Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro M.Zuiko Digital ED
Lab Test Results
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Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro Review
12/07/2017: Gallery Images added
05/11/2018: Full Review added
When it comes to premier Micro Four Thirds lenses, Olympus' Zuiko Pro series is right there at the top. After debuting the series with a couple of top-notch zoom lenses, the Zuiko Pro series has since evolved to encompass both primes and zooms, ranging from 7mm all the way to 300mm. More recently, Olympus set out to create an f/1.2 series of primes, starting with a 25mm f/1.2 Pro, an impressively small lens despite its bright aperture and sharp performance, too, even at f/1.2.
To follow the 25mm, Olympus created both a 17mm f/1.2 Pro and a 45mm f/1.2 Pro, which offer prime fans 35mm-equivalent and 90mm-equivalent options, respectively, in addition to the 25mm's 50mm-eq. FOV. Besides the focus on image sharpness as well as bokeh quality, Olympus also made a particular point (and significant optical engineering effort) to create all three f/1.2 Pro primes with nearly the same physical dimensions, and all there sharing a 62mm filter thread. Handy!
Here, we'll take a detailed look at our full lab testing of the wide-angle 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens. If you're a regular to IR, you'll likely already be aware that we awarded the 17mm f/1.2 Pro the top spot as the Best Wide Angle Prime for 2017 in our annual Lens of the Year awards. Here are the lab results that lead to and support that verdict...
As we've experienced with Olympus Zuiko Pro lenses, both zooms and primes, the level of sharpness and detail these lenses can resolve is fantastic. The 17mm f/1.2 Pro is no exception. The lens is exceptionally sharp at both the center and in the corners at f/1.2, which is very impressive, especially for a wide angle lens with this bright an aperture. Stopping down slightly, we measure a subtle increase in sharpness, but nothing that would scare us away from using f/1.2 -- you'll get tack-sharp photos wide open and stopped down. Even diffraction-related softening is very minimal, with only a minimal dip in sharpness starting around f/11 and continuing until f/16.
Chromatic aberration is, overall, very well controlled. By our measurements, we found CA is the most minimal at the widest aperture, before increasing slightly and plateauing around f/5.6 and beyond. Looking closely at our test shots, CA is very subtle and more or less contained out towards the corners in the form of slight cyan and magenta fringing on high contrast edges. Olympus' in-camera JPEG processing should have no problem clearing that up, or if you edit RAW files, a few quick adjustments in your editing software of choice should quickly clear up any CA that may appear.
Despite having a 35mm-eq. wide-angle focal length, the Olympus 17mm f/1.2 displays almost no significant geometric distortion. On average, the distortion level hovers right above the zero mark towards the barrel distortion direction. At the maximum, there is still very little barrel distortion, significantly under 0.5%.
Vignetting is far from problematic from the 17mm f/1.2, but it is measurable and noticeable at the wider aperture -- not all that surprising for a bright, wide-angle lens. Wide-open, corner shading measures a bit over a half-stop of light falloff; as you stop down, vignetting decreases steadily, going below 0.25 stops by around f/4-f/8. Beyond f/8, however, we do measure a slight increase in vignetting (approximately 0.25EVs or thereabouts) between f/11-f/16.
Handling & Build Quality
As mentioned at the beginning, the 17mm f/1.2 is more or less physically identical to the 25mm f/1.2 and 45mm f/1.2. If you've handled the earlier 25mm f/1.2 or read our review of that lens, then you'll be familiar with the size, weight and build quality of the 17mm f/1.2 Pro. But, for those who have not, here's the run-down...
The 17mm f/1.2 Pro's build quality is fantastic. Just like other Zuiko Pro lenses, the 17mm f/1.2 is a premium lens with a premium construction that's rugged, weather-sealed (with lens mount gasket, too) and feels great in the hand. The lens is surprisingly hefty for its relatively small stature, weighing around 390g (0.86 lbs), likely due to being crammed with 15 total lens elements -- that's a lot of glass for a wide-angle prime! Despite the weight, however, the lens balances nicely on larger Micro Four Thirds cameras, particularly the E-M1 and E-M1 Mark II models. On very small bodies, like the Panasonic GX850, for instance, the pairing feels noticeably front-heavy.
The 15 elements are situated in 11 different groups, and lens construction consists of a variety of exotic elements, including one Super ED (Extra-low Dispersion), one ED-DSA (Extra-low Dispersion Dual-sided Aspherical), one EDA (Extra-low Dispersion Aspherical), one Super HR (Super High Refractive index), one aspherical and three ED elements. All these lenses work together to help combat optical aberrations, such as axial CA and color bleeding, as well as factoring into Olympus' tweaked "feathered bokeh" design for more pleasing, softer gradations in out-of-focus areas. The lens also features a 9-bladed circular aperture diaphragm.
Like its other f/1.2 prime siblings, the 17mm f/1.2 features a single, large focusing ring, with the characteristic pull-back clutch mechanism to toggle between AF and manual focus settings. There is a distance and depth-of-field scale, which is uncovered when the focus ring clutch is placed into manual focus mode. Other than the focus ring, the only other button is the user-programmable "L-Fn" button. Otherwise, all lens functions are controlled by the camera.
