Sunday, November 18, 2012

Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 Review: Deepavali Festival of Lights

Important Notes:
1. This is a user experience based review.
2. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 2.
3. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
4. No post-processing applied to the images, except slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.

This blog entry is a continuation from the previous Part 1 of my Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 review (click). 

In Part 1 of my review, I have brought the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens to street shooting at Brickfields and Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur, testing how the lens performed in favorably good lighting condition. From the street shoot I found the lens to be very sharp corner to corner even at wide open F1.8, has very good distortion and CA control, and focuses very fast. How does the lens perform in poor light? That is the only question I intend to answer in this Part 2 of my 17mm F1.8 lens review. 

As a reminder, allow me to clarify a few items. This review will be written from a photography-enthusiast’s point of view, because I am not a professional photographer. This will be a user experience based review, sharing on what I think and feel as I use the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens (mounted on Olympus PEN E-PL5) in real life shooting situations. Therefore, this is not a technical review as there will not be elaborative technical explanations, which can be easily accessible on many professional review websites such as DPreview and DXOmark.

The opening images, the city skyline of Kuala Lumpur being taken during sunset time, was shot at Jelatek. I was on the 16th floor of a low cost apartment, resting the E-PL5 with 17mm attached on my dying tripod and shot a series of images watching the sun went down. 

F/5.6, 1/13sec, ISO200



F/16, 15sec, ISO200

F/14, 15sec, ISO200

Landscape Shooting 

Perhaps this new Olympus 17mm F1.8 lens was not exactly designed for landscape shooting as a priority, but at 17mm (34mm equivalent focal length) it is still considered a wide angle prime lens. Standing at the right position, the lens should be wide enough for some tighter perspective. Considering that the lens is very sharp from corner to corner, it can be quite an attractive option to shoot landscape shots where very wide angle is not suitable. Also take note of the start-burst effect of the street lights that this 17mm lens can do. 

On a completely unrelated note, the newer white balance engine on the OM-D E-M5, which should be the same on the E-PL5, somehow over-compensates for warm source of light. As shown in the last image of the three above, when it was nearly dark, the warmer street light dominated the scene, and the camera decided to "whiten" the image, thus producing strong blu-ish cast. This can easily be corrected in post-processing, especially if you shoot RAW, and apply custom white balance settings. 

DEEPAVALI: Festival of Lights

The rest of the photographs aside from the urban landscape shots were taken at Shree Laksmi Narayan Mandir Temple at Jalan Ipoh on the eve of Deepavali celebration. On this auspicious night, 10,000 lights (candles and small lamps) were lit all around the temple, ushering the coming Deepavali celebration, which is an important Indian celebration, also prominently known as Diwali, or Festival of Lights. Indian is one of the major races in Malaysia, hence I was very fortunate to be at the temple, witnessing such a beautiful cultural celebration !!

The shooting condition was very challenging, in many cases, the only source of light was from the lamps and candles. People do not stay still, and while the devotees of the temple moved about and light the candles and lamps all around the places, there was constant movement. Even shooting at wide open aperture of F1.8, higher ISO setting of 1600 or above was necessary to adequately freeze motion, and produce decent, usable shots. Do bear in mind that in this entry, we are reviewing the performance of the 17mm F1.8 lens, not the capability or low light shooting of the camera.

So how did the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 fare in Deepavali extreme low light shooting?

In short, the lens worked like a charm. Lets have a look at some images first !!

F/1.8, 1/60sec, ISO250

ISO3200, F/1.8, 1/640sec
I understand it was not necessary to push up the ISO to 3200 for this shot, but I was dialing down the EV compensation to darken the background with higher shutter speed (I was shooting aperture priority). Mistake was on the photographer's part. 

F/1.8, 1/60sec, ISO3200

F/1.8, 1/80sec, ISO320, 

The autofocus performance of the lens in such dimly lit condition was excellent. I am not exaggerating when I mentioned the lighting was very, very dark. I did not even turn on the focus assist lamp on the E-PL5. There was only very minor issues of the lens failing to lock focus, which was about 1-2%, and I'd say the problem would have been eliminated if the focus assist lamp was used. I admit the red light from the focus assist can be quite annoying, especially in an almost completely dark place, hence I disabled it. I'd say the autofocus performance of Olympus lenses is getting better and better with each new lens release. 

