Imaging Resource: Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro Lens Review: The best wide-angle prime for Micro Four Thirds

https://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2018/05/11/olympus-17mm-f-1.2-pro-lens-review-best-wide-angle-for-micro-four-thirds

“Having earned the top spot as our Best Wide Angle Prime of 2017 in our annual Lens of the Year awards, we’ve now finalized our lab testing of the Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens. This 35mm-eq. wide-angle prime lens is undoubtedly a professional-level optic that offers excellent performance. Image quality is spectacular, even at f/1.2, with very low distortion and low chromatic aberration….”

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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro professional-quality Micro Four Thirds prime lens with manual clutch focus rings drawn back for accurate, repeatable manual focussing at a quarter turn to go from infinity to closest focusing distance, excellent for stills photography and video production on hybrid cameras and cinema cameras.
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The Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lens line-up as of late October 2017.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro

Commentary

With the coming release of Blackmagic Design’s Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K aka BMPCC 4K aka P4K later this year, along with the already-released Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 IBIS hybrid 4K stills/video camera and the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S high-end compact 4K video camera, attention is on affordable yet high-end professional-quality lenses capable of delivering excellent results whether manually-focussed or used with those cameras’ autofocus functionality if they have it.

After trying out prime and zoom optics from several ranges of Micro Four Thirds lenses, I have chosen to invest in Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro range and will be adding more as availability and finances permit.

My documentary photography and moviemaking work demands gear that can withstand years of use and potentially challenging environments without succumbing, and the weather resistance, durability, quality and relative low weight and size put the M.Zuiko Pro lens range in the frame.

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The first five lenses from the Leica M 0.8 cinema lens set by Leica Camera sister company CW Sonderoptic, in the 21mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm and 50mm focal lengths, all with 77mm filter diameters, a perfect set for cinematographers or stills photographers. I am hoping that Olympus will expand its M.Zuiko Pro prime lens offerings to add a wider range of focal lengths like these in their M43 equivalents.So far Olympus has issued 35mm and 50mm equivalent focal lengths.

It is hardly surprising that the folks at Imaging Resource awarded their Best Wide Angle Prime of 2017 plaudit to the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens.

I have yet to have the pleasure of trying one out due to apparent local supply problems, but the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro is at the top of my M43 lens wish list along with its 45mm and 25mm stablemates as well as the 5-stop image-stablized Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro zoom lens followed by the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro wideangle zoom.

I will be adding Xume fast-on, fast-off filter holders, Breakthrough Photography brass knurled step-up rings and UV protection filters, and a full set of top-quality variable and fixed ND filters to my kit in the 82mm and 105mm sizes soon.

I hope that Olympus will continue to expand its M.Zuiko Pro offerings into the 10.5mm and 14mm prime lens sizes as part of the company’s stated commitment to its professional lens range.

Both focal lengths, in 35mm sensor terms equivalent to 21mm and 28mm, are crucial to my work in documentary photography and video, and are essential to any well-rounded collection of professional-quality prime lenses.

I would also like to see a 75mm equivalent lens added to the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lens collection – 21mm, 28mm and 75mm is one of my favourite 35mm sensor focal length triplet for documentary stills and video, or in M43 sensor terms 10.5mm, 14mm and 37.5mm.

That aside, I am very pleased that Olympus has released the 17mm f/1.2 in its second tranche of M.Zuiko Pro primes as I have been badly missing this focal length in my M43 sensor format cameras.

I had considered Olympus’ other 17mm lens, the M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8, as well as Panasonic’s near-17mm, the Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 Aspheric, but my head was decisively turned towards the M.Zuiko Pro series by my very first M43 lens purchase, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro, one of my favourite zoom lenses to this very day.

My head was further turned towards the M.Zuiko Pro lens collection by Cosyspeed’s Thomas Ludwig’s review of the M.Zuiko Pro 25mm f/1.2 and its beautiful skin-tone rendering.

“What makes a good lens? This is in many ways a question that can only be answered individually. To me it is not important that it is super sharp wide open or does not vignette etc. – to me the most important point is the esthetics, the look and feel it delivers. When I look at the images of a certain lens and it “feels” good, well, than it is a good lens. And you know what? The OLY 25/1.2 is a lens of this category. I’m simply amazed especially when looking at the portraits I made in Hamburg. Amazed not by my images but by the clean, natural and three dimensional look.

The OLY 25/1.2 has a certain magic and I would describe it’s special character in the way it closes the gap between a pronounced three dimensional look and a portrait friendly (lower) level of micro contrast. A high level of micro contrast gives 3D pop for example to LEICA and ZEISS lenses, but it can be a bit harsh when shooting portraits. I don’t know how the OLYMPUS engineers made it, but they found a way to give it a lot of 3D pop while micro contrast is on a natural level.”

I have tried out the Panasonic Leica Summilux 15mm f/1.7, equivalent in 35mm sensor terms to 30mm, but I found the focal length an uneasy in-between, too wide for the subjects I prefer photographing with a 35mm equivalent lens and too long for those much better suited to a 28mm focal length equivalent.

When I began researching the Micro Four Thirds format for moviemaking and photography several years ago, its detractors harped on about how few M43 lenses existed back then.

The critics were factually wrong then and the number of M43 prime and zoom lenses has grown considerably since, but gaps still remain in the major lens makers’ offerings, especially at M43 system co-founders Olympus and Panasonic.

Olympus has hit the right notes with its M.Zuiko Pro collection but it needs to keep growing its prime lenses and long focal-length subsets, in the former case taking a leaf out of the book Leica Camera wrote some years ago with its Leica M-System lenses for stills photography and its recent cinema lens spin-off, Leica sister company CW Sonderoptic’s five-strong Leica M 0.8 series.

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Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (BMPCC 4K) with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom lens with manual clutch focus, great for manual focussing. I like the longer image-stabilized Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4.0 IS Pro zoom for available light daily walkabout needs for video and stills.

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