Jan 272013
 

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The Olympus 17 1.8 Lens Review by Steve Huff

Another home run for Olympus with their 35mm equivalent lens

Hello again to all! It is time once again for me to sit down and write for a few hours as I tell you all about my experience with the Olympus 17 1.8 Lens for the Micro 4/3 system. Once the news hit about this lens I knew I had to try it as this gives us a 35mm equivalent when shooting our beloved Micro 4/3 cameras and let me tell you…it is a PERFECT everyday mate for  the OM-D E-M5.

I have been shooting with the OM-D and 17 along with the Fuji X-E1 and Sony RX1 and getting out and taking photos, not test charts which reminds me of a time about 4 years ago now when I started this site. When I wrote my very 1st review on the Leica M8 I called it a “Real World” review because at that time there were ZERO websites reviewing cameras in a real world way, meaning, using them for what they were designed for..taking photos. Other sites did massive pixel peeping tests and other tests which never meant squat to anyone who really used the camera for what they were designed for. So when I started writing reviews based on the shooting experience, the feeling and real image quality results I was ridiculed and laughed at by many. But here we are in 2013 and the majority of review sites have gone “real world” which I think is FANTASTIC as it tells more about a camera or lens than any scientific tests do.

As for me, I still do things the way I always have and when I use a new camera, a new lens or a new photographic product I actually use it and if I have an issue with it I say so. If it is amazing I say so. I also show the results to back up what I say and I try my best to let you guys know how it is to use the product. I use it just as you would. I unbox it, charge the battery and get out and shoot.

This new Olympus lens is a beauty and when I say it is a perfect mate on the E-M5, I mean it. If you love the 35mm field of view then you will ADORE this lens on your E-M5. Trust me.

The OM-D E-M5 with the 17 1.8 at f/1.8 – WIDE OPEN – Click image for larger 1800 pixel wide version to see the real deal

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Olympus has been the only company that has TRULY been ROCKING IT non stop in the mirrorless world with one solid release after another. The E-M5 is my runner-up for camera of the year 2012 and it is still one hell of a camera that can give you beautiful results and when paired with this new 17 1.8 the AF is just about instant. It focused about twice as fast as the Fuji X-E1 and 35 1.4 (this is fact) and just like my RX1, nailed it every time.

Olympus, IMO, makes the best Micro 4/3 lenses available. The 12 f/2 is beautiful, the 17 1.8 is gorgeous, the 45 1.8 is magical and the 75 1.8 is a masterpiece for mirrorless. I also can not forget the 60 Macro, which is the best Macro lens I have ever shot with. With that setup there is nothing else you would need for most photography and the beauty of it all is that this whole system is very compact while delivering top results.

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The Lens Arrives

When the 17 1.8 arrived I took it out of the box and smiled. It is SMALL, light, and at the same time, very well made. It reminds me most of the 12 f/2 with its snap manual focus feature where you pull back the focus ring to automatically turn on manual focus. This is a great feature and I love it with the 12mm.

I have to admit, I have not read even one review of this lens because I wanted it to be new and fresh and I wanted to experience it for myself without influence from others. I have had e-mails asking me if I had issues with the lens as others reported but I can happily say I have had NONE. This lens has been phenomenal on the OM-D E-M5 in my use with it but then again I do not critically pixel peep and look at every pixel of the photo at 100%. I look at the photo and if it is pleasing to my eye and if what was captured was what I envisioned then I am happy. I also love character in a lens and this lens has a beautiful character. Not to critically sharp and not overly smooth. It really does provide very pleasing results and reminds me a bit of the Leica 35 Summarit in the way it renders.

UPDATE October 2013: This lens is even better on the new E-M1 and E-P5!

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The lens is Sharp, has super fast AF, gives you beautiful Bokeh and a very nice “MOJO FILLED” character. Wide open and at f/2 the bokeh it produces is lovely and smooth. In that regard it almost reminds me of the “Bokeh King” Leica 35mm Summicron V4 which in reality does not have the smoothest bokeh wide open, but more so stopped down. The Olympus has pretty damn smooth Bokeh though, even when wide open.

Wide open Bokeh – click for larger

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Build, feel, speed – this baby is built for it all when used on the E-M5

When you buy a new lens, especially one coming in at $499 like this one you expect it to be solid, perform well and focus fast and accurately. Well have no worries here because this lens is pretty slick and feels much like the 12mm f/2, focuses lightening fast and is accurate 99% of the time. I only use the center focus point on the E-M5 and it never seems to fail me.

The feel is nice. It is small, and the manual focus ring is smooth. Again, if you have tried out the 12mm f/2 then this is the same. For me, the $499 price is about right for a lens of this quality.

The next two these shots were taken WIDE OPEN at f/1.8 – click for larger views

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Is the Olympus E-M5 still a wise choice in 2013? What about the Fuji X-E1?

I get this question quite often. I see so many people who are buying a new camera and they are stuck between the E-M5, Fuji X-E1 and a NEX-6 or 7. Well, those are all good choices and any will give you nice results but I look at the lenses as the future of any system and I also look at “usability” as that is also very important. Look at Leica, they are known worldwide for  their amazing glass and it is those lenses  that make the magic with their cameras which happen to be the king of amazing “usability”.

To me, Micro 4/3 has some of the best glass in the whole mirrorless world, and the E-M5 is slick as hell in the usability dept. Sony is also kicking some serious tail but they are lacking with good glass for the NEX system and to date they really only have ONE super fantastic offering for the NEX system, the Zeiss 24 1.8. The others are good but not “special”. The premium Olympus primes are all pretty special IMO.

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Fuji X has a couple of good lenses and their 35 1.4 can be spectacular, in good light and when it focuses correctly. I took the X-E1 with the 35 1.4 to the same event and again the Fuji left me frustrated and I missed so many shots due to the AF missing the focus point. When the Fuji is indoor in lower light or funky light the results are not usually very pleasing as the AF is slow and the AWB is not up there with the best. It throws out funky color casts if you are in some indoor low lighting. I am hoping and have faith that the X100s delivers on speed and accuracy (and I think it will) and improved AWB. I feel the X bodies are more like beta models being tested by those who buy them. No offense to whoever owns them and loves them, and MANY of you do, it is just not working for me as they are much to quirky and for my tastes, there are better options out there right now in my opinion.

I can say the X-E1 and 35 1.4 taken out in good light or sunlight or studio light will reward you with a super nice image that draws you in to it with nice depth and colors. But side by side indoors low light other cameras do much better. I know, I shot them all.

So for me, I would take the E-M5 and 17 1.8 or 25 1.4 over the X-E1 and 35 1.4. I just do not get along with the Fuji X bodies. The images I get from the E-M5 are more to my liking, and the best part is, I do not miss shots due to slow or dodgy AF. I would also choose it over a NEX right now just due to the masterpiece lenses available for the Micro 4/3 system. The 12mm, the 45 1.8, the 75 1.8 and the 25 1.4 from Panasonic.

Again, I just write what I feel from MY experience and I am always 100% honest about my experiences. The OM-D E-M5 can give you back very rich and glassy images :)

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The BIG question: This lens or the Panasonic 20 1.7/25 1.4?

Anyone who has shot Micro 4/3 is very aware of the superb 20 1.7 lens from Panasonic, which I have always loved. It has always been the go to lens for many M4/3 shooters and for good reason. It is priced well and delivered the IQ every time. It was the 1st fast prime lens for M4/3 and was a HUGE seller back a few years ago. Today we have so many more choices and even the newer Panasonic 25 1.4 which I LOVE. But if you do not own either of these and you are looking for a fast lens for your E-M5 I would not hesitate to recommend the 17 1.8 or 25 1.4 (if you want a 50mm equivalent). For me, it is the perfect fit for the E-M5. The build, feel, manual focus and AF speed beat out the other two. AF speed especially. The two Panasonic’s will not AF as fast as this Olympus if shot on an OM-D.

As for IQ..the Panasonic 20 1.7 will give you a cooler color cast and the Olympus a warmer one. The Olympus is a little more “organic” in its rendering (this is good) and the Panasonic a little teeny bit “flatter”. Both are pin sharp and my version of the Olympus is VERY sharp just like the other Olympus premium offerings but the Panasonic 20 may be a tad sharper if clinical is more to your liking. The 25 1.4 is superb and the best of the lot in IQ but is larger and slower in operation and is a 50mm equivalent not a 35.

The 17 1.8 lens is very good when it comes to CA. As for vignetting, when wide open it is mild but not an issue to me. If I am shooting a landscape I would stop it down. By f/2 you do not really see any vignetting (see the shot below of the statue which was shot at f/2)

The 17 1.8 is $499 at Amazon or B&H Photo. The 20 1.7 is $349 at Amazon and the Panasonic 25 1.4 is  at $499.

For a 35mm equivalent my money would go to the Olympus 17 1.8 as I just adore all of these Olympus premium offerings and on the OM-D they work extremely well. With that said, the 20 1.7 and 25 1.4 are also super and you can not go wrong with any of them. It all comes down to what works FOR YOU. Hell, I even like the old 17 2.8 from Olympus even though it’s somewhat “soft”. I feel it has a pleasing rendering.