About Shooting with 17mm Focal Length

I fully understand that the 35mm classic focal length, which this new Olympus 17mm F1.8 lens is trying to correspond to, is a very important focal length that many photographers would want to have. I choose to differ in opinion, and what I am about to say here is entirely personal, and subjective. Therefore, my opinion may not necessarily apply to the general crowd, or be relevant to you. Nonetheless, this is my honest sharing of how I feel about the 35mm equivalent focal length, after testing this new Olympus 17mm lens in street shooting, and now the Deepavali festival. 

I think the 35mm is quite an odd focal length to use in any shooting conditions. In contrary to popular belief that it is a must have, or arguably the best focal length for street photography (looking at how almost every street photographers would recommend this lens) I do not see how this lens can work for my own street shooting. I shoot a lot of street portraits, especially close up shots of random strangers. At 17mm (equivalent 34mm), the lens is just too wide for any meaningful portrait shooting, with still very visible perspective distortion creeping in, and the human head, if the lens being too close, may appear "cartoonish". On the other hand, when I wanted the lens to be used to cover something wider, it is often not wide enough. In my opinion, 28mm and 50mm equivalent focal lengths are generally more practical in my street shooting, At 28mm, the lens should be wide enough to cover everything that needs to be covered for a wide angle composition. At 50mm, the field of view corresponds very closely to what the human eye sees, to my own eyes, even more closer than the 35mm. There is just something out of place about the 35mm, that it is not wide enough, and not long enough. 

One may argue that I am not trained to fully bring out the potential of the 35mm focal length in my shooting. I agree to that to a certain extent, but believe me, if I want to make my images happen, I will squeeze everything I can out of the lens and the lens will work for me. It is not the case of me finding the lens not working, or having issues, but the lens being not practical for my own style and shooting preferences. I can still use this lens if I must, and get away with the shots that I needed, I do not have doubts on this. However, life sure is harder with this "neither here nor there" focal length lens, and often the images appear flat, and uninteresting. The main reason for this is the "normal perspective" that 35mm equivalent focal length provides, perhaps the normal perspective is indeed too normal that it has become flat and uninteresting. 

Do not get me wrong, the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens is a great lens, it is sharp, very technically well controlled, and works very efficiently. It is also not a lens I will fall terribly in love with, unlike the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 or even the 75mm F1.8 lenses. I find the 17mm a lot harder to use, and knowing the trouble to work with the lens, it is difficult to recommend this lens. Unless you know very well what you want from that particular focal length, and you know well that the lens will work for your own shooting methods. 


F/1.8, 1/80sec, ISO1000

F/1.8, 1/80sec, ISO200

F/1.8, 1/50sec, ISO1600

F/1.8, 1/60sec, ISO800

F/1.8, 1/50sec, ISO1600

Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 Lens Review SUMMARY

What I like:
1) Very sharp, corner to corner
2) Very good technical control: minimal chromatic abberation, flare control, distortion control, etc. 
3) Extremely good Auto-Focus performance, even in very low light condition
4) Solid built, and good handling

Note that I did not say I like the snapshot focus, (pull down the focus ring for manual focus option, with DOF scale), because I dislike zone-focusing and find it impractical in most shooting conditions. But if you love zone-focusing, especially for street shooting, this is a huge advantage for you. 

What I dislike:
1) Since the lens is built with similar all metal construction, having snapshot focus mechanism, and high optical quality, the lens will not be cheap. To be entirely honest, I'd prefer a cheaper built quality, much like the 45mm F1.8, but with very good image output. 
2) No hood included. Perhaps Olympus should reconsider their stance of not including the lens hood, this has been one of the loudest complains from the crowd. 

If you are very sure you know what you want from a 35mm equivalent focal length, this Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens is a no brainer, in fact it is a must have lens to have, if you need a normal perspective shooting lens. There really is nothing much to complain about the lens itself. It has the great Olympuz Zuiko sharpness and near technical perfection. Everything about the lens, technically feels right. 




F/1.8, 1/50sec, ISO500

F/1.8, 1/80sec, ISO1000

F/1.8, 1/50sec, ISO1600

F/1.8, 1/80sec, ISO6400

F/1.8, 1/30sec, ISO3200

F/1.8, 1/80sec, ISO3200

F/1.8, 1/80sec, ISO250

For prime lens collectors, this Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 just fits nicely into the entire collection. 

I am sure many micro 4/3 users are dying to find out how this Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 performs against Panasonic 20mm F1.7. I cannot tell you whether the Olympus 17mm F1,8 is optically sharper, that you have to judge for yourself from the images I have shown in two Parts of my review, and I am very sure sooner or later more and more people will post up images online and do direct comparisons between the two lenses. However, two strong advantages the Olympus 17mm F1.8 has would be the much faster and reliable autofocus performance, and also more solid built quality. 

