- Good image sharpness from wide open at closer and medium distances
- Good central image sharpness in all cases
- Neutral color rendition with pleasing skin tones
- Smooth bokeh when shooting closer subjects
- Extremely fast, accurate and quiet autofocus
- Great build quality and small size
- At longer distances, image edges are a bit soft
- Bokeh gets nervous at longer distances
- Lateral chromatic aberration is present at all apertures (though correctable)
- Olympus doesn’t include a lens hood, and charges obscene money for it after the fact
- Distortion is very high in uncorrected files, but low in JPEGs and in some RAW converters.
Overall, the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 is an improvement on it’s older f/2.8 brother in nearly every way. It’s sharper, has less CA, better bokeh, focuses faster and is built much better. However, it falls short of Olympus’ other recent higher end lenses. While sharp in the center at all apertures, sharpness fades on the edges and corners, and they never really get super sharp. Bokeh is good closer up, but falls short at medium to long distances, and chromatic aberration, while correctable, is still present. Distortion of the native glass is extremely high, though the in-lens correction algorithms work well.
Overall, I think the 17mm f/1.8 is an extremely good lens for environmental portraiture and street shooting, as its image qualities shine in these situations, and the autofocus is blazingly fast. If you are after this lens as a high quality landscape lens, it’s probably not worth your money, as you can get similar quality from your kit zoom at 17mm stopped down.
The high build quality, autofocus and great rendering at closer distances will make this a must have lens for some shooters, but it’s ultimately a slightly flawed lens that doesn’t quite reach the lofty status of some of Olympus other recent high-end lenses.
Click on an image to enlarge. You may notice that image samples are in many cases the same as those posted for my Panasonic GH3 review. As I received both of these items for review at the same time, they were in most cases reviewed together.