Thursday, June 04, 2015

Olympus M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO Lens Review

For those of you in Malaysia, you can Pre-Order the new Olympus M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO lens now from OLYMPUS Malaysia! Go here to find out more. 

Important Note:
1. I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. 
2. This is a user experience based review, based on my personal opinion which can be subjective.
3. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 3.
4. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
5. Minimal post-processing applied to the images, with slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were almost as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.

Olympus has launched the world's first F1.8 wide aperture fisheye lens, the Olympus M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO. The widest aperture fisheye lenses from other manufacturer is at F2.8, and it is no secret that the wider the lens is, the more difficult it is to construct with super bright aperture without compromising on image quality. The strength of Olympus has always been about their lenses, and in this blog entry I shall be reviewing the new M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 PRO. 

Being a PRO lens, the M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 is fully weather sealed: splashproof, dustproof and freezeproof. The lens also has very similarly robust and solid construction, much like the M,Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO and 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lenses. Holding the lens on hand has considerable amount of weight (not heavy), and you can tell that it is not a cheaply made lens. The front of the lens is bulbous like any other fisheye lenses, negating the ability to add on any filters (common characteristic of any fisheye lens). 

The highlights of this M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO lens are:
1) F1.8 wide open aperture, first on any fisheye lens
2) Superlative optics performance, with 2 HR lenses, 1 Super HR lens, 2 ED lenses, 3 Super ED lenses and 1 Aspherical lens construction
3) 2.5cm closest focusing distance (from the front of lens element) for super close up shooting

For full specifications of the lens please visit the official page here (click)





CHALLENGES AND USES OF FISHEYE LENS

I will admit right from the start, it is not exactly easy to shoot with a fisheye lens. In fact, it was a real challenge for me to make decent shots that I am happy with most of the time! 

I used to own the older DSLR version, the Olympus Zuiko Digital 8mm F3.5 for Four Thirds system, and I have used that on the Olympus E-5. I loved the lens, but I decided to let the lens go because I simply did not find enough use of the lens to justify keeping it. I must also acknowledge that I did not find the lens to be specifically useful for my type of photography. There are many challenges that need to be addressed, the biggest being the considerations in creating photographs with the heavily fisheye distorted perspective without pulling the interest away from the photograph. In other words, I believe that there is a limit to what our brains can accept in a warped reality of a photograph, and overly exaggerated view with a poorly composed fisheye lens can be a huge turn off (heavily curved lines, distorted human faces, etc).

However, Olympus did something unthinkable even to myself: creating an F1.8 fisheye, where no one else had done so. In case you do not know how significant this is, I do think that this is a HUGE technological achievement, being able to surpass what the competitors can do, yet at the same time delivering excellent image quality without compromising much on general lens technical flaws.

So what can this strange, world's first F1.8 fisheye lens be suitable for? Many areas of photography actually. It can be extremely useful for underwater photography as well as night sky (stars, milky way, etc) where low light can pose a huge problem and the F1.8 wide  open aperture can give you a huge advantage. Also, the super close up ability of 2.5cm can open up interesting composition possibilities for macro shots taken with wide dramatic background. At F1.8, you can expect ability to render shallow depth of field with buttery creamy bokeh. For those who seek the unusual edge in photography, fisheye can be fun, breaking many rules and just be creative by distorting everything you photograph (though not everyone can accept and understand this sort of fun and creativity).

I have spent over 2 weekends shooting with this lens, and as I have mentioned, it is not an easy lens to use. It is not as simple as pointing the lens toward a subject and shoot. Often, many shots do not work well with fisheye and I have rejected more than 90% of my photographs taken with this lens, the highest failure rate ever with any of the lenses I have used so far. 

All images shot by me were taken with Olympus M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Fisheye Lens on OM-D E-M5 Mark II

1/30sec, F1.8, ISO200

1/50sec, F4, ISO200

1/6sec, F1.8, ISO200

1/40sec, F3.2, ISO200

1/640sec, F1.8, ISO200

1/50sec, F4, ISO200

1/400sec, F1.8, ISO200

1/30sec, F1.8, ISO640

0.6sec, F5.6, ISO200


LENS SHARPNESS

Coming from the PRO lens line-up (think of lenses such as 12-40mm F2.8 PRO and 40-150mm F2.8 PRO), and having used M.Zuiko prime lenses with superb sharpness (45mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8), I would expect nothing less from this 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO lens. I honestly expected the lens to deliver equivalent sharpness, even at the widest F1.8 aperture. Or at least close to it. 

