Street photography with the Olympus ZD 17mm f1.2 PRO – an addendum to the review

Some of you who read the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO lens review here, must be wondering why there were no street photography images, since the 35mm equivalent is a classic focal length for street photography and it is widely known that I do love shooting on the streets. The culprit was bad weather, thanks to a spell of rain over the last couple of week combined with overcast skies. Lighting is crucial for all photography and with cloudy weather I would have had flat, uninteresting and dull looking images. Fortunately, I did have a little time left with the Olympus 17mm F1.2 lens before returning it to Olympus, so I went out to do some street shooting when the weather cleared. This article shall be an extension to the Olympus 17mm F1.2 review, with more sample images shot with the lens.

F2.8, 1/6, ISO200

Fast and reliable autofocus can are crucial for nailing the shot, particularly when its a fast paced one. Why do I always shoot on the streets when I am reviewing a camera or lens? When I spot an opportunity, and I know I have to act quickly, the camera’s ability to respond fast enough to capture the shot tells me a lot about its performance. A lot of photographers over emphasize the image quality (resolution, high ISO, dynamic range, etc), but to me, what really matters is getting the image in the first place. What is the point of having a high megapixel, clean high ISO camera if it fails to capture the critical moment?

I appreciate the extremely fast autofocus that Olympus is able to offer with their recent releases of cameras and lenses. The Olympus 17mm F1.2 was snappy in acquiring focus, and I as confident in shooting the images I wanted to capture. The autofocus is so reliable, I just do not see the need to engage manual focus, at least not for street shooting.

Personally, I’ve never quite got along with the 35mm equivalent for my own street images. I acknowledge the versatility and effectiveness of 35mm in producing natural looking images but I have always worked with exaggerated focal lengths on either ends of the spectrum, i.e. wider than what the eye can see, or much longer into the medium telephoto range. My favourite lenses to use on the street would be the Olympus 45mm and 12mm. Hence, it took me some adjustment to get used to this Olympus 17mm F1.2 lens.

F6.3, 1/500, ISO500

F4, 1/125, ISO200

F4, 1/200, ISO200, I was not prepared, but I took this by reflex. I should have used faster shutter speed to freeze the cat

F1.2, 1/1000, ISO200, even at this close range, the depth of field is not that shallow enough for subject isolation at F1.2

F4, 1/25, ISO200

If you tend to use the 35mm focal length often, especially while shooting on the streets, there is a lot to like about the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 lens. Besides the obvious speedy AF, the lens manages to render realistic and natural looking results, something I feel is a step up from the older Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens. I have said this before in my review, but this is more evident with street images. Despite repeated attempts, I could not successfully achieve such results with the older 17mm f1.8.

Given the drawbacks of a 35mm lens, I was careful not to get too close to the head when shooting people, as that would create ugly distortions.

Some would argue that F1.2 aperture advantage is lost when shooting on the streets. That is true to some extent – with so much ambient light, we do not really need to shoot wide open at all. Using a wide angle lens also means we want as much to be in focus as possible, maximizing depth of field by narrowing the aperture to F4 or F5.6, if needed. Even at wide open F1.2, there is not much shallow depth of field advantage due to the smaller sensor size. Very few of the images in this series were taken with F1.2 wide open.

The unique thing about using the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, is the ability to utilize the electronic shutter that goes up to 1/32,000 second shutter speed, which in combination with ISO Low (extended to ISO64, from ISO200) you can shoot wide open under bright daylight without having to attach an additional ND filter.

F3.5, 1/500, ISO200

F3.2, 1/500, ISO200

F4, 1/500, ISO200

F1.2, 1/1250, ISO200, if you see a cat, shoot it!

Crop from previous image

F4, 1/3200, ISO200, Pro Capture Mode (low) used.

A few comments pointed toward the Sigma 16mm F1.4 lens released recently. From my understanding, that lens was originally designed for use on Sony APS-C (E-Mount) cameras, and conveniently adapted for compatibility when used with Micro Four Thirds mount. I have not personally tried the lens myself, and I am as curious as everyone else on how the Sigma 16mm performs. If only I could get my hands on one.

So what do we do after the usual street shooting session? For me, I always end my shutter therapy with a cup of overpriced coffee. And sometimes that comes with some ridiculously “hipster”-ised food. This also gave me a chance to continue shooting with the lens, doing what most normal people do these day (at least this is rampant here in Asia), shooting our food before we eat. So here are some more image samples from the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO lens, non-street shots, but mostly close ups, further exploring that feathered bokeh Olympus is so proud of.

F3.2, 1/50, ISO200

F8, 1/15, ISO500, the 17mm F1.2 PRO lens has decent close up shooting capabilities

F1.2, 1/400, ISO200, the F1.2 was useful in this situation to isolate the subject, placed against an otherwise messy background

F5.6, 1/125, ISO200

 Bokeh comparison, from F1.2, F1.8, F2.8 to F4. Kindly take note that the F4 bokeh shape is not fully circular anymore.

F1.2, 1/40, ISO200, all it takes sometimes, is a cup of good coffee to pick me up.

I hope this extension to the original review of the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO lens has been useful.

I do have a an interesting list of cameras and lenses to review early this year, and I am excited to go out and shoot and share these images here with you beautiful people!

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. If you had to pick just one of the f1.2 Olympus offerings, which would you pick? I ran a search in Lightroom and found that I had used all 3 focal lengths a broadly similar amount, so I am slightly stuck deciding which to get first…!

