Quick review: The Olympus 15/8 Body Cap Lens

_5009287 copy
At left: body cap. At right: Lens. Not much difference.

_5009306 copy
Lens mounted on the E-LM5.

Disclaimer: if you came here looking for optical perfection, you should probably stop reading now.

On the other hand, if you came here because you were curious about this little pancake, then read on. I admit that although I’m usually squarely in the former category, for some odd reason, the 15/8 got me intrigued – I suppose it was the size, or the fact that it suits the whole ‘fun’ ethos of the smaller PEN cameras. I think it’s the photojournalist in me that very much likes the idea of having the camera ready to go at all times, even if it’s in storage; the Olympus BCL-15 lets you do just that. It’s effectively the same depth as the supplied standard body cap (maybe a millimetre or two thicker, but nobody’s counting) – making the smaller bodies like the E-PL5 and E-PM1 very pocketable indeed. The lens was launched together with a number of other items at Photokina 2012 – notably the E-PL5, E-PM1 Pens, 60/2.8 Macro and the wireless SD card system.

_5L20198 copy
The mosque by the sea. E-PL5, 15/8

_5L20198 crop
100% crops.

It isn’t anything special in terms of construction: the lens has just three elements (supposedly glass), all-plastic construction, and a clever little lever that both doubles as a shutter to protect the front element, as well as a focusing lever; on the subject of focusing, you can get as close as 30cm to your subject. The lever is light and doesn’t really stay in place if bumped, but then again, precision isn’t that important in a lens that both has an extremely great depth of field – being a 15mm f8 and all – and optics that aren’t exactly highly-corrected. In fact, it’s a wonder that it isn’t just fix-focused.

_5L20165 copy
Book spirals. E-PL5, 15/8

_5L20165 crop
100% crops.

Needless to say, there’s no electronic communication of any sort between camera and lens, so EXIF data is not recorded, and since there’s only one aperture, you’ve effectively got a point and shoot. Curiously though, it appears Olympus has put a small baffle between two of the elements to only use the central portion of the lens in a bid to keep image quality reasonably high; I suspect that if one could somehow separate the elements and remove this, you’d find the lens to be closer to f4 or thereabouts – at the expense of optical quality and depth of field, of course. It might be something I’d be willing to try as a rainy day project…

_5L20156 copy
Staircase. E-PL5, 15/8

_5L20156 crop
100% crops.

So how does it perform optically? Well, it’s surprisingly sharp in the center, even though the 16MP M4/3 sensors are already hitting diffraction limits at f5.6 and smaller; the lens might well be a bit sharper if it was a stop faster due to this. The edges and corners are another story – let’s just say they’re not very sharp anywhere, and rather smeary in places. No doubt this is due to the limited optical correction possible with just three non-aspherical elements. (That said, this lens reminds me of the MS-Optical Perar Triplet 35/3.5 and 28/4 lenses for the Leica M mount; I wonder how they perform optically.) So long as you keep your subjects in the central third or so of the the frame, and take a little time to ensure focus is just about at the right distance, optical results are better than expected.

Although you might think that some of the crops are soft because of the focus distance, let me assure you that at f8 and a 15mm real focal length, the depth of field is more than sufficient to cover where I placed the focal point – and that was verified with live view magnificaiton for the purposes of this test; in real life, I don’t think I’d bother.

_5L20188 copy
Minaret. E-PL5, 15/8

_5L20188 crop
100% crops.

Simple lens designs like this one tend to have very high contrast and transmission because there aren’t a lot of surfaces and air-glass interfaces inside the lens to lose light at; the 15/8 renders with very high macrocontrast indeed; microcontrast is much less impressive, though (and has a lot to do with resolving power – you weren’t surprised about that result, were you?). Color is saturated, brilliant and actually quite pleasing.

_5L20200 copy
Sunset. E-PL5, 15/8

I can see photographers buying this for several reasons – as a fun walk around lens; as an impulse buy when you go to the camera shop with itchy fingers but perhaps not enough money or not finding anything that really catches your eye; the blogging crowd will probably find it fun and conveniently compact. I actually used it a lot while reviewing the E-PL5 (which all of these images were shot on) simply because it made the camera very pocketable and immediately responsive – not having AF and all – and being very close to my preferred 28mm focal length, an interesting street photography option (at least in good light; f8 means that you’re hitting ISO 3200 even in the shade, and forget about using it indoors).

_5L20217 copy
Amusement park dusk. E-PL5, 15/8

Conclusion: At just US$60, it’s a no-brainer recommendation for anybody who owns a M4/3 camera, especially if you’ve got a older or spare one lying around. Mine now lives on my E-PM1 Pen Mini, which has seen little use since the OM-D and Sony RX100 entered the stable. put this on, stick the camera in your pocket, and go for a walk. You’ll be glad you did. MT

The Olympus BCL-15mm f8 Body Cap lens is available here from B&H or Amazon.

