Olympus 17/1.8 review

Started Nov 17, 2012 | Discussions
Ming Thein
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Thank you, glad to hear it! nt
In reply to SLOtographer, Nov 17, 2012

SLOtographer wrote:

Ming Thein wrote:

You get a bit more microcontrast, slightly less overall contrast - good for preserving dynamic range - and similar corner performance.

Ming

Thanks Ming! I admire your work, and you've been a great resource for all us M43 shooters.

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Ming Thein
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Re: Olympus 17/1.8 review
In reply to Anders W, Nov 17, 2012

Hi Anders,

I think there may be some confusion between microcontrast, macrocontrast and resolution here. On the full size images, the 17/1.8 has slightly better microcontrast in the center than the other two, but macrocontrast is definitely lower. The 20 is the better performer in the corners, but it also exhibits purple fringing which the 17/1.8 does not.

The 17/1.8 vignettes less than the 20.

As for AF speed...I'm only relating what I experience practically on my (latest firmware) OM-D.

Ming

Anders W wrote:

Ming Thein wrote:

Hi everybody,

I've had a final version of the 17/1.8 for a couple of days now and just posted my review:

Comparative lens review: The Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 17/1.8

As usual, leave a question here or on the site and I'll do my best to get back to you.

Enjoy and have a good weekend!

Ming

Many thanks for that review Ming. I am thoroughly familiar with the 20/1.7 since I have one, and to some extent with the 17/2.8 too, since I borrowed one for a while in order to include it in the bokeh test of MFT WAs to which I link below (where the 20/1.7 is picture 1 and the 17/2.8 is picture 2):

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3279903#forum-post-50023507

In view of that, I much welcome your direct comparison of these two lenses with the new 17/1.8. I find your test images very helpful. However, I don't always agree with your comments. Here's my take:

MTF: I find the 20 distinctly superior to both 17s in the center and the corners alike. Not only is global contrast better. I'd say the same goes for what I'd refer to as micro-contrast. Look, for example, at the grid below the window in the bottom-right corner crops. The 20 renders it far more clearly. I never thought much of the 17/2.8 in this regard but I am afraid the 17/1.8 disappoints me here. I had hoped and expected it would give the 20 a run for the money but judging by your samples it doesn't.

Lateral CA: Yes, the 20 has more of that than the 17/1.8, which is to be expected in view of the fact that the 20 is designed to be software-corrected in this regard. Neither the presence of this kind of CA, nor the fact that Oly bodies (e.g., my E-M5) won't autocorrect it bothers me at all. Since LR 4 can autocorrect it with virtually no downsides, I find no reason to care. BTW: You say in your comment to the bottom-right corner crops that you find it interesting that the CA doesn't change when you stop down. To the extent that it is LaCA we are talking about, as it primarily is here, this isn't surprising at all. LaCA (as opposed to LoCA) doesn't change with aperture. If anything, it can be visually more prominent at more narrow apertures than at wide ones due to the gradual disappearance, when stopping down, of other aberrations that prevent us from seeing it clearly.

Longitudinal CA in the in-focus area: Yes the 20 has more of that (towards the edges of the frame) and this is one area where I was pretty sure the 17/1.8 would beat it. While this kind of CA is more of a downside than LaCA since it is slightly more time-consuming to correct (although still pretty easy with the defringe tool available in LR from version 4.1 on) and cannot currently be corrected as well as LaCA (you get a gray fringe after desaturation of the purple hue rather than the color that should have been there in the first place), it's still a pretty marginal problem in my book.

Vignetting: I would expect the 17/1.8 to do at least as well and probably a bit better than the 20 here. I note that you say that the 17/1.8 doesn't have much of a problem with vignetting but what would you say about the comparison with the 20 in this area?

Bokeh: None of these lenses is a bokeh champ. On the other hand, I don't really expect that from lenses with FLs like these. Based on the test I linked too above, I know that the 20 is better in this area than the 17/2.8 (which has more pronounced outlining and LoCA) and I find no reason to think, on the basis of your samples, that the 17/1.8 beats the 20 either. At best, it reaches parity.

AF mechanism: You say that the 17/1.8 is much faster than the 17/2.8 and the 20/1.7. Well, that depends. As you can see here,

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/50110471

I tested both the 17/2.8 and the 20/1.7 against lenses with fully up-to-date AF mechanisms such as my 12/2 and 14/2.5 and found the difference to be close to non-existent as far as ordinary AF-S is concerned. AF-C might be another story and the noise made by the AF on the 17/2.8 and 20/1.7 is a concern for video if you want to be able to AF during the clip. But for stills with AF-S, the drawbacks of the old AF solution on the 17/2.8 and 20/1.7 are truly minor.