I think, after using too many insanely sharp lenses from Olympus, I could have set my expectations a notch too high. In my first outing with the lens, I thought the lens was a tad soft at wide open F1.8, and did get just a little better in sharpness when stopping down to F2.8 and then F4. I will tell you that I was a little disappointed initially, missing my usual "WHOAH" moments when I pixel-peeped at 100% magnification after each shot I have taken with the lens. The razor sharpness that can cut through grass was just absent. 

Toning down my expectation from my first outing, I went out again with an open mind that this is NOT a 45mm F1.8 or a 12-40mm PRO lens, but a fisheye lens, a super wide, specialized lens, where no one has ever done an F1.8 aperture before. There actually is NOTHING to compare this lens too,  (it is in a class of its own) I have briefly handled "other" fisheye lenses before (not going to name brands, else I will be bashed mercilessly) and I can almost guarantee that the softness was evident even at F2.8 wide open aperture of the other lenses. Taking this all into consideration, and re-looking into the images I have taken, the lens was indeed, "sufficiently" sharp. 

Shooting from a distance for wide angle coverage, the 8mm F1.8 fisheye lens performs well, delivering plenty of fine detail. Stopping down to F2.8 helps improved clarity in the shot, and F4 is about the optimum you can get, though the improvement is not by much. I would not hesitate using wide open F1.8 and worry about the tad less sharp image. However, it is a completely different story when shooting close up image with this lens. The critically sharp quality of other M.Zuiko lenses are not evident. I shall not comment further but you can observe the crops I have provided in the subsequent set of images. 

Although I am not "amazed" by the lens sharpness, I am not disappointed by what the lens can do either. 

1/30sec, F1.8, ISO200

100% crop from previous photograph

1/320sec, F1.8, ISO200

100% crop from previous image

1/20sec, F3.2, ISO200

100% crop from previous image

1/30sec, F1.8, ISO320

1/13sec, F2.8, ISO320

100% crop from previous images, comparing F2.8 (left) to F1.8 (right)


SUPER CLOSE UP SHOOTING AND SMOOOOOOOOOTH BOKEH

One of the fun things to do with a fisheye lens, is to go extremely close up to the subject, purposefully creating distorted perspective and disproportionate exaggeration that can result in unusual and weird image output. The M,Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO lens can go as near as 2.5cm from the front of the lens to the subject, which is impressive. I often have to worry when I shoot that close, in order not for the lens to touch my subject (greasy food, for example). 

Being able to go so close, and shooting at wide open F1.8 renders very shallow depth of field, making this lens able to isolate the subject from the background. Somehow, I really, really, like the way this lens renders the bokeh! Check out the bokeh in my shots, they are so buttery smooth and there is just something in the creamy bokeh that gets really addictive, wanting me to push the fisheye lens as close as possible to my subject every time I shoot. 

I must also warn those who think that this can be a good macro lens, to reconsider their thoughts. Though the fisheye lens can go as near as 2.5cm, it is NOT a macro lens, and we should not treat the fisheye lens as one. Even though you can go super close up to the subject, the magnification still falls short, and far from being macro, since the angle of view is extremely wide. On the other hand, you have to also take into consideration of the shadow casting by the lens when you get too close to the subject, it can be limiting depending on what situation you are shooting in. 

AUTOFOCUS PERFORMANCE

Again, let me be completely honest. Of all the modern M.Zuiko lenses (excluding the first generation 14-42mm kit lens that comes with the PEN E-P1 and 17mm F2.8 pancake lens), this 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO lens is the slowest in Autofocus. 

Before we jump into any conclusions, the lens is by no means, slow. Although it is the slowest amongst the blazing fast speed of M.Zuiko lens standards, I still consider the AF of the 8mm F1.8 superbly fast, and noticeably faster than many lenses from any other CSC and DSLR lenses. What I am saying, is that the instantaneous focusing response, that extremely fast focusing as observed in 12-40mm F2.8 and 25mm F1.8 (and any other M.Zuiko lenses) are not there! You do get a tiny bit of hesitation before the lens locks focus. Just that tiny bit. I must say that this is NOT enough to ruin a shot or miss critical moments, the lens is still more than fast enough to get the job done. 

