The 15mm is tiny, and slim, and ultra-lightweight. Construction is almost entirely of plastic, including the mount (remember, it's a body cap), but it doesn't feel like a cheap toy. The ridged grip that runs all around its rim means it's easy to take on and off the camera, and there's but one control - a focusing lever that older viewers may find somewhat reminiscent of the classic Olympus XA compact rangefinder from the 1970s. Given the company's current penchant for referencing its heritage, we suspect this isn't entirely a coincidence.
Note that there's no electrical contacts on the mount - the 15mm has neither autofocus nor an adjustable aperture, so there's no internal motors to operate. But this also means that it can't pass any information about its focal length or optical characteristics to the camera, which has a number of consequences:
- Olympus users will have to enter focal length manually for the in-body IS to work properly (which incidentally may have to be set to 16mm, as 15mm isn't available on older cameras)
- Panasonic owners will have to set 'Release without Lens' in the menu to 'ON' for the camera to release the shutter
- Automatic distortion correction isn't available (which most Micro Four Thirds lenses use as a matter of course).
Compared to Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F2.5 ASPH
This lineup shows just how tiny the 15mm really is, by comparing it the Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F2.5 ASPH (the smallest autofocus Micro Four Thirds lens) on the right and, well, a standard Olympus body cap. The 15mm adds just 3mm to the thickness of the body cap, and is less than half the size of the 14mm. This can make the difference between being able to slip the camera into a jacket pocket, and not.
On the camera
These views reinforce how slim the 15mm is, and how little it adds to the depth of the camera body. On Olympus's smaller PENs such as the E-PL5 shown here, or Panasonic's GF-series cameras, it makes for a highly-portable - if not especially capable or flexible - combination.
The sole control on the 15mm F8 is a small lever on the front of the lens. When it's aligned with the red index mark, the lens is protected behind a cover; flick it to the infinity position, and the cover opens ready to shoot. The white dot marks a click-stopped 'distant focus' position, which in effect is a hyperfocal 'snapshot' setting - here the lens's immense depth of field means that everything from about 1.5m to infinity is in pretty sharp focus. If you need to focus closer, push the lever towards the close-up position. This moves the entire optical unit forwards in its mount - you can just about see this from the change in lighting here.
Most of the time, though, you can simply leave the lens set to its click-stop position, and shoot away happily without having to worry about anything. This, incidentally, means minimal shutter lag. And this is what the 15mm is arguably best for - set your camera to Auto ISO and you have an always-ready setup to capture whatever fleeting moments you see.