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Ming Thein
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The 17/1.8 is faster than the 45 and similar to the 12/2.
In reply to jkrumm, Nov 17, 2012

Presumably it's because the shorter the FL, the shorter the distance the lens elements have to move to affect the same change in subject distance.

jkrumm wrote:

Yes, the 17/2.8 is very slow in s-af. I finally was able to try one out. Not unusable at all, but far from something like the 45 1.8 and I assume the 17 1.8.

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Ming Thein
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Sorry, I don't have either lens...
In reply to Jonas Palm, Nov 17, 2012

And yes, it would be a somewhat odd comparison because we'd be trying to draw comparisons between 28 and 50mm FLs...

Jonas Palm wrote:

Personally, I would have loved to see the Panasonic 25mm f1.4 thrown into the mix, in spite of the differences in focal length. (By the same token, the panasonic 14mm f2.5 would have been interesting as well, although more of an outlier in focal length/speed/price).

But that would have been a bonus - the comparison was very informative for me, and helpful in my personal decision making.

Jonas P

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Ming Thein
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Re: SLow focussing seems body reltated mostly
In reply to Jorginho, Nov 17, 2012

Perhaps you should actually ´╗┐read´╗┐ the review before forming conclusions. It's noted in the first paragraph that I tested with an OM-D.

Jorginho wrote:

First of all thanks: really nice review. I browsed through it. And looked at the focussing remark. After that I thought: I did not experience anything dramatic and I have the 20 mm 1.7 on my EPL5 80% of the time.

SO: I have tried the 45 1.8 and the 20 1.7 (at 1.8) on an EPL5 and a GH2 body. Even on the EPL5 in low light it varies. It can focus almost instantly and it can take more than a second. Changing the lens to the GH2 it focusses in, say, 0,2 seconds 9 out of 10 ties and it hunts the other time.

The 45 f1.8 @ 1.8 focusses very fast on the EPL5 but as fast as the 20 mm 1.7 on the GH2. On the GH2 it is the 45 f1.8 that hunts much more. But mostly 0,5 -1 second. So not as long as the 20 mm on the EPL5.

So I think it is important to note you tested it (most likely, I did not read it) on an Olympus body. On a Panny body, the story is different.

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Jorginho
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Re: SLow focussing seems body reltated mostly
In reply to Ming Thein, Nov 18, 2012

This seems an unnecessary and arrogant remark from you. I was clear that I didn't read it and I was completely right about my assumption. So where this comes from is beyond me. The net is full with this sort of reviews, I am not reading them all nor do I have to.

If anything you could thank me for pointing you to some generalisations you make by a single test on a single type of body.

Your test is only valid on that body, but it is not valid when you change it to Panasonic bodies. And you are comparing lenses here, not bodies....That is what you should add to your review, to give readers or browsers a good indication of what to expect.

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noirdesir
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Re: SLow focussing seems body reltated mostly
In reply to Jorginho, Nov 18, 2012

Jorginho wrote:

This seems an unnecessary and arrogant remark from you. I was clear that I didn't read it and I was completely right about my assumption. So where this comes from is beyond me. The net is full with this sort of reviews, I am not reading them all nor do I have to.

If anything you could thank me for pointing you to some generalisations you make by a single test on a single type of body.

Your test is only valid on that body, but it is not valid when you change it to Panasonic bodies. And you are comparing lenses here, not bodies....That is what you should add to your review, to give readers or browsers a good indication of what to expect.

Thanks for playing that stereotypical character who goes on a rant for no apparent reason, it is not always easy to find people willing to play that role because it has such a bad connotation. So, thanks again for volunteering to take up that role.

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Anders W
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Re: Olympus 17/1.8 review
In reply to Ming Thein, Nov 18, 2012

Ming Thein wrote:

Hi Anders,

I think there may be some confusion between microcontrast, macrocontrast and resolution here. On the full size images, the 17/1.8 has slightly better microcontrast in the center than the other two, but macrocontrast is definitely lower. The 20 is the better performer in the corners, but it also exhibits purple fringing which the 17/1.8 does not.

No confusion, at least not on my part. You can't measure resolution without specifying a contrast criterion (e.g., 50 percent as the test sites usually do). And you can't measure contrast without specifying a resolution criterion (which is what the manufacturers regularly do, e.g., 20 and 60 in Oly's case). What your test images show is simply that the 20 is better in the center and the corners alike, no matter what criterion you choose.

The 17/1.8 vignettes less than the 20.

OK. By how much? Did you try to measure this?

As for AF speed...I'm only relating what I experience practically on my (latest firmware) OM-D.

Yes I understood that what you said was based on subjective experiences. That's why objective measurement is important.

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ginsbu
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Re: Slightly better, I think.
In reply to Ming Thein, Nov 18, 2012

I think the lack of substantial purple fringing with the Oly deserves a mention here too.