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A quick generic JPEG DOF comparison – Olympus vs Sony RX1

Just a quick JPEG comparison to show the difference between the OM-D with 17 1.8 at f/2 vs the RX1 at f/2 – both 35mm FOV but there will be a difference in DOF. You must click the images to see the larger and better versions of each. The Sony has a full frame sensor, the Olympus a Micro 4/3 sensor which is smaller than full frame or APS-C.

1st shot is with the E-M5 and 17 1.8 at  f/2. Very sharp but pleasing.

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The same shot taken with my main shooter, the full frame Sony RX1. The little Olympus has DOF differences but not bad at all! 

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While I prefer the RX1 version of this image the OM-D did not do too bad in comparison. I also shot this with the X-E1 using the manual focus SLR Magic 35 1.4 but it was not in focus due to my focusing error (or is it the lens)?

Olympus OM-D – f/2 – iso 320 – JPEG

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Detail/Sharpness

While this lens is not as razor-sharp when wide open as the 75 1.8 or even the Panasonic 20 1.7, it is still sharp. You can click the image below for a full size from RAW image. Focus was on the statue.

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and one more snapshot at 1.8

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What I do not like about the 17 1.8 lens

I sat here and thought about it and at the end of the day this lens gave me no issues, was plenty sharp enough, was very good for portraits or available light scenes and was a very well made and performing lens. I am aware some think that this lens is not as good as the other Olympus offerings but in my experience, it absolutely is. It may not be a perfect as the 75 1.8 but it is damn good, and would be my pick for this focal length on the OM-D E-M5. But there is one thing I wish Olympus would do, and that is to include a lens hood in the box. Instead it is a $80 accessory and this is kind of ridiculous (as is the Sony $180 lens hood for  the RX1).

That is really my only complaint about the 17 1.8 lens. That and it should be weather sealed since the E-M5 is.

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My final conclusion on the Olympus 17 1.8 Lens

This one is easy. This lens has the build, the speed, the feel, the looks, the design and the performance in IQ that makes it a no brainer for your Olympus Micro 4/3 camera (especially the E-M5). If you shoot a Panasonic camera I can not say how the lens does as I did not test it on a Panasonic body but on the E-M5 it rocks just as much as their other premium lenses.

You will get less “pop” when compared to an APS-C or full frame sensor when it comes to shallow DOF but there is plenty of shallow DOF to be had with this guy. I can not imagine anyone being disappointed with the lens. Some may crave more shallow DOF because with this lens you are getting the Depth of Field of a 17mm lens, as that is what it is. The wider angle the lens the more DOF you will get (less shallow) so you are not going to get the blurred backgrounds of a true 35 f.2 lens like one would get on the Sony RX1. Even so, for Micro 4/3 this lens is pretty damn sweet. I love it.

It may not be critically sharp corner to corner but it doesn’t need to be as it is sharp enough for any photo you may need to take and it has the character that will please you when you actually use it for photo taking :)

Another bravo to Olympus. Just makes me wonder what is to come next from them.

You can buy this lens at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo.

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UPDATE: OK, so I read a review or two after I finished writing my own and came across one that sort of trashed the lens but then again, it was from a site that is more scientific and technical, which really does not tell you much about using it for real photos in the correct way. If I did not own the RX1 I would buy this lens in a nanosecond for the E-M5 and that is a fact but the RX1 is taking care of my 35mm needs just fine :)

Again, compared to the 20 1.7 this lens is faster to AF, has better build, warmer color compared to cool color and has features such as the pull back MF implementation and all of the correction on the Olympus bodies. For $150 more than the Panasonic you get this plus a little more “mojo”. If it is just sharpness you are after get the Panasonic as it is a little sharper of a lens.

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  145 Responses to “The Olympus 17 1.8 Lens Review on the E-M5 by Steve Huff”

  1. Thanks for the review, On the net I read some different reviews about this lens. Some say that it isn’t sharp but when I see your pictures?
    Maybe it’s the photographer behind it…….or some bad examples.

    Thanks again
    Bernd

    • Oh, just a question, do you make a Youtube review about this 17mm? maybe a compare between this and the 25mm 1.4?

    • Unfortunately, it’s not the photographer or a bad sample this time. The Olympus 17mm f/1.8 really is soft. The Panasonic 20mm is not just a little sharper, it’s much sharper and the difference is noticeable too. The Olympus has much faster autofocus and better build. Looking at the price tag, I expected a lot more from this new Olympus. Its one of the weaker primes, like the 17mm f/2.8 and I would not recommend it, unless you absolutely need the 35mm field of view.

      • Not as sharp doesn’t mean it isn’t sharp. What is sharp enough for you?

        • the problem with ‘sharpness’ comes down to:
          - wide angle (wider than Panasonic)
          - distortion – which is quite serious with this lens (more than Panasonic and probably highest in m43 world)

          You can imagine it in your head what is happening when the distorted image is being corrected by software to produce resulting rectilinear photo – obviously the center is getting better and the edges becoming softer as they are being stretched.
          IMO this is the primary reason for lens being soft – would welcome uncorrected images (LR correct it automatically but there are RAW convertors where you can switch it off or they aren’t doing any correction) to see if it is the glass or the ‘repairing issue’.

          • If you care that much about what software is doing in the firmware level, then mirrorless systems aren’t for you.

            • If you don’t care what the software is doing at the firmware level, the digital photography isn’t for you dav1dz. People in the Fuji X camp are always excited about new firmware coming all the time to improve their experience.

              IT’S A GOOD THING!

      • Well, only slightly stopped down my sample of the 17/1.8 isn’t any softer than my 20/1.7. Wide open the Oly is softer on the edges, i agree. Just ask yourself if this actually is of any concern to you – are your edges used wide open usually in the focal plane? – and decide based on that.
        A lens definitely isn’t only about sharpness anyway. I prefer the general rendering, contrast, bokeh, colors, lack of CAs etc. of the 17/1.8 compared to the 20/.17. Regarding handling, build quality and responsiveness (AF+MF) it’s also way ahead.
        Pretty much the only real strength I see in the 20/1.7 is the even smaller size, thats quite nice.

      • Then how do you explain the lovely sharp pictures on Robin Wong’s Shutter therapy site Pangagi Salawat? and the images on Ming Thein’s site?

      • I agree with you Salawat, that the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 is a weak performer when it comes to image quality. Autofocus however is very fast. I still prefer the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 for the slightly different focal length and the excellent detail and contrast it delivers. The mark II should be even slightly better.

    • I stand corrected. After trying another sample of the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 I think this lens definitively nicer then the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7. I think it was sample variation. The one I have now is beautifully sharp wide open and it only gets better stopping down. I agree with Steve on the ‘organic rendering of this lens. It looks much nicer then the Panasonic. Not so harsh. The bokeh is better too. I never thought that sample variation could be that dramatic. My first one was a silver one of about a year old. The one I have now is black and I bought it a week ago. The silver one was noticeably softer toward the edges of the photo. Only a small center portion was acceptably sharp and sharpness quickly declined. So, do try out another sample if yours isn’t sharp enough wide open. This really is a good lens.

  2. Good to hear that Olympus got this lens right (for the most part) as it is my favorite focal length. I do see some CA in the wide-open statue photo, but the rest of the photos look really good.

    • “Not to critically sharp and not overly smooth”. In other words; slightly soft with mediocre bokeh. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand what you mean by “character” and “organic”. But I don’t think that these two should come at the expense of sharpness, contrast and bokeh. The 75mm f/1.8 has character too. I think Olympus put a somewhat disappointing lens on the market with this 17mm f/1.8. Cheapish optics in a premium housing. Both the 12mm and the 45mm are better lenses.

  3. Great review, and coupled with some really nice photos. Actually, many people were ranting about this lens, comparing it to Panasonic 20mm and pointing their finger towards it’s silver color (?!..) and price.
    Well, I’m a happy owner of Voigtländer 17.5mm, but despite this I bought also this last Olympus glass, and right now I’m enjoining it in Venice. I fully agree with your real world review. Keep up the good work Steve!

    • Fantastic review. Thanks Steve! I was also skeptical a bit about this lens, after reeding the pixel peeping reviews. However, Robin Wong was praising the lens in a real world review! Really reassuring to see that your experience is the same!

      One question to you Steve and to Marco. If money and manual focus not an issue, which one would you pick from the Oly 17/f1.8 compared to the Voigt 17.5 f/0.95? (I understand if you are really into the 35mm field, you may pick both for different reasons :) but if you were to pick one?)
      Thanks!

      • Yea, I love Robins site, one of my faves for Olympus reviews by far. Why? Because he uses the lenses how they should be and he is a super great guy, doesn’t have a big head or know it all attitude, which is awesome. Just a real guy taking real photos with the gear we all wonder about. Highly recommend his blog to others.

      • Hi! Well, for me the choice is Voigtländer: first of all I really love taking photos at night (I live not far from Venice), and even at f0.95 the lens is surprisingly sharp, in dim light. On sunny days its thin DOF is good for some artistic photos, but the lens gets sharp from corner to corner from f2.8. If you’re an OMD Em5 owner then I suggest you to add the grip, the lens is quite heavy, compared to m43 standards (as Steve wrote, Oly 17mm is similar to 12mm, just a little smaller) and a better grip helps. Quality build is really really good, and there’s A LOT of glass in it. I love the manual focus feeling, but if you plan to use it wide opened, there’s the risk to miss a shot, if you’re not quick to “catch the moment”. That’s why I bought also this Zuiko lens: because sometimes I feel lazy and I’d like to point and shoot. Having said so, Robing Wong helped me to buy this lens with his review. 35mm is a standard I like, and I think I’ll go for the incoming Fuji x100s (I’d like to see a “full frame” Olympus, with a Sony sensor and a Zuiko fixed lens, something similar to Sony RX1, but I’m just dreaming).

