Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Olympus 9mm Fisheye Body Cap Lens Review

Important Note:
1) I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. 
2) This review is a user-experience based review, from a photography enthusiast's point of view. 
3) All images were shot in RAW and converted to JPEG via Olympus Viewer 3. Noise Filter = OFF, Gradation Normal, Saturation, Contrast and Sharpness set to default "0". Image Setting Natural, Auto White Balance with Warm Color OFF. 
4) The images were almost straight out of camera, with slight exposure (brightness/contrast balance) tuning and white balance tweak. 

Taking a short break from reviewing the Olympus OM-D E-M10 and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens after publishing my first part for both products, I shall now review something less serious and a lot more fun: the Olympus 9mm Fisheye Body Cap lens. This is the second body cap lens from Olympus, after the 15mm Body Cap Lens. 

Do take note that the 9mm Fisheye Body Cap Lens does not have an M.Zuiko branding label, meaning it is not a part of Olympus M.Zuiko product line-up. Therefore, the optical performance of the lens is definitely not on par with any M.Zuiko lenses. It is designed as a lens cap accessory in the first place, without any electronic contacts resulting in no communication with the camera body when mounted on. Consequently there is no autofocus and the aperture opening is fixed at F8. The only limited control you have is the manual focusing lever at the bottom front of the lens for quick focusing. 

Main specifications of the Olympus 9mm F8 FIsheye Body Cap Lens:
9mm Fisheye, fixed at F8 aperture
field of view 140 degrees
Lens Construction 5 elements in 4 groups
2 Aspherical Elements 
Ultra thin 12.5mm thickness and very light 30g

The unique point about this body cap lens is the fact that it is designed as a Fisheye lens, selling at a rather low price point.





The MANUAL FOCUSING LEVER and Use Guide

Before I go on further, I think it is quite crucial for me to explain how the manual focusing lever works, and how to achieve best results with this body cap lens. I have shown this lens to a few people and they all found that it was difficult to use at first, but with quick guidance and some getting used to, the lens was a joy to use and can produce some good results.

As shown in the photograph above, the manual focusing lever has 4 distinctive options, and the following is my summary of how and when to use them:

1) Barrier Closed
Obviously the lens cap is fully closed when the lever is slided to the lens barrier option, and you do want to protect the glasses (yes, REAL optical elements in the body cap lens) when you are not using it. 

2) Infinity Focus
Use this for subjects that are very, very far away, eg buildings, ocean, sky, mountains, etc.

3) Deep Focus 
When shooting subjects from half a meter (0.5 meter) and further from the camera, slide the focusing lever to the Deep Focus option. This will be the most used option, so when shooting I will usually set the focusing lever to this position by default. Even when you are shooting far away subjects (to infinity) using this option, the subjects at great distance may still appear in focus and sharp.

4) Close Up Shooting
This is the tricky part, and you do need to pay closer attention when shooting subjects closer than half a meter. The closest focusing distance is 0.2m. If you do set the lens focusing lever to 0.2m, you must make sure that the subject is really at that distance. Although fixed at F8 allowing for wider depth of field to cover some focusing inaccuracy, I still find tendency of having out of focus images if I was not paying close enough attention. How do you focus on subjects not exactly at 0.2m? Between 0.2m to 0.5 meter you do need to manually slide the lever from the position of Deep Focus to Close Up Shooting. 

ADDITIONAL TIPS

Focus Peaking
If you are using E-M10, E-M1 and E-P5, this should be easy because you have Focus Peaking to help, and with focus peaking enabled it was a breeze to get decently accurate focus. To enable focus peaking you do need to set the custom function buttons (one of many) to "peaking" and activate it by pressing the assigned button. I used the focus peaking for ALL my shots in this blog entry shooting with the Olympus 9mm Fisheye Body Cap Lens.

Magnified View
Alternatively, if focus accuracy is still an important point and you do not have focus peaking, you can use the magnified view, which I think is too slow for most practical shooting conditions. If you do have time and in no rush (for example that vase of rose that will not grow legs and start to crawl away) using the magnified view may give you better accurate focus. 

Image Stabilization 
The last note, but also a very important one: if you have Image Stabilization on your camera body turned on (whichever IS system, the older 2-Axis or the newer 5-Axis and 3-Axis, on ALL Olympus camera bodies), please make sure that the custom focal length is set to 9mm, or anything closest to 9mm (some cameras have 8mm or 10mm, so please choose that setting). If you have other focal lengths enabled (eg 50mm, 100mm) high chances are you will get blurry images. The ordinary Olympus M.Zuiko lenses have electronic contacts to communicate with the camera, hence the camera would know what focal length it is dealing with. This is not the case with the 9mm Body Cap Lens that does not have electronic contacts. Hence you do have to manually set the focal length you are using. Alternatively, if this is too much trouble to go through (I don't deny it can get cumbersome when you are in a hurry and may not have the time to think about too many things when shooting) then just turn the Image Stabilization OFF. 