I am thinking, perhaps there are just too many heavy glasses in the lens to move! 


1/40sec, F1.8, ISO320

1/25sec, F1.8, ISO200

1/50sec, F1.8, ISO200

1/15sec, F1.8, ISO320

1/60sec, F1.8, ISO200

1/250sec, F1.8, ISO200

1/25sec, F1.8, ISO1600

1/5000sec, F1.8, ISO320

1/250sec, F1.8, ISO800

1/25sec, F1.8, ISO200


 LENS HANDLING

I have used the M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 fisheye PRO lens on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II without any additional grip. The size and weight was just right with this combination and I was comfortable shooting hand-held for many hours, without feeling unbalanced or difficult to handle. At first I thought I would suffer the same fate as the M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8, which requires at least an GLD-8G grip on the E-M5 Mark II, but I was surprised to find out that I can shoot without any aid of add on grips. 

LACK OF SNAP FOCUS RING

In ALL other Olympus PRO lenses, 7-14mm F2.8, 12-40mm F2.8 and 40-150mm F2.8 lenses, there is the super useful snap focus ring, a simple and quick mechanical ring, once pulled down the lens will automatically switch to manual focus mode, and distance scale will be shown (from closest shooting distance to infinity focus) to aid in manual focusing, which I have found to be extremely useful. This impressive, useful feature is, without a logical explanation, missing from the M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Fisheye lens! 

Why is this snap focus ring so important? I can illustrate the importance in a simple shooting scenario. Remember me shooting night sky and Milky Way not too long ago? Out in the open in near darkness, it was difficult to navigate through the camera menu, and manual focusing the dark sky was not an easy task either. With the snap focus ring on the M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO, as well as the M.Zuiko 12mm F2 which I have used in an earlier outing, I can easily estimate the focus from the distance indicator and achieve perfect focus with minimal effort. 

I strongly believe that the decision to exclude the snap focus ring is to minimize the size of the lens, though I really do think it is a shame not to have it in otherwise a perfect lens for night sky photography. 

Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to shoot the stars and milky way with this lens. I do wish to do so if I have the chance. Stay tuned for my review extension in the future!


CHROMATIC AND COMATIC ABERRATION CONTROL

Based on the many, many, many images (we are talking about thousands, including the 90% of images I have rejected) I observed almost zero trace of Chromatic Aberration. There is no purple fringing or any other colour deviation, even shooting at F1.8, from corner to corner, against bright source of light. Again, like any other M.Zuiko lenses, I suspect part of the contributing factor is the in camera processing to minimize the Chromatic Aberration in the final image output. 

The fisheye lens is constructed of 3 super ED lenses and 2 ED lenses, working effectively to combat any problems with Chromatic Aberration. 

Comatic (spherical) aberration is also well controlled. 


LENS FLARE

Lens flare control is very good with this 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO lens. Yes, it does exhibit some flare in very extreme conditions, eg shooting directly against the sun, but it can also be easily avoided by tilting the lens to a different angle or standing in a different position. I had to purposely find the flare to be able to produce it in my shot as shown, 

1/50sec, F4.5, ISO200

Center Crop from previous image. No trace of CA

Corner Crop of previous image, no trace of CA

Same image, defished in ACD8

1/160sec, F1.8, ISO200 no trace of CA either

1/40sec, F4, ISO200 at the top corners with sunlight coming from the roof, no CA

1/640, F1.8, ISO200 FLARE

1/8sec, F2.8, ISO200

Same image as previous, defished in ACD8


Seeing is believing, do not take my words for it, download the full resolution images and do your own comparison and judgement. All images included for download are completely straight out of camera with no additional post-processing. 

