too often that a ‘PRO’ is only a ‘Pro’ if their PRO glass is used. As we all know that is nonsense, and no one likes to be ‘talked down to’.

          I don’t disagree with that.

      • Hi Rick,
        Yep, just posted reply to Robin which I hope gives some replies to your thoughts.
        But following up on what you said =
        “I would love to see camera makers “update” their older lenses, especially the more consumer oriented line, like the 17mm f1.8. Certainly they could perhaps engineer some of the tech that goes into the Pro lenses while keeping the price reasonable. The major reason for not doing it is probably cost vs benefit in added sales for the company”.
        As you can see I agree with the updating of technology idea. Bit like NASA or Formula 1 Racing Cars are all supposed to, ‘filter down into our everyday kit’.
        In no way am I suggesting that Olympus should be ‘dumbing down’, but on the other hand, I moved to MFT from Pentax DSLR (don’t knock it, in the 1960’s, apart from Nikon, it was the only game in town)  , because of the same reasons as you.
        Paul

        • Hey Paul,
          No bad words from me about Pentax. I think it was the Spotmatic I nearly purchased before I settled on a Nikkormat FTN back in the day. They still make good products. I can’t remember why I made the choice I did. 🙂

          Rick

  8. Happy New Year, Robin !
    I would have more details about your quote :”Of the three F1.2 lenses, I am surprised to conclude that this 17mm F1.2 is my personal favourite.”
    As you love the focal length 45mm, I’m surprised.

    Dominique

  9. “a sense of realism that the old 17mm F1.8 couldn’t deliver” – sorry, you lost me there, along with a fair chunk of credibility. We all have opinions, mine is quite diametrically opposed to yours on that point. But you’re Robin Wong, and I’m not.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Have you tried both lenses, the F1.2 and the F1.8 version of the Olympus 17mm? My “fair chunk of credibility” came from extensive use of both lenses. I am writing based on my experience. If your opinion differs, then kindly share what your thoughts are. There is no need to throw stones are birds that never hurt you.

      • david mantripp says:

        Either my reply was moderated or it got lost in WordPress, but I will try again.

        Of course I haven’t tried the 1.2, it isn’t available yet. What I am grumbling about is not your review of the 1.2, but your rather unnecessary dismissal of the 1.8, and in particular your claim that Steve Huff (whatever) but in particular MT agree with you, when they have published opinions quite to the contrary.

        You also always take the line that you don’t do comparisons, yet here you do. A lot of people may read these comments and either spend a lot of unecessary money buying the heavy and expensive 1.2 because you’ve told them that the much lighter and very competent 1.8 is no good. Sorry, but there are plenty of very satisfied users of that lens.

        Sure, you’re entitled to your opinion, but your opinion carries a lot more weight than others (justifiably), and even more now you are associated with Ming Thein, and I think you should be a little more careful how you express it. That is all.

        Personally I can’t really think of any advantage that f1.2 gives me over f1.8 – I generally want more DoF, not less, and if I want super high resolution at 17mm and can accept a weight penalty, I‘ve got the astonishing 12-100, so….

        • I just checked, has been moderated. We only hold comments from new posters (that’s a system limitation to safeguard against spam) – you’ve been here long enough to know that *everything* is allowed through, warts and all.

          Actually, I haven’t published anything on the 1.2 vs 1.8 other than a passing comment previously that I don’t like the rendering of the 1.8…

        • Robin Wong says:

          David, if you like what you get from the 17mm F1.8 then I’m glad for you. I simply didn’t. I was just being honest. I have a disclaimer that my opinion is subjective. Feel free to disagree with it.

          • I have the 17mm/1.8, as well as the 75mm/1.8, and I found that I could never really get interesting pictures from the 17mm. It’s probably just me and my lack of skill, but I just wasn’t too happy with the pictures. Perhaps it is less sharp compared to the 75mm, or it could be that the subject isolation of the 17mm is not very good in general. 75mm was almost effortless in comparison (especially for portraits).

            Nonetheless, after seeing your 1.7mm/1.2 pictures, I might change my mind about this focal length. Unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of getting the PRO lenses with my current budget.

          • Suggesting that a high profile reviewer agrees with your dismissal of the 17/1.8 when in fact they did nothing of the sort is not honest nor is it subjective, it is misguided at best. Honesty would be for you to correct that statement.

            • Clarification: I agree with his assessment but never publicly stated it (there was no need to).

              • Not sure who “his” is in reference to, but I was referring to Steve Huff who was anything but “unimpressed” by the 17/1.8. Robin may have been mistaken in his recollection of that review, but you would then expect someone of integrity to publish a rectification to that effect.