Now that we have got the technicalities out of the way, let's have a look at some photos taken with the Olympus Body Cap Fisheye Lens! 


ISO1000, 1/80sec

ISO3200, 1/50sec

ISO200, 1/125sec

100% Crop from Previous Image

ISO200, 1/1600sec

100% Crop from the previous image (center)

100% Crop from the previous image (corner)

ISO800, 1/30sec

ISO400, 1/125sec

ISO LOW, 1/30sec

SHOOTING WITH THE FISHEYE BODY CAP LENS

To test the Olympus 9mm Fisheye Body Cap Lens, I used the new OM-D E-M10. Shooting with the fisheye body cap lens was really fun. It felt as I did not have any lens on the camera body, and with the OM-D E-M10 it was a very small and light combination. Handling was a little odd mainly because I am using to holding the lens barrel with my left hand, and for this body cap lens, I have to be extra careful on where I place my fingers at the lens, because I may accidentally shoot a part of my finger in the framing. 

The fisheye body cap lens provides a super wide coverage of 140 degrees field of view,  much wider than the ordinary kit wide zoom lens. Being an ultra wide angle lens, it surely opened a lot of interesting shooting opportunities. One of the fun thing to do is to fit as much as possible into one frame, something that can create an interesting perspective if used properly. The exaggerated distortion (curved sides) can make photographs with lines and patterns look very different. Fisheye effect is a love it of hate it affair, and I can fully understand if there is a handful of people disliking the fisheye effect output in the images. Nonetheless I believe photography should be fun, and this new Olympus 9mm F8 body cap lens is all about fun!

Using the lens was easy, just set to deep focus, and everything from half a meter and beyond will be in focus. Zone focusing for beginner if you ask me. 

FIXED APERTURE F8

In order to make the lens truly tiny, the aperture was fixed at F8. This may pose restrictions to some shooting conditions but I still find it perfectly serviceable in most of my photography needs, as you can see a wide range of photographs I have shot in this series, at various locations, including an over crowded temple, a dimly lit shopping mall, to people shots outside under the sun. At low light conditions, the is a need to bump up the ISO setting to achieve adequate shutter speed, but newer cameras like OM-D can handle higher ISO shooting, and I personally am very comfortable to use even ISO6400. Since this is a super wide angle lens, at 9mm, with the help of in body Image Stabilization system, I can confidently shoot at very slow shutter speed, but just to stay on the safe side, I always ensure my shutter speed was above 1/20sec. Higher shutter speed is needed for moving subjects. On the whole I do think that the F8 fixed aperture should not be much of an issue. 

ISO500, 1/320sec

100% Crop from the previous image

ISO200, 1/10sec

ISO640, 1/125sec

100% Crop from previous image (Corner)

ISO500, 0.6sec

ISO100, 1/30sec

ISO500, 1/25sec

ISO200, 1/125sec

ISO200, 1/200sec

GENERAL IMAGE QUALITY

Knowing that this is a body cap accessory, I am not expecting the lens to have stellar performance. If you do need a real fisheye lens, then there are many alternatives, which of course would cost you a lot more. It is important to understand what this body cap lens is, it was never designed to surpass or replace any fisheye lenses out there. 

With that understanding in mind, I was actually very pleased with the results I managed to pull out from the 9mm Body Cap Lens. At the center of the frame the images came out reasonably sharp with good amount of details (not as sharp as any Olympus lenses, even the kit lenses eg M.Zuiko 14-42mm is still significantly sharper) but the sharpness drops significantly at corners. Not only soft corners, but chromatic aberration especually purple fringing is evident at the corners too. I actually have no issue with this, mainly because for fisheye lenses or very wide lenses I normally would compose my main subjects at the center of the frame. 

One thing that I find this lens is lacking, is the overall Olympus "punch". The fisheye body cap lens lacks contrast, my images look very pale even in considerably good lighting conditions. It generally lacks contrast, and by extension, very poor micro contrast. This is somehow expected coming from an accessory lens, but then again, lowering down my expectations, I am not asking too much from this lens either. 

