The 8mm is a compact little lens, typically Panasonic in styling and resembling nothing so much as a cross between the 20mm F1.7 Pancake and the 7-14mm F4 wideangle zoom. The non-removable hood is made of thick black plastic, and the barrel feels as solid and well-made as we've come to expect. The slim focusing ring has a ridged plastic grip, and the barrel section next to the body is finished in Panasonic's signature steel gray. Focusing is internal, so the length of the lens never changes during operation.
Compared to the Panasonic 20mm F1.7, 14-45mm F3.5-5.6, and 7-14mm F4 lenses
To give a perspective on the 8mm F3.5's compact size, here it is alongside a number of Panasonic's popular lenses - the 20mm F1.7 pancake, the 14-45mm F3.5-5.6, and the 7-14mm F4 ultrawide zoom. The fisheye obviously isn't as tiny as Panasonic's delicious pancake, but it's still smaller than one of the most compact kit zooms available.
Compared to other fisheye lenses
Here we compare the dimensions of Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds fisheye with a number of equivalent lenses for DSLRs of various formats, from Four Thirds through to full frame. It's much the smallest lens in this group, and half the weight of its closest rival (Canon's film-era 15mm F2.8). We can see the downsizing benefits of removing the mirror by comparison to the Olympus 8mm F3.5 for Four Thirds DSLRs, which is significantly bulkier and almost three times the weight. However in typical Panasonic fashion, while you may be buying less glass, you'll pay at least as much for it.
|Sensor Format||Four Thirds||Four Thirds||1.5 x APS-C||Full Frame|
|Diagonal Angle of view||180º||180º||180º||180º|
|Lens Construction||• 10 elements/
• 1 ED glass element
|• 10 elements/
• 1 ED glass element
|• 13 elements/
|• 8 elements/
|Weight||165g (5.8oz)||485 g (17.1 oz)||475 g (16.8 oz)||330g (11.6 oz)|
|Dimensions||61mm x 52mm
(2.4in x 2.0in)
|79 mm x 77mm
(3.1in x 3.0in)
|76mm x 83mm
(3.0in x 3.3in)
|73mm x 62mm
(2.9 in x 2.4 in)
|Lens Mount||Micro Four Thirds||Four Thirds||Canon, Nikon, Sigma||Canon|
A number of relatively inexpensive manual focus 8mm F3.5 lenses are also available from third party manufacturers such as Peleng and Samyang. These can be used as diagonal fisheyes on Micro Four Thirds via an adapter, and tend to sit between the Canon and Olympus in terms of size and weight (without taking the adapter into account).
Since this preview was originally published, we've seen the release of the Samyang 7.5mm F3.5 UMC Fisheye MFT designed specifically for Micro Four Thirds. This offers a very interesting alternative to the Panasonic - it's much the same size and weight, but a fraction of the price. It requires fully manual focusing and aperture operation, but with this kind of lens that's not a huge problem in practice.
On the camera
The 8mm F3.5 fisheye sits neatly and handles well on both the SLR-style G-series bodies and the rangefinder-esque GF1 and Olympus Pen series. The only external control is the focus ring, which falls perfectly to hand when you need it.
Perhaps ironically, we found the ideal partner for the 8mm to be the Olympus E-P2; with a lens this wide, and the mildly disorientating effect of all those curvy lines on the screen, its built-in digital levels turn out to be invaluable if you want to keep your compositions under control. The black paint finish also complements the gray lens barrel quite handsomely.
The 8mm focuses quickly, accurately and near-silently, just as we've come to expect from Panasonic's Lumix lenses. It shows fairly pronounced focus breathing, with the angle of view getting narrower on focusing closer. This has little practical impact, but does result in a visible 'jitter' during autofocusing when used on the Olympus bodies.
'Focus-by-wire' manual focus
Like all Micro Four Thirds lenses the 8mm employs a focus-by-wire manual focus system, which drives the focusing group indirectly via the lens's autofocus motor. As usual it offers absolutely no tactile feedback about what the lens is doing, regardless of whether it's set to auto or manual focus or has reached the end of its travel. Luckily this isn't the kind of lens you're likely to be focusing manually very often.
Lens body elements
The lens allows apertures from F3.5 to F22 to be selected.