Shooting with the Worst Mirrorless Lens?

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 told me, “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 that some stylish photographers can find by poking around on eBay.

Is this the worst mirrorless camera lens? The short answer is that it’s a darn good lens for the price. 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 than Olympus’s 9mm lens cap lens. (I need to write about that lens, real soon now…)

You have to manually focus it but the lens’s 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 see. 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 camera’s LCD screen but I’ll admit to sometimes missing focus—and the lever is easy to move accidentally—and ending up with a soft photograph. Because it’s a 15mm lens there is also some barrel distortion when you tilt the lens up or down but you can correct it in Photoshop or Lightroom and, what the heck, it might not even bother you.

How I made the above shot: Camera was my Olympus E-P3 and the 15mm f/8 body cap 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 the more-or-less pocketable Olympus Pen E-P3.

What have we learned today? There are really several possibilities why the Olympus 15mm f/8 is not as bad as what you may have been told by others:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • For a lens that originally cost $50, the current asking price is $119, which tells me that some people agree with me and it’s not such a bad lens after all.

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


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