Also, many would ask if there was good enough reason to upgrade from the old M.Zuiko 17mm F2.8 pancake lens to this new 17mm F1.8 lens. Several reasons why the new 17mm F1.8 lens is better: 1) Widest aperture of F1.8, rendering better background blur, and advantage in low light shooting 2) better built quality 3) improved image quality with higher quality optics. To the old 17mm F2.8 pancake's defense, the lens itself is very cheap, and much smaller and lighter than the new 17mm F1.8 lens. I have no extensive shooting experience with the 17mm F2.8 pancake lens to make any further comments. 

I have enjoyed myself tremendously reviewing the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens (though I admit it was not easy using this focal length), and surely shooting the Deepavali celebration was something new even to myself. I hope not only you have a general idea and understanding on how the new Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens performs in practical shooting conditions, but also have glimpse of Malaysian culture and tradition, which is very vibrant and full of life.

Photo credit: Luke Chua

I do have one more item to review before this year ends !! That will be the Olympus 15mm F8 body cap lens, which I shall be testing in the coming next few weeks. 

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to say something in the comment section on this blog entry, or email me directly at hamish7ian@gmail.com

113 comments:

  1. You do such wonderful work and put a great deal of time into this and I want say thank you and I really appreciate it. Thanks Robin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Tom,
      Thanks for noticing and mentioning !! Indeed I did spend a lot of effort in doing all these.

      Delete
  2. Hi Robin, I've followed your blog for a little while and love your style and honesty. When you say this lens doesn't fit your style I don't know what to think. These were some of the best shots I've seen from you that I can remember. Absolutely magical! I'm myself not particularly interested in a 17mm (I'm a zoom person, waiting for a weather sealed fast zoom...eg 12-60...) but seeing these images makes me think again. Well done!

    Cheers
    Dr. No

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Helo Dr No,
      Thanks for the kind words, and I strongly believe honesty is very important. It is universally agreed that 35mm classic focal length is important, but I do not find it in favor to my own shooting style. Nonetheless, I acknowledge its importance. Thanks for such kind compliments on my shooting !!

      Delete
  3. Thanks for the review, and for your opinion as well Robin. I can understand the "strange feeling" about a 35mm-equivalent focal length: when I was much younger, practically all fixed-lens cameras had a 35mm, and I hated those. But now I feel much more that this is a great length to work with. It's definitely not good for your typical head-and-shoulder portraits; a 50mm-e or a 90mm-e are much better for those. But for a bit context around your subject, 35mm-e is great.

    Your photos here are really amazing, I absolutely love them. Great work as usual Robin!

    Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Wolfgang,
      Thanks so much for the kind words, and thanks for understanding my complains on the 35mm equvalent focal length complains !! Certainly it does not suit my shooting style !!

      Delete
  4. Another great review! The shots were great and thanks for taking pictures of an amazing event. I look forward to you comments on the 15mm body cap lens. I've been using it regularly and love it. Not as sharp as regular lenses but sharp enough for 11x14 prints. I have it on an Olympus E-PM1 for a pocket camera. I'm getting pictues I wouldn't usually get because I always have it with me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Gordon,
      Thanks for the kind remarks. The Deepavali is an amazing celebration with so many great opportunities for photos.
      I shall be doing the 15mm body cap lens review but not that soon, am currently very busy with work and photo-assignment.

      Delete
  5. Very good post Robin. These are some great photos and I must admit the 35mm focal length, despite not being your fav, is not holding you back.

    Quick question on the E-PL5, now that you have used it for a while, any update on whether the screen is still disappointing to use? (colour reproduction, size, etc)

    Many thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Ac,
      thanks for your kind comments. Yes, I still feel the screen to be underwhelming, and not very helpful in determining accurate color and white balance controls. It is the smallest screen for all olympus cameras now !! Also, the resolution is quite bad, its worse than most Olympus compact cameras too.

      Delete
  6. great review as usual, this 17mm seems to be good stuff. I'm still wondering whey olympus do not go for f1.4 or even larger?

    Just a quick check, have you heard something if there's any change olympus team is going to come with a firmware update to the em5, to make the focus boxes any smaller and more precise as featured on the epl5?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Hingo,
      Thanks for the kind words. Indeed, for newer Olympus bodies with higher high ISO shooting capabilities, we do not really need F1.4, but I admit, having F1.4 would be great though !!
      Nope, I have not heard anything about any new updates for decreasing the focus box size, but then again, I am only connected to the marketing channel from Olympus Malaysia, any decisions or changes made from the headquarters in Japan, I would not know !!

