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Deciding between Oly 17mm and 25mm, need your thoughts on DOF and sharpness

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by Ramsey, Oct 5, 2014.

  1. Ramsey

    Ramsey Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 9, 2013
    Zagreb, Croatia
    I'm getting tired of the AF speed on my Panasonic 20mm. Also, I'd like to try a new focal length.

    I'm torn between the Olympus 17mm f1.8 and Oly 25mm f1.8.

    I mostly use my P20mm for environmental portraits, general walkaround, indoor parties and such. I often feel i'd need something a bit longer, so i'm inclined to think 25mm would suit me better. Then again, i have Oly60mm for portrait purposes (AF speed is also not its main feature, but it's workable).

    Main main concerns, apart from the price here in Croatia, are the (much debatable) sharpness and wideness of the Oly17mm. By wideness i don't mean "is it too wide for me?" because i can crop (due to me not printing anything above 20x30cm, it's sufficient enough for my needs). It's the perceived weaker DOF, bookeh, or to word it better, weaker subject separation (if i use it for environmental portraits).

    Needless to say, i've been spoiled rotten by the sharpness of the Panny20mm. I hear a lot of people complaining about Oly17mm to be soft, some going so far to claim it's only a bit better than the kit lens.

    With all said and done, i guess i should buy the Oly25mm immediately. Cheaper, feels like more used FL, sharper, longer (so it gives slightly more bookeh). But people that have the Oly17mm talk about better rendering, pop (due to the 35ish mm FOV), the best AF speed and much more pleasing out of focus area. Also, sharpness is not everything. With Panasonic 20mm, a lot of times i need to fiddle in LR because of (ironically) too much sharpness (especially for people faces). More time spent on PP means less time taking pictures...

    Any thoughts or real life examples? I've been through the showcase threads but can't find what i'm most interested in - environmental portrait with wide open lens. Can anyone that has (or has had) both lenses (17 and 25) share a photo like that (or 100% crop)? Something sort of comparable.

    Thx in advance

  2. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    Did you just talk yourself into the 25mm?

    If shallow dof is something you want you're going to gets lots and lots more of that with the 25mm. Not only due to the larger maximum aperture, but the longer focal length as well. If you tend to the wider end, you will like the field of view more, and a 60mm lens is nowhere near a 25mm lens, it's not like they will overlap. Get what your gut tells you to.

    • Like Like x 2
  3. Serhan

    Serhan Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 7, 2011
    I have both and prefer Oly 25mm due to optically corrected lens compared to any af lens w/ m43 25mm and below... I have close shots of my two nephews playing and 17mm stretched the faces and I was looking for programs to undo the auto correction... Otherside is when I switched from 14/17mm/RX1 to 25mm, it felt pretty tight eg for buildings etc but again you get a little bit less of dof which should be better for people shots. I usually pack 14mm with 25mm lately as 14mm is small enough...

    Since you went thru the image samples, most probably you have seen my shots. You can also check pbase, all 25 1.8 shots are mine, I don't think I had too many shots online but 17mm 1.8 shots from others that you can check:
    • Like Like x 1
  4. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    Oops, I figured you were referring to the Panasonic 25mm, which is what I get for not reading closely enough (re mentioning larger max aperture). Any particular reason you're not considering that one, incidentally?
  5. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team Subscribing Member

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Well, I have both and I like both. It's hard to say which is 'best' since they have different fields of view and what suits one photographer won't suit another. What I will say is this:

    - The 17/1.8 is a tad soft wide open, but it's not a big problem IMHO. Colour and contrast are good and you can add some sharpness in post processing if it bothers you. For shots of people, it's perfectly fine wide open. If you're taking landscapes, then you'll need more sharpness - but if you stop the 17/1.8 down to f4, then that's exactly what you get. At f4, it's a very sharp lens corner to corner and works well for landscapes. Where it comes to out-of-focus blur/subject separation, then the 17 will deliver it, but you need to be fairly close to your subject. If you want to take full-body portraits and get the background to be blurred, then you'll be disappointed. You'll need a 35mm lens on FF to do that properly.

    - The 25/1.8 is sharper wide open. It also delivers excellent colour and contrast. It's a hard lens to fault really. Framing is quite a bit tighter than the 17 though.

    Personally, I find I use the 17 more than the 25. The 35mm equivalent field of view suits what I take shots of. From the list of what you take, I think the same will probably apply to you. So, I'd say go with the 17. Apart from the slight loss of sharpness wide open, it's a great lens in practically every other way - e.g. build, AF and size.

    Hope this helps...

    A shot with the 25:

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
    Afternoon walk by Paul Kaye, on Flickr

    A shot with the 17:

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
    The Warwickshire Countryside by Paul Kaye, on Flickr
    • Like Like x 10
  6. Ramsey

    Ramsey Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 9, 2013
    Zagreb, Croatia
    Hehe, could be i'm persuading myself.

    Good points.

    Price, primarily. Also, had it borrowed a few times. It's rather big for my e-pl5, and definitely softer than p20 until stopped down so not much use of larger aperture.

    Excellent point on the stretched faces and definitely something to consider.

    Great post, much appreciated.

    I've read that the 17mm at f4 it's very sharp. I don't plan on shooting landscapes at anything below that aperture value...