FOR FULL RESOLUTION IMAGE SAMPLES 
(M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO)


CONCLUSION AND SUMMARY

After spending two weekends shooting with this Olympus M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO lens, unexpectedly, I have come to fall in love with it. Not because of the technical excellence, it is not the sharpest Olympus lens around, and surely not the fastest. The lens is just so fun to use, and it has forced me to change my shooting style, the way I approached my subjects, the way I considered my composition and the more thoughts I needed to put in before I clicked the shutter button. It is also the most challenging lens I have used so far, and that added in the fun factor. 

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE LENS
1) F1.8 wide open aperture, for a full 180 degrees field of view fisheye lens
2) Almost no trace of technical lens flaw (Chromatic Aberration and Comatic Aberration, Flare, etc)
3) Decent sharpness, but renders very pleasing looking bokeh
4) Super close up 2.5cm close up shooting, opening up plenty of close up wide angle possibilities for creative results

WHAT I WISH COULD HAVE BEEN IMPROVED
1) Focusing should have been as fast as all other M.Zuiko lenses, though still very fast
2) No snap focus ring, which can be useful in some shooting situations

An additional note:
In Olympus Viewer 3, for the previous Zuiko Digital 8mm F3.5 DSLR lens, there is an option of one click "defishing", which converts the fisheye image to an ultra wide angle image. However, for now, this feature is not available for the new M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 PRO. I am not sure if this will be made available (I sure hope so), I shall find out and once I have the answer I will update it here. 

I shall leave you with some more samples, including underwater images taken with the underwater housing PPO-EP02 (for the fisheye lens) and PT-EP11 (for OM-D E-M1). Yes, FULL underwater accesories are available for Olympus OM-D as well as 7-14mm F2.8 and 8mm F1.8 PRO lenses. All underwater images were taken with OM-D E-M1 by my dear colleague, Tang KY. The credit of the following four underwater images belongs to Tang. 


1/250sec, F6.3, ISO250 
Photo credit: Tang KY

1/160sec, F5.6, ISO400
Photo credit: Tang KY

1/250sec, F8, ISO200
Photo credit: Tang KY

1/250sec, F5.6, ISO1250
Photo credit: Tang KY

1/3sec, F1.8, ISO200

1/30sec, F1.8, ISO1600

1/40sec, F1.8, ISO1250

1/4sec, F2.8, ISO200

1/20sec, F1.8, ISO200

1/3sec, F1.8, ISO200



This is not the end of my review for M.Zuiko 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO lens, or the 7-14mm F2.8 PRO ultra wide angle lens. I will find time again to shoot with both lenses, and whatever unanswered questions, or requests, will be covered in the coming review extension entries. 


I do intend to try shoot the milky way and do star trail with the 8mm F1.8 fisheye PRO lens, and hopefully get a wider range of variety shots for both lenses. I have also received requests to do more interior shooting with the 7-14mn F2.8 PRO lens. 

Until the extension blog entry, thanks for reading and I hope you have enjoyed my series of blog reviews for the Olympus new lenses. Do leave a comment or just say hi! I would love to hear from you.

Special thanks to Jackie Loi for his Gundam Strike with Launcher Pack, Calvin Alexi for the Hulk, Veronica (Hulk Buster) and Batman Legos, and Tang KY my colleague for the underwater images.

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28 comments :

  1. Amazing pictures. I love it!

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  2. Looks like a solid cool lens. I've always been interested in shooting with fish eye lens but never took the step to purchase one.Maybe I'll pick one up before heading over to Malaysia. Perhaps it'll make me look at taking photos in a whole different level. KL is such an awesome city to photograph!

    Cheers,
    Warren

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you will love shooting KL!

      Delete
  3. Hi Robin, thank you for a very honest review about the lens.

    Is there a way we could see the photos that you rejected? I'd be interested to see areas where the lens didn't show its strengths.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well it is not the area not showing the strength but more of the photograph did not look good enough (filtering the lousy shots). Bad compositions, too many distrations in the background, bad distortion look on people, many shots that fisheye just does not work on

      Delete
  4. Thanks Robin for a wonderful review as usual. I always direct friends who are considering going to Olympus MFT to your reviews as I find them honest, concise and easy to follow (without too much technical jargon). I see you mainly use the EM5 Mk II and not the EM1. Any reason??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the kind words Karen. There is one reason, I have only recently reviewed the E-M5 Mark II, unlike previously done with multiple parts, this time I only did one part review. Hence I will shoot with any chance I have using the E-M5 Mark II to collect more sample images. It is easy to navigate around the reviews and with more variety of shots, I am sure those who are reading the E-M5 Mark II review will appreciate the photos.

