Heated debate about 17mm/1.8

Started Sep 3, 2013 | Discussions thread
Pikme
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Re: Heated debate about 17mm/1.8
In reply to drcPhoto, Sep 3, 2013

drcPhoto wrote:

I have been excited about the 17mm focal length for some time now, but have been disturbed by the mixed reviews about the Olympus 17mm 1.8. My preference is to get the Voigtlander 17.5mm.

You have to put the 'noise' about this lens into perspective.  First of all, it is forever doomed to be compared to the Panasonic 20, even though the focal lengths are not the same. And there is the 'legendary' emotional attachment to the 20 that makes the 17 a 'loser' lens no matter the facts.

I have both lenses - the 20 is sharper but the 17 is sharp enough. By 'sharp enough', I don't mean kit lens sharp, it is better than that.  If it were rated by itself instead of being compared to the 20 and its 'legendary' status, the 17 would be considered a very good lens.  But the only way it would get acceptance here would be to 'beat' the 20 and it doesn't 'beat' the 20 (on sharpness only, it does 'beat' it on other criteria).

The 17 was not designed to be a landscape lens and most of those complaining about it are testing it (or more likely, reading about it) as a landscape lens. I nearly always use mine at f1.8 and it works very well at that aperture for my uses - but I'm not shooting traditional daytime landscapes with it.

I have also used the Voigtlander lens and loved it very much. It is not at all sharp at f0.95, but that makes it a lovely lens for shooting people.  It does get insanely sharp at smaller apertures and it is a very well built lens with beautiful rendering.  And guess what, it has extreme field curvature and heavy CA, much more than the Olympus.

But facts are facts - the Voigtlander is a very large lens, with no AF, weighs over a pound (540g) and costs $1250.  No surprise the Olympus does not 'beat' it, considering it is tiny in size, tiny in weight (120g) and costs $499.  People need to get rational!  I suspect that Olympus started with the price and then designed the best lens they could that they could sell under $500 - and they were successful at that.  No matter how good the lens was, can you imagine the screaming if they sold a lens that weighed more than a pound and cost over $1000??

There are really two things to think about (in addition to price and size):  how important is AF and/or the MF clutch that the Olympus lens has for your style of shooting?  what do you want from rendering - the Olympus has the usual Olympus no nonsense, 'scientific' style rendering while the Voigtlander is rich with its signature style rendering (and rich in 'flaws' as a result).  I would love to own both lenses and would not consider them to be at all redundant as they serve very different purposes.  And sharpness on some graph somewhere, especially as a comparison to yet another lens with a different focal length and its own set of 'flaws', is not really part of the decision process!

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Roberto M.

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