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Feb 20

Review: Olympus 15mm f/8 Body Cap Lens

Image Quality

Normally, I break image quality down by sharpness, bokeh, distortion, flare, etc. in my reviews, but this lens requires a more general discussion.

Path to Columbus - Olympus 15mm f/8

Path to Columbus – Olympus 15mm f/8

How’s the image quality on the 15mm f/8?  Well, it’s unique!  If you think that’s code for bad, you’re mostly right.  The lens is actually relatively sharp in the center when focused properly, though certainly not exceptional.  You can get some fine detail in the center 50% of the frame, but the sharpness quickly falls off towards the edges.  If you’re planning on using this for landscape work, you’ll be pretty disappointed.  In fact, most of the time, there’s just a general haze and mushiness to the images, especially if using hyperfocal distance.

Contrast is also relatively low, and there’s some chromatic aberration to go with it.  Vignetting is also visible, though it’s not too severe.  There is really no bokeh to speak of, as it’s hard to generate any sort of background blur, even at minimum focus distance.  What little blur there is rather busy, so I wouldn’t describe the lens as having any sort of creamy bokeh, even when you do get a little bur.

However, there are situations where the lens works well for a certain look.  See the first image in the Image Samples for what I’m talking about.  The lens works best when you plan to pair it with some moody processing, as it naturally kind of gives almost a pinhole look (though you will want to pair it with some added contrast.).  If you like this look, you may get some enjoyment out of the lens.  If you don’t, you’ll likely view it as relatively worthless.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Extremely small and weighs next to nothing
  • Decently sharp in the image center
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Sharpness falls off dramatically as you near the image edges
  • Fixed f/8 aperture is very slow and makes focusing difficult
  • Low image contrast and generally muddy rendering
  • Flimsy focusing lever that is difficult to use

Ultimately, this is best viewed as a body cap that allows you to snag a quick shot when needed, without having to fumble with attaching a lens.  Is it worth the $50?  Well, for most people, no.  There’s little to get excited about with the image quality.  However, if you’ve got $50 to burn and like the look the lens gives, it won’t break the bank and will give you something super tiny to put in your pocket on a small camera like the E-PM2 or Panasonic GX1.

For me?  Well, I plan on using it pretty much as a body cap, and I’ll take pictures with it when I don’t have a wide-angle lens handy and I can pull it out.  However, overall, even for the inexpensive price, it’s a disappointment for Olympus.  You’d be much better served saving up some money and getting the rather excellent Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 instead.  It’s not much bigger, and it’s light years better (full review on that lens coming soon).

Image Samples

Click on any image to view it larger.

Main Street Bridge - Olympus 15mm f/8

Main Street Bridge – Olympus 15mm f/8

Lounging - Olympus 15mm f/8

Lounging – Olympus 15mm f/8

 

Mound School - Olympus 15mm f/8

Mound School – Olympus 15mm f/8

 

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

8 comments

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  1. Lorenz Gude

    I got this as a free extra with purchase of an OM D recently and immediately liked it. I’m an old Nikon shooter who liked wide angle photography and quickly realized that I wanted the 14mm f2.8 Panasonic pancake – which is small enough. Either way the pancakes make the OM D handle a lot like the early Leica rangefinder film cameras and are the best cameras I have ever used.

  2. Sahib7

    I’m still waiting for you Pana 14mm f2.5 review (promised to come soon).
    Are you still working on that review?
    I would be really interested in your opinion!

    1. Jordan Steele

      I do plan on doing a 14mm f/2.5 review. Right now, I have a backlog of reviews to complete, and I’ve been insanely busy at home (I recently finished my entire basement myself and I have a new baby…) Lenses that are primed for review are the Panasonic 14/2.5, 8mm fisheye, Olympus 9-18mm, Fuji 14mm, 35 and 60mm.

  3. Sahib7

    Congratulations!
    I’m also expecting a baby girl (first child).
    Do you have recommendations regarding photographing/filming the birth?
    Thank you!

  4. RobK

    Hi
    Thanks for the review!..I got the lens and is handy and indeed not an overall champ but I will use it in street and or carphotography,I find it not good for shooting landscapes..so not too far distance..anyway it need some efforts to enjoy it;)
    With previous wide angles its almost impossible without not having some lost of sharpness towards the edges.

  5. Rowe Lee

    I have recently acquired this lens. Despite its flaws though, I loved this lens. I admit F8 is really slow. At that price, I wouldn’t complain about the IQ. I admit there are better pancake lenses but I find them too expensive. (I’m looking at you droolworthy 20mm 1.7) Focusing is difficult but I doubt that it’s gonna need any frequent re-focusing given that it’s at f8.

    For what it’s meant for, I think this one’s just fine. Also, you’ve made great images with it.

  6. Kjell Olsson

    “You’d be much better served saving up some money and getting the rather excellent Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 instead. It’s not much bigger, and it’s light years better (full review on that lens coming soon).”

    Can´t find that review…..

    /Kjell

    1. Jordan Steele

      Yeah, it fell by the wayside with all the new things coming out.

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