No thanks to Fishtan and Brandon Eu who both poisoned me with their ultra-wide-angle (UWA) lenses, I too, would really love to have one for myself. Nonetheless, the cheapest available option for Olympus users would be the 9-18mm and it would cost around RM1.7k, which is quite steep. None of my lenses was priced over RM800. So what happens to a poor photographer wannabe who is stuck with his current limited collection of gears, but still lusting for more flexibility in his pictures?
The answer is simple. I do what I do best. I improvise with whatever cheaper alternative I could churn out with. Like what I did with macro attempts previously, I find myself a wide angle adapter to force my standard kit lens to think and act like an ultra wide angle lens. I may not be able to achieve true UWA quality this way, but hey, the wider angle of view can really create some stunning effects. The way I see it, I can wait for probably more than a year from now until I saved enough cash for that new UWA lens, or throw in that spare few hundred bucks for the converter to fake an ultra wide angle.
Knowing me this well, you guys can guess what happened. Yeap, I got myself an ultra wide angle 0.45x converter, to be adapted on the front thread of my current widest lens. On the 14-42mm, it effectively opens up the wideness to 6.3-21mm.
Unfortunately, the working range of the converter was quite limited. At full wide 6.3mm, very noticeable corner cut off can be seen, and the image just suffers overall softness. The result was quite unusable. However, taken at 9mm onwards, the image shows slight improvement, and coupled the end results with some distortion correction on photoshop, the photos come out satisfactory for my standards. There are still noticeable flaws, but hey, at such a cheap option, if it was able to produce perfect images, why do you think the real UWA lenses are so freaking expensive? I am not expecting much from this cheapo converter, hence I would be happy with its mediocre results.
Here is a list of the problems that the converter exhibits:
1) Corner softness
On the whole, the image retains its original sharpness at the center sweetspot, and as it goes away from the center, the quality drops significantly towards the corners. This is quite a normal phenomena for most lenses, but having used Olympus lenses all these while, it was not easy coming in terms with the corner softness, since Olympus lenses are usually tack sharp from edge to edge (as opposed to Full Frame lenses, hah, there you go, not everything about full frame can beat Oly)
2) Chromatic Aberration
CA is a term used to describe serious colour deviation which may occur under a variety of situations, such as under strong contrast highlighted by the harsh sun as shown in the pictures in this entry. The CA problem can be quite irky especially viewed at large size. Nonetheless, the overall colour balance was not affected at all, and the punchy famous Olympus colours is still well-preserved.
3) Barrel Distortion
I have seen what a true 7-14mm (thanks Brandon) can do, and it shows almost NO distortion even at full 7mm wide. That was very impressive, and I expected nothing less coming from Olympus. This was sadly not the case with the use of my kit lens with the wide angle converter. The distortion was so obvious that in certain situations it was destructive to the photos. This was certainly a disaster when there are a lot of lines in the picture, for example buildings or any sort of architectures. Even after severe correction in photoshop, I could not get rid of the distortion. I guess this is just something I have got to live with for now.
Though at full wide open I could obtain the angle of 6.3mm, but in truth, to produce a photograph of acceptable level of quality, I have done a battery of tests and came up with a conclusion that I should use 9mm and above. At 9mm, it was barely an ultra wide angle, and the perspective exaggeration was not very noticeable. Nevertheless, at 9mm, I can cover a field of view a heck lot wider than what the kit lens originally can do, 14mm, which is quite a bonus already. Therefore, I should not really be complaining.
I should have really waited till near sunset time before I took the photos for this entry, but hey, I was solely only testing and trying out the converter. I know I could have done a lot better in terms of compositions. Nevertheless, it was not an everyday thing to find clear and blue skies in Kuala Lumpur. I was glad I happened to be there at the right time and the quality of light may not be as good as golden hour times, but it provided me with enough depth and contrast.
To me, I greatly treasure functionality. It does not matter if there are a million flaws, for the low price, I can live with it. Besides, I am not taking photographs as a profession, and technical accuracy was not exactly a requirement in the photos I take for my own leisure. No doubt, a real ultra wide angle lens is in my "to buy" list which will happen God knows when, but for now, I make the best with what I currently own.
Lets go WIDE !!