Olympus M.Zuiko 17 mm f/1.8 review

Olympus E-M5 + M.Zuiko 17 mm f/1.8
@ f/5.6, 4 s. and ISO 200.
Olympus introduced a new 17 mm prime lens finally, after many rumors and a long wait. The new lens is very different from the 17 mm f/2.8 that came together with the very first PEN model. The all new M.Zuiko 17 mm f/1.8 has reasonably fast max aperture and promises first class image quality.

Mechanical construction of the lens is similar to the 12 mm f/2, and it certainly feels solid with a metal exterior. The focus ring can be pulled back to activate manual focus and to reveal a focus scale. The ring imitates the feel of a traditional manual focus pretty well. Unfortunately the lens hood must be purchased separately.

The new Zuiko also looks good to me, but I wish Olympus made a black version too. It would suit so much better with a black camera body.

Tha autofocus is silent, accurate and very fast. I can't say if it is faster than the 12 mm or the 45 mm, but it is not slower either. Accuracy is excellent and the focus is always right on.
Olympus E-M5 + M.Zuiko 17 mm f/1.8
@ f/1.8, 1/400 s. and ISO 200.
1119 x 852 px 100% crop from the center the above picture.
The optical performance is our main interest, of course. So, let's see how the new M.Zuiko does.

Wide open at f/1.8 in the center of the frame the sharpness is good, the edges average and the corners a bit soft, but not mushy. Stopping down to f/2.8 brings the center to excellent, the edges to good and the corners to average level. The best overall sharpness over the entire frame is available from f/4 to f/8, when even the corners are in good level. After f/8 the diffraction starts to soften the picture, but with some post process sharpening even f/16 is useful. I still don't recommend anything smaller that f/8 unless you have a very good reason.
Olympus E-M5 + M.Zuiko 17 mm f/1.8
@ f/4, 1/4 s. and ISO 200.
1053 x 622 px 100% crop from the left edge of the above picture.
Cromatic aberrations are mild and easily corrected in post with just a click of a mouse. Distortions are software corrected so there are none to be seen, but the correction method robs some of the edge and corner sharpness. Purple fringing is almost nonexistent and that makes the images look clean and tidy. Purple fringing can be very hard or almost impossible to remove and it makes me happy not to see any with this lens.
Olympus E-M5 + M.Zuiko 17 mm f/1.8
@ f/1.8, 1/15 s. and ISO 3200.
I compared the new Zuiko to my Panasonic 20 mm f/1.7. The Panny is a tad sharper wide open, but the Zuiko catches up after minimal stopping down. Panasonic has serious problem with purple fringing that can be seen all over the place. Pana is also an old design and that shows with noisy and slowish autofocus.
Olympus E-PL5 + M.Zuiko 17 mm f/1.8
@ f/1.8, 1/80 s. and ISO 800.
All in all, I think Olympus M.Zuiko 17 mm f/1.8 is a very nice lens with good image quality. It is not quite in the same league with the Zuiko 45 mm and 75 mm f/1.8, but still very usable. I think the price is quite well in balance with the quality.
Olympus E-M5 + M.Zuiko 17 mm f/1.8
@ f/8, 2 s. and ISO 200.
1197 x 910 px 100% crop from the center of the above picture.
I especially like the angle of view that resembles the classic 35 mm full frame lens. Back in the film days I had 35 mm in one body and a 85 mm in another. Now I can have almost the same with my Olympus if I use the 17 mm and the 45 mm. Yes, I have preordered a M.Zuiko 17 mm f/1.8.
Olympus E-M5 + M.Zuiko 17 mm f/1.8
@ f/5.6, 5 s. ja ISO 200.
I shot all these pictures in raw and processed them in Lightroom 4.3 RC. I have made some tonal adjustments, but I have left the sharpening as LR default.