Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Olympus 9mm Fisheye Bodycap lens - initial review

A few days ago I was lucky enough to receive the Olympus 9mm Fisheye bodycap lens from my wife for my birthday (thanks honey).

Olympus 9mm f8 Fisheye Bodycap lens
I wanted this lens for a couple of reasons. First, it's a 'fisheye' lens, for a very reasonable price (NZ$169). I enjoy using a fisheye on the odd occasion, even pulling them out to use at a wedding every now and then. But they tend to be very specialized (and therefore very expensive) lenses, so I've only ever owned one in my career (a Tokina that was a 'fisheye' zoom).

Second, it's considered a 'fun' lens to have. Something that takes up no room, you have with you all the time, and you use on the odd occasion just for a different effect. The fisheye look can quickly become overdone, although the 9mm (18mm equivalent) Olympus bodycap fisheye has a slightly narrower 140 degree field of view (as opposed to the traditional 180 degree angle of view of a traditional fisheye lens).

As you can see from the specs, the bodycap is only 12.8mm thick, 56mm in diameter, weighs just 30 grams, but manages to fit in 5 glass lenses, 2 of which are aspherical elements for image correction (although the lens is still prone to chromatic aberration in high contrast areas).

Olympus have previously released a 15mm bodycap lens, but the image quality was not up to much, and it didn't really make sense to me since I already own the tiny 17mm f2.8 pancake. But a 9mm fisheye! That's another story. And with the inclusion of 2 aspherical lens elements, Olympus is obviously taking the IQ of the lens fairly seriously. Although having said that, the 9mm bodycap lens is not given the 'Zuiko' brand name. It's considered more of an 'accessory' rather than an actual lens. So given all that, how does it perform in real life?

Home Office. 9mm bodycap fisheye
Surprisingly well, actually. Especially for a very cheap bodycap lens. It's a fixed f8 lens, with no electronic contacts whatsoever. Mount it on the E-M5 MkII and the camera reverts to manual focus, which is controlled by a very simple lever on the front of the lens itself. The first position is lens closed (by a thin shutter), the second position is infinity focus, the third position is for general photography that will cover 90% of shooting scenarios (hyperfocal distance), while the final position is for 'close focusing' of around 20cm.

The extreme edges are a bit soft and blurry, but the rest of the image is acceptably sharp, to very sharp in the central portion. Images from the 9mm bodycap would print up to A3, and maybe even bigger with some localized sharpening applied.

The extreme edges do have some purple fringing, especially in high contrast areas, but this is easily fixed in software like Lightroom.

Coal Creek Falls. Olympus E-M5 MkII with 9mm bodycap Fisheye. F8 @ 500th sec, ISO 200
As can be seen above, the 'fisheye' look doesn't have to be extreme. The figure taking a photo at the extreme left of the image still looks fairly natural, since she wasn't too close to the camera when I took the picture. If you get up close and personal, then things will start to bend and look 'fishy', but give your landscape some breathing space, and everything looks pretty natural. This is partly due to the slightly narrower 140 degree angle of view that the 9mm captures. Colours look good, contrast is ok, and most things are pretty sharp. Overall, very impressive for an accessory :-)

Forest Interior. Olympus E-M5 MkII with 9mm bodycap fisheye. F8 @125th sec, ISO 800
Here we can start to see a little more of the fisheye effect, especially in the trees on the edges of the frame. Surprisingly though, the ferns in the foreground still look relatively natural. Sharpness is still pretty good - depending on your definition and tolerance. Pixel peepers may be disappointed, but we mere mortals should have no problems using this lens on a regular basis. I'll say it again - IQ is very good for a bodycap lens sold very cheaply as an accessory.

Flare is also well controlled.
Some reviewers have complained that the lens doesn't capture the vibrant Olympus colours that the Zuiko lenses are capable of. This may be true, but it's nothing that Lightroom or Photoshop won't fix. And without wanting to sound like a broken record - this isn't a Zuiko lens. It's a cheap, plastic, fully manual, bodycap lens.

Since it's a bodycap, there isn't any thread to attach a lens hood or filters. And with such a wide field of view, it's almost impossible not to include a portion of the sun in some of your images when shooting landscapes. Fortunately then, the 9mm fisheye bodycap controls flare extremely well, although I'd still want to avoid shooting into the sun whenever possible.

I might also try placing a square cokin filter in front of the lens while shooting, just to see if I can use filters without getting my fingers in the shot!?

The photo above shows a small amount of flare in the top of the image, but it hasn't affected the contrast too badly, and the rest of the image is perfectly exposed.

Dinosaur eggs or Fungi? Olympus E-M5 MkII and 9mm bodycap fisheye.
This last image was a bit of an experiment. I came across this patch of fungi that reminded me of dinosaur eggs from Jurassic Park. I wanted to get as close to them as possible, but I kept the lens set to the hyperfocal distance setting, and not the close focus setting. I didn't measure, but I'm pretty sure I was closer than 20cms to the fungi.

The result was exactly what I was after. The lens has kept the middle of the image nice and sharp, but getting up close has really exaggerated the fisheye effect around the edges of the frame. Pretty freaky, but also pretty cool. And a lot of fun. Which is exactly how I described this lens at the start of this post. Just plain FUN.

Maybe you shouldn't take the Olympus 9mm fisheye bodycap lens too serious? Maybe that misses the point of this accessory?

But, then again, maybe the IQ from this lens warrants a serious appraisal. It's a piece of kit that can be used to capture some seriously good images. If you're in the market for a fisheye lens that won't break the bank, you need to seriously consider the Olympus 9mm Fisheye bodycap lens.

Best birthday present ever! Thanks honey :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your reply. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on this post. I will get back to you as soon as I can.
Thanks again