  4. nice review Steve, 35mm’s not my favourite focal length but I’m very impressed with these sample shots, I may have to reconsider:)

  5. Have used it for a few weeks now and I totally agree ! As I agree on the OM-D. Best camera system ever, to my tastes, paired with 12, 17, 35, 45 and 75 primes and the incredibly versatile grip.

    All comes at a price, but the usability/desirability/portability/IQ/price ratio is hard to match, by any system I know (have used Nikon and Pentax DSLR’s, Fuji X100 & X-Pro 1 extensively and this baby matches or beats them hands down on all fronts…). The Nex system is not sexy at all and the RX-1 way too expensive, regarding the lack of VF and fixed lens cam.

    The X100s might be a contender on the 35mm front, but that’s about it.

    OM-D and Oly/Leica primes rock. Period.

    Best regards,
    w.

    • Great reviwew as always, Steve! William, I like your comments too, as I was strongly considering the OM-D as my “Travel” kit, but then read about the Fuji X100S. With the new sensor, processor, and HT-EBC coating on that great 23mm fixed lens, I wonder if its IQ will beat all the cameras you mention, including the OM-D and Pentax (I use the Pentax K-5 now.). I’m all about shaprness and detail in large prints (20×24 and up), which is the only thing that makes me pause about the smaller 4/3 sensor of the OM-D. I realize that prints up to about 11×14 from any of these cameras (all else being equal) would look very much alike. But it’s the larger prints that make me hold out for thest results of the upcoming Fuji X100S, which I’m assuming and hoping will be superb. If not, then I may seriously contemplate the OM-D once again!

    • The EM-5 is an incredibly good camera. But now the E-PL5 and E-PM2 are out, I think these are the best little camera’s your money can buy. The E-PM2 being the most interesting. The same stunning image quality as the EM-5 in an even smaller EM lighter package. Slap a Panasonic 14 or 20mm lens on it, keep the Olympus 45mm close by and you have a killer travel set. Personally I’m not interested in the Fuji X100(s) simply because of the fixed lens. Your stuck with it for ever. If you need something else, you have to bring another camera anyway. I guess that would be a micro 4/3 camera if you like to keep it small and light.

  6. Another awesome review with some great photos to go with them. I love your style and the way you make a lens review a great read! I personally choose fuji (went with xpro1) because of usability and fun. Looking and holding it inspires me to get out and shoot, which was why I bought it. I have learned to work around quirks with no problems. I even get great results when photographing my children.

  7. “I would also choose it over a NEX right now just due to the masterpiece lenses available for the Micro 4/3 system.”
    What if you’re just using 1 lens, primarily . . . do you take the NEX 6 (or 7 or 5N) with the Zeiss 24 OR the OMD E-M5 and the 17/1.8? Personally, I like the Zeiss 24 and ended up sending back my RX1 to stick with my 5N and Zeiss 24 (RX1 was better, but not enough for me to justify the price difference), but I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the ZA24 versus the 17/1.8 with their respective cameras.

  8. Your decription of the Fuji X-systems reminds me of my time with the Leica M9. I couldn’t get anything in focus… My two favorite lenses have been the PL 25mm f1.4 and the Nikkor 60mm AF-S micro. Since I just got into M43 again after buying my first Olympus camera (E-M5) I will be on the lookout for this lens when it arrives in the stores here.

  9. I can’t say anything about the Olympus but since I use the X100 as my only photographic tool, I have to say I agree with you, Steve, 100%. It’s auto-focus is a bit frustrating. I am sooooo looking forward to the X100S and its phase detection auto-focus. Hopefully this will make the X100 the masterpiece it should have been.

  10. I got this lens a few days ago. I completely agree with you. It is an excellent lens. It is perfect for my needs. I love that at f/1.8 I can take handheld interior shots at night with just the regular house lights (no flash) while keeping a low ISO. A dark restaurant or club may be trickier, but I have yet to try it.

    My only complaint is that snapping back the manual focus ring disables the camera’s Manual Focus Assist feature. If you want magnification in this mode, you have to turn it on with a function button.
    Sure, if you’re using the distance scale/DOF scale, you don’t need MF Assist, but I think the ring could have been a nice way to switch to/from manual without having to use S-AF+MF.

  11. cool review, thank you.

    one question though: what do you think about the angle of view difference to the 20? I think I would be happy with the iq of this lens (I think it could be better but it doesn’t have to be) but I wonder if I would like the difference in the angle of view. I’ve really started to like the 40mm equivalent of the 20. It feels very much like the perfect compromise between 35 and 50mm (equivalent).

    what do you think? (no I don’t want to carry the 17 and the 25 (ok I don’t mind the actual carrying but the changing would bother me)

  12. Really MEANINGFUL review!!!
    When I saw that OLY was coming out with this 17mm lens, my plan was to sell my Pany 20mm f/1.7 because of the slow focus and I own the Pany 25mm f/1.4 which is very close to the perspective…
    I own the Oly 12mm, 45mm and 75mm and I figured the new 17mm would be a great lens to even out kit perspectivewise and give me faster focusing. …But then I read the initial (pixel-peeper) reviews and they gave me misgivings because the lens was just not getting the praise that all the other Oly higher-grade prime lenses did.
    Steve’s review has me rethinking my assessment and smack me on the side of the head to take me (a little) out of pixel-peeper mode. THANKS.
    I also really agree with your overview of the mirrorless camera frontier. I made my choices for all of the reasons that you describe…and IMHO you are spot-on in your assessments. The other systems are too limiting if you are an experience photographer.
    My perspective:
    I own a 5DIII complete kit with killer glass.
    I also own an extensive MFT kit with a GX1 and OMD.
    I got into the MFT to have smaller, funner (is that a word? LOL) cameras that would give me great image quality. The MFT “system” delivers. I take the GX1 when I need something small to carry…with the 14mm on there is is tiny even with the VF. That being said, as Steve says here…the OMD has got the better Sony sensor…it just has better ISO and just a warmer better look right out of the camera. Plus the OMD is a lot more camera, in general..and costs a lot more. Both are great cameras…but I would take the GX1′s menu system, touch screen interface and buttons over the OMD any day of the week.

    MFT is a great way to go…and it is so much fun with a LOT of options for quality lenses. It really allows you to enjoy your picture taking and is getting better and better as this 17mm lens release shows.

    Again…great review!!!!!! (I think eBay may have another 20mm f/1.7 up for auction soon!).

  13. Love your real world reviews Steve!

    I never realized when I was getting so much CA with the 25/1.4. My 25 is going up on eBay and I’m ordering the 17. I prefer 35mm equiv anyhow.

    • Victor, I have both and can say that the 25 has MUCH less CA than the 17. 17 has all kinds of CA (laterar and longitudinal, purple, green blue, red, cyan, pink, you name it) in an amount never previously seen in any of my lenses including zooms. Just my observation. Despite it I agree with Steve that this lens, just as the 25, has some character and mojo. In any case, I would not say it is a no brainer. Jarda

      • The camera corrects for any CA with the 17 1.8 and if you shoot RAW it can be corrected easily in RAW. Basically you never see CA with the 17 and will see some with the 20 and 25. ALL lenses on all digital cameras have it, even the $11k Leica Noctilux.

        • I do shoot raw so have been able to correct CA easily for the 25. Will the camera correct for it when using the 17 even when shooting raw?

        • Hey Steve, can you confirm this? I thought only Panasonic bodies corrects CA. Olympus bodies doesn’t correct CA for any lens?

          • AFAIK, Olympus corrects CA on Olympus lenses and Panasonic corrects CA on Panasonic lenses.

            • No, Panasonic corrects CAs for Panasonic lenses in the JPGs. Olympus doesn’t correct CAs at all.
              Lightroom can fix CAs with an import preset and you can fine tune afterwards.

        • I have two Olympus bodies (E-P3 and E-M5) + several Olympus and Panasonic lenses and I can confirm, that neither body does correct for CA on ANY lens. And with the 17 f/1.8 there allways are several (2-4) pixels wide rays of cyan, pink and red fringes in the JPG. And bokeh suffers from classical purple and green, but also blue and red fringes (cca 6 pixels). And not even Lightroom 4 can handle all of these CAs. Everytime there remains some and my goal is to decide which and where. And that is not all – the CA does not disappear by stopping down. I have to admit that I tested just one copy of this lens and it is possible that I have had a bad luck on a defective piece.

          • Wow, and I thought the Panasonic 20mm had bad CA. This Olympus does even worse. I don’t get it, why put all that effort and money in designing a new lens when it’s going to be an inferior one anyway? It doesn’t fit in with the rest of the premium primes. The fact that many reviewers feel the need to say a thousand times that the sharpness of the lens is not bad at all and that it has a lot of ‘character’ tells me that something is wrong with this lens. Tests like the one on dxomark confirm this. It’s not a ver good lens at all.

