7Artisans 18mm F6.3 II Body Cap Lens

I just could not help myself when I stumbled upon the 7Artisans 18mm F6.3 II body cap lens on Shopee (online shopping platform in Malaysia) and decided to get it. I had zero expectations as the lens does seem like it was made to be just for fun and not for anything serious, and for the low price I'd not expect any miracles either. I paired the 7Artisans body cap lens with my Olympus PEN Mini and had a short photowalk, which I also recorded a POV street shooting video to show what happens in front and around me before I pressed my shutter button. I also share some thoughts on zone focusing (Ricoh shooters called it "snap focus") in that same video here (click). 

When I first got my hands on the 7Artisans 18mm F6.3 II lens, I was pleasantly surprised by its built quality. For such a cheap price I did not expect it to be made of metal! The entire slim piece of body cap lens was solidly built, and now I have a lens cap that is made of metal which is kind of cool. This is a far gap from what Olympus used to make in their older body cap lenses the 15mm F8 and 9mm F8 fisheye, both made of fully plastic, and I suspected even the lenses were plastic too. 

There was only one control on the lens, which allows manual focus, and the focusing throw was quite long and smooth, which was another surprise! While the focusing distance may not be linear, or the scale was not much of a help, but having a longer throw allows pin-point accuracy especially when shooting subject close up, and the lens does allow you to go as near as 30cm. Being a 18mm lens, it was not exactly wide on a Micro Four Thirds body, but it gives 36mm equivalent focal length in 35mm format, and I treat this as a 35mm lens, which is a classic focal length for street photography (though not my favourite). 

The lens being so slim in design, being fitted in a tiny camera body like the Olympus PEN Mini, it felt like there was nothing on the camera at all and made this truly a super compact combo. The aperture is fixed at F6.3, so this lens is meant to be used in environment with sufficient light, and I shot most of my images in this blog entry outdoor, under abundant Malaysian sun. It was also easy to do zone-focusing, which negates the worry about tinkering with the focusing ring when shooting, when I see something from about a meter or more away from me, I just press the shutter button and get the shot. 

There is nothing to write home about when it comes to image quality. The lens is decently sharp, with good contrast at the center. Going away from the center of the frame, you get all kinds of problems which was to be expected from such a cheap lens - corner softness, vignetting, distortion, etc. Also, it is best to avoid shooting this lens against any strong source of light, flare and ghosting can get quite nasty. Having said all that, the technical flaws were not too severe, and they were fine for a lens that was meant to be a "toy" lens. Used within its limitations, it can generate images that you may not even know were taken from such a cheap lens!

Most important of all, I had so much fun using this lens. Photography is not about ultimate image quality, chasing high pixel count, dynamic range, clean high ISO shooting, or all the technical obsessions that we measurebate to. Photography should be simple, straightforward and fun. I like how the 7Artisans 18mm body cap lens just allows me to forget the obsession a little and truly, have fun!

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