    Also, i don't count on getting that much separation on full body portraits, i'm aware of the limitations of the system and the FL i'm using.

    You had me convinced to take the 17 but then ruined it by posting your links :)  Absolutely stunning pictures, both of them.

    Thanks to all, will sleep on it...
  7. tomO2013

    tomO2013 Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 28, 2013

    As Paul already mentioned the focal length that suits one photographer will not suit another.

    If you want full body wide angle portraits with lots of separation between subject and background another option is the Voigtlander 17.5 F0.95.

    It's expensive but excels at wide angle portraits and will give you a fast full frame look to your wide angle images. It sharpens up as you stop down however you need to stop down to F4 to loose field curvature effect where it is razor sharp across the frame - up there with the Oly 75.

    Major downsides - it's manual focus (which may or may not suit you) and it is expensive (relative to other m43 glass, but relative to what it is an F0.95 light gathering monster is very reasonably priced IMHO). Oh yeh.. and it is heavier and longer than Oly 17 or Pan 15mm..... That said its build quality is on another level.
  8. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    OK.. so I have the 14, the 17 , the 20, the pana 25 , the oly 45 and the 75

    most of my shots I use the 17 and the 75... only rarely the 25...

    all are great lenses... really good lenses.. will produce images in the right hands that can stand up to most normal peoples expectations.

    the 17 not sharp myth is BS

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
    PB250019 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    more 17 shots here


    • Like Like x 2
  9. Ramsey

    Ramsey Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 9, 2013
    Zagreb, Croatia
    Maybe i worded it incorrectly, i don't shoot that much full body portraits. What i meant was: i shoot headshots (and sometimes they can be in nature).

    And yeah, sometimes i would like to see a bit of bookeh, but I don't expect a "normal" fov m43 lens to be on the level of a 85/135mm lens on a FF as far as DOF goes.
  10. bassman

    bassman Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 22, 2013
    New Jersey
    The Bassman
    Bokeh is the quality of the out of focus areas rather than an equivalent way of implying shallow DoF. All lenses produce bokeh - some nice, some not.
  11. Ramsey

    Ramsey Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 9, 2013
    Zagreb, Croatia
    Thx, that's what i meant, and thought was implied.
  12. bigboysdad

    bigboysdad Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 25, 2013
    Sydney/ London
    Even though it's a better lens, I find I don't use the Pany 25 nearly as often as the 17 which has a more generally useful focal length and feels more instantaneous on the camera. Also, that theory about the 17 not being that sharp, I think I may have some kind of explanation for that. I don't know exactly why, but it wasn't all that good on my E-PL5, but on the E-P5, it's VERY good. Illogical given both cameras share the same sensor but that's my experience. Have you thought about the Oly 45 instead? That would seem to be a far enough focal length away from the 20 and is extremely good value.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. fransglans

    fransglans Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 12, 2012
    (oops. misread from me... the ep5does have a AA filter, but a weak one.. sorry ;)  )

    olympus ep5 has no AA filter, that maximizes the sharpening. which turns the O17 from meh to wow in the sharpness category.
    • Like Like x 2
  14. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter Subscribing Member

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    I wouldn't worry too much about differences in quality. People I tend to believe say they're similar. FL is the big decider. I have the 25 in my rural environs but in a city I would imagine the 17 would be preferable. I have the 17 2.8, but it's FL and not the quality which stops me from using it.
  15. Ramsey

    Ramsey Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 9, 2013
    Zagreb, Croatia
    This will probably be the deciding factor as i have the e-pl5 and don't plan to upgrade the body for at least a year...

    No 45 at this point, i need a normal FOV prime...
  16. zensu

    zensu Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 8, 2012
    Alabama USA
    I was unaware of this. This explains why I love straight OOC images from my E-P5. I also have been wondering why my older m43s' lenses got sharper after using the E-P5.:biggrin:
  17. tosvus

    tosvus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 4, 2014
    I don't think you will get a good answer to what is the best purchase for YOU. Everyone has different preferences, sometimes even colored by how much they like a particular lens. Case in point - I walk around a lot with my Nocticron 42.5 right now. Clearly not the most useful length but I love it so much I try harder to find good subjects.
  18. Ramsey

    Ramsey Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 9, 2013
    Zagreb, Croatia
    Sorry, don't mean to sound smug or disrespectful, but this is the "This or that forum", right?
    I'm trying to make an informed decision based on real life samples. I never asked of the community to decide for me, i asked for opinion on DOF, sharpness, rendering etc by people that have it.

    But in the end, i've found what i've been looking for on flickr (even there, it was a while until i found sort of comparable photos of what i mostly take pics of (family etc).

    17mm f1.8, wide open
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    25mm f1.8, wide open

    well, the DOF is definitely thinner at 25mm, duh. Is it of major difference to me, that's for me only to decide.

    I still don't know what to get... :) 

    i have received some useful tips from this thread, so thx again everyone...
  19. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team Subscribing Member

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Maybe next time you could just post a questionnaire and get us to write our answers in. That way you could avoid all the community chat-chat around common-interest subjects.
    • Like Like x 1
  20. silver92b

    silver92b Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 7, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    I don't know about the Oly 25mm lens. I have the Oly 17mm and have had the PL 25 f1.4... Between the those 2, the PL25 was IMHO, superior in every way.
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