A true fisheye lens generally would offer true 180 degrees coverage (sweeping everything in from left of the lens to the right), but this fisheye body cap lens offers 140 degrees, which is still respectable. Now it is unfair to compare this fisheye body cap lens to a true fisheye lens, but a more appropriate comparison can be made with fisheye adapters to any lenses out there (or any third party fisheye converters). I have tried several third party fisheye converters before and boy do they disappoint! Those converters are probably priced very similarly to this Olympus fisheye body cap lens, and the stark contrast in image output can be seen. If you want a cheap alternative, get the Olympus fisheye body cap lens, it is still a dedicated lens on it's own, hence trumping any fisheye converters or adapters out there. 


CLOSE UP SHOOTING

The Fisheye Body Cap Lens can go as close as 0.2m, which I think is NOT sufficient for close up fisheye shooting. One of the fun things I always like to do with fisheye lenses is getting really, really close (think about 5cm or closer), which can render quite an interesting perspective, wide angle macro. Meaning that you do get very close up shot of the subject, with a lot of distortion yet you have a wide coverage of the background which can be useful if the background can support the subject well. Unfortunately this fisheye macro effect cannot be achieved with the 9mm Fisheye Body Cap lens. I do wish the lens can go much nearer. You know how those large nose cats or dogs kind of photographs? I can't seem to be able to replicate those with the 9mm Fisheye Body Cap lens. 



ISO1000, 1/60sec


100% Crop from Previous Image

ISO1000, 1/100sec

ISO200, 1/40sec

ISO200, 1/640sec

ISO400, 1/50sec
Friends, Hadi Nik, Carmen and Jackie. 

100% Crop from previous image

ISO1600, 1/1.6sec

ISO12,800, 1/13sec

ISO12,800, 1/8sec

OLYMPUS 9mm FISHEYE BODY CAP LENS SUMMARY 

What I Like:
Super Wide Angle, Fisheye Lens
Decent image quality, with reasonable sharpness
Really small and thin
Very fun lens to use

What I Wish to be improved
Lens Contrast could be better
Corner softness and CA are evident
Closer minimum focusing distance

I also provide selected 10 full resolution image samples taken by the Olympus 9mm Body Cap Lens (mounted on OM-D E-M10), for your download here:


I have to admit that I have not have this much fun in a long time, and the Fisheye Body Cap lens was enjoyable to use. Of course this will not be my first choice of lens if technical perfection of image quality is the main concern, but for what it is, the Fisheye Body Cap Lens does what it does very well. 

Just a quick note: I am still shooting to get more photographs for my coming review parts of OM-D E-M10 and 25mm F1.8. Rest assured that I am reading the comments and feedback and I will try my best to answer them in my coming reviews. 

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67 comments:

  1. First comment for the sake of the first comment. :D Haha.

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  2. Wow, I like this cap. Bro, nice photos u took. I will buy one for myself: )

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    Replies
    1. Hi Sapphire,
      and it is cheap too!

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    2. Haha. That's Why I want to buy : )

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    3. Buy Buy Buy! Btw Gong Xi Fa Cai, Ker!

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    4. Thanks brought.happy chinese new year.
      Now available only pre-order right?

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  3. Super fun lens. Hopefully can get it before I going Sabah and pricing on what I expected :P

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  4. Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words. It should be available very soon.

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  5. Hey nice shot of the smoke in the first pic! The camera looks innocently simple, it's a wonder it could do all those tricks! (or maybe im such an amateur at this stuff) :) Happy CNY Robin!

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  6. I'm impressed at how good it is. This is one inexpensive lens that I wouldn't mind. The one thing I've never done since the electronic film and/or digital camera age is to use an old manual type of lens on a modern camera. I know that the Panasonic GH3 has a setting something like "shoot without lens" for lenses that are not electronically enabled. I guess setting the camera is just done in manual mode, the way I did things before there were cameras with automatic exposure.

    In any case, this fisheye body cap lens looks much more useful and appealing than the other body cap lens, which was more for typical self/group shots.

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    Replies
    1. Having something very wide sure helps and the fisheye effect can add some refreshing perspective to a series of photos!

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    2. I use the 15mm body cap lens on my GF1 and GH2 cameras and you just set it to Aperture Priority for auto. Manual focusing is needed but I usually only use the hyper-focal setting.
      Great for street work and getting the GF1 in my pocket. Looking forward to this new body-cap, when will it be available in Europe?

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  7. looking at the images you've taken, I think it's quite decent in the Image Quality department for leisure shooting...in a creative hand like you for instance, it might create the next wonder of the world...who know...hehehe...plus this lens for sure will dig out the shooter creativity, and that's will be a great point for an armature like me for instance, to enhance my photography skills....

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words. It is indeed refreshing not to take the lens at too serious of a note and just go out, enjoy yourself!