            • I have to disagree with you herr Klaus. The Olympus 17mm f/1.8 is an excellent lens that delivers outstanding image quality. You should really try it. Maybe something is wrong with your copy? It happened to me. My copy was really soft towards the edges of the frame. I tried another copy and this one is absolutely sharp enough for me, even wide open. And I can be a real pixel peeper.

  14. That is one sexy setup.

    I owned an EP-1 and took it travelling across Asia, they sure are great cameras.

    Here is one of my favs taken with the EP-1 http://500px.com/photo/2925052

    Thanks for the review Steve! I am now tempted to buy another PEN.

    Cheers

  15. I like this lens as well. In fact, there are cases where this combination provides a more pleasing result than my M9. I still like the simplicity of the Leica’s handing and in the majority of cases, the result. No doubt that this combination performs very well.

  16. Hi Steve, first I have to say that indeed this lens seems to rock. I also chose Fuji (the X-E1) and i will not say that it is better than the Oly, but believe me, i never miss à shot even in poor light condition with the 35mm.
    That said, your pics are great as usual and thanks for the way you test gear especially for non technical guys like me. Cheers.

    • Thanks for reading. I have to say I have had TWO X-Pro 1 bodies and TWO X-E1 bodies here and both give me AF issues when the light gets even a little low. If I did not have other cameras here to directly compare to I probably would never notice and just go on with it but when you do side by sides it becomes very clear. I know many love the their Fuji’s and I have seen some amazing images with it but for me and my tastes I prefer other cameras to the X bodies. I love the X100 though and am sure I will enjoy the new X100s. To me, the X100 is still the best Fuji available. ALso, with the 18 f/2 and 18-55 Zoom, the Fuji’s focus much faster than with the 35.I only have an issue with the AF of the 35..just to be clear.

      • I discovered early on that if my X100 was having trouble in low light to switch to AF-C. It really works. I have no problem with af unless really dark ( as I would with an SLR). The main slowness is waking the camera, but if you half press the shutter before you bring it to your eye it is awake by then. The real gripe is the suddenly dead battery. You must carry a spare and don’t expect more than 150 shots or a week out of your battery. The af problems with the 35 1.4 are obviously something different again. It is a shame that Fuji does not more fully test their product. They must be damaging their reputation. It seems the best Fujis are the fixed lens models (X100, X10 and XF-1)

        • I’ve read that using AF-C works with the X-E1 as well, here:

          http://www.fujixseries.com/discussion/3506/autofocus-how-fast-do-you-expect

          As it happens, I’ve just bought one, so I’ll give it a go tonight!

          • Sorry – should have clarified – I mean using AF-C but for single shot focus and recompose, instead of AF-S. The camera locks focus on a half press of the shutter button anyway.

          • Just did a quick (non-scientific!) test in my living room, lit by only one small desk light (its 12.20am here in the UK).

            I could find no discernible difference in focussing speed between manual, AF-S and AF-C in my Fuji X100. None at all.

            The XE-1 with 35/1.4 lens was exactly the same. The only difference with both cameras being if I let the lens linger on any spot it started to pre-focus before I hit the shutter, which obviously speeds things up, but this is not a fair indicator of how fast they can focus from a standing start.

            Interestingly, my OM-D (admittedly with the 45/1.8 lens; perhaps not totally comparable) was only fractionally faster, and I mean fractionally. However, the 12-50 kit zoom, set at 17mm, was definitely better – quicker and more reliable focus each time.

            So, I’m going to put the Fuji AF-C thing partly down to wishful thinking, though it’ll still be useful for indoor shooting. The OM-D is close enough to make no difference for me, at least with the 45 prime lens. I would like to try some other lenses with the OM-D, but basically I think Steve is correct about the focus speed of these cameras. When all’s said and done though, I prefer the Fuji XE-1!!

      • I’d agree with you that the 35f1.4 AF is a little disappointing especially compared to the Panny 25 f1.4. the 18f2 and the zoom are fine.

        Unlike you I much prefer the handling of the X-E1 to the E-M5 but it would be a dull world if we all liked the same thing.

        • The 35 does AMAZING outdoors in great light around f/2.8 – shot more with it yesterday outside and stopped the lens down some as it was too bright to shoot wide open. Lovely results. When shot indoor in low light the camera puts off this funky WB and this is where the lens has issues with AF (when compared to OM-D)

      • Dear Steve,

        We already know, one day it is Leica that is being hailed on your forum, the other day it is the OM D – it has become a very monotone song now. One of the reasons I’m less and less clicking on your url. Hard to understand why you are f.i. bashing Fujifim all the time. While the web is full of amazing X-trans results, reviews and confessions of true professionals, showing work that I could hardly observe from any other mirrorless camera system. Of course Fujifilm is from your point a view a competitor. I’ve a good friend who bought one day a shiny M9P – God, he was so disappointed, certainly when we started comparing 1 to 1 with my Fujifilm. Not one color picture was really good. With the Fujifilm,every shot was ‘snap on it’, sharp, the right light & color, the Leica wasn’t at all @ about 6x the money I had spend. I’m not going to say too much about the OM D, but this is a bit a ‘boy’s toy’, a travel camera for the guy with the expensive shoes that started hating to put a D4 in his luggage. I’m not seeing any serious photographer using it in a studio or on a professional mission. Unfortunately the X-Pro1 and his little brother have gone beyond any photographic frontier now. It is a tool, a photochemical factory in your hand when you know how to operate it. Noone has ever seen funky colors with the X-Pro1 (as I’ve seen with the M9P, by the way, as well as a very funky light behavior in… low light conditions). Please admit it now at last, put with no shame anymore ‘sponsored by Leica and Olympus’ in your banner and from now on we will believe anything you say.

        • You forgot “Sponsored by Sony” since I picked the RX1 as the camera of the year 2012, and “Sponsored by Barton Straps” because I said it was my fave strap, and we may as well add Fuji to that list as I adore and love the X100 and did so many follow ups to show that love it helped to sell a load of X100 cameras for Fuji – You might want to take Leica off as I was not super impressed by the D-Lux 6 :)

          What you say is absolutely ridiculous. I speak my mind and I am not worried at all about being “politically correct” – if a company releases a dodgy product I will say so, and state why I think it is dodgy. The Fuji cameras are fantastic. The 35 1.4 is slow and inaccurate for AF though in lower light. That has been my main message. Olympus OM-D focuses MUCH MUCH faster and with a higher hit rate than the Fuji X bodies. THAT IS A FACT. I speak the truth and will not sugar coat when a camera has issues.

          As for the OM-D being used by “Serious Photographers” there are LOADS of them using it. Wedding guys and studio guys that I know use it with amazing results. You obviously shoot Fuji and only Fuji so you are offended that I said the AF sucks in low light with the 35 1.4. Sorry to offend you but it is the truth.

          As for you saying I am Hailing Leica and then Olympus..well, I hail ANY camera from ANY manufacturer that is something worth “Hailing” about. Been doing it for over 4 years here. Hmmm. DP Review does the same on a weekly basis. That is what this site is all about…new camera gear, using that gear, results from that gear..and not only from ME but from the readers. I hailed the Leica M9 and MM as they deserved it. I hailed the OM-D as it deserved it. I hailed the RX1 but it deserved it. BTW, I am not the only one who hails the OM-D.

          My opinion? The X100 is the best Fuji to date and deserved all of the hype though it had its share of problems with the stick blade issue, just as Leica has a problem with cracked sensor glass (all talked about here). I expect the X100s to surpass the X100 and take the title of best Fuji X (for me):)

          • Steve – I think you need to get your full Fuji x-e1 review out soon, to end some of the strange comments. You cannot help liking what you like, and you give valid reasons to do so.

            • Not even sure I will be writing that review but will be putting up the SLR Magic 35 T 1.4 lens review with the X-E1. As for the Fuji X-E1, I think it is a good camera. It is the Fuji 35 1.4 lens that I have issues with, but always have from day one. it is just not the best with AF in speed or accuracy when the lights get low. Period. The camera itself, say with the 18-55, is great. Speedy, Fuji color, etc. Still overexposes like the other Fuji bodies do so you usually have to shoot with some exposure comp dialed in (not sure why Fuji have not fixed their metering yet since most X shooters have to dial in comp to get proper exposure). As for the comments, doesnt botehr me one bit nor will it stop me from speaking my mind. :)

        • I’ve owned every Fuji X camera except for the super zoom. I also own the OMD/EM5 and the M9. They all have their pros and cons. Why not enjoy what you have and not worry so much about someone else’s assessment of your camera? Why bash Steve’s opinion and accuse him of being in someone’s payroll? It’s quite insulting, and I’m glad that Steve handles situations like these better than me. That being said, Steve is right on about the AF shortcomings of the XP1/XE1/X100. In fact, it is precisely the reason why I no longer own the XP1 and XE1. I am eagerly waiting on the new improved AF systems of the X100S and X20. It may be a sign of things to come in the XP2 and XE2, assuming that it is indeed a big improvement over the present AF system.

        • Your ‘Boys Toy’ camera is giving me some of the best travel photos I’ve ever had in 40 years and is the only digital camera that has been good enough to match my film Leica for image quality from the lens system. And I don’t say that lightly. I’m not even an Olympus fanboy but I know a quality product when I see the results.
          You are wrong and that is why even pro shooters have adopted this camera.

