Olympus just dropped two new wide-angle PRO lenses for its OM-D line of Micro Four Thirds digital cameras. First, we have a 7-14mm f/2.8 ultra-wide angle zooms lens (35mm equivalent of 14-28mm). Read more about that one here because, sadly, we haven’t gotten to test it out in person just yet.
Second, and the reason we’re here talking today, let’s get to know the f/1.8 8mm Fisheye PRO. We were lucky enough to demo a pre-production unit for a couple days last month during the press excursion for the new Olympus TG-4. Paired with the incredible OM-D EM-5 MKII, the 8mm Fisheye PRO is a gorgeous lens to use. But before I start dropping mad superlatives, you should probably learn a little bit about the lens itself.
The new M.ZUIKO Digital ED 8mm Fisheye PRO lens is the world’s first fisheye with a crazy fast f/1.8 aperture. Combine that with its minimum working distance of only 2.5cm (not a typo), and you have access to an incredibly shallow depth of field as well as a lens that works well in low lighting situations like starscapes or light painting (see below). The lens construction features 17 elements arranged in 15 groups, all fully weather sealed so you can take this bad boy out into the storm.
In addition to weather sealing, the glass has been ZERO (Zuiko Extra-low Reflection Optical) coated to reduce optical ghosting and lens flare. No kidding, You can point this lens right at the sun and there’s zero flare.
Build Quality & Functionality
The M.ZUIKO Digital ED 8mm Fisheye PRO lens is compact, but made from metal and high quality glass. It has a nice weight to it — if you’re familiar with M.ZUIKO PRO lenses, you’ll be at home with this one too — yet fits well with the smaller sized OM-D E-M5 MKII. And while it’s all well and good to say a lens is tough, I personally think it’s best to experience first hand your gear’s durability.
Exhibit Personal Testimony A: I used to scoff at “weather sealing” specs, but when Olympus puts together press events to demo extreme camera functionality, they’re not afraid to put their products where their marketing teams mouths are. I have personally seen this 8mm Fisheye PRO work for hours in sub-freezing temperatures as well as under steady rain. Yes, you will have to wipe this lens off from time to time — it has an integrated lens hood, but not one large enough to cover all of the glass in weather — it and your OM-D are going to keep working.
The M.ZUIKO Digital ED 8mm Fisheye PRO lens is a blast. Great not only for ultra-ultra-(ultra)-wide angle landscapes (and recreating your favorite ’90s rap videos), but its minimum focal requirements and fast f/1.8 aperture allow you to dive into your subjects, distorting lines and warping the world around you. Conversely, while it’s easy to heighten your subjects with extreme angles while embracing fisheye aesthetics, this 8mm Fisheye lens also captures epic vistas and landscapes in ways you only really see with the human eye — it demonstrates scope, while including details in the periphery.
Speaking of periphery details, while I personally don’t have much experience with high quality wide angle lenses, I do know a few cheap-o units that shall remain unnamed. Bad wide angle lenses produce errors and artifacts around the edges of your frames — poor focus, chromatic aberrations, distortions, drop in perceived resolution, et cetera. The 8mm Fisheye PRO suffers from no perceived errors and artifacts. Instead, it captures clean, flare and ghosting free imagery all the way from frame-center to the edge.
Selfies & Sample Images
Oh, and one last thing. This is 100% not the reason to drop a grand on a PRO series lens for your OM-D… But the 8mm Fisheye is, particularly when coupled with a vari-angle touchscreen display, perfect for taking large group selfies. Not only can you fit in everybody at once, but you can also see the world around you.
Over the course of two days, I took the 8mm Fisheye to the top of Whistler Mountain, across the Peak to Peak Gondola, out in a rainy afternoon, and into a dark hotel courtyard for some experiments in LED (aka “no fire allowed”) light painting. Here’s a look at some of the images captured as well as a video.
I think that about covers my First Impressions. To be clear, I only had two (terribly short) days with the lens before I had to give it back. To further elaborate, I’d have to spend more time with this lens…. which is something I look forward to doing as soon as possible.
If you’re an OM-D owner and you’ve been considering getting a Fisheye, definitely consider the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 8mm Fisheye PRO or the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 7-14mm f2.8 PRO (I heard great things from the photographers who were using it on the same trip where I tested the 8mm). Both lenses will be available this June (2015). The 8mm f1.8 Fisheye will have a $999.99 MSRP, while the 7-14mm f2.8 will cost around $1,299.99.