Olympus 17mm f1.8 Acceptable Sharpness???

Joined
Nov 11, 2020
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Hello,
I just got an Olympus 17mm f1.8 and I've been doing to testing with it. I know it's not the sharpest lens available for the system but I'm wondering if these results are typical in most people's experience.

I'm basically looking for a small prime as my casual grab-and-go companion to the E-M5. I have the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 Pro, which is outstanding in all regards. However, it's a bit larger/heavier than I want to carry it I'm just out and about. I have been using the Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f1.7. I love the images this lens produces but it has its shortfalls. One is the slow focus; I've missed several shots due to this. The other is that I'm often finding myself needing something just a bit wider angle and unable to move back. I tried a Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm f1.7 ASPH over the past few weeks. It was a nice lens but there was something about its images that just didn't "pop" to me. So far, I prefer the images from the 17mm compared to the 15mm.

This small prime will by far spend the most time on my camera.
I wonder if I just just forget the whole thing and stick the 20mm.
Am I thinking to much about this and just being ridiculous?
Have I just been spoiled by the great performance of the 20mm and 12-40mm?
  • Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II
  • Tripod and self timer used
  • ISO: 200
  • Aperture Priority
  • Images are RAW, no editing, viewed in Adobe Bridge at 100%
  • Comparisons to 20mm (17mm on left, 20mm on right)
  • I'm pretty happy with the sharpness at the center of the frame, even wide open.
  • Sharpness drops off quite a bit towards the edges especially wide open, which I expected.
f1.8, focus on center frame, 17mm left / 20mm right
17_vs_20_f1.8_Center.png
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f1.8, focus near corner frame, 17mm left / 20mm right
17_vs_20_f1.8_Off_Center.png
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f5.6, focus center frame, 17mm left / 20mm right
17_vs_20_f5.6_Center.png
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f5.6, focus near corner frame, 17mm left / 20mm right
17_vs_20_f5.6_Off_Center.png
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17mm f1.8 (left) vs f5.6 (right), focus near corner frame
17_f1.8_vs_f5.6_Off_Center.png
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20mm f1.8 (left) vs f5.6 (right), focus near corner frame
20mm_f1.8_vs_f5.6_Off_Center.png
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Here are some shots I did yesterday, just messing around and testing the 17mm.
  • I'm generally very pleased with them.
  • I always shoot in RAW.
  • I just did my standard editing in Adobe RAW & Photoshop (brightness, contrast via Curves, Hue/Saturation, Unsharp Mask)
  • A few were also slightly straightened/cropped
  • JPEGs were sized to 2048 pixels on the long side
PC041598 Edit Layers 2048 Pixel 12.jpg
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PC041650 Edit Layers 2048 Pixel 12.jpg
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PC041609 Edit Layers 2048 Pixel 12.jpg
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PC041663 Edit Layers 2048 Pixel 12.jpg
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PC041735 Edit Layers 2048 Pixel 12.jpg
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PC041766 Edit Layers 2048 Pixel 12.jpg
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PC041695 Edit Layers 2048 Pixel 12.jpg
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PC041716 Edit Layers 2048 Pixel 12.jpg
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PC041731 Edit Layers 2048 Pixel 12.jpg
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PC041724 Edit Layers 2048 Pixel 12.jpg
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pdk42

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I'm very happy with my 17/1.8. It's my second copy though and it's definitely better than the first I had. I did back-to-back testing with the PL15/1.7 and found very little difference. Sharpness is more than acceptable in my view.
 
Joined
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I'm very happy with my 17/1.8. It's my second copy though and it's definitely better than the first I had. I did back-to-back testing with the PL15/1.7 and found very little difference. Sharpness is more than acceptable in my view.
Thanks. Do you prefer the 17mm or 15mm?
 

Hendrik

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Nice shots of D.C., great pix of the very handsome (and patient) pooch. The O17 is my goto walk around lens for smaller bodies. Your copy seems up to the task. Enjoy.
 
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I have had a copy of the 17mm. The sharpness was definitely acceptable when viewed normally, but the images never excited me, and the lack of sharpness was apparent at 100%.

I then switched to the 15mm, which I like better, but so far it hasn't excited me much either. Maybe I need to use it more though.

But when I got the 20mm — wow. It's so cheap and small, but every time I use it I am pleasantly surprised. I bought it on a whim because I saw it offered for a very low price, and it is one of my favourites now. I even consider selling the 15mm (but sometimes the wider angle is useful to have). The autofocus of the 20mm was also much better than I expected, given what people say on the internet.

So I can definitely recognise what you said about "loving the images from the 20mm" and "images that don't pop". However, if I put on my sensible hat for a moment, I must say that the most important difference between these lenses is the focal length. If you like the 17mm perspective, and/or you need to have a wide angle for the pictures you want to shoot, then the 20mm is no replacement. In terms of image quality, they are all excellent. And the autofocus speed of the 17mm is definitely better than that of the 20mm.

