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Olympus 17mm f/1.8 vs. Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 vs. Olympus 17mm f/2.8

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by Yohan Pamudji, Dec 21, 2012.

  1. Yohan Pamudji

    Yohan Pamudji Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 21, 2012
    Mississippi, USA
    I promised in another thread that I'd do a comparison of these 3 moderate wide angle lenses soon after receiving the Olympus 17mm f/1.8. I got the lens today, ran a quick test, and posted the results at my blog. Feel free to post questions or comments here or there (or both!) as I'll be monitoring both locations for feedback.

    As mentioned in that blog post, please be gentle with my bandwidth. Right-click and save the linked images to your computer so you only download them once as opposed to left-clicking on the links.
    • Like Like x 8
  2. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Thanks for performing this test. You're confirming my original prejudices, though I was surprised at how well the 17/2.8 compares in the center. I think I must have had a bum copy.

    You also make a good point about sharpening - small differences in detail can rather easily be masked, through software on one end, or less than optimal technique on the other.

    Would be curious where the Sigma 19/2.8 fits in, but I suppose that's a test for another time.
  3. incabloc

    incabloc Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2012
    Thanks for sharing the tests, Yohan.
  4. Donsantos

    Donsantos Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 24, 2012
    The issue with comparing the sharpened version is that sharpening introduces noise are artifacts (especially at higher iso)
  5. Naftade

    Naftade Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 23, 2012
    Munich, Germany

    Thanks for posting these!

    they help me a lot making up my mind.

    I'd say the Oly does not reacch Panasonic sharpness even when sharpened (just look at the very small letters and numbers on the "Best of both worlds" box.
    It's definitely sharp enough for me (and clearly sharper than the 17 2.8 in my eye), but I am disappointed with regard to the price/performance ratio of this new lens.

    As I was reluctant to get a lens that close to the superb PL25 1.4 anyway (I only have limited funds and so much would like to get the 75 1.8 :smile:)  I'll just wait. Oly (once again) decided to rip european customers off and sells the lens for 550 € (about 725 $), which is just too much.
  6. Yohan Pamudji

    Yohan Pamudji Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 21, 2012
    Mississippi, USA
    I'm becoming more and more convinced that there's a lot of sample variation with the 17mm f/2.8. Some people really blast it to bits even though my own experience has been largely favorable. Maybe I got a golden copy.

    My gut feeling after less than 1 day is that the difference in sharpness will be less of an issue in actual use. If I shot test charts for a living I'd toss out the 17mm f/1.8, but thankfully I don't.

    Would be happy to test it if I had one, but I don't and have no interest in acquiring one. For my use it's the worst of both worlds--not as wide as the 17mm lenses and not as large aperture as the f/1.7 and f/1.8.

    No problem! I was doing them anyway so I figured I might as well share.

    It certainly can if you're not careful. I addressed this in my blog post. I personally don't see any sharpening artifacts in the screenshot I posted, but there are other areas of the sharpened photo that aren't shown that I'm suspicious might have sharpening artifacts. I'll definitely be playing around with the amount of sharpening to find a better sweet spot.

    And at higher ISO I wouldn't sharpen at all. High ISO noise has a way of equalizing sharpness among lenses that are reasonably close in sharpness to begin with. That's why I shot these at ISO 200. I suspect that at ISO 1600, 3200, and up you really wouldn't see much of a difference if at all.

    I'm very happy that my quick test is providing valuable info for people trying to decide.

    I'm not seeing the same thing you are. That text at the top of the spine looks pretty well identical to me. You might be seeing a difference due to the 20mm image looking larger because I shot all test shots from the same tripod location and the 20mm has a narrower angle of view (more "zoom").

    You know, at first I was happy/relieved when it was announced as a $500 lens because I thought it would be more like $700. But then early test results came out and I got the sinking feeling that they priced it at $500 because it wasn't quite up to the level of their better lenses. It will take some time using it and getting a proper feel for it before I'll decide if it's worth keeping, but I can definitely understand people being suspicious of the lens. It's certainly not a straight up no reservations lens. There are caveats to be aware of before purchasing it.

    Ouch. 1-to-1 Euros-to-Dollars relative pricing is common, but this is even worse because they're charging you 50 more and that's before the currency conversion.

    IMO a 34mm equivalent lens shoots very differently to a 50mm equivalent, so I don't think the 17mm and 25mm are that close at all. I can understand holding out for the 75mm though--what an amazing lens that looks to be!
  7. Naftade

    Naftade Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 23, 2012
    Munich, Germany

    You are right. There is a discernible difference between the two. But being both pretty "standard" they are not playing in different stadiums so to speak.
    The 75 imho belongs to a different category.
  8. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    Thanks for doing this Yohan, your results (with these CD cases) absolutely mirror what I guessed after seeing early previews.
    I too seem to have a very nice 17mmF2.8 ... or maybe the characteristics of it suit my eyes better than those who slate it for lacking sharpness.