        • During last Venice Movies Awards I was the only one carrying a “toy” on the red carpet: you can imagine pro photographers smiles. One of the elders asked me what kind of camera I was using: OMD Em5, and Zuiko75mm. He was truly impressed by OOC results. I was next to him when I took this photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcosartoriphoto/8293198393/in/photostream We were not on the red carpet, it’s a candid I took while mr. Dafoe was walking by. Taking photos on red carpet is easy, I prefer “stolen” portraits. My new friend was too slow in rising his DX1.

          • Hi Marco, your pictures on the Flickr link are really excellent !
            Although I do not wear expensive shoes and do not own a D4 as stated in a previous comment ;-), I love my little OMD. I use the 12, 25 and 45 mm lenses and I am strongly hesitating (GAS, you know…) for the 75 mm.

            Not sure though if its worth the money… I don’t mean quality wise, but frequency of usage… but oh so tempting…grrrrrrr

            • Try the ridiculously cheap Sigma 60mm f/2.8. It’s as sharp as the Oly 75mm (dxomark) and the focal lengths are very close. Oh, did I say it’s ridiculously affordable?

  17. You guy’s are amazing! Yours and Robin Wongs photo’s using your E-M5′s blow my mind, leaving my minds eye recoiling from the color attack on my cones and rods! You really have something special of a vision in finding these great images and then pulling everything these lenses have to offer out of them. The Oly premium primes are undoubtedly excellent mates for the E-M5′s ability to render out their distortions. Another wonderful review showing us all from your side of the viewfinder just how it can be done! Bravo!

  18. I still can’t quite get over how sharp this camera and its lenses can be. And those deep beautiful colors you have going here! It’s “just” m4/3! :) It’s truly a groundbreaking camera system. The OM-D was released as I had already decided for the X100, but if I had been making the decision today, I would very likely have gone with this system, and then not just to complement my old Nikon D90, but replace it altogether.

  19. I have been looking at the OMD for a while, waiting for a small prime weather sealed as the body.
    Is this lens weather sealed? I think not.It puzzles me that since OMD body is the smalls weather sealed alternative with this size sensor, that they dont issue more small weather sealed primes.
    The same puzzles me with Pentax also for that sake.
    At the time I shoot Pentax K-5iis(with WR and DA*)and DPM2(not weather sealed), both amazing cameras, but I would love a small weather resistant high quality camera. I used to have Contax T3 and Olympus mju when shooting film, and think there must be a marked for really small weather sealed cameras. Imagine if RX1 was that.
    Og course not everybody needs this, but for me it is important.

    • Nope, sadly it is not. Not sure why Oly only weather sealed the 12-50 and 60 Macro. Sort of odd but even shooting the combo in the rain yesterday did not hurt it at all. I think you would have to be in some pretty hard rain for it to effect the lens. Oly still should have weather sealed all of their premium primes.

      • Agreed. If only the 12-50 were sealed, you could easily think that weather sealing is a marketing gimmick rather than a serious design strategy. But I’m baffled as to why they drew the line at a kit lens and a macro, while leaving out the crowns on their optical achievements.

  20. I think one thing worth mentioning is that the 20mm 1.7 seems to incite banding in both the OMD and the E-PL5 at higher isos. This plus the sluggish and noisy af motor is enough to write off the Panasonic for me. If Panasonic updated the lens it would probably be a different story though!

    • FWIW I use the pair and find the 20 worth owning despite the niggles. Focusing is pretty quick, but not “real time” like, say, the wonderful Zuiko 45 and likewise, not as quiet. But It’s sharp enough wide open to be very adroit at isolating subjects with shallow DOFs in poor light (unlike, say, the 12-50 kit zoom).

      The last E-M firmware update seems to have altered, but not eliminated high-ISO banding with the 20. Capping it at 3200 minimizes it provided one doesn’t underexpose. I’ve seen it at ISO 2500 in underexposed shadows.

      All that said, I’d probably swap the 20 for the new 17 but don’t know if adding the 17 makes sense.

  21. From the review, I think you still don’t know how to make use of Fuji AF function. There is a quick and easy way to do AF if you find AF is not that good with your AF lens, turn the function to MF, there is an AE/AF button on top right, just press it, the camera can focus instantly, a lot quicker than using auto focus. Try it. even you are not using manual focus lenses. Why you do not have complaint on Leica manual focus in dim light ?

    • I am well aware on how to use the Fuji AF, just as you describe as well as just pressing all the way down skipping the AF confirm. Again, I am referring to the X-E1 with 35 1.4 ONLY. That lens is slow to AF and does indeed miss, just as the NEX-7 does with the 35 1.8 Sony lens. It’s a reality. As for Leica, I can focus an M9 much faster in low light manually than I can with a Fuji X and 35 1.4. Again, I speak of my experiences and I have had a total of 4 “X” bodies through this house. Two Pro 1′s and two X-E1′s. One from Lens rentals and one from B&H Photo new in box. When you compare the AF with the X and 35 1.4 to other camera such as the OM-D it is oh so clear. If you do not compare then you would not really know the difference but since I do, I notice it.

      Funny how the Fuji X (Body) cameras are the only cameras I have shot with that have given me issues and when I talk about it I get accused of not knowing what i am doing. I invite you to take a Fuji X and 35 1.4 along with an OM-D and 17 1.8 out for a stroll and shoot them side by side. Then you will understand what I am talking about. I am sure Fuji will rectify this as they have already done so with the X100s (or so it seems). I expect an X-Pro 2 soon with phase detect and finally fast and accurate AF in an X body.

      I bet we will then see current X owners talking about how much faster the new X is how it makes the old ones almost unbearable. ;)

      • I have both OMD and XE1. Simple answer is the 35 1.4 is a slow focusing lens. I also have the 1855 kit much faster in all light. The OMD is capable. Of great images but has pathetic battery life. I took omd and nex5n to Rome both cameras where dead by 5pm. For all the bs of how omd is light and great has anyone attached the extra battery and a zoom lens. Nkt that small and not that light. I keep reading how much smaller and lighter the OMD is then big ugly DSLR. Well took the 5D Mark iii to Lisbon for a week. It lasted 2 weeks on one battery. 24-105 is a big lens buts that’s all i needed 1 dslr and 1 lens mo additional accesories. No charger no 5lenses etc.

        the. Next trip to Lisbon took the omd and xe1. The OMD doesn’t focus using yjr Panasonic 100-300 in sunny daylight at 300mm. I actually captured a shot in low light with xe1 where the OMD failed.

        to conclude all 3 cameras are great all have strengths.but. No way in hell am i going to say if i have to keep one it will be OMD the weakest of all in low light.

        so choose a tool for how you take pictures and the scenarios. Not because you saw them on a site. As someone with severe GAS i tried many cameras and the XE1 whilst glawed ain’t shit and focuses 99% of the time.

        • You don’t NEED to attach the extra battery grip. Simply carry an extra battery and change it over like I do. Takes seconds. What’s the problem?
          Don’t use the IS system all the time when you don’t need it in bright light.

        • Well, small camera = small battery. That is the tradeoff.
          Also, an EVF needs juice.

          However, I’ve taken my OM-D on vacation several times, and taken hundreds of photos each day. All I do is pack an extra battery.

          • same here. I can take -/- 350 photo’s. I always take extra two charged batteries. (One should be enough, but “just in case”) No problem !

      • I have both the OM-D (with most of the primes) as well as the X-E1. The OM-D does put the X-E1 to shame in focus speed but the X-E1 consistently out preforms the OM-D in low light and its color rendering seems superior to me. I wish the OM-D was the Fuji’s equal in IQ as the Olympus 75mm and the rest are simply great… But there’s something special about the Fuji’s IQ. I’m sure the Sigma DP2 users feel the same. I like everything about the Olympus but when I shoot both cameras at the same event, it’s always the Fuji that stands out in iQ.

        I also often shoot multiple cameras at the same time… which usually enhances the shortcomings of each of them. I started appreciating the Fuji a lot more when I stopped switching back and forth and slowed down a little. Of course IQ is half technical and half personal taste.

        I basically grab the Olympus when I want the reach of the 75mm, otherwise it’s almost always the Fuji.

        • In response to the Fuji being slow:
          Change the AF to C, Set the AF to the smallest size, and the speed increases. An update is forthcoming also. Is the Fuji slower than the Olympus? Yes. Is the Fuji better in low light due to its much larger sensor? Yes. So, which do you want? I prefer the APS-C sensor. Love the Olympus lenses, but also love the Fuji lenses. And more Fuji lenses are coming out. So neither is perfect. But you have to ask which which is better for you? I personally don’t like the colors coming out of the Olympus as much as I like the Fuji.

  22. Hi Steve, thanks a lot for this post. I was really not sure if I should buy the newest Oly lens for two reasons. One was that I have been happy with the Sigma 19mm/2.8. The other was a very negative review at another site.

    I can’t think of a better two lens combo for walking around with on city streets than the 17/1.8 and 45/1.8. I switched to the 45mm seconds before running across the guy pictured in the link below, so I got a little more focus isolation than I would have with the shorter lens. Other than needing to push the exposure for low light, which I assume would result in less graininess using an RX1, I wouldn’t change a thing.

    Loved your photos of the folks at the comics convention – priceless.

  23. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for this review which I was really looking forward to, as few shots were available so far on the internet, and together with bad results in lab tests they were not really encouraging. This review changes this, and I am glad to see that Olympus did the missing lens in the lineup right.

