M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm 1:1.8 PRO: Diminutive Fisheye

 
M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm 1:1.8 Fisheye PRO

M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm 1:1.8 Fisheye PRO

The M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm is the first fish-eye lens with f/1.8 for micro four third sensor cameras. Shridhar Kunte finds more about this unusual focal length.

Olympus is seriously moving ahead with their plans of expanding the M.ZUIKO PRO series of lenses, with superior optics. With the introduction of this lens, along with M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO, the total number of professional lenses has gone up to five. These lenses now cover the entire focal length range from 14mm ultra-wide to 300mm telephoto, in 35mm parlance, giving both serious Olympus and Panasonic MFT camera users a superbly useful lineup. The new Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 (16mm equivalent in the 35mm format) is the first fish-eye lens from Olympus, with pro-grade specification. As far as the focal length goes, it competes with the Panasonic Lumix G Fisheye 8mm f/3.5, though the latter is a much slower lens (optically speaking).

Features

It consists of 17 elements arranged 15 in groups. To minimise the effects of distortion and aberrations, and to improve light transmission, sharpness and quality, it integrates an aspherical element, three Super ED (extra-low dispersion) elements, two ED elements, one Super HR (high-refractive index) element, and two HR elements into its design. To compliment this, the lens comes has a high-speed imager AF system that offers fast, smooth and silent focusing. The MSC logo indicates this lens’ suitability for use with fast-moving subjects as well as video applications. A minimum focusing distance of 0.12m along with a maximum magnification of 0.2x (0.4x, 35mm equivalent) allows moving quite close to the subject, and exaggerates the unique perspective afforded by the fisheye design.

Handling

I coupled this lens with OM-D E-M1 for this test. As with any of the newer OM-D E-M bodies, the combination is weather sealed against dust and water.The lens is made up of metal and feels solid in hand. The mount is also made of metal and has a rubber sealing gasket. The lens is relatively small in size (7.6cm) and weighs 313gms. Despite its compact size, it has a nice solid heft to it, as befits the PRO label.

The seven bladed diaphragm offers a maximum aperture of f/1.8. The bulbous front element the lens has an angle of view of 180°. It is shaded and protected by a nonremovable petal-shaped lens hood. Because of the bulging front element, it is impossible to mount any kind of filter on the front of the lens. Nor there is a provision for gel filters at the rear. On the lens barrel, a single, 1-inch broad, ribbed plastic ring enables manual focus. It rotates in any direction without a lock as the focusing action takes place by using the fly by wire method.

The distortion is plainly visible, but this is quite expected from a fish-eye lens, and needs to be used well in compositions. Exposure: 1/25sec at f/5.6(ISO 200) Photograph/ Shridhar Kunte

The distortion is plainly visible, but this is quite expected from a fish-eye lens, and needs to be used well in compositions. Exposure: 1/25sec at f/5.6(ISO 200) Photograph/ Shridhar Kunte

Performance

This is the only category of lens where I cannot criticize distortion. There is significant barrel distortion, and one should opt for fish-eye lenses for either using this distortion in images. The focusing speed is fairly fast and the AF operation is extremely quiet. In difficult lighting conditions, the wide f/1.8 helped the camera lock quickly and conclusively.

The internal focusing mechanism action is done by moving the internal elements of the lens. This means there is no change in overall length while focusing. The MF ring rotation is nicely damped, making fine adjustments easy.

Optimum sharpness is obtained between f/5.6 and f/8. The centre sharpness was good from f/1.8 to f/8. The corner light fall-off is visible while shooting with the lens wide open, but it disappears at f/4. During the test, I used this lens on Olympus EP-L3 and was surprised to see the amount of chromatic aberrations in the images. This was especially disturbing in areas of high contrast. However, the newer OM-D cameras correct these aberrations automatically, while saving the images.

Conclusion

This lens is made for a specialised MFT user. It is reasonably sharp at f/1.8, and performs very well indeed, when stopped down. It has good optics, build and handling. Yet, available at Rs 68,990/-, I thought it was expensive, considering the options available from Panasonic and Samyang, although neither of them are as fast, in terms of maximum aperture, or weather sealed. So if these features are desirable, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm Fisheye f/1.8 PRO makes an excellent choice. Otherwise, it falls into a niche of its own, with limited practical appeal to an equally limited numbers of MFT users.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
Fast optical speed with f/1.8, no provision to attach filters
18/20
Performance
Quick focus, chromatic aberrations
32/35
Build Quality
Weather sealing, metal barrel
22/25
Ergonomics
Manual focusing ring action offers good feedback
13/15
Warranty & Support
Two year warranty with limited service facilities  
3/5
MRP Rs. 68990
OVERALL 88%
VALUE FOR MONEY 4.5/5
Who should buy it? Anyone who wants unusual perspectives and can work at close quarters while shooting street, motor sports, underwater, snow and skating sports
Why? Optically, this is the fastest fish-eye for MFT format and the distortion it offers to shoot in creative manner
Tags: Olympus, M.Zuiko, fisheye, MFT, M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 8mm 1:1.8 PRO, 180-degree wide angle, Olympus EP-L3