      Delete
  7. Well Robin, looking at your images I am quite a bit surprised that you don't like that focal length. Your images do not reflect this at all! In contrary I find them to be among the best I have seen from you. However I agree that a 35mm equivalent is not quite suitable for portaits and does not produce an exiting visual experience by its own. The strength however is that huge impact a 35mm can produce if used properly (as you did here). Hats off to your ability to master any "odd" focal length ;-)

    Best regards,
    Martin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Martin,
      Thanks for the kind remarks. I believe it is an individual preference, whether you shoot with whichever preferred focal lengths. I do have my complains and issues, but then again I was stuck with the 17mm, so it was either I went for the shots or I had nothing to use in this blog. I do wish I have the 45mm many times when shooting, or even better the 75mm, for close up portraits (my favourite shooting), also the 12mm, because 17mm just could not fit much !!

      Delete
    2. I second that too... Robin, those images are breathtakingly beautiful and luminous! Don't give up.

      Delete
  8. Forgot to mention, the image of the girl sitting on the floor with all the candles around here (shot from a low angle) is so great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Martin,
      that was my favourite shot from this series, glad you like it too !!

      Delete
  9. jeffrey palempung11/18/2012 10:32:00 PM

    Hi Robin,.Nice review and that is very beautiful pictures you shoot,.

    btw i completely agree with your opinion about the WB from both O-MD and E-PL5 is TOO warm and too funky for my taste,...but i believe this can reduce it by CHANGE the WARM setting to be OFF,in the MENU setting.

    I have a question; Have you ever found a banding issue when you shot a blue sky on the Olympus lens F1.8/17mm like the Lumix F1.7/20mm ?

    Thanks Robin,.you've done a great job

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Jeffrey,
      I did mention in my settings (beginnning of entry) that the warm color option for WB has been turned off.
      Nope, I did not see any banding issue, shooting at ISO3200 or 6400. In fact, OMD never had banding issue, except when using the pana 20mm only ! Not sure why though

      Delete
  10. One of your titles in the text says Macro 60mm lens, above summary, must be 17mm I guess??

    ReplyDelete
  11. I can only say this, you took pro looking shots using this setup. Most people will think that you use one of the magical full frame camera to take this shot. Olympus should pay you to get one of these shots into their lens catalog!

    Great job!

    hM

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks hM, you are being too kind !!

      Delete
  12. Hey Robin,

    Thanks for another great real-life review! I really like your style of review because it gets to the chase immediately instead of showing all the technical mumbo jumbo which doesn't mean a thing to people who look at the photos we've taken. I've always maintained that at the end of the day, what people will see are the images we've taken. Not what cameras or settings we've used. Granted, I'm only interested to know the settings if the photos taken are so beautiful that I want to learn how to shoot it myself. :)

    I'm a little different from you in that I'm more a 35mm shooter than a 50mm one. I prefer to use 75 to 150 for portrait shots and 35mm for street shots. As such I don't know where exactly to use the 50mm one. In fact, I've just put up my PanaLeica 25mm f/1.4 for sale in anticipation of this 17mm f/1.8. And guess what? After your review, I'm sold! Can't wait to get hold of this little gem! Olympus Malaysia must really pay you some royalty fees for every camera and lens sold! Good job Robin!

    And by the way, unless my understanding is different, the small box focusing is present in the latest OMD firmware 1.5. It's just that getting it is not so straight forward. Here are the steps:

    1. Use the Live View instead of the View Finder;
    2. Make sure the "Tap to focus" instead of "Tap to focus and shoot" option is selected;
    3. Tap anywhere on the screen;
    4. A slider with a scale showing, 5, 7, 10 & 14x will appear on the right of the screen;
    5. To change the focus box size, just move the slider up and down; and
    6. Then you can move the focus point around as usual.

    There you have it! And when you switch to the VF mode, the small box focus is there too!.

    Don't know why Olympus makes it so difficult for their top of the range M4/3 camera.

    Note:
    a. Clicking the "Ok" button or turning the camera on/off will reset the focus point to the normal size.
    b. But to reactivate it, you just have to tap on the screen again. The last saved focus box size should be there.

    I appreciate you!

