Street photography lens: Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro

35mm lens is for most street photographers a standard lens

Photographers always want to discuss their opinion, but now I keep my foot down. Yes, a 35mm lens is undisputed since a long time the right lens for the street photographer. Okay, 50mm is of course also allowed. No doubt about that. Call me conservative or even old-fashioned, but I defend, as a street photographer, the 35mm lens with verve. And now, now Olympus has added this omnipotent Pro lens to its assortment.

I can happily praise to get one of the first copies delivered. For this, I had to order this lens the previous year. Anyway, the Olympus M. Zuiko 17mm F/1.2 (= focal length 34 mm, based on crop factor two of the Olympus OM-D E-M1) arrived at the beginning of March 2018. The plans for the next day is marked in my agenda, namely to go Antwerp to photograph!

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.17mmF1.2 @17mm . f/1.2 . 1/1250″ . ISO 200

Antwerp, a great city for street photography

One of the advantages of living in West Brabant is that Antwerp is just over thirty minutes’ drive away. Antwerp is a metropolis and attracts many tourists. Also, it is a beautiful city to walk. The various neighborhoods offer plenty of opportunities to avoid the tourists and walk through the real Antwerp.

Small streets, narrow alleys, its inhabitants and the tram that continually traverses the city. But also those cute little shops in the center, where the Netherlands apparently has no room left and the prominent shopping promenades. If people asked me what a good and pleasant city is for street photography, then the answer is always: Antwerp.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.17mmF1.2 @17mm . f/2.8 . 1/125″ . ISO 200

Easy said easy done, I went to Antwerp early in the morning. Always beautiful to see a city awaken and come to life. So now too. The town envelops itself in the silence of the morning early morning. The silence was disturbed by hard-working ladies and gentlemen who build up the market stalls.

With my camera, equipped with my new lens, I take the city to me. Eyes open for excellent photo opportunities. Even before I had entered the center well, an exuberant group of dressed-up English people passed me. What luck. I had the honor to be the first to capture Batman and Robin. The day cannot start better, right?

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.17mmF1.2 @17mm . f/1.2 . 1/2500″ . ISO 200

Making photos with the Olympus 17 mm F/1.2 Pro

This 17mm lens has a viewing angle of 65 degrees (18 degrees more than the 25mm objective of Olympus). In busy cities, such a viewing angle lends itself perfectly to photographing people together with the environment. And, not entirely unimportant, you need to get closer to the subject for a proper composition.

While walking, I ran into different scenes. A friendly lady, from an official flower shop, literally put out the flowers. Young ones, who was early in the morning to fill a moving van with household goods. Market vendors who reverberate their merchandise. The two-handed items were also eagerly deducted at the designated stalls.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.17mmF1.2 @17mm . f/1.2 . 1/2000″ . ISO 200

Sunshine and clouds alternated in rapid succession. I like to photograph myself with an open aperture to distinguish the subject from the environment. Hence my preference for a bright lens. Now I could effortlessly vary between f/1.2 and f/2.8, depending on the light intensity on the street.

The photos were excellent in quality. Color and contrast were excellent. The sharpness was also in order. As the diaphragm was more closed (f/5.6 and more), the photos were slightly sharper. That does not mean that the f/1.2 photos are out of focus, but a bit softer, as you want.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.17mmF1.2 @17mm . f/1.2 . 1/500″ . ISO 200
Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.17mmF1.2 @17mm . f/1.2 . 1/500″ . ISO 200

Verdict Olympus 17mm f / 1.2 Pro

Olympus qualifies the Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens as a portrait lens. An important feature is a soft bokeh at the open diaphragm. Also, this lens is super fast and accurate autofocus. The construction is solid, and the lens is resistant to dust and splash water.

Olympus is not the brand that relies on a history of street photography. That is probably the reason why this lens launched as a portrait lens. By this, I officially declare the Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro a high-quality lens and indispensable for the street photographer who works with an Olympus camera. It is definitely a good purchase that is worth its price (1399 euros).

This article was originally published HERE.

Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.17mmF1.2 @17mm . f/1.2 . 1/4000″ . ISO 200
Olympus E-M1 MK II . Olympus M.17mmF1.2 @17mm . f/1.2 . 1/640″ . ISO 64

"I’m a commissioned photographer and a passionate street photographer. On the street, I’m mainly focused on capturing interesting people in interesting contextual circumstances. I’m not keen to photograph people in compromised or ridiculous situations. First and for all, I like to photograph people in their habitat and want to capture their natural behavior. For me, street photography is to capture a moment in time."


  1. I have the 25mm f/1.2 – the quality of the pro lenses is certainly something to admire. But it comes at a price: size and weight. On the streets, I prefer the 17mm f/1.8 to the 25mm f/1.2 based on size and weight alone, let alone focal length considerations. The difference between f1.2 and f1.8 is irrelevant, especially with street photography where you would most typically shoot with more than less depth of field – unless you are aiming at street portraits, in which case the 25mm or 45mm focal length will be better anyway.

    The main thing the pro lenses have going for them is weather sealing. If I know it’s going to be raining, I’ll take the heavier and bigger E-M1 with my 25mm f/1.2 and leave my Pen F with my small 12mm and 17mm lenses at home.

  2. I had considered that lens and I know it’s fantastic with weather sealing but so is the Sigma 16mm 1.4. It’s a truly spectacular weather sealed lens for $400 compared to $1200 I would say it gives every bit that special something when you go out on the street.

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