12-35mm f/2.8 vs. Oly 17mm and PL25mm

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by sigamy, Jan 20, 2016.

  1. sigamy

    sigamy Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 4, 2012
    I keep thinking that some day I will do more street and landscapes...I don't have a wide prime, only the 14-45 PZ and the 14-45mm kit. I shoot family photos with the PL 25mm f/1.4, my only prime.

    I've wanted the 12-35mm f/2.8 for quite a while. But I'm wondering if I'd be better served with the Oly 17mm f/1.8? I'd then have two of the best primes in the system, with good distance between them. But is the 17mm wide enough for landscapes? (honest question as I don't know...)

    The Pro zoom is around $600 used. The Oly 17mm around $325 used.

    I'm just a hobbyist and I'm not a pixel peeper. I'd like good sharp photos and nice subject isolation. I also need good low light, taking pics indoors at family parties, etc.

    So...what would you do?
  2. budeny

    budeny Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 4, 2014
    Boulder, CO
    I think zooms are irreplaceable for landscapes. Unlike with street and family photos you won't be able to frame or zoom much with your legs/position.
    It's also the big difference even between 14mm and 12mm, so 17mm will be a lot narrower.
    You can see if zoom fits you by trying used Pany 12-32mm/3.5-5.6 lens. It's just ~$150-$170 used and not that far in IQ from 12-35mm/2.8
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2016
  3. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    You can use the zoom to check how the 17mm feels like. It's more a normal lens then a wide one. For wide landscapes you usually start at 14mm, 12mm or less. But you can do landscapes with a tele lens too, to isolate small parts of a wide and distant scene.

    Another difference is size, another one is speed: indoor 2.8 vs 1.8 is something that matters. But you already have the f/1.4 lens for low light situations.
    Another is stabilization, I suppose you have a Panasonic body.

    I would shoot more with the 14-45 to get a better feeling of what focal lengths you need.

    For landscapes you usually try to get as much as possible in focus using a smaller aperture like 5.6 or 8. The kit zoom stopped down a little, placing the focus correctly is good. Here isolation and fast apertures are usually less important.

    For street 17mm could be ideal but the "street" definition is quite subjective. For me implies a situation involving one or a few persons, usually full body, with some context. Otherwise are just portraits or headshots done outdoor, where the 45 could be the classic lens.

    The O17 can give you some isolation, but not much more then the 12-35 at the same focal length. But when the 12-35 is at 35mm it gives you a little more.

    The Olympus 17 1.8 Lens Review on the E-M5 by Steve Huff
    How much blur? - A visual background blur calculator
  4. fredlong

    fredlong Just this guy...

    Apr 18, 2011
    Massachusetts USA
    Many iconic landscapes have been shot with a field of view similar to the 17mm. Is it wide enough for you? I don't know. You have 17mm on your zoom so you can find out for yourself.
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  5. robcee

    robcee Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 10, 2016
    New Brunswick, Canada
    Rob Campbell

    You've already got a couple of zooms. You might be able to trade one of them in on whatever you end up getting.

    The 17 f1.8's a great lens. One of my favorite focal lengths and one of my favorite lenses in the m43 system. I love it. At f1.8, you can even manage some bokeh on portraits and street scenes. It's certainly better for that than the 12-35mm. Small too.

    You can absolutely shoot landscapes with it and I often do, though your existing zooms are pretty capable in that area as well.

    BUT the 12-35mm is a great pro, standard zoom lens. It's weather sealed, which the oly 17 is not. It's relatively compact for its capabilities, shorter than the Olympus equivalent. Solid optics though it does suffer from a bit of barrel distortion which gets corrected in camera.

    Also, the 17mm focal length is kind of tricky as a street shooter. You need to worry about a lot of stuff in your frame. I use the PL25 a lot for street shooting and love it.

    As others have said, maybe you should work with your existing zooms some more to get a feel for what you like. Lock one of them at 17mm and go for wander to see how you like it.
  6. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    I'd personally replace both your kit zooms with the 12-35. The 14-45 PZ isn't the best optically and whilst the 14-45 is no slouch, it's pretty slow which reduces its flexibility. For landscapes the 12-35 is a good option and its plenty sharp enough. I agree with Budeny that zooms are more flexible for landscapes. In any case, the 17/1.8 is no sharper. As to whether the 17 focal length is good for landscapes - well I think that depends on your style a lot. I've shot good landscapes with anything from a fisheye to a 400mm equivalent lens.

    For street, most people find a small prime less intrusive than a big zoom, so the 17 makes sense for that, although many prefer a longer focal length - but you're already well equipped for that with the 25/1.4. Only you can decide.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. sigamy

    sigamy Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 4, 2012
    Thanks everyone. Great, simple advice to take the 14-42mm out "locked" at 17mm and see how I like the field of view.

    If I can switch to the topic of image quality, bokeh, and use indoors...how do the 12-35 and 17 compare?