    The Lumix 20mm wide-open in your test shows much better contrast than the new Olympus, oddly similar to old test results where various kit zooms were put against the original Lumix 14-45.

    :cool:  you know ... that Sigma 19mm is pretty cheap right now, you might ... smuggle one in for some more test shots?

    Also : can we have a similar set using 50-yards-away trees and sky instead of close-focus CD cases?
  9. cs2012

    cs2012 Mu-43 Rookie

    Jun 27, 2012
    17mm f1.8 at f2

    Did you also test at f2? Is there a difference in sharpness between f1.8 and f2?

  10. Yohan Pamudji

    Yohan Pamudji Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 21, 2012
    Mississippi, USA
    My pleasure. Yeah, they match my impressions too for better or worse.

    Seriously. I see all these negative, almost angry comments about the 17mm f/2.8 and wonder where it's all coming from. Mine is pretty good. It has some obvious problems, but in the center it's quite nice.

    Interesting. I don't notice the contrast difference, so if there is one I think it's easy enough to adjust to taste in post.

    I'm afraid the slush fund is tapped out. Then again I got a gift card code from Adorama out of the blue today so... :biggrin: Nah, not gonna do it. Like I said I'd be happy to throw it into the mix if I had access to one, but I'm not even remotely interested in owning one so I won't be buying one myself.

    I believe that can be arranged :thumbup: It might or might not be today, but I'll do my best to get to it soon. It had occurred to me last night that I might see different results at a longer focus distance, so it's an idea that had already started bubbling in my mind.

    So is that a literal/specific request in terms of distance and content? I can understand the purpose of the trees, but may I ask why the sky? Also I assume this is broad daylight we're talking here? Might not be able to test wide open in that kind of light since I don't have ND filters, or were you thinking more along the lines of stopped down?
    • Like Like x 1
  11. Yohan Pamudji

    Yohan Pamudji Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 21, 2012
    Mississippi, USA
    I did but didn't post the results because the 17mm f/1.8 didn't really improve any from what I could tell. Now that I look at it again the 20mm f/1.7 did improve though, so that might have been an interesting comparison to put up after all. Shot at f/2 is probably where the 17mm compares least favorably to the 20mm because by then the 20mm looks like it's at or very close to optimal sharpness while the 17mm hasn't even gotten warmed up.
  12. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    Blimey if only you could see the light HERE today.
    It literally never got brighter than dusk, F1.8 would've been right at about ISO400 ... hideous weather.
    So maybe find a spot with British winter weather and snap away wide open?
    Also e-P1, e-P2 & e-pL1 give you one more (one less? :confused:  ) stop if you're willing to do the test using Jpegs one time.

    The sky & trees is crucial for getting the absolute worst colour fringing nightmare conditions and it's a very common scene especially at these focal lengths BUT you have done a good test so far with everything right (hard to do! :thumbup: ) so you go ahead and do the longer focus test in your own way, I'm sure it'll be very useful.
  13. Yohan Pamudji

    Yohan Pamudji Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 21, 2012
    Mississippi, USA
    I've heard of the infamous British weather. I don't envy you. It was in the mid-to-high 60s F here on the 22nd so I went out and did those shots. Honestly since then it's been a mix of busy with Christmas and laziness so I don't have comparisons up yet, but they're coming. Meanwhile, Merry Christmas and here are a couple quick portraits with the new lens taken in horrible light (f/1.8, 1/50, ISO 3200; and f/1.8, 1/125, ISO 6400 respectively):


    • Like Like x 1
  14. Microman

    Microman Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 16, 2012
    Lovely girls! Unfortunately high ISO photos (and small jpg samples too) are not suitable for judging lens sharpness. I think all the online tests have showed us by now that the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 is not what we hoped it would be. It's soft and only slightly better then the older 17mm f/2.8.

    The Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 is still king of the hill. Not only is it sharper then the Olympus (even wide open) it also has better contrast. Images really pop, excellent. There's a difference between sharpness and contrast, we all know that, and personally I like it when I both are great right from the start. So hold on to it.
  15. JJJPhoto

    JJJPhoto Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 8, 2011
    Cincinnati, OH
    Jerry Jackson Jr
    Although we all crave fast glass, I'm happy to see your results seem to confirm my own suspicions ... that there isn't much difference between the 17mm 1.8 and 17mm 2.8 from 2.8 on up.

    I know plenty of people knock the 17mm 2.8 but I think that has to do with the way the Panasonic 20mm renders -- very high contrast or artificially "harsh" -- and since most people interpret contrast as "sharpness" they think the 17mm pancake isn't as sharp.

    I'm pretty happy with the 17mm 2.8 pancake (although I also have the 12mm 2 and the 25mm 1.4 for low light) so I'm not in a rush to replace my old 17mm with the new 17mm.
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