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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens Review

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the compact Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens for Micro Four Thirds cameras.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f/2.8
Price : £230
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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Olympus M Zuiko 17mm Pancake Micro Four Thirds Lens

This compact pancake lens sports a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture and is compatible with all Micro Four Thirds cameras. The isn't equipped with in lens stabilisation ,which is typical for pancake lenses, but Olympus camera owners will be able to take advantage of their camera's in-body stabilisation system.

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f/2.8 Handling and Features

Olympus M Zuiko 17mm Pancake Micro Four Thirds Lens With Olympus Pen EP2
Pancake lenses are designed to be small and lightweight. This lens certainly achieves that aim, only weighing 71g and protruding only 37mm from the camera body. When coupled with the Olympus PEN E-P2 used for testing, it makes a compact and almost pocketable combination, if you have large enough pockets, that is.

Autofocus is fairly snappy, and the manual focusing ring has a smooth action and is well damped, which makes applying fine focus adjustments relatively straightforward. Closest focus is 20cm, which allows you to get close in for frame filling shots, and is ideal for shooting in cramped environments.

A 37mm filter thread is supplied, which does not rotate during focusing. This makes the lens ideal for use with graduated or polarising filters. High quality plastics with a silver finish have been used for much of the lens' construction and the lens mount is metal, which helps to convey an overall impression of good build quality.

Olympus M Zuiko 17mm Pancake Micro Four Thirds Lens

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f/2.8 Performance

As it typical for pancake optics, sharpness in the centre of the frame is high at maximum aperture, approaching excellent levels, but the clarity towards the edges of the frame isn't quite as good, only achieving fairly good levels of sharpness.

MTF at 17mm
MTF at 17mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on an Olympus PEN E-P2 using Imatest.

Stopping down improves clarity across the frame, with peak performance being achieved between f/4.and f/5.6, where sharpness in the centre is excellent, and very good towards the edges of the frame.

CA at 17mm
CA at 17mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on an Olympus PEN E-P2 using Imatest.

Levels of chromatic aberrations are on the high side, exceeding one pixel width at every aperture and increasing as the lens is stopped down. This level of fringing may pose issues, especially with image containing high contrast towards thee edges of the frame.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame can be noticeable at maximum aperture. Here the corners are 1.5 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved with the lens stopped down to f/5.6 or beyond.

Very strong barrel distortion for a lens of this type is present, which may pose issues when shooting any subjects with straight lines, such as architecture. Imatest detected 4.96% barrel distortion, which is incredibly high for a lens of this type. Many Micro Four Thirds cameras correct this automatically, but the correction process will result in a reduction in resolution towards the edges of the frame.

This lens can suffer with a noticeable loss of contrast when shooting scenes containing a bright light source. Saying that, flare is rarely an issue, even with the sun towards the edge of the frame.

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f/2.8 Sample Photos


Value for Money

This lens is currently available for around £230, which isn't a bad price considering the compact dimensions, f/2.8 maximum aperture and high sharpness when stopped down.

Panasonic's 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens for Micro Four Thirds costs a little more at around £280. For that you get a brighter maximum aperture, which will allow shooting in lower light conditions and greater ability to isolate your subject from the background.

Those looking for a lens around this focal length may also consider Sigma's 19mm f/2.8 lens. Although this lens isn't a pancake style lens and is a bit more bulky as a result, it only costs around £150.

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f/2.8 Verdict

Although this lens may have a few shortcoming optically, and it isn't the lowest priced lens around this focal length, it will still win over many fans due to it's extremely compact and lightweight design and high build quality.

If you can live with the high CA levels and barrel distortion, and making your Micro four thirds camera as compact as possible is the aim, then this may be the ideal lens for you, otherwise, there are other lenses available that will deliver higher quality, or better value for money.

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f/2.8 Pros

Very good sharpness overall
Good build quality
Lightweight
Compact
Reasonably priced

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f/2.8 Cons

High levels of barrel distortion
High levels of CA

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
VERDICT

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm f/2.8 Specifications

ManufacturerOlympus
General
Lens Mounts
  • Olympus Micro Four Thirds
Lens
Focal Length17mm
Angle of View65
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size37mm
35mm equivalent34mm
Internal focusingNo
Focusing
Min Focus20cm
StabilisedNo
Construction
Blades5
Elements6
Groups4
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens, Lens Cap, Lens Rear Cap, Warranty Card
Dimensions
Weight71g
Height22mm

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Comments


Paul Morgan e2
13 15.2k 6 England
3 Sep 2012 3:49PM
I was thinking of this lens but I then opted for the Sigma 19mm, its bigger, but comes with a hood and its about 90 cheaper.

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