I have had a bit of a chance to use the Olympus 17mm now and I thought I’d share my impressions. This is by no means a comprehensive test…yet. First off, I like the 35mm equivalent focal length, or in this case 34mm. I liked it on my OM-1 and I still like it on my OM-D E-M5. Its making me think about my lenses, but more on that later. Looking at a bunch of files now, probably over 100, maybe more than that, the files look good. Oh in the corners wide open it is soft, but it sharpens up a lot just stopping down by a third of a stop. I’d still consider it soft in the corners at its sharpest (around f/5.6 or f/8) and in the center it is never as bitingly sharp as any of my other lenses, but comparing to some files from the 14-42 MkII, the 17mm is at least “as good” if not maybe just a tiny bit better at anything like similar apertures and focal lengths.
Olympus 17mm, f/3.2, 1/30s, ISO400
The focus speed, at least on the E-M5 is pretty fast, but again not as fast as the other primes or even the 14-42 MkII or the 40-150. It also isn’t silent, but it is pretty quiet still. CA is high, but not terrible and can generally in most files be removed in LR4.1 pretty easily with just a little bit of slider work. I don’t notice much distortion, but I haven’t taken a lot of photos with clear straight lines where it would be all that noticeable.
So what can I really say about the lens? I love the field of view that 17mm provides, the lens was super cheap, it is pretty light and very small, the image quality it can produce is just fine if not stellar and the focus speed on the E-M5 is fine, just not great. Really I yearn for a larger aperture, faster and quieter focusing 17-18mm lens with better optical quality still in a pancake setup and won’t absolutely break the bank. Until that happens the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/2.8 is just fine, especially for sub $150 that I got it for.
Olympus 17mm, f/2.8, 1/2000s, ISO200
So on to my thoughts, I am enjoying shooting with the lens a lot and with the Olympus 45mm (those two lenses probably handled 80% of the pictures at the reunion). The Sigma 30mm is just fine and the Panasonic 14mm is also just fine. However, I am finding that the 30mm is often just a tad long or a tad short in a lot of circumstances…the 50% jump in FoV down from the Olympus 45mm isn’t quite enough to be very dramatic, just like the even smaller difference between the Olympus 17mm and Panasonic 14mm just isn’t a big change. The Panasonic 14mm is definitely sharper, quieter, faster focusing, smaller and lighter than the Olympus 17mm though.
Olympus 17mm, f/3.5, 1/125s, ISO400
Anyway, to stop gathering wool, I am thinking what the ideal bag setup would be for me is the Olympus 12mm, Olympus 17mm, Olympus 45mm and I am really, really hoping that Olympus releases that rumored 25mm f/1.8 lens as that would slot in there perfectly. I am really wishing I had a 25mm lens as well as something fast that is wider than the 45mm. The jump from 17mm to 30mm is just too much a lot of times, but the 30mm a lot of times is just a little too long. On 35mm film I shot mostly with 24, 35, 50 and 85 or 100mm lenses, so a 12, 17, 25 and 45 would be the near perfect match to that. If Olympus doesn’t release a 25mm f/1.8 I am thinking I may end up getting the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4…but I really don’t want to spend that kind of money, nor do I want a lens that big in my bag normally, if I can help it. Either way I go would likely mean selling the Sigma 30mm. It isn’t a terrible lens, but I just keep thinking that the FL isn’t quite for me (I get a lot of use out of it, but I think 25mm would just work better for me). The Panasonic 14mm I’d keep and it would probably be in my bag a lot. It isn’t much of a FL difference between the Olympus 12mm (which I’ll get some day) and the Olympus 17mm…but the thing is so darned tiny, light and great image quality…especially stopped down a little that there isn’t really a reason not to keep it and carry it around even if it doesn’t get much use.
I’ll have more pictures from the reunion later this week, probably in a couple of posts, some more photography thoughts and I also had a chance to try out the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 as well, as I borrowed one while I was there for about an hour of shooting.