“Street” with the Olympus 17mm F1.8

So this is the new 17mm (34mm equivalent) lens from Olympus. Obviously Oly had a previous 17mm lens (the 17mm F2.8 pancake). It was a slow lens with soft corners, but was the only option for a 35mm equivalent.

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Panasonic released a 20mm F1.7 pancake that is excellent and very sharp in the centre but is slower to focus than more recent lenses for M43s.

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This lens was released to fanfare at Photokina this year, supposedly being a replication of the successful 12mm Oly lens in the 17mm focal length.

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A couple of things out of the way first. This isn’t a great lens. It’s very good, but it isn’t stellar like the results from the Oly 45 and 75 are and the PL25 often are. It is however one that is great fun to use and its unlikely you’ll dislike the image quality.

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In practical terms I suspect it is about as sharp as the Panny 20mm in the centre and sharper at the edges. It suffers from CA. Not badly, but it is there.

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If you expect me to now say the lens is average and trash it, look away now. I actually really like it. First things first, this lens made more sense to me on the E-M5 than the GH3 for street photography. That isn’t a criticism of the GH3 (in fact its faster focusing almost makes more sense) but its a size thing.

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The lens has a lovely, high quality metal build quality. It may not mean a lot to everyone, but it makes me want to mount it on the camera and take it out and shoot. The focus speed was very fast.

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The bokeh was kind of average for M43s and the focal length. Essentially, when it’s there it is attractive, but you have to be pretty darn close to your subject to produce any. The lens seems decently (very) constrasty and resolves detail well.

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The “snapshot” manual focus mechanism is well implemented (but largely identical to the 12mm) and leaves me wishing switching to MF was as easy as this with every lens.

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This lens is what we call “Marmite” in the UK. You’ll either love it or hate it. Personally, I think I like it a lot. I suspect if you like the Oly 12mm, you’ll like this lens.

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