Your images taken with the 17mm look perfectly fine to me, at least what I can see from these downscaled images. (Be aware that this forum resizes all images to 1600 pixels on the long end. So your images have been resized twice, once by you to 2048 pixels, and then to 1600 pixels when uploading here.)

So yeah. I guess my sensible advice is: do not pixel peep, but just enjoy shooting with the 17mm. Nobody will complain about the IQ, and if the 17mm allows you to take the shot: go for it.

And my less sensible advice is: sell the lenses you don't love, and keep the ones you do.
 

PakkyT

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From your normal shots it looks like the 17/1.8 is taking greats shots.

"Test shots" always worry me as they tend to be not so well controlled. For example, in your test shots it looks like you are shooting in kind of poor lighting making your camera work harder to get a good shot to begin with. In addition to the ornament not being in the best light, are you also next to a brighter window adding backlighting to the scene? A better test would have been taking a "target" out with you and the dog and taking your test shots in natural daylight, even if it was overcast, where the camera is easily able to shoot at base ISO and a sufficiently high shutter speed no matter what aperture you decide to test against and a lot of your contrast, color separation, etc. is due to the natural light rather than your camera trying to do it.

That said, can I commend your dog for being an excellent model? In particular, fourth dog shot down. :2thumbs:
 
Joined
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I have had a copy of the 17mm. The sharpness was definitely acceptable when viewed normally, but the images never excited me, and the lack of sharpness was apparent at 100%.

I then switched to the 15mm, which I like better, but so far it hasn't excited me much either. Maybe I need to use it more though.

But when I got the 20mm — wow. It's so cheap and small, but every time I use it I am pleasantly surprised. I bought it on a whim because I saw it offered for a very low price, and it is one of my favourites now. I even consider selling the 15mm (but sometimes the wider angle is useful to have). The autofocus of the 20mm was also much better than I expected, given what people say on the internet.

So I can definitely recognise what you said about "loving the images from the 20mm" and "images that don't pop". However, if I put on my sensible hat for a moment, I must say that the most important difference between these lenses is the focal length. If you like the 17mm perspective, and/or you need to have a wide angle for the pictures you want to shoot, then the 20mm is no replacement. In terms of image quality, they are all excellent. And the autofocus speed of the 17mm is definitely better than that of the 20mm.

Your images taken with the 17mm look perfectly fine to me, at least what I can see from these downscaled images. (Be aware that this forum resizes all images to 1600 pixels on the long end. So your images have been resized twice, once by you to 2048 pixels, and then to 1600 pixels when uploading here.)

So yeah. I guess my sensible advice is: do not pixel peep, but just enjoy shooting with the 17mm. Nobody will complain about the IQ, and if the 17mm allows you to take the shot: go for it.

And my less sensible advice is: sell the lenses you don't love, and keep the ones you do.
Good input, thanks
 

Arundo Donax

Mu-43 Top Veteran
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Feb 5, 2018
Messages
673
I've had my 17/1.8 (Chinese built) since July 2013. It is by far my most used lens, and I have used it exclusively on several trips. It is more than sharp enough, has a super fast, quiet and accurate AF, and a beautiful rendering.
I bought it for my OMD EM-5, and it is now on my EM-1.2.
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Joined
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Messages
64
I've had my 17/1.8 (Chinese built) since July 2013. It is by far my most used lens, and I have used it exclusively on several trips. It is more than sharp enough, has a super fast, quiet and accurate AF, and a beautiful rendering.
I bought it for my OMD EM-5, and it is now on my EM-1.2.
View attachment 861526
I probably just need to take a deep breath shoot away with it. I just wanted some opinions because I’ve got two weeks to return it to the store. If folks thought it was below average for the lens I wanted to know. If I decide to return it I’ll just stick to the 20mm for a small lens.
 
Joined
Nov 11, 2020
Messages
64
I have had a copy of the 17mm. The sharpness was definitely acceptable when viewed normally, but the images never excited me, and the lack of sharpness was apparent at 100%.

I then switched to the 15mm, which I like better, but so far it hasn't excited me much either. Maybe I need to use it more though.

But when I got the 20mm — wow. It's so cheap and small, but every time I use it I am pleasantly surprised. I bought it on a whim because I saw it offered for a very low price, and it is one of my favourites now. I even consider selling the 15mm (but sometimes the wider angle is useful to have). The autofocus of the 20mm was also much better than I expected, given what people say on the internet.

So I can definitely recognise what you said about "loving the images from the 20mm" and "images that don't pop". However, if I put on my sensible hat for a moment, I must say that the most important difference between these lenses is the focal length. If you like the 17mm perspective, and/or you need to have a wide angle for the pictures you want to shoot, then the 20mm is no replacement. In terms of image quality, they are all excellent. And the autofocus speed of the 17mm is definitely better than that of the 20mm.

Your images taken with the 17mm look perfectly fine to me, at least what I can see from these downscaled images. (Be aware that this forum resizes all images to 1600 pixels on the long end. So your images have been resized twice, once by you to 2048 pixels, and then to 1600 pixels when uploading here.)

