1) I am an Olympus Malaysia employee.
2) This review is a user-experience based review, from a photography enthusiast's point of view.
3) All images were shot in RAW and converted to JPEG via Olympus Viewer 3. Noise Filter = OFF, Gradation Normal, Saturation, Contrast and Sharpness set to default "0". Image Setting Natural, Auto White Balance with Warm Color OFF.
4) The images were almost straight out of camera, with slight exposure (brightness/contrast balance) tuning and white balance tweak.
Taking a short break from reviewing the Olympus OM-D E-M10 and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens after publishing my first part for both products, I shall now review something less serious and a lot more fun: the Olympus 9mm Fisheye Body Cap lens. This is the second body cap lens from Olympus, after the 15mm Body Cap Lens.
Do take note that the 9mm Fisheye Body Cap Lens does not have an M.Zuiko branding label, meaning it is not a part of Olympus M.Zuiko product line-up. Therefore, the optical performance of the lens is definitely not on par with any M.Zuiko lenses. It is designed as a lens cap accessory in the first place, without any electronic contacts resulting in no communication with the camera body when mounted on. Consequently there is no autofocus and the aperture opening is fixed at F8. The only limited control you have is the manual focusing lever at the bottom front of the lens for quick focusing.
Main specifications of the Olympus 9mm F8 FIsheye Body Cap Lens:
9mm Fisheye, fixed at F8 aperture
field of view 140 degrees
Lens Construction 5 elements in 4 groups
2 Aspherical Elements
Ultra thin 12.5mm thickness and very light 30g
The unique point about this body cap lens is the fact that it is designed as a Fisheye lens, selling at a rather low price point.
The MANUAL FOCUSING LEVER and Use Guide
Before I go on further, I think it is quite crucial for me to explain how the manual focusing lever works, and how to achieve best results with this body cap lens. I have shown this lens to a few people and they all found that it was difficult to use at first, but with quick guidance and some getting used to, the lens was a joy to use and can produce some good results.
As shown in the photograph above, the manual focusing lever has 4 distinctive options, and the following is my summary of how and when to use them:
1) Barrier Closed
Obviously the lens cap is fully closed when the lever is slided to the lens barrier option, and you do want to protect the glasses (yes, REAL optical elements in the body cap lens) when you are not using it.
2) Infinity Focus
Use this for subjects that are very, very far away, eg buildings, ocean, sky, mountains, etc.
3) Deep Focus
When shooting subjects from half a meter (0.5 meter) and further from the camera, slide the focusing lever to the Deep Focus option. This will be the most used option, so when shooting I will usually set the focusing lever to this position by default. Even when you are shooting far away subjects (to infinity) using this option, the subjects at great distance may still appear in focus and sharp.
4) Close Up Shooting
This is the tricky part, and you do need to pay closer attention when shooting subjects closer than half a meter. The closest focusing distance is 0.2m. If you do set the lens focusing lever to 0.2m, you must make sure that the subject is really at that distance. Although fixed at F8 allowing for wider depth of field to cover some focusing inaccuracy, I still find tendency of having out of focus images if I was not paying close enough attention. How do you focus on subjects not exactly at 0.2m? Between 0.2m to 0.5 meter you do need to manually slide the lever from the position of Deep Focus to Close Up Shooting.
If you are using E-M10, E-M1 and E-P5, this should be easy because you have Focus Peaking to help, and with focus peaking enabled it was a breeze to get decently accurate focus. To enable focus peaking you do need to set the custom function buttons (one of many) to "peaking" and activate it by pressing the assigned button. I used the focus peaking for ALL my shots in this blog entry shooting with the Olympus 9mm Fisheye Body Cap Lens.
Alternatively, if focus accuracy is still an important point and you do not have focus peaking, you can use the magnified view, which I think is too slow for most practical shooting conditions. If you do have time and in no rush (for example that vase of rose that will not grow legs and start to crawl away) using the magnified view may give you better accurate focus.
The last note, but also a very important one: if you have Image Stabilization on your camera body turned on (whichever IS system, the older 2-Axis or the newer 5-Axis and 3-Axis, on ALL Olympus camera bodies), please make sure that the custom focal length is set to 9mm, or anything closest to 9mm (some cameras have 8mm or 10mm, so please choose that setting). If you have other focal lengths enabled (eg 50mm, 100mm) high chances are you will get blurry images. The ordinary Olympus M.Zuiko lenses have electronic contacts to communicate with the camera, hence the camera would know what focal length it is dealing with. This is not the case with the 9mm Body Cap Lens that does not have electronic contacts. Hence you do have to manually set the focal length you are using. Alternatively, if this is too much trouble to go through (I don't deny it can get cumbersome when you are in a hurry and may not have the time to think about too many things when shooting) then just turn the Image Stabilization OFF.
Now that we have got the technicalities out of the way, let's have a look at some photos taken with the Olympus Body Cap Fisheye Lens!
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ISO LOW, 1/30sec
SHOOTING WITH THE FISHEYE BODY CAP LENS
To test the Olympus 9mm Fisheye Body Cap Lens, I used the new OM-D E-M10. Shooting with the fisheye body cap lens was really fun. It felt as I did not have any lens on the camera body, and with the OM-D E-M10 it was a very small and light combination. Handling was a little odd mainly because I am using to holding the lens barrel with my left hand, and for this body cap lens, I have to be extra careful on where I place my fingers at the lens, because I may accidentally shoot a part of my finger in the framing.
