Is This the Worst Mirrorless Lens Ever?

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

I’ve written before about my interest in the Olympus 15mm f/8 Body Cap lens that someone, whose opinion I respect, once said “That lens is truly worthless.” The lens is seemingly discontinued but you can still get them from Amazon and, of course, eBay. When they were readily available I ordered a black lens but there were also available in white, red and silver versions that I’m sure stylish photographers can find on eBay.

The short answer to the above question is that it’s a darn good lens for the price, which was originally $50. I’ve tested $500 mirrorless camera lenses that were not as well made. Sure there’s lots of plastic in its construction and it’s a fixed aperture lens. I was also surprised how thin it is; It’s even thinner Oly’s 9mm lens cap lens.

You have to manually focus it but the lens’ biggest failing is the way it focuses as can be seen in the above photo. It’s not that it’s a manual focus lens, it’s just that Olympus didn’t take the time to put even a tiny distance scale on it, as you can in the above photo. So you may find that some of your images are in focus and others are not but it’s not the optic’s fault is just that you’re focused in the wrong place. If you take the time to look, you should be able to see any focus problems on the LCD but I’ll admit to sometime missing and ending up with a soft photograph. There is also some slight barrel distortion when you tilt the lens up or down—it is a 15mm lens after all—but that’s easily corrected in any version of Photoshop or Lightroom and, what the heck, it may not even bother you.

How I made the above shot: Camera was an Olympus E-P3 and Oly 15mm lens with an exposure of 1/640 sec at f/8  and ISO 640. For its price, the Olympus 15mm f/8 lens should work great for what I intended it to do, which was use it at car shows with my more-or-less pocketable Olympus Pen E-P3.

What have we learned today? There are really two possibilities of why the Olympus 15mm f/8 that I bought is not as bad as what you’ve been told by others:

  • First, DxO gave it a “poor” rating and maybe they were wrong. All of you who have lost arguments about gear at the camera club with your opponent quoting DxO stats will probably prefer that answer.
  • Second, there’s the possibility that Olympus, who introduced the lens in 2013, fixed the problems somewhere along the way and the final version is pretty good.

Both possibilities prove one thing and that’s you can’t always trust what you read on the Internet.