This past fall, Olympus announced a rather interesting lens…the smallest lens yet for the Micro 4/3 system, and one of the smallest interchangeable lenses ever made. This optic? The 15mm f/8 body cap lens. This tiny lens/body cap is classified by Olympus as an “accessory” rather than a true lens, and the lens doesn’t carry the Zuiko branding that all of their lenses generally carry. So how is this little $50 trinket?
If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective. You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here. There are plenty of other sites that cover those. I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool.
Around the Lens
The Olympus 15mm f/8 is certainly a small lens. It truly is roughly the size of a Micro 4/3 body cap. The lens protrudes about 5mm from the body when mounted, and features a simple lever up front as its only control. The lens is entirely plastic, with no electronic contacts, so the camera body will operate as it does with any adapted lenses. The plastic build is relatively solid, but overall it feels as cheap as it is, especially the focusing lever, which is quite flimsy. If you are using the lens on an Olympus body, don’t forget to set the 15mm focal length in the IS setup menu to make sure that the in-body IS is operating correctly.
Back to that lever. The front lever is both the lens cap and the focus control. When fully shut, a small plastic cover slides in front of the front element to protect it from damage. In this position, it truly does just act as a body cap. Pull the lever slightly, and the protective flap will open and the lens will be focused at infinity. There is a dot just past the infinity marking that represents the hyperfocal distance. Set the lens to this and shoot away as a snapshot lens. The rest of the lever’s sliding is for closer focusing, which can be done as close as 0.3m away.
Due to the very deep depth of field from the lens’ fixed f/8 aperture, focusing the 15mm f/8 essentially has to be done with magnified view, as there is just too little difference between in and out of focus areas when viewing the whole scene. While the hyperfocal setting is supposed to take the focusing requirements out of play, I found that image quality suffered when deliberate focus wasn’t used for anything closer than about 15 feet.
Other than that, there’s not much to talk about in terms of the lens operation, so let’s see how it performs.