Trying Very Hard to Love that Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 Lens

Trying very hard. Really. But no matter how I shoot something always seems missing, something is not right, something is not balanced, and something could be better. I don't think I will ever understand how this focal length can be such a highly recommended focal length. I know this is probably personal and subjective, but trust me when I say I am still giving it a chance.

Here is a collection of some photos I have taken with the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens. Shot with my OM-D E-M5 of course.

Say hi to Tom visiting from the US!

I am a coffee lover

Fowl Luck. Introduced to me by Albert Ng. 

Wooden Bones

Death by the Coffee

Jason Lioh and Wireless Flash

Raja Indra Putra and that GOLD lens. GOLD LENS!

Ming Thein again!


Strange Cameras

Can't say it better myself


  1. wonderful kaleidoscopic collection of images !

    The one of Raja Indra Putra holding the camera with the used look and the golden lense is particularly striking [to me ....]:)

    1. Exactly! That was the main subject of that photo actually.

  2. Hey Robin, looking at these photos it doesn't seem like you're not getting along with the 35mm that well. Maybe the reason for not liking the 35mm focal lenght is, that you have to get very close to your subject to make it stand out from the background. And maybe that doesn't make you feel comfortable at all. I think a longer focal length suits best for your street portraits, but it's nice to see that you're trying really hard to overcome your habits. Keep up the nice work!

    1. Hey Robin! Glad to hear from you again. Still trying so hopefully I will get some progress!

  3. Although I don't consider those shots representative samples of what the lens is capable of, rather quick snaps in poor light, I do agree on the "trying-hard" part.
    I also WANT to like the new 17/1.8. But while the old f/2.8 version had such a charme to it, the new one is nearly as clinically faceless as the Pana 20/1.7. And while both those lenses (20/1.7, and 17/1.8) might be optically superb on paper, they miss something that's in the photographs taken with the 17/2.8, or the PanaLeica 25/1.4.
    And let's not forget: For less than the price of a new O17/1.8 you can get yourself a used X100 for your 35-mm-needs, and leave that 45, or 75 mounted on the E-M5. I'm seriously considering that option.

    1. I like the way you think! Getting a camera with a fixed lens, rather than the lens itself. Nonetheless, I will have to love that focal length first.

    2. The RIcoh GR is another option to consider as well :)

  4. That gold lens is a Lomography's Petzval lens.

    About the 35mm equivalent focal lenght of the 17mm: I think that you're trying it with the wrong subjects. These shot were made close to the subjects, and it distorts the image - especially people faces. For these kind of shots, longer lenses are better - as you already know with your great portraits with the 45mm 1.8 :)

    I've never understood the 35mm focal lens too, until my recent trip to New York: somehow, it is the ideal focal lenght for the NY streets (I've missed my Panasonic 20mm 1.7 through all that trip). And I guess (I'm not a pro photographer either) that this is the right place for it - street photography, but not framing the people's faces, but getting full people's body and their interactions with the surroundings. It's not a focal lenght for cramped places (probably will not be a good lens for your walkarounds in the market), but to be used in long streets, using the surroundings to create "lines" in the image. The background image is almost important as the foreground (bokeh is much more subjective or even inexistent).

    I've got this one with the 20mm 1.7 (which is somewhat close to the 17mm focal lenght), and maybe it explain it better what I'm saying:

    Try to shoot in open places. Maybe you'll get the grip of this lens (or not - it's always a personal thing :) ).


    1. I think that the streets in KL are very different from NY. People who have come here commented that the background is usually quite hard to work with with too much chaos and mess around. Nonetheless I do compose my subjects against backgrounds and when I do I usually work with much wider lens, such as 28mm or 24mm equivalent focal lengths. I would not mind going wider too. Though wide angle is not my strength but it is so much easier to work with than the 17mm!

