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Feature Articles

Hands-on with the Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro: A super-fast lens for everyday needs

By Alvin Soon - 3 Feb 2018

Shooting with the Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens

There are photographers who prefer shooting with a 50mm prime lens, but I’ve always preferred a 35mm. The 35mm gives you more in a frame, and you don’t have to worry about the perspective distortion a wider lens creates.

The Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens is for someone like me then, with a 34mm field of view in 35mm equivalent. It’s one in a series of three f/1.2 Pro lenses from Olympus, the others being the 45mm f/1.2 Pro and the 25mm f/1.2 Pro. I previewed the 45mm f/1.2 and now have the 17mm f/1.2 on hand.

Like its siblings, the 17mm f/1.2 produces a unique look that Olympus calls ‘feathered bokeh.’ When you shoot wide open at f/1.2, the lens softens the edges of background blur. Olympus thinks this produces a more harmonious background that’s less distracting. At f/1.8, the bokeh returns to a more familiar, ‘non-feathered’ look. There’s a detailed explainer on Olympus’ site about the different types of bokeh.

Here’s a quick comparison between the ‘feathered bokeh’ and ‘non-feathered’ look. This was shot at f/1.2, with close-ups on the specular highlights and the leaves in the background.

This is the same shot at f/2.0. The leaf edges are still soft, but more distinct. Is one background less distracting than the other?

As I wrote about the 45mm f/1.2 Pro, I can’t tell whether the ‘feathered bokeh’ at f/1.2 is more ‘feathery’ than f/1.8, or if it’s a result of shooting at a wider aperture. What I can say is that the bokeh, whether at f/1.2 or f/1.8, looks gorgeous.

At f/1.2, the Olympus 17mm provides a beautiful transition from focused to out-of-focus areas. f/1.2 at 17mm, 1/60 sec, ISO 250.

f/1.2 at 17mm, 1/60 sec, ISO 200.

f/1.2 at 17mm, 1/50 sec, ISO 1600.