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  8. Hi Robin,
    thanks as usual! how far is that body cap lens from the previous one in terms of sharpness?
    sometimes I use the 15mm but I think it as a fun lens (mostly with art filters on),
    thanks, Renato

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    Replies
    1. Actually, I have never used the previous body cap lens! I believe you will be able to gauge the image quality from the full resolution image samples provided via the download link.

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  9. Definitely a fun lens. Actually it performed better than I thought.
    BTW, does the IBIS in E-M10 automatically adjust for panning like in E-M1 too? Just another reason to go for it.

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    Replies
    1. Hey John,
      It performed rather well I say. Yes if you select IS-Auto it will automatically detect the panning direction and disable that axis.

      Delete
  10. Gong Xi, Gong Xi!
    Nice review, interesting lens and quite funny to see that you seem to have pretty much the same "hunting grounds" during CNY as I do :D
    I have a lot of similar shots in terms of subject/location :)

    Looking forward to more reviews, despite for now I'm still a happy Canon Fullframe user - nonetheless, the Olympus system is really tempting and keeps amazing me (even in low light).

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words. I guess if we do walk the same streets at the same time the photographer in us would call us to shoot similar subjects.

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    2. You're probably right - although if you look at the pictures side by side, they are still far from being the same.

      In the way someone takes the pictures, such as: angle, perspective, aperture, focal length among others, you can really see a photographers preferences and his unique style.
      So despite the pictures may be very similar at first glance, upon closer inspection they remain unique in their own way.

      Delete
  11. Hi Robin, a m4/3er from Italy here. Thanx for your writings.
    As concerns the body-cap, did you ever test the UMC Samyang/Rokinon/Walimex 7.5 fish on our m4/3 cameras?

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    Replies
    1. I have used the Samyang before. I have also previously owned the ZD8mm F3.5 Fisheye lens, used on my older E-5 body. You can easily search these articles up.

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  12. Hi Robin... finally.... i can shoot with u...really nice during shoot session... just want to say.. thank for the borrowing ur OMD ..really poison ehh...hahahahah..will set another date for shoot session again..thanks again..

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    Replies
    1. No problem Nik Hadi, glad to have you with us. I hope you enjoyed the OM-D and please feel free to join me again next time.

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    2. For sure Robin.. will update later.. honestly.. i like d new gear.. really sexy huh..hahaha..after use ur omd..think i can understand with the basic setting as now i always use the manual mode.. a bit busy now with daily work.. will upload d photo that i snap from the omd body.. see u next..

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  13. Thank you! I've been waiting with baited breath for someone to do a review of the 9mm fisheye body cap. I'll be getting one as soon as I can, trying out some landscape shots here in the states.

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    Replies
    1. I am sure more reviews will come! It is quite a fun lens to shoot with.

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    2. However, it may not be ideal for landscape shots - which is pretty much a given for any fisheye lens though :)

      The corner resolution drops significantly and the bulging is rather evident.
      A fisheye is great fun and has many uses, but if you like to do a lot of landscaping, you might want to consider other wide angle lenses as well.

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    3. It all comes down to your expectations. To expect a body cap lens to perform sharp to sharp at corners, is a bit too much. Taken for what it is, I'd say it does very well, and it will give good enough results.

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    4. I think high corner sharpness is something that barely any fish eye can deliver - which is obvious, considering how much of a challenge that poses.
      And that is why I suggested that it might be a good idea to consider other wide angle lenses than fisheyes, simply as they are not really ideal for landscaping shots where you (usually) want a high sharpness throughout the entire picture :)

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    5. Thanks for the tip, xtj7. I know it's not ideal for art quality landscape shots, but fisheye landscapes are just something I like to play around with.

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    6. Yeah, I think fisheye would give quite an interesting perspective to things!

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    7. Using a Fisheye lens for landscape can be interesting (but not always appropriate). There is an example: http://agilephotography.deviantart.com/gallery/?offset=96#/art/Spirit-Island-Part-V-383590278?_sid=4d438ed0

      You can also crop some of the "curvy" side of the shot in order to keep the wide angle or use the Zuiko 9-18 :)

      Gilles

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    8. Thanks. That's pretty close to what I'm looking for. I feel the distortion provides a sense of enormity that you lose in a more traditional wide-angle landscape. When I look at a fisheye perspective, I feel that sense of insignificance I feel when I'm actually there.

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    9. I think this lens will be used mainly for fun or artistic effect. People often deliberately add blur or vignetting in post process to such photos. Lo-fi look is very popular with image sharing sites and the web is the most likely target. This lens provides enough headroom in terms of quality for these scenarios. When was the last time anyone of us used a fisheye lens for a "serious" job?