    Regards,
    Melvin Neo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. By the way, I forget to add. The pictures you've taken with this lens doesn't show that you're having 'difficulty' with this focal length. They're simply stunning! If you did not mention that you didn't like this focal length, I'd have thought this is one of your favourite! :)

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the very kind words Melvin, and surely I do not deserve them at all. I was having plenty of fun with friends, and most importantly, I enjoyed shooting the wonderful Deepavali !!

      Thanks for sharing the tips on getting the smaller focusing box. Since it is already available, it would be more sensible to have a firmware update to access the feature more directly. That would have been more convenient for most people.

      Indeed, I can understand that many people would love the 35mm focal length. Surely it is a very popular choice. Nonetheless, I think I have developed my specific style of shooting. I believe it is a matter of your own preference and shooting needs.

      Delete
  13. You may not like the focal length, but obviously this made you try that harder, and it shows. Most of these images are breathtaking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Andreas !! I did try, VERY hard !!

      Delete
  14. Amazing shots, Robin!

    Regards from Austria,
    hannes

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm sorry, but your outstanding photos make me want this focal length. You have not talked me out of owning this lens. Actually, you have convinced me otherwise that I must get it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous, thanks for the kind words, but please leave a name next time.

      Delete
  16. Thanks for the review Robin and I just love your photography.

    Kresimir from Croatia

    ReplyDelete
  17. Some of the very best work I've seen from you, Robin. Stunning - or I should say, very Robinesque! Especially the light celebration shots are superb. You may not like the focal length, but you sure know how to squeeze every ounce of goodness out of it! It's all about personal preferences and one's working technique of course, but man is this lens a winner.

    One word: Superb!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Andre for the kind words, I don't think I deserve them.
      When I was using the 17mm it was surely an odd focal length, when I wanted wide angle it was not wide enough, actually it was not wide at all !! Often I cannot fit all I wanted to. When I wanted to do some close up shots, I had to go very near, and there is plenty of bad distortion (perspective) which is hard to control. It just did not work for me, no matter how I tried.

      Delete
  18. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks for yet another great post. Your reviews are always a joy to read and full of inspiring photos rather than test charts - such a difference to most other sites. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks iarsjuhljensen, I believe in shooting and taking more photos !

      Delete
  20. Hi Robin,
    Why do I always come back to this blog? I love your pics... Its as simple as that! Great review and pics! I also like the landscape shots and I can tell that you did a good job. Robin, can you please tell us about you post processing work flow for you paid assignments? I'm also looking forward for the body cap lens... which must be fun lens!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Johan,
      Thanks for the kind words. After all, this is a photography blog, hence there will be strong emphasis on photos !!
      I am not too sure about sharing my workflow for paid assignment because I am not exactly a pro, and a lot of things are still experimental at the moment. Nonetheless, I have been doing quite a handful of wedding assignment lately. Will be blogging about weddings after this.

      Delete
  21. Hi Robin, thanks for the another great review of the 17mm 1.8, I think that is the beauty of prime lens, the single focus will force you to find the best perpestive you have to use and judging from the pictures, you squeeze every single juice from this lens. The girl with the lights is the favour shot... thanks again for the sharing.

    Best regards,/ Francis from Toronto

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Francis,
      Thanks for the kind compliments, and I also love that shot of girl with the lights ! It was taken from low angle, the tilt screen of the E-PL5 helped a lot.

      Delete
  22. fszalay@comcast.net11/19/2012 07:39:00 AM

    Old, and experienced as I am with photography, I immensely enjoy your posts
    and constantly learn from them!

    Many thanks!

    Frederick S. Szalay
    http://fredszalay.zenfolio.com/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/fredszalay/sets/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Frederick !! It is an honor to have such kind compliments from an experienced photographer !

      Delete
  23. Robin,

    I agree with everyone else's compliments to the photography, and feel this is the uniformly strongest set of images in any of your reviews I've read. That makes me think that you really need to reconsider your feelings about the 35mm focal length. It seems to be forcing you to do something a bit different, and good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Chris,
      The uniformity I am afraid, in my opinion is what makes the series a little bit on the uninteresting side. I'd rather have something more dynamic, and unpredictable. The 17mm makes the photos look too ordinary somehow. Nonetheless, it is of course, my own preference.

      Delete
  24. Robin!!!

    I really hate you... I thot I can avoid the GAS to buy this lens...
    Like what others have mentioned, this series is breathtaking!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Eric !! It was the subject content that matters, and thanks to that wonderful Deepavali celebration !