                • Robin Wong says:

                  I was very sure of my claim, because I did an analysis on overall reviews of Olympus products on the web and submit to my bosses when i worked in Olympus. It is impossible to forget someone as prominent as Steve Huff’s writing. However, I am still looking for that blog article that supports my claim.

                • Sorry, but Steve Huff thinks everything is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and the only photographs he shows are of his girlfriend and his dog. He is not what I would consider anywhere near ‘credible’.

                  • So how would you consider someone who refers to him to back up their opinion on your website?

                    You really are a class act, the pair of you. And I’m not lying when I say that up to here, I held you both in pretty high esteem.

        • Jose Kuhn says:

          I rented the 25mm f1.2 to do some in k-8 classroom portraiture work. While it worked great, dealing with moving kids my Panny 25mm f1.7 with tad more DoF was a little more helpful since I can’t guarantee nailing the point of focus. My bokeh was still good enough to give me solid separation from the background. With he IS on my penny g85 I could also achieve very usable B-Roll without disturbing the class.

  10. Frank/Impulse says:

    Great review, the 17/1.2 is looking very very appealing, I’m a fan of the wider (but not too wide) in between’er focal lengths so this is right up my alley. I’ve been wishing for an alternative with weather sealing and/or better AF to my 20/1.7 for years anyway so this was always gonna trigger my interest.

    The much lower price of the Sigma 16/1.4 gave me some pause but it’s not any smaller/lighter (or faster) and since it’s one of the last lenses I’ll likely add to my kit I don’t mind the premium; given the pleasant rendering, Oly’s good rep for robust sealing, and Pro Capture compatibility.

    I do notice some bokeh onion ringing in a couple shots more so than others tho, saw something similar in DPR’s gallery; e.g. it seems more noticeable in the smaller bokeh balls of the last shot w/the headphones than in the shots of the 3.5mm connector… Maybe it’s due to the light source or position in frame?

  11. Olympus should make another pro line of improved compact lenses 12/2, 17/1.8, 45/1.8 all weatherproof end rugged.

    • Frank/Impulse says:

      If they really wanted to make them rugged they’d trade the fancy metal body on the 12 & 17 for plastic, making less prone to dings and dents and lighter (which will surely reduce impact force if dropped)…

      I own the 12/2 FWIW, yeah the metal is kinda cool, but I dunno that it really helped much with the original MSRP or broad appeal of either lens. Some cheaper/slower yet sealed primes would be most welcome either way tho.

      The only ones not sorta large and expensive ones are the 60/2.8 macro and the new Sigma 16/1.4 AFAIK, I guess the Pro f1.8 fisheye isn’t huge but it’s still pricey.

  12. As always a nice review Robin, but I think you are wrong about the 17mm f/1.8 review by Steve Huff.
    http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2013/01/27/the-olympus-17-1-8-lens-review-on-the-e-m5-by-steve-huff/

  13. Robin, happy new year.

  14. Nigel Rugman says:

    A great review as always, your face closeups are always so bitingly sharp, irrespective of the lens that you are using! In the image illustrating barrel distortion, what happened to the left hand/arm of the guy in the blue and white striped shirt-it looks more like an elongated dead fish than a hand on the end of his arm? Is this camera distortion?

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks for the kind words. I do not think that was due to the distortion at all, but merely the guy being unusually skinny, and a little bit of stretching due to slow shutter being used (you can see the motion blur).

  15. Carl Wheeler says:

    Thank you for this great review Robin, and the best New Year to you too! I love the “35mm” focal length lens and own the 17 1.8 for several years now and use it quite a bit both for my work and personal photography and like the results plus the compact size. I do however process the images in Lightroom not using JPGs and get fine results, in my opinion. Yes, it is not like the wonderful lens you just tested (and I now want one) but the lens is a tool that I select for the specific job. I also own several SHG 4/3 lenses I use daily as well and will choose them if the job requires so I do have excellent lenses to compare with. Your reviews make it difficult for me since my “tool box” of lenses is overflowing now! Best Wishes.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks, I appreciate the kind word, and Happy New Year to you too!
      If 35mm is your primary lens, and something you rely on, then the 17mm F1.2 should be one of the better considerations. Nevertheless I cannot comment much on Lightroom because neither MT nor I use Lightroom. Great that it works for you!

  16. Steve Jones says:

    Robin, to this day I remember in my mind’s eye those test shots you took with the Olympus 17mm 1.8 ( and posted on your Shutter Therapy site ) and I am absolutely certain your results were anything but lackluster! I actually own one of those and have used it to good effect for travel and landscape work and it has served me well. This new one with a fast aperture looks to give remarkable results. Disregarding size and weight, If I had to choose one lens for an OM-D body… this might be it.
    Excellent review by the way with well chosen scenes and subjects that show the capabilities of this optic.

