Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital 17mm f/2.8 Review

March 15, 2011 | Zoltan Arva-Toth | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Olympus M:ZUIKO Digital 17mm f/2.8 is an adorable, tiny lens that looks great on any compatible camera, especially the retro Olympus PEN E-P1 and E-P2 for which it was designed. Optically though, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Its sharpness and resolving power are pretty good, especially in the centre of the frame, but they are hardly exceptional for a prime lens. Its “native” barrel distortion is very high for a rectilinear lens, although the algorithm used to correct it in-camera and in most raw converters is surprisingly effective, meaning most users will likely remain unaware of the issue.

Chromatic aberrations are there for you to see if you actively looking for them, but they are rather unlikely to spoil an image. Sold without a lens hood, the Olympus 17mm f/2.8 is prone to flare and ghosting in certain situations, so try to avoid including strong light sources in the frame. On a more positive note, corner shading is minimal at f/2.8, and effectively goes away on stopping down. Bokeh is surprisingly nice for a wide-angle lens of such a short focal length.

As to build quality and handling, they are obviously not on the same level as the lenses of old – but this could be said of almost any lens these days. Given that the angle of view and the relatively fast maximum aperture make this lens very well suited to street photography; the lack of a distance scale and DOF markings is a bit of a pity, as it makes zone focusing more complicated than it should be. Auto-focus is pretty fast on the E-P2, but by no means instantaneous – note however that with contrast-detect AF systems, the speed of focusing also depends on the sensor's read-out speed, which means that the lens may perform better on a different or future MFT body.

Overall, we enjoyed shooting with the Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital 17mm f/2.8 a lot – there are few lenses out there that beat it on the portability front, while its angle of view and fast maximum aperture make it an excellent walk-around lens. Priced at well below £300 in the UK and just under $300 in the US, it may not be a cheap lens but it's quite a bit more affordable than the Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f2.5 ASPH we reviewed last month.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 3
Ease-of-use 5
Image quality 4
Value for money 4