    I changed from Olympus EP-1 to Fuji X pro last year, so I appreciate that you mention not only the Fuji AF issues (which persist even after FW2.1), but also color/WB problems with the 35mm fuji lens. So far, I did not read about this and thought it was my camera’s doom, but in low light, or if light is sparse, or against a white background, this blueish veil is a real, recurring issue, and I found no other solution than changing the lens to avoid this.

    About the AF: I know some people don’t have issues with this, so I guess it really depends on the type of pictures you take. During a recent trip to a snow-covered UK, I used both my old EP-1 (with 12mm and 17mm f2.8) and X-Pro (18mm + 35mm), and while I took some very satisfying interior images with the X-Pro, I missed about 70% of the outdoor shots due to the AF which is simply incapable to focus in a snowy landscape. A dark lake in the middle in the snow? The Fuji hunted for 20 seconds, and could not focus. The ducks taking off and flying away? The AF is “lost” if you shoot against a bright, white sky. My friend wore a black coat and in the middle of the snow the Fuji AF simply could not focus on her, no matter how many times I tried. Problem 2 : the white balance could not get the snow right (I compensated the exposure, as the metering was lost), on nearly all images the snow and sky are blueish (I used different exposure speeds of the same set).
    In the same situations, the Olympus EP-1 in Auto mode and A mode focused instantly, the white balance was generally right (the resolution of the EP-1 screen does not allow to actually get an idea of the result). With the 12mm, the Auto mode got everything right, in a click.

    Personally, this made me wonder : is it better to have a system that gives me a few stellar shots when I have time to compose and gives me so much frustration and resignation I sometimes don’t want to take the camera out anymore, or have a reliable system (and I know the OM-D’s IQ is superior to the first generation EP-1) that may not give me the DOF or color richness of FF or Fuji but allows me to capture what I want when I need, and the feeling I can rely on (and thus forget) my camera?

    So as well as the often inspiring images you share, the straightforwardness of your reviews is appreciated, as outside the “real world situations”, the issues some experience with the X-pro (and satisfaction I still get from my pen) don’t appear.

    • The Fuji sounds great on paper….but I decided to stay away from it because of limited lenses, less that top build quality and all the quirks that are constantly brought up on the web. You sound like you are being REALLY honest about the camera…even tho you own it. Others here who own it seem to be making excuses and work-arounds For what the camera fails to do.
      The OM-D performs very well. Creating images with it is a fluid experience.I can’t think of any situations where I was unhappy with the AF speed, start up times, or any of the basic function of the camera to capture the image I was after…the only thing that caused difficulty was pilot error, perhaps. LOL.
      Thanks for your informative post!

  24. Hi Steve,

    I have the pl 25mm and for the focal length and aperture it is a beautiful and sharp lens. What I don’t like is that the corners aren’t that sharp until f4-5.6. So when framing I’m stuck with the center frame of the photo with an aperture lower than f4.
    Is the 17mm from Olympus in that regard better, I.e. does it perform better wide open across the whole frame? If so I’m the 17 seems a better fit for me.

    Cheers!

    Robert

  25. Great review. I have been very happily using the panasonic 20, 1.7 and really enjoying it. it’s sharp and very responsive. Recently I set the OMD on MF only with the 20 and was very satisfied with the results. Reading your review and following your discussion of the Oly lens generally, I must set my sites on the 45 or the 75 (or both).

    Thanks for all you do with your work.

    • Oh yeah, one more thing: I like the black of the Panasonic lens. But the focal length of the Oly 17 is more flexible.

  26. Great review, thank you. I have no doubts that with Olympus micro four thirds (who invented this awkward name?) you have the best cost performance ratio. They are building incredible lenses and very nice cameras.

    My only concerns that keep me from buying into a 4/3 system ist the DOF issue. That´s why I was particularily interested in your comparison shot. I don’t want to nit-pick but the RX-1 shot looks a tiny bit wider than the Olympus shot. This is strange because the Olympus 17mm is effectively a 34mm lens while the Sony has a 35mm lens. So I would expect the Olympus to be a bit on the wider side and not the RX-1.

    Irrespectively, given that the 17mm f1.8 is effectively a 35mm f4 I´m really surprised how small the difference is.

  27. There is a lot to say and not to like about current Fuji X but to say that Fuji x system have some decent lenses is…I don’t how to say this because I don’t want to offend Steve cuz I respect him a lot..lets say that it’s unfair:) 35mm is slow to AF but can do some magic and its crazy sharp wide open(and I think that’s for we need fast lenses), new standard zoom 18-55 bright great quality zoom lens and( there is no such lens in any other mirror-less system) new release XF 14mm . There are all great and top quality lenses, not just decent lenses…end as you sad lenses doing magic this is one of the reasons why people love their x100, x-pro1 and x-e1:)
    I really like what Olympus and Panasonic doing with m43, already two times almost get my self in to this system and still thinking about getting e-m5 just for now I had great price on the x-e1 30% lower then street price so for now I will enjoy x-e1 with great great fuji lenses and will see if AF will kill it for me.

    Still love this site and Steve real world reviews:)

  28. Cool review!
    What do you think about 17 f1.8 vs 17 f2.8?
    Thank you!
    Giuseppe Cimini

  29. One lens that should not be neglected in the 17 to 20mm array is the Sigma 19mm 2.8. It is a wonderful lens and it gives astonishing results on the OM-D in terms of micro-contrast and color rendition. OK, it is a bit slow (well, as slow as an Elmarit though) but you can find it around 99$ right now, at that price everyone should try it ! And its longer (but smaller in size) sibling, the 30mm is also a gem.
    I’ll pass on the 17mm 1.8, I already have the Sigma 19mm and the Panasonic 20mm, so that’s more and enough lenses ! But I expect it to perform very well in real life, as your review shows.

  30. Your images here really impress with deep color and density as well as sharpness which make this lens very tempting even though I already own the 20mm f1.7. I will eventually probably get the 75mm for concerts and events, but on a daily basis I’m more of a wide angle shooter (24, 28, and 35 equivs.) and even 50mm eqiv. seems a bit long to me though I do love the images from the 25 f1.4. Thanks. Very helpful review. Love the OM-D and all those lenses.

  31. Wow! I was at that convention can’t believe I didn’t see you.

  32. probably would pass on this lens and stay on the all time reliable panny 20 f1.7… still waiting for the review of the slr magic 35 mm t1.4 and more of the t0.95 as an option for a new glass.

    • The 20 1.7 is great and if you own that lens, there really is no reason to buy the 17. The SLR Magic 35 T 1.4 review is coming but I have to say I am not super thrilled with it. It can be good but so far I can say it is soft wide open and is tricky to focus, especially wide open. By f/2 it is sharp and by 2.8 it is very sharp and easier to nail the focus. For $279 it is a very well made lens but Andrew told me it was made more for Bokeh smoothness than outright sharpness.

  33. Thanks for the review Steve. Your conclusion, whilst written more positively essentially says the same as the others on this lens. Its a good lens but the price is a bit steep. That said, its the best 35mm equiv lens that one can get on m43. I think I will be selling my 20mm f1.7 thank you – that’ll help me recoup the price if I make that decision.

    That said, I’d like to ask your views comparing the (no contest!) RX-1 and OMD with 17mm f1.8. Could you perhaps show a few shots of portraiture style images / flower shots comparing the DOF from the two cameras at widest aperture.

    My wife is salivating all over the RX-1 I let her touch in a SONY STYLE store (HK) and I now have the unenviable job of trying to convince her an OMD + this 17mm will do the trick (somewhat). Many thanks in advance!.

    • Well, if I do this I will be burned at the stake no matter what camera comes out ahead :) I can tell you with 100% confidence and truth that the RX1 sensor is much better than the Oly sensor. As good as the OM-D sensor is, the Sony RX1 sensor easily beats it for Dynamic Range, Color Depth, High ISO, Low light shooting. It loses to the OM-D for Af speed and video (OM-D video is really good, RX1 due to no real IS lacks unless using a tripod). The Sony will give you much more shallow depth of field if you want it but at the same time, the Olympus will give you just enough while keeping your subjects sharp. Shooting the Sony wide open can be a challenge sometimes with portraits (eyes in focus, nose not in focus). The RX1 is a delicious camera for IQ. The OM-D is faster, more versatile and is equally impressive in its own way. But for all out IQ, the Sony is the best IQ in any mirrorless camera PERIOD.

      $2799 vs $1600 – That is a $1200 price difference. So up to you!

  34. Once again and for reasons I can only guess at; one assumes: economy of scale, EU import taxes, poorly negotiated sales contracts, freight costs heading West from China are more expensive than those heading further East, Barrack Obama’s cool hair cut or pure and simple, daylight robbery profiteering from a cash-strapped Olympus (ergo the non-inclusion of a lens hood with any of this range of lenses) the price difference between the US and Europe of this lens grills my cheese like no-one’s business. Fellow followers of Steve’s excellent site in the US, sing The Star Spangled Banner this morning with extra zeal, for the cheapest I can get find this lens in Germany is for EUR 542,- or USD 728,-, whereas I see Popflash has it retailing at USD 498 and change. I should be in Davos right now with the mob protesting the cloak and dagger, smoke and mirrors nature of the WTO, IMF ec, etc. Jeez, we’re getting shafted over here – and for no good reason as far as I can make out. Right, now that, that’s out o my system back to the grindstone.