Ming Thein wrote:

You get a bit more microcontrast, slightly less overall contrast - good for preserving dynamic range - and similar corner performance.

Ming

SLOtographer wrote:

Great job! If it's similar in performance to the 20/1.7, then I'm tempted...

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noirdesir
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Macrocontrast vs. Microcontrast
In reply to Ming Thein, Nov 18, 2012

Ming Thein wrote:

I think there may be some confusion between microcontrast, macrocontrast and resolution here. On the full size images, the 17/1.8 has slightly better microcontrast in the center than the other two, but macrocontrast is definitely lower.

Ming,

A few years back I tried to figure out a definition for the term microcontrast. Since the most comprehensive way to measure contrast of a lens is a full MTF curve, lenses with different amount of microcontrast should have characteristically different MTF curves. To this day, I keep being surprised that I have not seen a single person talk about this (how microcontrast is reflected in a MTF curve).

I showed a generic example of two lenses with very different character in this post:

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/35584548

and discussed it further in this post:

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/37010026

Of note is that all full MTF curves that I have seen, eg, from DxOmark, always start at one, ie, 100% contrast. That is obviously not really correct as every lens + camera system has some internal flare. While one naturally can normalise all MTF curve to one, this would clearly paint 'foggy' lenses in a much better light than it should be. My idea of what you mean with macrocontrast would be the contrast at essentially target resolution of zero, whereas microcontrast would be the contrast at finer resolutions, whether that is the contrast below the resolution of the MTF50 value as I insinuated in the first post I linked to above or the contrast just above that resolution, I don't know.

And since nobody has rigorously defined microcontrast to my knowledge yet, so far I can only answer that by comparing lots of full MTF curves of lenses which are claimed to either have good or bad microcontrast to see whether there is a pattern (or whether the term microcontrast either covers a wide array of lens behaviours or is just not used very consistently).

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Ming Thein
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Re: Slightly better, I think.
In reply to ginsbu, Nov 18, 2012

It's covered in the review. The 20/1.7 lacks CA but exhibits significant PF instead - it's obviously not a fully telecentric design given its size.

ginsbu wrote:

I think the lack of substantial purple fringing with the Oly deserves a mention here too.

Ming Thein wrote:

You get a bit more microcontrast, slightly less overall contrast - good for preserving dynamic range - and similar corner performance.

Ming

SLOtographer wrote:

Great job! If it's similar in performance to the 20/1.7, then I'm tempted...

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Ming Thein
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Re: Olympus 17/1.8 review
In reply to Anders W, Nov 18, 2012

Anders W wrote:

Ming Thein wrote:

Hi Anders,

I think there may be some confusion between microcontrast, macrocontrast and resolution here. On the full size images, the 17/1.8 has slightly better microcontrast in the center than the other two, but macrocontrast is definitely lower. The 20 is the better performer in the corners, but it also exhibits purple fringing which the 17/1.8 does not.

No confusion, at least not on my part. You can't measure resolution without specifying a contrast criterion (e.g., 50 percent as the test sites usually do). And you can't measure contrast without specifying a resolution criterion (which is what the manufacturers regularly do, e.g., 20 and 60 in Oly's case). What your test images show is simply that the 20 is better in the center and the corners alike, no matter what criterion you choose.

If I apply my usual sharpening actions/ passes to both samples, the 17/1.8's center crops start showing a bit more detail than the 20, which starts blocking up.

The 17/1.8 vignettes less than the 20.

OK. By how much? Did you try to measure this?

No, not scientifically. I do know that I notice vignetting on the 20 with skies, but I didn't really on the 17/1.8.

As for AF speed...I'm only relating what I experience practically on my (latest firmware) OM-D.

Yes I understood that what you said was based on subjective experiences. That's why objective measurement is important.

Not easy to time without the right equipment. And I'm a commercial photographer, not a paid review house.

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Ming Thein
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Re: Macrocontrast vs. Microcontrast
In reply to noirdesir, Nov 18, 2012

Hmm, interesting. My idea of microcontrast has always been a more subjective definition - you'll know it when you see it, manifested as a type of textured, gritty crispiness I suppose - but along the lines of: how well does the lens reproduce subtle tonal differences in the real subject, at a relatively fine (near pixel-level) frequency? I suppose this would be related to the higher frequency MTF curves.

Yes you can normalize to one for all lenses, and it would be much like squeezing the levels until they just clipped the histogram at both ends - amplifying contrast artificially. That wouldn't be meaningful as you'd also change the global contrast of the entire image, too.

noirdesir wrote:

Ming Thein wrote:

I think there may be some confusion between microcontrast, macrocontrast and resolution here. On the full size images, the 17/1.8 has slightly better microcontrast in the center than the other two, but macrocontrast is definitely lower.