      Delete
  25. Robin, you do good work no matter what equipment you happen to be using. Although you state the 17mm (35mm equivalent) lens doesn't fit in with your shooting methods, your results show you are able to utilize it well. I come from shooting 35mm film cameras. Before I started using digital equipment, I had settled on the Leica rangefinder as my favorite tool. I carried two of them--a 50mm Summicron on one body and a 35mm Summicron on the other. In the bag was a 21mm and a 90mm but I hardly ever used the 90mm and the 21mm only got rare use. I found the 50mm and 35mm fit me best most of the time. The Olympus E-Pen cameras have replaced my Leicas and the 17 f/1.8 seems like a fine lens to make a permanent home on one of my bodies. I particularly like prime lenses on the E-Pens because I can use accessory optical viewfinders and frame like I did with the Leicas (but with faster and more accurate focusing).

    Again, it doesn't matter what equipment, you do exceptional work and I very much enjoy your pictures.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words, Dogman. I think the subject matter played an important part in shooting, and I chose a very vibrant and beautiful cultural celebration, that helped me to make some better photographs. If I were to just shoot in the streets, as shown in my Part 1, I am afraid the images just came out flat and rather dull. Nonetheless, I do acknowledge the importance of the classic 35mm focal length and I do understand how many photographers would want this lens.

      Delete
    2. Thank you Robin for your excellent test which was probably the 1st user's test for the Olympus 17mm F1.7 in the world! I didn't know Olympus had launched such a good lens until I read your report. I was about to buy the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 for snapshot, but now I definitely would buy this lens for the 2 important reasons you mentioned in Part 2, 1)Faster autofocusing 2)Rigid full metal construction. Thank you again Robin for helping us making the right decision!

      Delete
    3. No worries md, I am sure you will love the lens !!

      Delete
  26. As a professional Usability Consultant and former Pro Photographer, I commend you on the beautiful images that you have made to demonstrate this lens. Unfortunately, it's not a 'User Experience' review– but as long as people keep using those key words, our industry will get more and more exposure. Keep up the great work Robin!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Giuditta,
      Thanks for the kind words. However I do not quite understand how my review style is not "user-experience" based. Please explain how to qualify as one? I shared mostly how I felt during shooting, and mostly subjective and personal opinion on the lens, which were specific to my own experience using the lens.

      Delete
    2. as one of the poster said, your posted sample photos are damn good, didn't like awful in any way?

      i own a 35/1.4 canon lens, i truly love the focal and the rendering of the lens. even with a prime i found too heavy to hang around with the SLR gears.

      being a gx1 user, i have been awaiting a high graded prime lens for this focal.... just wondering what you guys mentioned about the thro the lens software corrections... would it be still working if coupling an oly lens with a pana gx1?

      i also own the 45/1.8

      Delete
    3. Hello Eden,
      Like I mentioned it is subjective and personal, choice of focal lengths.
      Nonetheless, I have not used a Panasonic body before, hence I would not know if the distortion would be automatically corrected. Nonetheless, I do know that using Panasonic lenses on Olympus body will show some distortion. It would be my assumption (I could be wrong) that it is the same vice versa.

      Delete
  27. Great. Your way of dealing with the 35mm oddity (I'm a 28+50mm fan too), but even more, the way you tell us aboot the lens demonstrates an high level of image and photography culture. Being able to make the others feel, and aware, is something that needs solid roots and background. Cheers from Venice. Luca.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey luca,
      I really don't think I deserve your kind remarks, but thank you so much !!
      Venice, wow !! I MUST visit that place one day. Such a nice place you live in, must be photography heaven. I envy you !

      Delete
    2. So, just drop a line when you want to come, I will guide you around. :-)

      Delete
    3. So, just drop a line when you want to come, I will guide you around. :-)

      Delete
  28. Hi Robin,
    I'm following your blog for a while now, and like the most of us I suppose, your photos are so attracting that we are all simply addicted to them. It's indeed my favourite lecture in the morning.

    I think also that you mastered this "odd" focal length with excellence. Actually, for shooting inside the temple I do think that 35mm fits well since it allowed you to catch the light sources with just the angle needed to include one or few characters. A too large view would have here included very large (and mainly dark) areas which would just distract the view. 35mm gave also to your photos a very human like view, that's especially advantageous for the temple photos since it is allowed the viewer a much better immersion.
    On the other side the sunset photos could have benefit from more details on their sides, the 12mm would have definitely given much more interesting perspective there...

