The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8 ($499.99 direct) is a fast wide-angle lens for Micro Four Thirds cameras. The image sensors in these cameras are smaller than a 35mm film frame or a full-frame D-SLR, which gives the lens a field of view that’s roughly equivalent to a 35mm lens in that format—a classic wide-angle design. It’s incredibly sharp, even wide open, and compatible with mirrorless cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. It’s a bit more expensive than the Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM, which is compatible with EOS M cameras, but is compatible with a wider range of camera bodies. Because of this it earns our Editors’ Choice award for wide-angle lenses for compact interchangeable lens cameras.
The lens is fairly small, measuring just 1.4 by 2.3 inches (HD). It’s a bit heavy for its size at 4.2 ounces, but that’s due to an all-metal lens barrel. It has a standard 46mm filter thread and includes a clip-on lens cap, but there’s no lens hood included. Olympus sells a metal hood, but it’s a bit pricey at $62.99; if you’re willing to go off-brand you can find generic metal hoods on eBay for only a few dollars.
The minimum focus distance is 9.8 inches, which allows you to capture images with an impressively shallow depth of field when the lens is used at its maximum aperture. Autofocus is extremely quiet, which is helpful when shooting video. If you prefer to manually focus you simply need to pull the focus ring back to engage it—there’s no need to dive into camera menu settings.
The lens isn’t weather-sealed, which isn’t something that is normally a concern—but if you shoot with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 you’ll want to take that into account, as that camera won’t be fully protected from the elements when paired with this lens.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the lens when paired with the Olympus E-M5. Its sharpness is better than the 1,800 lines per picture height that we require for an image to be considered sharp. At f/1.8 it records 1,943 lines, with slight softness at the edges of the frame. Stopping down to f/2.8 increases the score to 2,217 and also sharpens up the edges. At f/4 the score increases to 2,364 lines, and it peaks at 2,415 lines at f/5.6. Barrel distortion is a complete nonfactor—it records only 0.01 percent, so straight lines will appear perfectly straight when captured with the 17mm f/1.8.
It’s tough to find fault with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8. The lens has a fast aperture with excellent sharpness and minimal distortion, all while delivering a classic wide-angle field of view. The build quality is solid thanks to a metal lens barrel, and it’s easy to switch between manual focus and autofocus. Olympus should have included a hood, especially when you consider the $500 price tag, as using one will help to improve contrast and reduce the possibilities of flare when shooting. There’s also no weather sealing, so your dust- and splash-proof OM-D E-M5 won’t be completely protected when this lens is attached. Despite these quibbles, the lens is a worthy addition to any Micro Four Thirds camera kit. It earns our Editors’ Choice for wide-angle lenses for mirrorless cameras.
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