    • Steve Jones says:

      Forgot to mention, I love that there is now bokeh and “feathered” bokeh! Who could have imagined?

      • Robin Wong says:

        I always felt that the old 17mm F1.8 review could have been done better, but I also have to come to conclude that the lens just did not work for me, no matter how much effort I put into working with the lens. Thanks for the kind words, I always try to shoot in various conditions to test the capabilities of lens or camera for reviews.

  17. Ionut Cirja says:

    Happy new year! Do you think this lens is a good option for olympus pen f also or is too much?

  18. Oystein Mathisen says:

    Thanks for the review! Question: Is there a mix up between 17/1.8 and 17/2.8? Quote: “I never liked the original Olympus 17mm F1.8 lens, and it wasn’t just me showing a lack of enthusiasm. I remember in Ming Thein and Steve Huff’s original reviews, they were both unimpressed…..”
    Ming gave the 17/1.8 an 8/10 – while the 17/2.8: “best avoided”.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Nope, no confusion there. Not much love for the 17mm F1.8 lens. It is not a bad lens, just nothing “exciting” about the results.

  19. tnx Robin,a joy to read

  20. Alan Dargie says:

    Great review and beautiful photos. I miss KL, what a wonderful place.

  21. Jim Watkins says:

    Happy New Year and Thank you for this review, I always look forward to your open and honest evaluations.

    Having shot with 2 EM1’s for almost 4 years, I decided to upgrade to the new Panasonic G9 instead of the EM1 MKII. Lots of reasons, but mostly camera layout and ergonomics, plus my Nocticron deserves a body with DFD and IS-2!. So I am especially interested in your comments about this new Olympus 17mm f1.2 with the Panasonic G4, as this is one of my favorite focal lengths. (I have the 25mm f1.8 but hardly ever use it). You said AF was speedy and accurate, but any other thoughts you have would be appreciated.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Happy New Year to you too! It was an absolute pleasure doing this review. I have only used the lens on the GH4 very briefly, just to test out the AF solely. Did not bring that combo for an extensive test run. Nonetheless, I did not encounter anything out of the ordinary during the brief use.

  22. Thanks Robin. Another feast for the eyes as well as an informative review. Unlike you I really like the 35mm equiv POV and run with the 17/1.8, which is OK, but nothing special. I had a CV 17.5/0.95 fir a while and loved the images from it, but found the MF and manual aperture frustrating so moved it. Maybe this new Olympus lens is the one I need.

  23. Drool! You have been at one with this 17mm and given it the chance to show the focus fall off – all of the focus fall off can be easily destroyed by un empathic post processing and shooting. I’m glad I have another lens to dream of…..

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks Ananda, Happy New Year to you! I am not exactly that comfortable with the 35mm equivalent focal length yet, but I am certainly more experienced and knowledgeable on how to handle it now. It is still work in progress!

  24. Nice review. Happy new year

  25. I’ve always loved your style of shooting. Great review! I have previously always made the mistake of buying the best camera body and then not having enough dough for top optics. Since migrating to the m43 system recently I have been doing the opposite. But I’ve noticed generally all the reviews are on the EM1 body. If I pair this lenses with my cheaper EM10 MarkII body, will there be any penalties ? I mean in auto focus speed, resolving details and ergonomics since the EM10 is a smaller body?

    Happy New Year to you and MT

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks, and Happy New Year to you too! Indeed, investing in lenses is a wiser decision, you can do a lot more, and get better results too! E-M10 Mark II has the older 16MP image sensor, but the difference is negligible if you do not shoot in extreme conditions. The new E-M1 Mark II has slight advantage over low light shooting and difficult dynamic range situations.

  26. wonder how the Sigma 16/1.4 would test out at?

  27. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Fairly rigorous testing, Robin – the cam came through with flying colours, but I’m not sure if that’s a tribute to Olympus, or to you, so I’ve decided it’s a tribute to you both.

    Attractive as this gear is, it’s not an option for me – purely because of the amount I have tied up in the gear I have already, and the lack of compatibility between the two.

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks Jean. Honestly, I dislike 35mm focal length, and have never fared well with this lens. The fact that I can shoot some decent images, and that the lens encourages me to shoot more and more, speaks volumes about the unusual capabilities of what the 17mm F1.2 can do.
      Of course, if the lens does not work for you (still not my focal length) then no reason to go for it.

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