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I'm a Sucker for Pancakes in Black

M.Zuiko 17mm 1:2.8 Black on Black E-P2I know what I've written about my silver 17mm, both before and after the front cosmetic ring fell off. It was that falling off that prompted me to purchase the Panasonic 14mm 1:2.5 as a replacement for the silver 17mm. But then, one day while slogging through Amazon, I found the 17mm in black. And that's when the problems began.

Because I'm so Old School I was there to help build it, I tend to purchase camera equipment in black. Not red or green or white or silver. Black. As much black as possible. If the camera would work with black glass in the lenses then they'd be black too. That doesn't mean I won't buy silver. I purchased the M.Zuiko 40-150mm 'R' in silver because it was dirt cheap. And I purchase the original silver 17mm because it was cheap and the only version available at the time. And did I mention that the 45mm is also only available in silver? Along with the 12mm. It looks like Olympus is going after retro silver-bodied lenses (think Leica).

More significantly I like primes. The smaller and jewel-like they are, the more I like them. I always liked to hold and use small primes from Minolta, Olympus, and Pentax in the range from 24mm to around 90mm. 35mm to 50mm at around 1:2 seemed to produce the smallest 35mm primes from all three. Nikon and Canon weren't after small. And Leica, well Leica has been and always will be far too expensive for me to own, let alone use. And so at the low price I found the black 17mm I went on ahead and purchased the second replacement for the sliver 17mm.

It arrived today (the day after my boxed Lightroom 4 updated arrived) via USPS. It was in a big box relative to the lens. I figured it was in such a big box because the lens shipped boxed. Or at least my sliver 17mm came in an official Olympus box. And then I opened up the box.


Swathed in transparent green bubble wrap, further wrapped in a foam sheet and plastic bag, sat my new black 17mm. Not in an official Olympus box, but pretty much in the materials you see above. As you can read it was shipped from Cameta Camera. I've purchased other items from Cameta through Amazon, and I've never been surprised nor complained about anything from them. But I was certainly surprised today.

The shipping ticket says the lens is "NEW (NO Original Box)." I guess things are really tight where, to save a few dollars in profit, you ship the lens without its box. I wonder, if I'd know it wasn't shipped without a box, if I'd have purchased it from Cameta. But it certainly wasn't obvious from the Amazon page where I purchase the lens. The foam sheet and plastic bag are what you'd find in an official Olympus box, and when I opened it up it was immaculate and literally untouched. So I have no doubt it's a truly new lens. But it makes one wonder if it's grey market goods.

And it works, as you can tell in the photo above. Clear and sharp enough for yeoman duty, and a bit more suave and sophisticated than it's silver brother, it will go back to being used by me. I do see a need for a 28mm (14mm) lens vs a 34mm (17mm) lens. I sure wish I could purchase a more reasonably price 24mm pancake for ยต4/3rds than the current $800 M.Zuiko 12mm. I would certainly be happy with a 1:2.5 ir 1:2.8 12mm for around $350. $800 for a non-sealed prime is a bit too much. I'm curious to see how much the M.Zuiko 60mm Macro and 75mm 1:1.8 will cost when released. The photos of the 75mm in particular show it built along the lines of the 45mm, not the 12mm. Hopefully it'll be reasonably priced around what the 45mm cost.

Quick Comparison

The 17mm, both silver and black, are slower to focus than the Panasonics I have. You can year the 17mm focus, where the Panasonics (and the newer M.Zuikos) are silent. The 17mm is also slower focusing in low light than the 14mm, but not by much. Point both at bright light however and they both are equally fast. For a time both the 14mm and the 17mm cost about the same. But Olympus has dropped the price of the 17mm so that it's about $60 cheaper if you know where to look. Especially if you get one without an official Olympus cardboard box.


Top was taken with the warhorse E-1 and ZD 50mm macro. I used the CN-160 lights to provide lighting from both sides, with the right brighter than the left. Bottom was essentially first light thought the 17mm on the E-P2. Both processed in Lightroom 4.


  1. I have to admit that the Olympus 17mm would normally be one of the very last primes I would ever think of buying for micro 4/3. But if you have enough faith in that lens to buy a second copy, I guess it can't be all bad. :-)

    There is one feature in regards to that lens I really like: the optional VF-1 viewfinder that fit's in the hotshoe.

    I might just have to put that little Olympus on my wish list, as I too like black pancakes.


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