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.


  1. I prefer the look, the feel and the image quality of my Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 paired with the black body of my OM-D. I don’t believe is really wise to spent €500 just to avoid the purple fringing (which is not so huge problem!) of my beautiful pancake…
    We will have to wait for the Oly to prove its superiority against the Pany…

  2. It all depends on what you shoot, of course. The Pana 20 mm is pretty good and sharp, but it has its flaws. The new Olympus 17 mm takes care most of those flaws without adding any, and that makes it worth buying to me. Besides, I like the angle of view better.

    I also like that now have another alternative to choose from. Something for everybody.

    I'm sure there are a lot of photographers who continue making great pictures with their Panasonic 20 mm lens.

    1. Thanks for your nice review. Could you comment on the AF speed of the 20mm Panasonic compared to the new 17mm f/1.8?


    2. The AF speed of modern m4/3 lenses generally is very fast and that really shows with the M.Zuiko 17 mm f/1.8. Compared to the Pana 20 mm the Olympus is much faster and virtually silent.

      While the Panasonic's AF speed is very adequate for most photography it feels quite sluggish and noisy after the Olympus.


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