So yeah. I guess my sensible advice is: do not pixel peep, but just enjoy shooting with the 17mm. Nobody will complain about the IQ, and if the 17mm allows you to take the shot: go for it.

And my less sensible advice is: sell the lenses you don't love, and keep the ones you do.
I didn’t realize they sized them to 1600.

The stupid thing is, none of this really matters. 99% of what I do with the photos is view them myself for my own pleasure.

I just got back into M43 over the past few months. I’ve been a Nikon APS-C shooter since 2007 but I had a Panasonic GF2 with the 20mm for a few years (stupidly sold it). I got to the point that I quite carrying my Nikon gear due to the size/weight; it just wasn’t fun. I noticed that to really liked the shots from the M43 gear I had when they popped up on my slideshows so I snagged the 20mm and examples of the GF2 & GF1. After shooting with them for a while I realized M43 was really a better system for me. I sold all the Nikon gear and bought more M43 lenses and a Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II. The 20mm is what made me fully jump into M43.
 

ac12

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The pics from your 17 looks just fine.

I don't pixel peep, and I have no issues using the non-pro lenses.
I have both pro and non-pro lenses, and I will grab whichever lens is best suited for the shoot.
I have not scrutinized the pics from my 17, but at the image size that I use, it does the job just fine.

IOW, I would not sweat the non-pro lens. If it looks good enough for you, that is all that matters.
 

Drdul

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I used to have a 17mm f1.8 that was reasonably sharp, but not as sharp as my other lenses. Then I bought DxO PhotoLab and that made a big difference, the 17mm lens was now as sharp as the rest. If you don’t own it already, I’d recommend buying PhotoLab, it will do wonders for all your lenses and M4/3 cameras.
 

DaveJP

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It's funny, I've recently tested my copy of the Oly 17mm f1.8 for sharpness against the Pan/Leica 15mm f1.7 and Lumix 20mm f1.7. Each of the lenses I checked at full aperture and at f4. There wasn't much difference between the 17mm and the 15mm wide open; both had good sharpness, although the 15mm was better at the edges. At f4 sharpness was excellent and I couldn't tell any difference between them. However, the star of the show was the 20mm. It was almost as sharp at full aperture as the other two lenses at f4! Stopping down tightened the detail somewhat, but the 20mm really is a cracking little lens.
 

discus277

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I love my OLY 17/1.8. I have an assortment of lenses and when I last looked at the usage in Lightroom I found that the 17 mm was used more than any other lens. It is small and fits so nicely on my PEN f. Makes a very good walkaround camera and lens combo. To my eye the image quality is great and I often do some cropping and results are good.
 
Joined
Nov 11, 2020
Messages
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I used to have a 17mm f1.8 that was reasonably sharp, but not as sharp as my other lenses. Then I bought DxO PhotoLab and that made a big difference, the 17mm lens was now as sharp as the rest. If you don’t own it already, I’d recommend buying PhotoLab, it will do wonders for all your lenses and M4/3 cameras.
I’ll look into that, thanks.
 
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"Acceptable" sharpness? Only you can decide that. The Oly 17mm f1.8 isn't the sharpest lens out there. Your copy appears to be at least as sharp as mine. I find the ooc jpegs from my 17mm f1.8 to be nice, but rarely do they "pop." But as a few others have mentioned, and as you already do, post processing can significantly improve on the ooc results from this lens.

Nice pictures of the "family" btw. :)

In your post your say: "I'm basically looking for a small prime as my casual grab-and-go companion to the E-M5. ... This small prime will by far spend the most time on my camera." My question to you is around your use of "casual." I take my 17mm f1.8 with me when pictures are not my primary focus, and I just want to have a super light camera with me in case something pops up. If pictures are a priority, then I mostly take my 12-45mm f/4 Pro, which is small enough and light enough on the E-M5 for me to be my grab-and-go companion. My guess is that your "casual" isn't quite the same as my "casual."

Also in your post you say: "I'm generally very pleased with them." If you had simply said "I'm very pleased with them", I would have said keep the 17mm f1.8. But since you qualified that with "generally", that indicates to me that you might not have been completely satisfied with the results, and if this is to be your primary go-to lens, it might not be the right lens for your purpose.

How much of a pixel peeper are you? I personally think the results with your Sheltie were striking. The might have been more "perfect" with some other lens, but you nailed the composition, which matters more than anything else....

So....

If you are truly happy with your results with the 17mm f1.8 - don't worry that is isn't the sharpest lens in the Olympus lineup, keep it, and be happy. If you aren't, and you want it to be your most of the time lens, it probably isn't for you.

If you decide against the 17mm f1.8, here is an alternative suggestion. Check out the 12-45mm f/4 Pro. Image quality is indistinguishable from the 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro, and it is small enough and light enough that it just might meet your grab-and-go requirements. If it does, trade in your 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro for the 12-45mm f/4 Pro, keep your Lumix for low light situations, and be done!
 

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