The fisheye body cap lens provides a super wide coverage of 140 degrees field of view, much wider than the ordinary kit wide zoom lens. Being an ultra wide angle lens, it surely opened a lot of interesting shooting opportunities. One of the fun thing to do is to fit as much as possible into one frame, something that can create an interesting perspective if used properly. The exaggerated distortion (curved sides) can make photographs with lines and patterns look very different. Fisheye effect is a love it of hate it affair, and I can fully understand if there is a handful of people disliking the fisheye effect output in the images. Nonetheless I believe photography should be fun, and this new Olympus 9mm F8 body cap lens is all about fun!
Using the lens was easy, just set to deep focus, and everything from half a meter and beyond will be in focus. Zone focusing for beginner if you ask me.
FIXED APERTURE F8
In order to make the lens truly tiny, the aperture was fixed at F8. This may pose restrictions to some shooting conditions but I still find it perfectly serviceable in most of my photography needs, as you can see a wide range of photographs I have shot in this series, at various locations, including an over crowded temple, a dimly lit shopping mall, to people shots outside under the sun. At low light conditions, the is a need to bump up the ISO setting to achieve adequate shutter speed, but newer cameras like OM-D can handle higher ISO shooting, and I personally am very comfortable to use even ISO6400. Since this is a super wide angle lens, at 9mm, with the help of in body Image Stabilization system, I can confidently shoot at very slow shutter speed, but just to stay on the safe side, I always ensure my shutter speed was above 1/20sec. Higher shutter speed is needed for moving subjects. On the whole I do think that the F8 fixed aperture should not be much of an issue.
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GENERAL IMAGE QUALITY
Knowing that this is a body cap accessory, I am not expecting the lens to have stellar performance. If you do need a real fisheye lens, then there are many alternatives, which of course would cost you a lot more. It is important to understand what this body cap lens is, it was never designed to surpass or replace any fisheye lenses out there.
With that understanding in mind, I was actually very pleased with the results I managed to pull out from the 9mm Body Cap Lens. At the center of the frame the images came out reasonably sharp with good amount of details (not as sharp as any Olympus lenses, even the kit lenses eg M.Zuiko 14-42mm is still significantly sharper) but the sharpness drops significantly at corners. Not only soft corners, but chromatic aberration especually purple fringing is evident at the corners too. I actually have no issue with this, mainly because for fisheye lenses or very wide lenses I normally would compose my main subjects at the center of the frame.
One thing that I find this lens is lacking, is the overall Olympus "punch". The fisheye body cap lens lacks contrast, my images look very pale even in considerably good lighting conditions. It generally lacks contrast, and by extension, very poor micro contrast. This is somehow expected coming from an accessory lens, but then again, lowering down my expectations, I am not asking too much from this lens either.
A true fisheye lens generally would offer true 180 degrees coverage (sweeping everything in from left of the lens to the right), but this fisheye body cap lens offers 140 degrees, which is still respectable. Now it is unfair to compare this fisheye body cap lens to a true fisheye lens, but a more appropriate comparison can be made with fisheye adapters to any lenses out there (or any third party fisheye converters). I have tried several third party fisheye converters before and boy do they disappoint! Those converters are probably priced very similarly to this Olympus fisheye body cap lens, and the stark contrast in image output can be seen. If you want a cheap alternative, get the Olympus fisheye body cap lens, it is still a dedicated lens on it's own, hence trumping any fisheye converters or adapters out there.
CLOSE UP SHOOTING
The Fisheye Body Cap Lens can go as close as 0.2m, which I think is NOT sufficient for close up fisheye shooting. One of the fun things I always like to do with fisheye lenses is getting really, really close (think about 5cm or closer), which can render quite an interesting perspective, wide angle macro. Meaning that you do get very close up shot of the subject, with a lot of distortion yet you have a wide coverage of the background which can be useful if the background can support the subject well. Unfortunately this fisheye macro effect cannot be achieved with the 9mm Fisheye Body Cap lens. I do wish the lens can go much nearer. You know how those large nose cats or dogs kind of photographs? I can't seem to be able to replicate those with the 9mm Fisheye Body Cap lens.
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Friends, Hadi Nik, Carmen and Jackie.
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OLYMPUS 9mm FISHEYE BODY CAP LENS SUMMARY
What I Like:
Super Wide Angle, Fisheye Lens
Decent image quality, with reasonable sharpness
Really small and thin
Very fun lens to use
What I Wish to be improved
Lens Contrast could be better
Corner softness and CA are evident
Closer minimum focusing distance
I also provide selected 10 full resolution image samples taken by the Olympus 9mm Body Cap Lens (mounted on OM-D E-M10), for your download here:
I have to admit that I have not have this much fun in a long time, and the Fisheye Body Cap lens was enjoyable to use. Of course this will not be my first choice of lens if technical perfection of image quality is the main concern, but for what it is, the Fisheye Body Cap Lens does what it does very well.
Just a quick note: I am still shooting to get more photographs for my coming review parts of OM-D E-M10 and 25mm F1.8. Rest assured that I am reading the comments and feedback and I will try my best to answer them in my coming reviews.
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