  35. hi! you are mentioning the “cooler” colours from the p20. I had the pl25 but sold it to get the p20. I thought the p25 gave to much red skin tones, and the p20 stays more true to the original.
    and considering the fov, for me 40mm is THE perfect view, i have sold all my lenses and stayed with this lovely 40mm. The 50mm with pl25 were always a little bit too tight for my taste.
    btw. thanks for this site! // Gus from sweden

  36. Hi Steve, thanks for another great review.
    I would really love if you could add a small water mark of a f stop and speed you used- on the photos you post in your reviews.
    that could help evaluate true potential of the gear you are writing about
    but again thanks a lot and keep up the good work you do
    I use your amazon links to buy stuff and will keep on doing this
    greetings from mexico / poland

    • Sorry about that. The EXIF is embedded on all photos. As long as you click them to get the larger version you can download them and view the EXIF. I will make a point to add the aperture to the photos from now on. Thanks for reading.

  37. Thank you for the review Steve. I have been waiting for an equivalent for the Zeiss Biogon 35 f2 that resides quasi permanently on my Leica M2. It looks like this might be it. I’ll start saving my pennies.

    Cheers.

  38. Great review. I’ve always loved Power Girl in the comics but seeing her in real life, too much for my eyes ;)

  39. Even though you don’t like the Fuji X series so far, thanks for giving them so much coverage! I will be keen to read your impression of the X-20 and X-100s.

  40. Thanks a lot for the review and the beautiful images. The 17/1.8 will replace my 20/1.7.

    :-) Sabine

  41. Thank you Steve! Thank you.

  42. I agree with you on all point and imo sharpness is overrated. It goes away with high ISO and when you print…MY primary reason for Panasonic 20mm (and yes, I’ve tried the Oly) and why I think it is better choice on my black OM-D:

    *compactness/weight
    *discreet (is black, small and people like to be photographed i.e. I’m not pointing ‘zoom’ at them)
    *doesn’t require hood to defend flares – my MAIN point
    it does require hood for contrast during sunny days but not against flares – in many occasions like indoors and bars with lots of light it is very resistant to flares due to great coating (I do get little speckles but that’s all)

    Olympus is:
    - you NEED a hood, thus you end up with even bigger kit (once again, Pana20mm doesn’t need one and hood is even stressing lens barrel thus focusing mechanism) as the flares are present, mostly in bars/concerts…I wonder you haven’t had one here. Lucky?
    - very shiny and revealing itself ‘Hey, you are being photographed’ with my big lens AND hood
    - prone to lighting and flares (again) – too bad, would hope for some premium coating

    If I feel I need such a BIG kit with me (stress on big as you said it is very small) with hood, I rather take Panasonic Leica 25mm F1.4. Is much better than Olympus, and you know it. Twice as sharp, twice as creamy, and can create bokeh much easier (34vs50mm) if you’re alright with its FOV (I am, keeps me at distance). The only cons is some serious vignetting.

    Again, I would probably consider Oly, but the need for the hood to defend it from the stray light killed it for me. The ‘walkabout’ lens should NEVER require one. The ‘secret’ beauty of Panasonic 20mm.

    P.S. Surprised that your Olympus version was VERY SHARP (your words), maybe ‘they’ selected the best piece. 90% of the reviews said it was soft as babies bum. Once again, I laugh from sharpness comparison. With 16MP to work with (I never crop you should not!) it isn’t as important as CA errors creeping in on my Pana in almost every shot :/

    P.P.S. which convertor did you use to for RAW->JPG? The LR4 is giving me ‘bland’ results on OM-D compared to yours, even with black/white point normalization and setting contrast +20. Thinking about Capture One 7 transition, heard/read a lot of good things.

    • This lens is very sharp indeed and no one chose it, I rented it from lensrentals. Olympus did not send me anything. Shot with it more today and found it to be sharp in almost any situation but not bitingly sharp. The 25 1.4 is sharper and yes more “creamy” do to being a 25mm vs 17 and a 1.4 vs 1.8. The 25 is a better lens but it’s a 50mm equiv instead of 35mm equiv. If you want a 35 this Oly is your only choice unless you go zoom. I used ACR to convert these, not lightroom (which I only use for my personal stuff).

      The rendering of this lens is smooth and like I said, has some Mojo. If perfection is what you are after the 20 or 25 will get you closer. But some prefer “mojo” and “character” over perfection. All up to what one wants in a lens. I dig it.

  43. Why not put the most recent comments at the top? Are the initial comments somehow more valid? Evolution of the conversation demands it! Sometimes I get very sleepy after scrolling my way down the comment waterfall. I’m not complaining in as much as I’m just saying it seems contrary to nature and against god and all that is good and righteous.

  44. Dear Steve thanks very much for the report.

    I was contemplating getting the voigtlander 17mm 0.95, but after your review of the olympus one I am having second thoughts.

    I know they are completely different lenses, but the mood in the images coming from the voigtlander as the dof, (which I am missing in my omd) are making me choose the voigtlander.

    Any comments regarding the voigtlander and this lense?

    Thanks!

    • Well the Voigtlander 17 is GORGEOUS!! Leica like in it’s feel and build but LARGE on the OM-D. Heavy as well. BUT for optical quality and IQ I would say the Voigtlander rocks it moreso than the Olympus. But it is 2X the cost, 3-4X the size and 4X the weight or more. Also it is MF only, so totally different. But the Voigtlander is beautiful.

      • I don’t know why you and 99% ppl are so mad about Voightlander 17.5mm version which I consider to be ‘nothing-to-talk-about’ lens.

        It’s definitely better than average 25mm version which is poor for its price, but even the 17.5mm is soft as babies bum wide open (even in center) and that is when you nailed the focus. When not – it’s citrus-in-your-eye picture. Sharpness won’t improve up until F4.0 (Panasonic 20mm will kill it at F2.8 onwards) voila… that’s why I bought F0.95 lens.
        Go for Olympus and gain AF as well.

        Bokeh is strange once aperture is stepped down, nice otherwise but I like the one on Olympus F1.8 75mm better so having a hard time finding it to be bokelicious king like written everywhere on the net. It does have strange color cast from time to time – google it yourself. All in all I like below review – it criticize the lens all the time to end it up like Steve – amazing lens. Trying not to laugh:
        http://zuikoholics.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/my-expression-voigtlander-17-5mm-f0-95/

        I know when I see quality glass (Leica Noctilux) but Voigtlander is overrated. Waiting how SLR version will turn out (with they poor quality control).

    • I agree with mr. Huff. If you check high above you’ll find my reply to the same question. I’m enjoining this Zuiko17mm but Voigtländer rocks.

  45. Great review – as always from Steve Huff – honest and straight talking, real-world examples.

    The OM-D has been a difficult one for me – great IQ and thoroughly well built – but unlike Steve I find the usability factor pretty low (due to its size/button layout) and the camera’s ‘nth degree’ configurability leaves me completely cold. To be fair, I have fairly big hands and I knew what I was getting into, but I am disappointed that the two-part grip hasn’t helped me much in this respect. I’ve owned the OM-D for 4 months now but I think its just not for me. A pity, as it has given me some lovely images.

    So, I’ve just bought an XE-1 with 18 & 35 lenses. I’m finding this much more usable, even with gloves on, despite it not being much larger than the OM-D. I’m happy to experiment to try and get the best results out of it. Its a camera that makes me want to take photographs.

    The experience has taught me two lessons. Firstly, that its difficult to judge a camera properly without owning one for a reasonable length of time. Sometimes you’ve just got to take a chance and see how it goes. Secondly, that great image quality, build quality and ultimate configurability all mean nothing if the camera just doesn’t fit the photographer.

    I’m quite sure you’ve said all this before, but now I actually understand!!

  46. I actually find the snap focus ring on the 12mm (same as the 17mm) a problem, I accidentally knock it on and off when pulling the camera out of my bag. My solution has been to put a rubber band around the lens to hold the snap focus ring forward.

  47. Steve, thanks for a very useful review. I have the 20/1.7 Panasonic lens now, but think I am going to have to go to the 17/1.8 OIympus because with the Panasonic lens I often encounter the “horizontal banding” issue (pattern like blurry TV scan lines in dark areas at high ISOs.)

    A remark: You mentioned some things Olympus could do to improve their lenses, and I’d like to mention my own suggestion: PUT “BUMPS” ON THEM! You know what I mean… Panasonic MFT lenses, Leica M lenses, Canon EOS lenses, etc., all have raised orientation “bumps” so you can align the lens to the camera by feel. Olympus uses painted-on dots that can’t be felt. This probably isn’t an issue for you, but I often take pictures in dark places (theaters) and it’s a real problem in that environment.

    I finally resorted to buying a box of hemispherical “craft dots” at a hobby store, and attaching one to each of my Olympus lenses with super glue! This solves the problem, but I really hate having to glue stuff onto expensive lenses. Come on, Olympus, stiffing us on lens hoods is one thing, but adding bumps couldn’t cost more than a few cents per lens!

  48. Thanks Steve once again for another great review in this MFT format.

    Actually my interest in this format grew up when I discovered this website 1 year ago when OMD was still a rumour, as soon as it became available I got one and since then my canon slr stuff is collecting dust or for sale.