Ming,

A few years back I tried to figure out a definition for the term microcontrast. Since the most comprehensive way to measure contrast of a lens is a full MTF curve, lenses with different amount of microcontrast should have characteristically different MTF curves. To this day, I keep being surprised that I have not seen a single person talk about this (how microcontrast is reflected in a MTF curve).

I showed a generic example of two lenses with very different character in this post:

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/35584548

and discussed it further in this post:

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/37010026

Of note is that all full MTF curves that I have seen, eg, from DxOmark, always start at one, ie, 100% contrast. That is obviously not really correct as every lens + camera system has some internal flare. While one naturally can normalise all MTF curve to one, this would clearly paint 'foggy' lenses in a much better light than it should be. My idea of what you mean with macrocontrast would be the contrast at essentially target resolution of zero, whereas microcontrast would be the contrast at finer resolutions, whether that is the contrast below the resolution of the MTF50 value as I insinuated in the first post I linked to above or the contrast just above that resolution, I don't know.

And since nobody has rigorously defined microcontrast to my knowledge yet, so far I can only answer that by comparing lots of full MTF curves of lenses which are claimed to either have good or bad microcontrast to see whether there is a pattern (or whether the term microcontrast either covers a wide array of lens behaviours or is just not used very consistently).

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Tim in upstate NY
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Re: Olympus 17/1.8 review
In reply to Ming Thein, Nov 18, 2012

Ming Thein wrote:

Anders W wrote:

Ming Thein wrote:

As for AF speed...I'm only relating what I experience practically on my (latest firmware) OM-D.

Yes I understood that what you said was based on subjective experiences. That's why objective measurement is important.

Not easy to time without the right equipment. And I'm a commercial photographer, not a paid review house.

. . . My subjective impression of the AF speed of the 20/1.7 & OMD is that it's quite fast and never a limiting factor even while shooting at a moving subject.

BTW . . Keeping the 20/1.7 and saving up for the 7-14.

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Re: Olympus 17/1.8 review
In reply to Tim in upstate NY, Nov 18, 2012

I do not have the Panny 20mm so the new 17mm looks very compelling.

Frankly, I think it is a great lens compared to the competition. I'm looking at the Lenstip resolution charts for the old Olympus 17mm 2.8, and that old boy beats the following lenses, hands down:

Pentax smc DA 35 mm f/2.4 AL

Canon EF 35 mm f/2.0

Samyang 35 mm f/1.4 AS UMC

Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35 mm f/2 ZF/ZK/ZS/ZE

and probably others.

Obviously there are other factors to consider than just the MTF chart, but both the old and new Olympus 17mm lenses appear to be "world class" lenses from a resolution point of view.

Any big flaws in my analysis?

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Poagao
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Re: Olympus 17/1.8 review
In reply to Tim in upstate NY, Nov 18, 2012

My copy of the 20 f1.7, which I got with the GF1 when it came out, hunts excessively in anything but good light, and I've noticed that the E-M5 turns on more slowly with it, waiting for it to be ready, than with other lenses such as the 12mm and the 45mm. If the 17 f1.8 is even nearly as good as the 20 optically, I'll take it just to get reasonable AF performance at that focal length.

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Jorginho
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Re: SLow focussing seems body reltated mostly
In reply to noirdesir, Nov 18, 2012

Judgementallity is rarely helpful, certainly not when you do not know the subject you are talking about..

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brunobarolo
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Just a side note
In reply to Ming Thein, Nov 18, 2012

Once you increase global contrast in PP for the 17mm f1.8 (which seems necessary since it's so low, as compared to the 20mm) you will also increase noise. An 800 ISO shot with the 17mm lens processed to the same global contrast may have as much noise as a 1600 ISO shot with the 20mm lens. No?

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DaveWo
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Re: Just a side note
In reply to brunobarolo, Nov 18, 2012

brunobarolo wrote:

Once you increase global contrast in PP for the 17mm f1.8 (which seems necessary since it's so low, as compared to the 20mm) you will also increase noise. An 800 ISO shot with the 17mm lens processed to the same global contrast may have as much noise as a 1600 ISO shot with the 20mm lens. No?

May I ask if you shoot raw or jpeg primarily?

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brunobarolo
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Re: Just a side note
In reply to DaveWo, Nov 18, 2012

DaveWo wrote:

brunobarolo wrote:

Once you increase global contrast in PP for the 17mm f1.8 (which seems necessary since it's so low, as compared to the 20mm) you will also increase noise. An 800 ISO shot with the 17mm lens processed to the same global contrast may have as much noise as a 1600 ISO shot with the 20mm lens. No?

May I ask if you shoot raw or jpeg primarily?

RAW

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