An Update On My First Impressions…
(NOTE: If you already took a look at my first impressions and just want the info relating to my long-term tests, scroll to the bottom of the page.)
Olympus continues to demonstrate their commitment to professional photography by shipping the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 PRO Lens. Last year, I was fortunate enough to see one of the prototypes in a meeting that I had with representatives from the company’s Japanese headquarters. I was impressed then. I am more impressed now. As an Olympus Visionary, I was recently blessed with a gift of one of the first production models. I spent most of last week shooting with it in San Francisco. It was love at first sight.
As a bird photographer, I don’t often use a 35mm field of view, but I do enjoy making what I call “birdscapes” (landscape shots with birds in the foreground or background) and this lens will be superb for that task.
I tested the lens while attending the Olympus Visionary Summit – as such, I wasn’t thinking about birds as my subject. Since the Summit was in San Francisco, I shot many subjects I wouldn’t normally go for – just as a test. It was lots of fun.
In case you haven’t seen the specs on this lens – here they are:
- Micro Four Thirds System
- 34mm (35mm Equivalent)
- Aperture Range: f/1.2 to f/16
- Four ED Elements, One ED-DSA Element
- Super HR, EDA, and Aspherical Elements
- Z Coating Nano
- MSC High-Speed Imager AF System
- Internal Focusing, MF Clutch
- Weather-Resistant Construction
- Rounded Nine-Blade Diaphragm
In the hand, the 17mm Pro lens feels magnificent. It is based on solid metal construction. While Olympus will not say where the lens is made, I’d bet my bottom dollar it’s Japan. It is superbly crafted. It focuses REALLY quickly (using an internal focusing mechanism) and on the OMD EM1 MK II, it was as fast as can be. It’s also sharp as can be across the aperture range with very well-controlled CAs – especially for a wide-angle lens.
It’s close focusing distance is touted at just more than seven inches, but I’d swear I got closer than that to achieve focus. I stuck this lens inside flowers and got sharp images. It’s useable as a macro.
The new 17mm prime from Olympus matches the 25mm and 45mm Pro lenses with the same front filter thread (62mm.) That’s brilliant! Buy the holy trinity (the 17mm , the 25mm and the 45mm) and you can share one common set of filters with all! I own all three lenses and if I wasn’t a bird photographer, I’d probably just buy all three of these primes and call it a day.
Bokeh fans will be super happy with the 17mm lens. It offers a smooth, creamy, bokeh when shot wide open. Its image quality is first-rate with good color, clarity and contrast. I also want to mention the sharpness once more because it’s really sharp, even wide-open. The 45mm f/1.2 might be a tad sharper (it’s the sharpest lens I’ve ever tested) but not by much. I also experienced almost no flare using this lens. In short, it’s everything you’d want in a wide-angle lens.
And yes, I have used it to make eagle pictures! See below.
If you want a professional-quality lens, this one is a sure-fire bet. It’s expensive at $1199, but it’s well worth the money. I’ve never tested a lens in this focal range that I like this much. In fact, this lens is so good that it makes me want to be a street shooter! If you buy this lens you’ll fall in love. Just me giving you fair warning! Happy shooting.
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