    Concerning the beautiful end result of your photos and since you mentioned that you were dialling down the exposure, I was wondering to know if you applied any kind of post-processing treatment? (colours rendering, darkening of the side areas,...), or if the photos are straight RAW converted to jpeg from the camera with only an exposure correction before shooting ?

    And now, about the lens itself which is the core of this topic, if you would have to choose between the olympus "in house" 17mm and the pana-leica 25mm (both of them are on a similar price level), which one would have at first on a E-M5 ?
    All the best, Gabriel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Gabriel
      Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for the visits to my blog, really appreciate it.

      All the photographs were converted to Jpeg from RAW in the Olympus Viewer 2 software. I did apply a few adjustments, mainly exposure compensation and slight tweak of white balance (some images appeared too warm). Also, in some images, I boosted the contrast accordingly to turn the black areas to total black. After all, with newer generation image sensors, even very dark areas the camera can retain some details. I think that was all that I did.

      I can't say which to choose between 17mm and 25mm, but if I were to buy, definitely the 25mm because it corresponds to 50mm, which I prefer for most of my shooting needs. This is of course a personal choice. After all, both are very different lenses, hence comparison should not be made in the first place.

      Delete
  29. You review is fantastic but when I see your pictures I fell...happiness, a very good feeling. I am your fan.
    A big hug! Maiko, from Japan

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hello,

    I am wondering if you know what would be the equivalent in terms of depth of field at F1.8 on a full frame?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Redid, there are DOF calculators online, you may search them up !!

      Delete
  31. Good review, as usual, Robin. You say you have to "work harder" to use this lens. I would say that your extra effort has paid off as these are some of the nicest images I have seen you produce in a while. Maybe it's good to turn off auto pilot every once in a while!? These have a great artistic, pictorial, environmental portrait quality to them that really appeals to me. Thanks for the review AND the photographic inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the very kind words, Ken. I did try very hard, and it took a lot more effort and energy to squeeze some usable shots. They are different from usual because of the focal length I rarely used. I do like some of the images too !!

      Delete
  32. Great photos! Not sure where you were finding difficulties with the unfamiliar focal length. Must be your artistic nature that you can work with unfamiliarity and still produce stunning pics! Very well done.

    Comparing your photos with many many others pros and semi pros, the people in your pics always seem happy and comfortable with you taking them. What is your technique?Tim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Tim,
      Thanks for the kind words. I think the ability to adapt and be flexible is a very important trait to be a good photographer. I still struggled and I do think I could do better if I had more time with the lens before shooting the event.
      About friendly people, well Malaysians are generally a very happy bunch of people. In that Deepavali festival, it was a joyous occasion, and celebrated nationwide (worldwide too, where there are Indians). Hence, people were extra friendly that day !

      Delete
  33. Wonderful shots all over \m/

    ReplyDelete
  34. Great Job Robin!! Again you sold me on another of your reviews (Been playing hard core with the 75mm I love that lens!) the candle shots are phenomenal! Far as cost? Oly is offering this at 499.00 USD. Got a pre order option from them. Im thinking that's fairly reasonable, no? Heh. Thought so. Ill probably have the weirdest of kits a 17mm and 75mm and I too hate taking portraits! But I have my uses for both lengths.

    Again beautiful write ups and lovely shots as always!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Ecclesiast,
      Glad that you are loving your 75mm !! That is one beast of a lens. I am sure you will enjoy the 17mm greatly too !

      Delete
  35. My favorite lens for the OM-D are also the 75mm (great for street photos in funkier parts of town and informal portraits) and the 25mm f1.4. However, my favorite images were taken in recent years with the 23mm lens on my Fuji X100. I would love to get your opinion as to how the 17mm lens stacks up in terms of image quality with the X100's lens. From your photos, I think it might be equal in quality and therefore I've ordered the 17mm already.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have never used an X100 before, so I would not know how good the lens on that camera is. Nonetheless, my comment stays the same, the focal length, 35mm, is not something I like working with.

      Delete
  36. Many thanks for your ridiculously detailed and helpful reviews. I get nothing out of technical reviews but a ton out of yours.

    A Van Beek

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words A Van Beek !!

      Delete
  37. I love you reviewing style, Robin. While technical reviews sometimes feel like a trip to the doctors office, these pictures, peppered with your words, are more like a story/vacation. I want the camera, the lens, AND a trip to Malaysia!

    Oh, and the images are stunning.