      Delete
  5. I love your reviews Robin. Great job.I do wish the 8mm also included the manual focus ring switch.

    What do you like better the EM5 Mk2 or the EM1?
    If you could choose only one which would it be the 7-14 or the 8mm?
    Do you use the MK2 high res mode much?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would go for the E-M5 Mark II, mainly for the many new features and improvements such as the 40MP high res shot and well, it just looks sexier than E-M1.
      I would also go for 7-14mm first if I have the cash, because I can hardly find myself using the fisheye perspective much in my style of shooting.

      Delete
    2. I don't see the 'fisheye' effect in the 7mm (7-14 lens) shots. Are they corrected in the camera since your review says the pictures are straight from the camera? What defines fisheye vs ultra wide angle, in other words can you have a 7mm lens that is not 'fisheye' but a 8mm that is?

      Delete
    3. Fisheye is like a fish would see, everything around and in circular form with high curvature. The distortion (to our eyes) is very strong and odd.

      Then there are rextlinear wide angle lenses that correct everything to square. Actually all lenses are rectangular expect the fisheyes as you use round lens to project light on square form.
      And Ultra-Wide Angle lens with rectangular projection is difficult to make and long time the 14mm was limit for 35mm sensor, like 7mm for 4/3 sensor. But Voigtländer and Canon managed to do a 12mm rectangular UWA and för 4/3 sensor it would be a 6mm. But those ain't so great as wider ones as they push limit very hard.

      Delete
  6. Hi Robin,

    I am following your blog for quite a while now. First of all awesome post as always.

    I have a short question.

    I could geht the EM5 with 14-40 2.8 Pro for 1100 Euro or the EM-5 MKII with 14-40 2.8 Pro for around 1500 Euros. Is the MK II the 400 Euro more worth?

    Best regards from Germany
    Oliver

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The answer to this question depends on you more than anything else. 
      If it were me? 
      Yes, definitely.

      Delete
  7. Thanks. Great review. Looking forward to more. (Now just figuring out how I can get the Oly 8mm and the 7-14mm (already ordered). My wife is going to go ballistic! 401K hit?) I have already purchased the Pana 8mm and am loving it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great article, Robin - and very cool photos. I especially love the fisheye closeup of the fish heads!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Glad to hear about your experience. I have the lens on order.

    I wish that they'd not tried to make it so small. They could have gotten better optical performance and focusing speed out of it, probably, with a larger but still manageable size.

    My use for it will be in lower light situations at skate parks, indoor and outdoor. Having done quite a lot with the 12-40mm f/2.8 and the Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7, I have some idea what to expect and hope that it will still be amazing.

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  11. Hey, Robin--great stuff as always--I'm not even remotely interested in selling my gold teeth in order to buy this lens, however for the odd "fisheye-esque" photo that most of us would want/need, don't you think the 9mm BCL from Olympus would do the trick? With some of the art settings and a bit of post-production, even though it's only 140 degrees wide, I find the BCL to work a treat.

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  12. it seems to have some distortion issues.

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  13. Hi Robin, happy to come across your blog your reviews are nicely done, congratulations. I am shooting Oly mainly for UW photography, and I use mainly the M.Zuiko 9-18 mm as wide angle lens, my question is what makes the 7-14 mm F2.8 Pro different from the 9-18 mm ? Owning and extensively using the 9-18 mm which one would you recommend replacing the 9-18 mm with the new 7-18 mm or enlarging my wide angle range with the 8 mm f1.8 for a more creative UW touch ? After reading your review about the sharpness aspect I am a bit hesitant though. Cheers!

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  14. Great review, how do you think it compares to the old f4 lens?

    Also, the lack of any CA sounds good. Would this be true if RAW files were processed somewhere else, say straight into PTGui for panorama stitching?

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  15. Love this lens. But I can show you several samples of shot-ruining purple flaring. Pretty frustrating.............................

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  16. Hi...Is it any way to do lens correction in light room...do they have any lens correction profile for LR?

    ReplyDelete