    This MFT system simply rocks and my lens are 14, 25 (my fav), 45, but this 17f1.8 lens is really a temptation and I think it would be a geat combo with 45f1.8, I love that 35mm fov that rewind me back to my film days with a fabulous and pocketable Contax t3 (zeiss 35mm f2.8).

    Today I still don’t know if I’ll buy it or wait for the promising x100s with same fov but probably more interesting dof and it would be a great backup camera (is this gas sindrome speaking? nah maybe rx-1 would be), I think I’ll wait for the first reviews on fuji and decide more reasonably.

    After the 1st reviews of this 17f1.8 I was somehow disappointed and expecting more but now I’m in doubt again. And you are the guilty Steve :) Congrats

  49. Hi Steve

    I bought a PEN EPL-5 this winter and use it with a EVF2 Finder and central AF. This is the best for me. I have 2 questions:

    1. all of the Oly M4/3 lenses do not have an aperture ring which would be helpful to adjust aperture easily. How do you do it?

    2. In your B/W shots, black is really black where as my JPEG shots are rather dark grey than black. How can I adjust the settings?

    Thank you all, Steve and Robins pages are very nice to enjoy and learn!!

    • You should be able to adjust the picture settings in the menu when you go to choose what setting you want. As for aperture, on the E-M5 you use a dial, on the EPL-5 I am not sure as to be honest I have not yet had one come through my hands but I am sure someone can chime in here on that one.

    • i have e-pl5,
      for you’re question,
      1. maybe my way to adjust the aperture i set the mode on A, and setting the dial button lock off, that make the dial to aperture adjusting …
      2. if u want the b/w more black, u can use the art filter, grainy bw, if u use monocrom mode, the jpeg it is grey, it just must be post processing, for add more contrast, mine use ACDsee pro 5, but not support for RAW olympus file, ORF

      i hope it’s help thx

  50. Hi Steve,

    how would you compare this 17f1.8 lens on OMD vs X100 regarding just the image quality delivered?

    Thanks

    • Well, different due to sensor sizes. The Fuji is a little sharper though at f/2 the Oly may be sharper. Different systems, both excellent. The OM-D and 17 is much faster though.

  51. Hi Steve
    Thanks for this and the other great reviews on this site. I am contemplating buying the OM-D together with the 12-50 kit zoom. But I would also like a fast primer and was wondering which to get first: the 12mm f2, the 17mm f1.8 or the 40mm. What do you think? Thanks

  52. As a quite new E-M5 owner and with only the Panasonic 14mm I am curious about this lens, but does anyone know if there have been talk about black versions?

  53. Thanks for the great review! I’m still really torn between this 17mm lens and the Panny Leica 25mm (I know, totally different range). I have been primarily shooting with the Oly 45mm because I love it and pretty much ignoring my 14-42mm kit lens unless I have to use it for landscapes or tight indoor situations, but I really do need a wider angle to round out my kit. I just keep hearing about how great the Leica lens is, but I’m worried about it being to far on the tele range and not quite wide enough?. If I could just get one of these two lenses, do you think the 25mm or the 17mm (to accompany my 45mm) would best balance out my kit? (and maybe some day I’ll get an ultra wide).

  54. suggestion/Advice wanted: With limited budget, what’s a better move?

    1. Olympus OM-D and no money left over for lens at the moment
    2. Olympus EP3 ($379 in Adorama with kit lens) + this lens (17mm 1.8) (+ Maybe 45mm 1.8)

    I know EP3 is a little old, but value wise it’s very tempting. Will I lose out a lot in term of performance/IQ if I get EP3 over OM-D?

    • The OM-D is better, but there’s no point in buying a camera without a lens.
      You could get a Panasonic 14-42 on ebay for about $100 for the time being and then save up for the primes.

      On the other hand, if you can live without a viewfinder the EP3 with the lenses sounds like a great option. You can always sell it and get a used EM-5 when the next model (EM-6?) comes out.

  55. I did not read through all the comments herein, but I did read some of them, and felt compelled to comment, as I own this lens. I find the 17mm 1.8 fabulous. I, like Steve, didn’t really have a whole lot of problems with the 17mm 2.8 either, though the 1.8 is in a different league. I really can’t imagine a better walk around 35mm (relatively) equiv lens. In the short time I’ve owned the lens, while mated to my E-PM2, it has given me a couple of my favorite shots EVER, and I’ve been shooting for about 6 years now, and have shot CaNikon, Pentax and many other camera/lens combos in the m43 world as well.
    Thanks for your real-world opinion, Steve, and your enthusiasm, with which I heartily agree.

  56. Thanks for all the info thus far.
    I have an E-PL3 and I was thinking that this 17mm f/1.8 lens would be a perfect companion for it. But it costs $500! This is more than the camera body cost me. And I also realised that there are two other great little cameras out there: the Fuji X20 and the Sony RX100. I could sell my E-PL3 and then the overall cost of buying either of these two cameras would be less than $500. The question is should I? Is the combination of the E-PL3 and 17mm lens vastly superior in IQ to that of the X20 and RX100? Bear in mind that I do sometimes blow my photos up into posters, which is why I decided to get the E-PL3 in the first place – for it’s larger sensor.
    Cheers.

    • The E-PL3 and the 17 would do much better than the X20 and better than the RX100 (which beats the X20 imo) – Id stay away from the X20 as the IQ is a step down from the X10 (again, my experience with both). The 17 is expensive, but it is a nice lens that goes with the rest of the premium Oly line, the 12, 45, 75, etc.

      • Thanks for your quick reply Steve. I really appreciate YHO (Your Humble Opinion). I didn’t really want to sell my E-PL3 and perhaps I’ll be able to pick up a cheaper 17mm lens on eBay.
        BTW I think that your “real life” reviews are spot on and I enjoy your down to earth style.
        Nice one.
        Elliot

  57. Yesterday I just bought one copy of this lens and I found that if I put the ring on manual focus the infinity focus is not clear at the same place where it shows the sign marked on the scale, The image becomes clear before the sign of infinity with 1mm. Does anybody have the same issue? Please be so kind and tell me if I have to change my lens. Thanks in advance. Paul

    • Hi Paul, tomorrow I’ll double check, but I think it’s normal

      • Hi, today I was at the store and I compared my lens with another one and I have to admit that the lens from the store has the same issue as mine. The scale from the manual focus ring is not accurate, at 3 meters on scale you have the subject in focus in reality at 4.5 meters from the camera, and the infinity focus become clear with 1mm before achieve the sign of infinity on the scale. The good news is that this error is all the time the same and I marked the correspondence for 2,3, 5 and infinity with a Rotring. This scale is very usefull if you are working with hyperfocal distance or you are planning to shot night pictures and you want to set the infinity on “blind”. Even if i found this issue, I love this lens, have great features and a super fast AF even in low-light. Check the DOF chart here:

        http://asia.olympus-imaging.com/products/dslr/mlenses/17_18/

  58. I am in the midst of deciding upon this lens vs. the Luminix 25 mm. My main consideration is for landscape photography. I have read and researched until I am dizzy. Could you streamline it for me so I can make a decision?

    • Panasonic 20mm f1.7 MK 2 will be announced tomorrow. Wait for some info about specifications, this lens could be a great alternative.

      • Thanks! That sounds intriguing!

      • I have used the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7, the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 II and now the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 extensively. For me the Olympus delivers the most pleasing results. It’s photos look natural and are full of detail. The bokeh is fairly nice too. The Panasonic (both versions render the image the same) produces photos with an unnatural high contrast. Sharpness is good, but it’s not that much sharper then the Olympus and the detail is about the same, really. It’s all about the final results and again, prints from the Olympus files look much better to me. More human, natural, lifelike. I guess that’s what Steve means by ‘character’ and ‘mojo’. The difference is noticeable. Also, when I need to grab a quick shot, the Olympus delivers. The Panasonic is too slow focussing.

  59. I can’t help to think that all the number crunchers and pixel peepers appearing everywhere something remotely connected to photography is discussed on the internet really must have neither actually tried the piece of hardware in discussion for anything meaningful like actually creating good photos nor ever actually spend any amount of time actually doing photography rather than shooting quasi-structured series of test shots of anything from batteries, beer cans, books to actual test charts.

    This lens was a wow experience for me the moment I picked it up. It looks and feels superb, both on and off camera. The images it helps produce have that super something that is so often lacking in modern equipment. And the entire experience of using this lens is superior to most. And that is on an E-M5, can just imagine it’s even better on the bigger brother.

    Since I do professional work (weddings) I also own a “pro” setup including Nikon D800 and D4 bodies, the holy trinity of both zooms and primes from the Nikon lineup, numerous flashes, studio strobes etc. And yes, for pro work where you are dedicated to lugging that gear to and from the venue and shooting for a full day or more that kind of equipment produces technically superior results hands down. But if I’m grabbing a camera to bring along for a walk in the city or in nature, 99% of the times it the Oly and since getting this lens it tends to stay on there a lot. And the result is that however capable my “pro” gear is, almost every picture I make that I really like and are really happy with is with the lowly OM-D with this lens on it, at a price that is a fraction of my other gear. Final technical quality of a photo is only a minor part of what it takes to create a great one, other factors, not the least how the equipment feels to carry around and shoot are at least as important.

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