One last note about the design. The idea to make the 17mm, 25mm and 45mm f/1.2 Pro lenses all nearly identical in size, shape and weight is certainly clever, but it does make it difficult to know which lens you're reaching for if you have multiple in your camera bag. Olympus said that's why they used a larger numeral labeling for these three lenses, but that can only help so much. It is nice that the lenses all share the same filter thread, though.
No oddities here when it comes to autofocus performance with the 17mm f/1.2. Like other Olympus lenses, the 17mm Pro lens is an electronic focus-by-wire system that's both extremely fast and also quiet -- great for stills and video shooters. Short focus changes happen nearly instantaneously, and focusing from close-focusing to infinity is super-fast, too, at less than a second.
For manual focus, the focus ring isn't mechanically coupled to the lens elements due to the electronic focus-by-wire design. As such, the focusing ring will turn indefinitely while it's in the AF position. AF results can be overridden on Olympus bodies by setting the focusing mode to "S-AF + MF" mode and rotating the focus ring at any time. For full manual focus, with the focus ring pulled back, the lens has hard rotation stops at either end, and it only takes about 45 degrees of rotation to rack the full focusing range.
The lens is not designed for true macro photography, only offering a 0.15x magnification factor (1:6.7 ratio or a 35mm-equivalent: 0.3x / 1:3.3). However, with a minimum focusing distance of just 20cm (around 8 inches), the Olympus 17mm f/1.2 does provide good close-focusing performance for dramatic close-up, wide-angle shots.
In the Olympus camp, there are two clear alternatives to the 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens: the 17mm f/1.8 and 17mm f/2.8. The f/1.8 model is a good all-around 35mm-eq. prime with a decently fast aperture, metal (but not sealed) construction and a nice $400 price point. Optical quality isn't on the level of the 17mm Pro lens, but that's to be expected. Wide-open, the center is sharp, but corner softness is noticeable. CA is also stronger overall, and there is more distortion and vignetting. But, it is significantly smaller, lighter and way more affordable the 17mm f/1.2 Pro.
As for the 17mm f/2.8 lens, this is an older Olympus M.Zuiko prime and features a pancake-style design. Super compact and lightweight, as well as very affordable at only $300, this is a decent choice for the budget-conscious, but the optical quality only modestly compares to these other Olympus 17mm options. It's not nearly as sharp, and CA is much more of a problem. Plus, f/2.8 is a fairly dim aperture for a short prime lens.
Over at Panasonic, they don't necessarily have a direct competitor, nor a 17mm prime at all. The closest option is the 15mm f/1.7 ASPH LEICA DG SUMMILUX. Offering a 30mm-eq. focal length, this compact prime is very small, offers a fairly bright f/1.7 aperture and only costs around $600. We've yet to lab-test this lens. However, reader reviews are overwhelmingly positive, noting its sharpness, AF speed and build quality to a degree (no weather sealing).
Lastly, Sigma recently announced more mirrorless lenses, including a 16mm f/1.4 Contemporary prime that comes in a Micro Four Thirds version. With a 32mm-eq. focal length on MFT cameras, the 16mm f/1.4 is one of the closest alternatives outside of Olympus themselves. The f/1.4 aperture is almost as bright, and the image quality is quite good based on our Field Tester's experience. Sigma also manages to keep costs very affordable at around $450, and offers weather-sealed construction.
All in all, the Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens is an amazing optic. It boasts excellent image quality even at f/1.2, and the outstanding build quality that Zuiko Pro lenses are known for. But all these niceties and high-performance features come at a cost. At $1200, the 17mm f/1.2 is a serious prime for serious photographers, much like other Zuiko Pro lenses. But fear not, as out of Olympus's lineup as well as the rest of the Micro Four Thirds playing field, the Zuiko 17mm f/1.2 Pro is one of, if not the best wide-angle prime lens for Micro Four Thirds photographers available.
Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro M.Zuiko Digital ED
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Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro M.Zuiko Digital ED User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Felixley (5 reviews)excellent optical performance reliable autofocus beautiful bokehsize / weight prize
I have only bought this lens three weeks ago. My test is entirely "unscientific". Some pics I have taken of buildings at varying f-stops, the rest is simple every-day photography at different situations and light.reviewed March 9th, 2018 (purchased for $1,340)
Fully open the lens has an impressive performance. Tack-sharp throughout the entire image except for the very, very far corners. At f-stop 1.4 and 2.0 there is a very small increase of micro-contrast, and the corners look just about as good as the center. Further stopping down up to 8 only increases depth-of-field. To see the difference between 1.2 and 2.0 you need to look at 100% magnification.
Working at low-light with this lens is a pleasure, sharp and blurry zones mould beautifully into each other. Simply incredible what Olympus has achieved, this lens is a gem . . .
Why don't I give full marks for the overall performance? I would give it 10 out of 10, but the Zuiko 45mm/1.2 is even better . . .
The camera I use is the E-M1.2.