Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8: What a difference experience makes…

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…and time, and the camera used, etc. Had this lens before, but kvetched about the focal length a bit before moving on to the Olympus 25mm. Did not appreciate it as I should have. Did not expect to buy it again. What happened? Glad you asked. Simple. I used it with a new perspective. Recently it was the lens I used to test drive a second hand PEN-F that Southeastern Camera had in store. I do not know what I was thinking before, but I now love this lens. Why? Here is a list.

  • Let’s get the non-technical bits out of the way first. All metal premium construction. Has nothing to do with the optics, but it matters. Feels like my favorite old film lenses and looks the business on the PEN-F. Even stacks up well aesthetically next to one of my all-time film favorites that also happens to be an Olympus.

  • Manual focus clutch with distance markings revealed when actuated. 

    Very nice in use.
  • While not a pancake it is noticeably shorter than my other primes making it just that bit more jacket pocketable.
  • Even though it is not a traditional portrait focal length it is great for taking environmental portraits like this shot I took of former NAACP head Benjamin Jealous outside Duke Chapel after he spoke at an event honoring Martin Luther King, Jr..

Benjamin Jealous

  • Like every Olympus lens I have ever used, sharp. Sharp. Sharp.
  • Great depth of field subject isolation and bokeh given its modest focal length, and MFT format.


  • Fast and silent focusing.
  • Good for focusing up close.

Olympus PEN-F

  • Great colors.

Olympus PEN-F

  • Very good for night use.

Olympus PEN-F

I’ll stop myself here. Suffice it to say I really like this lens.

Minuses? It costs more than I would usually like to spend since I am cheap frugal? But there is no arguing the fact that this lens is good value. There are other Olympus lenses I like that are less expensive, but none of them can hold a candle to the excellent construction of this lens. It scores well on my “stun someone if you catch them across the bridge of the nose” matrix with its all metal build. Add in the manual focus clutch and it is a no-brainer if this is a focal length you enjoy.

There is the recently released Olympus 17mm f/1.2 variant of course. Great lens with some very positive reviews. A great choice if the best of the best low light performance, very sharpest optics available (though not by that wide a margin), and weather sealing are preferred. (A great comparison article here.) Due to the f/1.2’s larger size and higher price tag the f/1.8 is a better fit for me.

In parting here is a sample gallery that includes pics from the first time I had this lens as well as recent shots. Happy shooting.


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