Olympus Body Cap Lens 15mm F8.0
Category: Wideangle Lens
Conclusion - Pros
- Ultra-slim and light
- 'Distant focus' setting allows instant reaction shooting with huge depth of field for snapshots
- Well made for the price
Conclusion - Cons
- Optically unimpressive
- Can be susceptible to flare
- No communication with camera body (need to set focal length manually on Olympus cameras)
The Olympus Body Cap Lens 15mm F8 is a distinctly quirky product. It's only slightly thicker than a standard body cap, but includes a tiny three element lens with a basic focusing mechanism that allows close-up shooting to about 25cm from the camera. It also has a switchable lens cover, operated using the same small lever that's used for focusing. Despite this, it's just about the cheapest lens of any description that's made by any camera manufacturer.
The 15mm's image quality reflects its simplicity and price, though. It's only really sharp in the centre of the frame, and it gets very soft indeed towards the edges and corners. Chromatic aberration is visible across much of the frame, barrel distortion is rather pronounced, and despite the F8 aperture, vignetting reaches 1.5 stops in the corners of the frame. This isn't a lens that will do well when subjected to any kind of technical scoring scheme, including our own. Technically it can't even match the typical 14-42mm kit zooms sold with most Micro Four Thirds cameras.
Operationally, the 15mm has a couple of quirks too, as it doesn't have a built-in chip to communicate data to the camera body. So Olympus camera users have to set the focal length manually for the in-body image stabilisation to work properly, and Panasonic owners will have to set 'Shoot Without Lens' in the menu to 'On' to persuade their cameras to take pictures at all. But once this is set up, its huge depth of field means that for most purposes it doesn't need to be focused.
Given all this, you might reasonably ask whether the 15mm F8 is good for anything; after all, it can't obviously do anything that even a basic kit zoom can't do better. To a great extent the answer depends on how you shoot, and what you consider important in an image. If your photographic interests require your images to be as close to technically perfect as possible, then you probably won't be satisfied with the Body Cap Lens at all. But if you don't look at your pixels that closely, and perhaps enjoy shooting with Art Filters, its image quality deficiencies won't really matter so much.
The 15mm does have its attractions though. It's tiny, and makes small cameras like the PEN E-PL5 or Lumix GF6 truly pocketable. It doesn't really look like a proper lens, either, which can help in situations where you don't want to be noticed as a photographer - street photography perhaps. In this context, its near-infinite DOF and obvious lack of any autofocus lag is an advantage for quick reaction 'snapshot' photography too.
The Final Word
The Body Cap Lens 15mm F8 isn't the kind of lens that's ever going to do well in technical testing, or satisfy photographers who like to look at their images in fine detail or print them large. The image quality it produces can't match either a kit zoom, or the tiny Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F2.5 ASPH pancake. This probably shouldn't come as a surprise, given the simplicity of its optics.
What the 15mm does offer, though, is the ability to turn a Micro Four Thirds body into a tiny package that's ready shoot at the flick of a lever, and capture images which are good enough for social sharing, or as a basis for further manipulation, such as with in-camera filters. It certainly won't be for everyone, but photographers who are able to accept, and even exploit its limitations could find it a useful piece of kit. At the end of the day I've personally rather enjoyed shooting with it, with the simplicity it brings to the process and its natural synergy with Olympus's Art Filters in particular. Micro Four Thirds users looking to bring something different to their photography could do worse than give it a try.
Ergonomics and Handling
Micro Four Thirds owners looking for the smallest, lightest, most discreet lens for their cameras
Not so good for
Anyone who demands high technical quality in all of their images
The Olympus Body Cap Lens 15mm F8 is a tiny, lightweight, inexpensive piece of kit that somehow squeezes a focusable three element lens into its 9mm-thick housing. Optically it doesn't win any plaudits, but in a way that's not really the point. Its real attraction lies in its portability and simplicity - you won't find a smaller lens.
There are 31 images in the review samples gallery. Of these, 16 are processed using Olympus's in-camera Art Filters, with the filter used indicated in the filename; do bear this in mind when assessing the images. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.
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