Normally, I break image quality down by sharpness, bokeh, distortion, flare, etc. in my reviews, but this lens requires a more general discussion.
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.
- Extremely small and weighs next to nothing
- Decently sharp in the image center
- 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).
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