Olympus 17mm f1.8 vs Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95

The next lens on my mind would be an equivalent focal length of 35mm on a full frame camera. That would roughly translate to about 17mm on a MFT system. There are 2 leading lenses available that I have set my sights on. One is from Olympus and the other, Voigtlander. The Olympus released the M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8 prime lens. That lens gained favourable reviews as a compact but solid prime lens suitable for day to day street photography and wide-normal portrait lens. The other is the Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95 prime lens. That lens garnered rave reviews on the build and optic quality and has been touted as one of the best lens ever released by a third-party manufacturer for the MFT system. The Olympus lens is priced at around SGD700 while the Voigtlander lens is priced at around SGD1400. That is twice as expensive as the Olympus model for a lens that has virtually the same focal length. 


I am a little bit conflicted as to whether I am willing to fork out the cash and get the Voigtlander or make do with the Olympus one. The Voigtlander seems terrific. I have never once encountered a wholly negative review on that lens. All the review articles and videos that I have watched online all pointed to the same consensus: It is hands down one of the best camera lens to own for the MFT system. All metal build, hefty weight and considerable size are drawback including its manual operation. There are no electronic components in the lens and it does not communicate with the camera body in sending information such as metadata. You can only control the lens using the rings that changes the aperture as well as the focusing ring. For me, its a very exotic lens, one that you can be proud to own it. But imagining myself using it manually, kinda makes me hesitant to get one myself. As a lens for street photography, sometimes special moments come and go in a blink of an eye, so while it can be a great lens for portrait shots, where you have time to manually adjust the aperture and focus, you can still sometimes miss photo taking opportunity while out on the street. Imagine fiddling through the rings just to focus on a great shot. I feel that I may not have the confidence to quickly change the settings manually to truly capture special moments out there. 


Thats where the Olympus lens comes in. It’s an ordinary lens with electronic circuitry, with the usual aperture and auto focussing done automatically and for moments where you want that creative shot, you can always switch to manual mode by switching the ring to manual focus. It’s smaller and flatter without compromising too much on quality as it comes with an all metal construction, great in bringing it out without worrying one bit about whether it will break in the middle of a street photography shooting session. And the price, its definitely cheaper than the Voigtlander lens. One major advantage Voigtlander has that no other lens has it is the f-stop. At f0.95, this is a super fast lens, creating some truly spectacular bokeh at the famous 35mm equivalent range. The lens is highly suitable for taking shots at night, without worrying about ramping the ISO of the camera and introducing noise. The reviews I have heard about Voigtlander is that its terrific in low-light situations and at the same time image quality is top notch. 


I would love to get the Voigtlander, but the price is hard to swallow for a prime lens. Looking at it pragmatically, even with the f0.95, it is not every day that I need to shoot in very low light settings. Sure it will be an added bonus to push down the ISO and reduce noise if the lens is able to capture so much light, but looking at my shooting style, I don’t see a need to fork out twice as much for a slight improvement in image quality. The Olympus already does a great job, without affecting portability and it has fast auto-focusing.  For now, I am leaning towards getting the Olympus 17mm lens. I still feel that I do not deserve owning a Voigtlander, until I am sure that I am confidence in getting great shots every time I use it. It’s like bringing a machine gun to a sword fight. 

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