Should you buy the new Olympus m.Zuiko 17mm f/1.2 PRO lens?

Written by Gary on October 27th, 2017

Whilst I am a big fan of buying the new Olympus m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.2 lens, I must say I am a bit ambivalent about the new Olympus m.Zuiko 17mm f/1.2 PRO lens at that price.

That is not to say this lens is not worth buying, and that it is not an amazing lens which will produce fantastic imagery with its lovely bokeh (if you are focusing closer enough to demonstrate it that is), and for some photographers it will be a great buy even at the asking price because it addresses their needs very nicely indeed.

There are two main issues as I see it.

  1. if you really need shallow depth of field at this field of view, then a full frame camera with a high quality 35mm f/1.4 lens might be a better bet, because this lens is only going to give you depth of field equivalent to f/2.4 on a full frame 35mm lens, and unlike the case with the 25mm or 45mm lenses, this means your subject does have to be quite close – your wedding group shot probably won’t cut it for you with this lens if you want to isolate them from the background – but it will be fantastic for an environmental portrait or for street photography.
  2. if you don’t need the shallow depth of field, then perhaps the Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens will suffice for your needs.

 

But, that said, it does have some very useful utility:

  1. low light work – night or indoors available light work, or stitched panorama Milky Way astroscapes
    • the combination of reasonable depth of field at f/1.2 and the awesome image stabiliser in the Olympus cameras means you will be able to take some low light imagery better than a Canon or Nikon full frame dSLR with a big heavy 35mm f/1.4 lens.
  2. street photography or environmental portraits where you want to have some subject isolation
  3. other relatively close subjects where you wish to blur the background
  4. and, of course, it will work very nicely as a travel lens, if you don’t need the zoom.

 

Let’s compare it with options for full frame 35mm f/1.4 lenses:

Olympus 17mm f/1.2 (with Olympus E-M1 II) Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II Sony 35mm f/1.4 ZA
lens price $US1199 $US899 $US1799 $US1600
weathersealing excellent no v.good v.good
lens weight 390g 665g 760g 630g
filter 62mm 67mm 72mm 72mm
close focus 0.2m 0.3m 0.28m 0.3m
length 87mm 94mm + adapter 106mm 112mm
comments nice bokeh, MF clutch, 5.5EV IS, Eye AF, ProCapture BUT 1.5EV less DOF control some onion ring bokeh, moderate lat CA, 1.8EV vignetting, Eye AF, 5.5EV IS on Sony only no IS, not optimised for CDAF Eye AF, 5.5EV IS, 1.7EV vignetting, AF issues stopped down

Summary:

For the price of 1.5EV less depth of field control compared to the full frame options, there are a LOT of benefits – smaller, lighter, less burden, closer focus and the best image stabilisation system out there as well as pretty cool closest eye AF technology, not to mention the very handy Pro-Capture mode if you are into creative wide angle sports photography and the ability to shoot at 18fps or even 60fps.

The Sony a7RIII with a Sony 35mm f/1.4 lens does give some advantages such as the shallower DOF, higher resolution images and the even better Eye AF technology, but it is much more expensive, heavier, less fun, and there are concerns of its AF system when the aperture is stopped down.

 

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