  5. Hi Robin, I think these photos show some charm! I like the triceratops one the best. However, as I am sure you have read on Ming's blog, there are several ways to make an image "outstanding". With this set, I only really see the use of image isolation by creating a shallow DOF. Maybe spend a day with the lens an f/8 and try to focus on making images based on compelling light or geometry. In my (limited) experience, shooting with the Olympus body cap lens has really helped me focus more on the image as a whole. =)

  6. Way back when, the 35mm focal length was used on compact 135 format cameras, rather than 40mm or 50mm. It was meant to allow people to gather some friends and take a quick group photo with the self timer.

    I doubt that the focal length is important to an artistic photographer, since that person wouldn't be concentrating on group photos or would have a much wider angle lens for groups.

    At least, the 17mm f/1.8 lens is good, despite some of the supposed flaws, but then, even the 17mm f/2.8 lens can provide good photos in the correct circumstances.

  7. i understand what you are saying about the 17mm. it's not the focal length per se - but it is not an exciting lens in m43rds, for reasons i can't explain. my old 35 on a leica m6 was a dream. now, i use the 23(35) 1.4 fuji, and it is absolutely marvelous. not too wide, not too long. and the result is tremendous.... don't give up on 35's - perhaps just with the oly

  8. Holy KARP! You scared the hell out of me today! Well, I'm glad that I could be a poster child for a lens that you don't love, my big bald head is particularly good for showing the wide-angle distortion of the 17mm. We all have a purpose in life...... :P

    Overall Marcio K is right, the 35 (and 28mm) effective focal lengths is good for showing a subject in context of it's background or at least in relation to other subjects - the photo of Raja, me, and the golden lens, for instance. For a single subject, notsomuch. I have a love/hate relationship with my Panasonic 14mm lens, but I spent 2 years shooting exclusively with a Sigma DP1 (also EFL 28mm). You learn to use the tools that you have. Anyway, suggestion - go on a shutter therapy session with nothing but the 17/1.8 for the day and see what happens. Don't shoot wide open, try "F8 and be there". Also, choose better photo models! You had a much better one right next to you!



  9. Robin! I feel the same way about my Voigtlander 17.5mm! costed a pretty penny, and when i shot with my fav lens, pana 25mm, i always wished it to be a little wider, but 35mm just doesnt feel right to me either when i take my shots, most of them time i crop them..

  10. Maybe you should experiment a bit with such a Petzval lens. It's a (swirly) bokeh machine, albeit very long on M4/3. I think your (portrait) vision is more attuned to longer focal lengths. The 35mm eq is not ideal for portraits, IMHO.

  11. I do not quite agree and I agree at the same time.
    I love my 17mm 1.8 but it is not a hyper-sharp lens, but for some purpose like creative perspective or wider shot, I love to use it.
    Well, I have a lot of primes.... which makes thing easier for me.
    I have believed for long that with a 17mm I would be set for street photography, in the end I used a lot my telephoto lens for that like the 45mm 1:1.8 and the 75mm 1:1.8. That being said, I did have a shock when I purchased my voigtlander 25mm...It was really the focal length that I did missed for my street photography activity and I found it so more versatile. right mix between the perspective of a wide angle and the honesty (should we say improvement or enhancement) of a telephoto lens for portraiture.
    of course the each lens has its character, and let say that Olympus has its top of the line, warm and slight saturated color...Voigtlander really has this movie-like look.
    So yes I'm sure 25mm will be your best companion for your shutter therapy but you should in some occasion give the chance to the 17mm that will provide you a specific perspective to your photo that the 25mm will not be able to provide. And let's be honest even if 17mm isn't your favored lens I believe you still handle it better than your 45mm :)

  12. I think actually that you are a "ZOOM" lens as I see from so many shot you take. You creatively need the ability to shift the length while your composing your show. I saw photos from the 14-42 and they were excellent. The 17mm is the equal of the 35mm to a full frame. Normally the 35mm is grab a shot as at the moment....and your not looking to get super close.

  13. i would like to give my humble opinion, human field of vision is actually 60 degree. we as human knows the best distance to view with our lousy 35mm natural lenses.