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  14. To be honest, especially considering the price, this lens perform amazingly well. Sure, there's some CA (easily removed anyway) and maybe extreme corner sharpness isn't optimal. Contrast may need some jacking up in PP, so what... all so easily done these days.

    But some of these shots are simply amazing. A wonderful little lens just to keep handy for cramped interiors, and just plain fun shots. Amazing.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words, Andre! I had so much fun shooting with this lens, and yes you were right, in tight areas the extra wide angle is a breath of freedom!

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  15. Wow! You get better results with a lenscap lens than I get with my regular lenses!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words but you were being too kind!

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  16. Hey Robin, Xin Nian Kuai Le - love those lanterns !!

    David in Seattle

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  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  18. nice picture Robin..
    I just wondering how to set up focus peaking if i use third party lens.. because I can not find it.
    tq

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    Replies
    1. Just go to customize one of the many function buttons, Fn1 or Fn2 to "Peaking" and you can use it.

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  19. Focus Peaking for Olympus Em1.. sorry I forgot to mention :)

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  20. Need to spend money again! Also the 14-42mm pancake Zoom! :)

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    Replies
    1. The fisheye is not expensive! The 14-42mm pancake zoom, get it as a kit lens with the E-M10, that way you save quite a bit.

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  21. Robin,

    I just would like to thank for the wonderful reviews!. Greetings from Bulgaria!

    Regards, George

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  22. Hi Robin, thanks for this marvellous review. I absolutely LOVE my 15mm bodycap and was just yesterday visiting a Cathedral in front of which I just couldn't get wide enough with my equipment. I kept talking to my friend (probably very annoyingly) about how there's no affordable ultrawide option for µFT out there, and BAM, my prayers have been answered. Pre-ordered it now, I am looking very much forward to this. Keep up the good work!

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  23. Thanks for a great review and some wonderful images.

    When I heard the announcement of this lens I was instantly interested but after seeing your images this is a no-brainer... I can't wait to have this lens!

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  24. Hi Robin, I own the olympus E-M1 and I'm wandering if the grip of the E-M1 could be a problem with this very thin lens. As the grip is more prominent than the E-M10, there are good chances you end up with fingers on the edges. Am I wrong ? Regards, Florent.

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  25. Robin, did you notice that the lever on the kens is extremely soft? It is very easy to move it. Was that the case with your unit?

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  26. thanks for the review and especially the hires images!
    since i have the original 15mm BCL (loving it) and the awesome samyang fisheye i will pass on this one for now.
    the fisheye effect can be removed pretty well. sadly the two types of CA not so.
    i was hoping for a light ultra-wideangle to carry along without weighing me down.
    ah, well.. one cant have everything..

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  27. Robin, greetings from HK. Just got my hand on the lens cap today. This is fun shooting. One stupid question. The Olympus menu (EM-1) says focus length setting is for non-MFT and non-FT lenses. Does that mean we have to set the length to, for instance, 18mm for the fisheye lens cap?

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  28. Thanks for an informative review. The lens is already on its way to my bag. I don't have much need for a "proper" fish eye lens since I'll only use it for an occasional fun effect. Your results are actually way better than I'd have expected. No-brainer for me, suits its role just perfectly.

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  29. when will the lens be available in Malaysia? Cant find anywhere to buy it yet

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  30. Robin, thanks for the thorough review. You made this a really easy buying decision. And fantastic images!

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  31. Thanks for sharing your experience. Great pictures. I didn't know you can find the lens in white color, it looks nice on the white E-P5. We have the black one here at the Olympus of the Americas Call center in Colombia and we all love it. Obviously we don't get the chance of trying it outside, but we know is a great lens.

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  32. I just bought mine, it will now be permanently be glued to the E-PM1 which goes in the photo bag with the E-M5. Put the tiny pocket flash on the E-PM1, set it to Slow2 or Fill and you have a killer setup for shooting busy streets at night. The flash also helps to pop up the colours.

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  33. Thank you very much for this review. I recently got mine, and I find your suggestions about making sure to adjust the anti-shake focal length setting, and using the magnification to check focus will help me in the future.

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  34. Hi Robin, Greetings from North Wales! (UK). I am absolutely blown away with the results you have achieved using this little lens and I really did not expect that level of image quality at all. I particularly like the black and white escalator image and the colour image of the woman with the burning candles - Very atmospheric. Did the out of camera images require much post processing or was it just a case of bumping the contrast up a little? Based on this review I am placing an order for one today and I just hope my level of photography can achieve similar results.

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