Olympus F1.2 prime lenses have been the subject of question when it comes to what Micro Four Thirds stand for – a camera system that is truly compact and small. The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO is a lot larger and heavier than the F1.8 counterpart, and priced significantly higher too. Is the heftier price tag and the bulkier build justified with the better optics, F1.2 bright aperture, feathered bokeh and weather-sealing? I am exploring this in my latest video on Youtube.
If you are a street photographer, or buying a camera for travel and you want to shave off as much weight as possible from your gear, the M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 is obviously not for you. The F1.8 smaller compact form factor is a perfect fit to any Olympus OM-D or PEN camera and being so light and tiny, it does not add much weight and bulk to your luggage. If you want to keep your gear minimal, the F1.8 primes is the way to go.
However, if you are a professional photographer like me who shoots for a living, and intend to provide the best possible results from my Olympus OM-D for my clients, then the F1.2 lens makes perfect sense. The optical construction is superior, rendering images that are looking super sharp yet having the “feathered bokeh” characteristics which the F1.8 lenses do not deliver. The feathered bokeh is also what sets the Olympus F1.2 PRO prime lenses apart from other alternatives such as Panasonic 15mm F1.7 or Sigma 16mm F1.4, both amazing lenses that I have tested, reviewed and written before in this blog. The feathered bokeh renders beautifully smooth background and giving that 3D pop to the images.
Also the brighter aperture of F1.2 make a huge difference in comparison to F1.8, giving one full stop of advantage when it comes to high ISO shooting. The weather-sealing allows me to shoot in the rain, which happens a lot in this tropical weather.
Some people voiced their complaint that the 17mm F1.2 PRO (and other Olympus F1.2 PRO lenses) is too bulky, and is counter-productive to what a Micro Four Thirds system is. Here is the kicker – you cannot have a small F1.2 lens, if you do, then there will be some compromise, the images will not be sharp wide open, horrible soft corners, annoying purple fringing, heavy vignetting, etc. I’d rather have an F1.2 lens with great image output, with PRO grade build, than a sub-par lens just with the label F1.2 opening. There is just no other way to go around it, the lens has to be this size. If you are against the size, why attack the lens? You have the F1.8 version.
Also, I never found the size to be difficult to manage. The 17mm F1.2 is about the same size as the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO which was designed to match E-M1 and E-M1 Mark II perfectly. It was such a good combo, handling was balanced and the lens does not feel front heavy at all. The 17mm F1.2 being slightly smaller and lighter, surely has no issue with camera handling.
Are we expecting PRO level lenses to be extremely tiny? We can’t have everything can we? But the good news is, we have options. And choices are always good.
Do you own an Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2? What are your experiences using that lens? I would love to hear from you!
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