    I know it's a personal decision and I have to decide but I'm interested in hearing from others on what they value more--a f/2.8 zoom (flexibility) or a super-fast prime?
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2016
  8. robcee

    robcee Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 10, 2016
    New Brunswick, Canada
    Rob Campbell
    geez. no fair.

    Inside, you might find that extra stop of aperture helps quite a bit. At 17mm, you're not going to get great subject isolation regardless, but the 17 will give you more of a blurred background than the panny 12-35 for sure.

    I do agree with pdk42 that the 12-35 would be a great replacement for both your current zooms. It would be a solid upgrade in almost any situation.


    22981640579_a02a206780_c. ian at AAA by Rob Campbell, on Flickr

    Here's a recent shot I took inside a very dim bar with horrid neon lighting. The back wall doesn't have a lot of detail on it but it'll give you an idea of the kind of bokeh the 17mm produces.
    • Like Like x 2
  9. ean10775

    ean10775 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 31, 2011
    Cleveland, Ohio
    This leads me to believe you'd be happier with the 17/1.8 and the 25/1.4. Losing two stops of light indoors is pretty significant and you'll get more subject isolation with the set of primes as well.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    For maximum background blur you need four things: close focus distance, distant background, small aperture and long focal length.
    You can play with the tool I linked before to see how these combines. A fast aperture matters most when the background is close, a longer lens blurs more the elements in the distance. A 60/2.8 blurs much more then a 17/1.8 for example (for the same framing).
    A fast aperture alone does not matter much, it can easily give you a couple of faces out of focus in a group shot but not much blur if the other elements are not there.
    The other link gives you an idea of the maximum blur you can get with the 17. Isolation for portraits, where focus distance is small, is quite good.

    Indoor often there is not much light. For shooting humans you need minimum 1/60s or 1/100s so it is just a matter of balancing ISO and shutter speed. And even stopping down the lens from the maximum aperture if more persons are in the shot. So a fast aperture in practice just gives you less noise, could be the difference from ISO 3200 to ISO 1000. Or, for a fixed ISO, shooting at 1/100 instead then 1/30. Flash is the only thing that really helps more.

    IQ of the O17 and the 12-35 I think is about the same.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    I have both lenses. Bought them both used off the same person in our Buy & Sell forum last summer. Short answer is they are both very good lenses and I don't really notice any major difference in image quality. If I shot a bunch of photo with both lenses at 17mm and using the same aperture as each other, I doubt very much anyone would be able to determine which shots came from which lens.

    So in my opinion it really comes down to a trade off between the versatility of the 12-35's zoom vs. the faster aperture capability of the 17mm (plus its compact size).

    As to Bokeh and isolation of the 17mm, because it is a fairly wide angle, for normal shooting you won't see a lot of either unless you shoot very close to your subject with the background much further away. For example, this one was taken at f/1.8 when testing the lens right after I got it...
    18720140083_6e496cd6a9_z. 2015.07.01-18.10.22 by Patrick, on Flickr

    As you can see, the background is fairly well in focus when you are focusing on a subject that is also relatively farther away from you. So unless you get really close to your subject you probably won't see the type of separation that you would with say the 45mm/1.8. This isn't a flaw with the 17mm specifically but simply a fact of wide angle lenses working this way.

    The 12-35mm at f/2.8 through the zoom range is no slough when it comes to low light. This one was shot at 15mm, f/2.8 at ISO=1600 hand held...
    21291564328_9845c96818_z. 2015.07.19-22.59.48 by Patrick, on Flickr

    as was this one...

    21126693275_a10317fb9d_z. Fox Performing Arts Center 2 by Patrick, on Flickr

    So in summary, they are both fantastic lenses but I don't think you are going to find a big difference in performance between them. If you want to carry a small prime, the 17/1.8 is fantastic. If you want a constant aperture zoom that is both wider angle and relatively fast for a zoom, the 12-35mm is a fantastic choice as well. :)  Do you want me to lend you a silver dollar so you can flip on it?
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Steven

    Steven Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2012
    12-35 is great , so why not, but if you want a wide prime 14/2.5 is one I'd get instead of 17/1.8. I'd keep the 25/1.4 though, it has such a nice smooth output for people's photos .
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Generationfourth

    Generationfourth Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 11, 2015
    I know this doesn't help you but I ended up with the 12-35 in addition to my 20mm and 42.5 1.7's. In my case it helped get rid of the 12, and 25 primes I wanted. For me there are strong use cases for both. Maybe look at your file breakdown. If you have 70%+ shots of indoor/family then maybe go for the primes and vice versa.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. bassman

    bassman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 22, 2013
    New Jersey
    The Bassman
    I have the 17, 25, and the 12-35.

    I agree with the comments above: zooms work better for landscape, where the fast aperture isn't very helpful. My landscape kit is usually the 12-35 and 35-100 2.8 lenses, sometimes with the 9-18 added.

    My "chase the kids around kit" is the 17/1.8 and 45/1.8. The extra speed and light weight helps a lot indoors. I find the 25 - while a great lens alone - is too close to the others to justify carrying it as well. If I just had the 25, I'd probably add the 15/1.7 and get more separation.
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