Interesting optics don’t have to cost a fortune. Andy Westlake tries out some inexpensive lenses to stimulate your creativity - and finds some to avoid, too
Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye Body Cap Lens
At a glance:
- For Micro Four Thirds mirrorless
Few camera firms have indulged in making cheap, optically compromised lenses, but Olympus is an exception, with its two ‘body cap lenses’ for Micro Four Thirds. Technically they’re sold as accessories rather than lenses, and notably they don’t bear the Zuiko badge. The message is clear: these aren’t really serious optics, they’re just meant as a bit of fun.
The naming pretty much describes the design concept – these lenses place tiny optical units into plastic housings barely thicker than a conventional body cap. Two versions are available, a moderate wideangle 15mm f/8, and this 9mm f/8 fisheye. On both the aperture is fixed, and a single lever on the front is used for opening the lens cover and focusing. Most of the time, though, you’ll leave them set to a click-stopped hyperfocal setting.
While the 15mm is a rectilinear wideangle, this 9mm fisheye shows extreme barrel distortion, rendering straight lines as curves. It covers a 140° angle of view, which isn’t quite as broad as a ‘proper’ 180° fisheye but still gives striking results. It can be focused as close as 20cm. Optically it’s considerably better than you might expect, giving a surprising amount of detail right across the frame. There’s significant green/magenta colour fringing in the corners due to lateral chromatic aberration, but this is a one-click fix in raw processing.
I wouldn’t normally bother carrying around a fisheye, but this lens is an exception. It’s so tiny you won’t notice you’re carrying it, but at the same time sharp enough to give genuinely usable images. Micro Four Thirds shooters looking for something a little different could do a lot worse than give it a try.