    Thanks,
    Dustin

    ReplyDelete
  38. Oh, Robin, I am totally sold. Olympus, just shut up and take my money!!!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Beautiful photographs, Robin and thanks for the review.

    Interesting what you said about liking the 28mm and 50mm combo for street shooting. That's the combination that I have recently gravitated towards. I use the Panasonic 14mm for architecture and urban landscapes and use Panasonic Leica 25mm for street portraits and capturing details. I have them on my Olympus E-P3 and E-PM2, 2 camera combos.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Thank you so much. Your review is most helpful as 'm considering buying a prime lens for my Panasonic G3. However, I noticed your earlier comments relating to connecting this lens to another Panasonic camera. Is anyone able to help advise me on whether buying this lens might be worth taking a risk or should I await further field tests before ape ing so much money?

    Mike

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Mike,
      I may not be the best person to advice you on this, because I rarely have any encounters with Panasonic cameras, none of my friends use one. Without sufficient experience, I would not be able to say whether this lens would be a worthy addition to a Panasonic body. I've never even tried it on one Panasonic !

      Delete
  41. Great images as usual - I'm sure you'd produce stellar shots using an old Coke bottle. Keep up the good work! Your blog is going to end up costing me lots of money. As others have said, you should be getting a percentage from Olympus. :-)

    Stephen

    ReplyDelete
  42. Hi Robin,

    I like the color rendition a lot. not overly 'orange' and warm. could you let me know what is the WB/ ev/ 'other' settings to reproduce this kind of color?

    ReplyDelete
  43. Hi, this blog is really amazing and provide me answers to all my questionsPhotographs and pictures of sun

    ReplyDelete
  44. Thank you for your very nice, informative et very well illustrated review. You have pinpointed many interesting aspects of this lens... and I fully agree with the less appealing of using it on a everyday base.
    Thanks again, Daniel M

    ReplyDelete
  45. Good post, Robin. I enjoy reliving my days in M'sia through your photos.

    I will quibble with your assertion that 50mm (FF equivalent) corresponds to a normal human field of view. This is an enduring myth that never seems to die. It may be a very convenient focal length if you prefer to work at that distance to your subjects but the human vision is actually pretty wide!

    Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  46. Hi,

    This is very interesting post. I am really thankful to you for providing this unique information. Deepavali is a festival of light. Diwali is the festival of lights and is celebrated all over the world by Indians with great joy. Thanks..


    Miami Sightseeing

    ReplyDelete
  47. Very colorful and versatile blog i found. This has become my favorite blog. Thanks for Photographs and Pictures of Sun

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  48. Hello everyone, Your blog is so good that i can't stop myself from writing good comments. Thanks for Photographs and Pictures of Sun

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  49. It's amazing that you might feel the focal length awkward, when the images you shot are so beautiful and impressive.
    Thanks for a lovely and honest review.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I look at about 10% of your blogs, (and really enjoy them but time is limited), but I must say these sample images are among the best you have ever produced, especially part 2 where you adapted to make portraits in context and not close-up faces.

    I think you have actually demonstrated your natural eye with the 35mm equivalent lens in your hands.

    So many people have commented similarly, you might feel inspired to persevere with this lens as a part of expanding your photographer palette. You have actually produced a new and different look to your images with this lens, and it has much merit. I acknowledge your discomfort, but..... we all have that. Best regards,

    ReplyDelete
  51. Very nice work!Love the pictures you took and the angles.I just bought a PM2 and now with this 17mm/f1.8...need to find some time to take some quality pictures! ;)

    ReplyDelete
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  62. Hey Robin.

    Your pictures are so damn crisp in both color and tone - and you tell me its right out of the camera (RAW conversion) how is that possible ???

    You write some about your OMD-EM5 settings but thats too little. I don't know if you have written some place else about your camera settings ???

    But please tell again if thats right :-)

    What picturestyle, high/low key and things like that do you use ???

    Thanks Mikael - from Denmark where thing doesn't look that crisp in my OMD viewfinder :-)

    ReplyDelete
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  64. Robin, congrat for you job/passion, I found you because I was looking some more info about this lens since I think should be the best for use with the Pcket Digital Camera Raw from Blackmagic...
    I would also try to use my Nikon lenses with an adapter, but I think that this lens should be very fast and continuos in focusing, in addition 34mm will be great for movies instead of the 20mm pancake.
    you did not test with the movie option right?

    ReplyDelete
  65. Wow, that was an amazing work and photos! I love them. My best and Happy Diwali wishes to you and your family. Have fun!

    ReplyDelete