  2. oh and Robin the overhead shot of the clouds and bird….the seperation in the greys and whites in the clouds is incredible! Bruce

  3. Hi Robin,
    The first image on this update, of the blurred girl in the cafe took my breath away. I don’t mean from an artistic point (though it is lovely that way) but from the optical perspective. I’ve owned and used for many years the Leitz Wetzlar 35mm f2 summicron (which I later sold along with my M4) and your image from this Oly 17 F1.2 may even surpass the feeling I used to get from my pictures with
    the summicron.
    Cheers from British Columbia and a belated Happy New Year

  4. Robin, the first image in this new post, (server in the bar) is just crazy good. I think the reason I like good photography is that in just one image, a good photographer, can tell a brilliant story. You did just that with this image. Well Done!!

    The movement, the color, the inattentive bar tender, all make this one of your best images that I’ve seen. I don’t care for “street photography” but this image goes beyond that.

    I could really like that lens, if I needed f1.2 on a 35mm (equiv) lens.

    Rick

  5. maryjbriseno says:

    Hi, Robin! Wish I could be there while taking these amazing photographs. Great job!

  6. I wish there were side-by-side shots taken with both lenses so we can see how f/1.2 lens renders realistic and natural looking results compared to the unnatural and unrealistic results of the f/1.8 lens.

    • As I mentioned in my mail underneath you wil find them at mirrorlesscomparisons.com. The 17mm lenses and also the 15mm Panasonic and the 16mm Sigma. https://mirrorlesscomparison.com/micro-four-thirds-lenses/olympus-17mm-1-2-pro-vs-17mm-1-8/

      • Following Kruit’s link, I think the f/1.2 lens has slightly better bokeh (even when the f/1.2 lens is stopped down to f/1.8): it’s a little bit smoother, a little bit less green fringing. But otherwise nothing about the images from the f/1.8 lens screams out “unnatural!” or “unrealistic!”

        • Robin Wong says:

          Feel free to make your own conclusions. I have said, this review is subjective. If you love your 17mm F1.8 so much, then stay with it. It is not the end of the world. I stand by my claim that the 17m F1.2 renders images that look more realistic and natural, in comparison to the 17mm F1.8. Feel free to make your own judgment.

  7. There are comparisons of the 17mm f/1.8 and f/1.2 at mirrorlesscomparisons.com. And another one of the 45mm f/1.8 and f/1.2. Plus many many more. In the case of the 17mm and 45mm lenses the bigger and more expensive lenses win at the wide apertures. Stopping down makes the differences practically invisible.

  8. Hey,
    Great pictures as always, but a second one is an amazing colors celebration. Wow.

  9. Excellent addition Robin. The food pictures are excellent and I really like the 2nd picture of the restaurant bar. I’ve seen some reviews you’ve done in the past where you went out at night so that may have presented more situations for the faster optics. It would also be interesting to know how the AF works in low light/low contrast scenes.

    You mentioned you have a list of thing to review. Any hints as to what they may be?

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks. I did want to bring the lens out to shoot at night, but I have been having shoots/engagements at night that I did not have the time to properly test out the camera. Will certainly do so when I can, if I get the lens again.

      The gear in review, I am now shooting for it. Will be posting about it very, very soon!

  10. Great shots from a lively environs. I really love them – but as you mentioned: there’s no need to carry a f1.2 lens for street foto.
    Another thing you mentioned made me smile: “Lighting is crucial for all photography and with cloudy weather I would have had flat, uninteresting and dull looking images” … as you certainly experienced from your travelling we do have such a weather pretty often in central Europe (and in Winter season most of the time), hence it is really challenging to come up with proper images from an environs which is not that colorful than yours … 🙂

    All the best for you – happy shooting and looking so much forward to every new post on your website.

    Rue

    • Robin Wong says:

      I am glad I am not the only one facing the problem with weather! It gets so frustrating when I do not have nice light to work with!

  11. Wonderful shots and such a beautiful lens.

    I personally think that the lens is too big for street photography and makes the camera looks “too serious”, which sometimes, is a disadvantages on the street. That being said, the weatherproof construction is tempting as I can shoot under the rain if I use my EM1mk1.

  12. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    The lens performs extraordinarily well – it would be interesting to see how DxO rates it – and it does this over a wide range of different subjects.
    I note your comments on Bokeh at F4 – It’s of no real consequence, Bokeh is commonly NOT “circular”, and anyway in this case it’s so close it scarcely can be an “issue”.
    I’m not so sure about “shooting” cats – oh – you mean photographing! The enlargement shows that the image has outstanding clarity & sharpness!
    And finally a cup of coffee – – that was very thoughtful of you, Robin 🙂

    • Robin Wong says:

      I would love to see what DxO results will be too. About the circular bokeh, yeah not a big deal, just for some people who actually ask about the shape of the bokeh ball and how it changes as the aperture narrows in.
      Of course I end every session of shutter therapy with coffee!

    • 400bora@gmail.com says:

      RE:”it would be interesting to see how DxO rates it” DXO doesn’t care about lens properties. All they do is giving their subjective marks for the lens/sensor combo. If you want real rates go photozone.de instead of DXO santas.
      Also this review as well as previous one and 25 1.2 review is constant moaning about unfamiliar focal length and insufficient subject insulation. 1st I’ve seen lots body length portraits with enough background separation even with 17 mm and 2d I’m pretty sure if Olympus come up with big 0.9F lens you will be moaning about lens size going agains m4/3 philosophy.
      I know what are you doing men, and you late reviews lot of nonsense, go work for DXO

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  1. […] A blog post by Robin Wong reviewing the new Olympus 17mm f/1.2 lens states that the f/1.2 lens “manages to render realistic and natural looking results, something I feel is a step up from the older Olympus 17mm f1.8 lens.” […]

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