____________

Visit our Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including Photoshop Workflow DVDs and customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!

appstorebadge

Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

_5L20162 copy
Abandoned, I. E-PL5, 15/8

_5L20150 copy
Abandoned, I. E-PL5, 15/8

Comments

  1. Awesome lens to bring along to a wedding, so much is in focus; where you’re looking to record who was there and not wanting to miss anything. Forget about bokeh. At slow shutter speeds people on the dance floor can appear as an abstract. Shoot with the Art pin hole filter. Your pictures will be widely appreciated.

  2. It’s a lot sharper than the Miranda ‘prime’ lens I started with – I used the corner softness to good effect (mostly unintentionally when I took the picture!) but it works for lots of subjects. You sold another one! I’m returning to my Kodak Brownie 44B roots with this one on an EPL-5 and IR conversion.

  3. Thank you Ming for a great review. Your blog site is outstanding!

  4. After reading your test I bought one. I think it is crap :-( Or I did something wrong? Example: http://biod.info/bcl158.jpg

    • Did you focus it?

      • It’s better on a NEX-3 or NEX-5 with the 14mp sensor. Sharper but must be cropped for vignetting. No good on newer Sony NEX models.

        • ?? It’s a M4/3 lens. Won’t mount on NEX.

          • Of course it will mount to a NEX; everything does. I used a PIXCO adapter and I sent you a bunch of information on this, before. WRT focusing the bodycap lens, you know that’s rubbish. It is pan-focus, (although there is a secondary position for close-ups.)

            • I stand corrected regarding NEX mounting. However, its definitely NOT pan focus. I’ve tested it, and getting within the right ballpark makes a significant difference to sharpness. If you think my opinion is rubbish, why bother asking me?

              • I DIDN’T ASK YOU; SOMEBODY ELSE DID. I WAS TRYING TO CORRECT WHAT I BELIEVED WAS AN ERROR IN YOUR REPLY.
                There is no focusing mechanism in the Olympus body-cap lens. There are 2 positions; one for close-up and the other for all other distances right to infinity. Now it seems that a few people have experienced OOF conditions with these lenses and I don’t know why. There was even one such case where somebody was experiencing same difficulties with a first-generation NEX, same as mine.

                I am planning to do a test comparison between this lens and an 18mm Pentax 110 and a 16E2.8 on my NEX-3, in the near future. Thank you for your fine work.

                • My bad – that was meant for the OP.

                  In any case, there IS a focusing mechanism in the 15/8. If you rack the lever while having LV on, you can clearly see the focus distance changes gradually. There are only two marked positions. But there’s definitely a difference in quality if you get the distance wrong.

      • Yes. But doesn’t it give a big depth of field?

  5. Hi Ming, here’s one for you. I got the bodycap lens for my E-PL1 and my GF2 and the results were so-so, as expected. Then I ordered a Pixco adapter, which is only about 1/8 ” thick, and mounted it on my NEX-3. Eh voila, the transformation! With some vignetting in the corners (easily cropped) this lens/camera combination is sharp, sharp, sharp and undistorted. Tried it on my NEX-5R and on a NEX-7 too, no good. Must be the faster sensors. I hope you try this because it really works. Nex-3 and probably NEX-5.
    Many thanks, appreciate your fine work.

  6. Thank you for sharing this really useful review! As I plan to buy this lens mostly due to its small size and its back-to-the-basics approach, I believe that it would be a nice companion for daily usage (no high-quality photos are expected!). However, I was wondering of I could shoot video with this lens? Did you try to use it this way?

  7. Ming, thank you for this review. I received my body cap lens last week and have yet to use it seriously, but it has breathed new life into my G1, that was languishing in its cupboard since I’ve taken to using the G5.

    Where I see this G1/BCL combo being useful is quick street grabs in available light as JPEGs, then imported to the iPad and processed using a variety of apps that gives me a hybrid process between mirrorless camera and iOS photo app. I already do this with the nicer Lumix lenses, but the quickness of this lens, combined with mobile tablet processing, means I can get to a coffee shop and have images uploaded to Flickr in just a few minutes.

    Many of the photo effects I like on iOS tend to blur the edges of images anyhow, so I don’t see this lens as really limiting the process much more.

    Thanks for your great blog, keep up the good work.

    ~Joe

    • No problem. It’s a fun lens: not really something to take seriously, but capable of making some satisfying images. And I definitely like the ability to use it as a quick-response zone-focus snapper.

  8. Hi !
    Great review :) and … Yup , just got the lens cap lens too but pls help me with this question.
    The guy at the shop told me I must choose the option “shoot with no lens” when using this lens cap, is this really true or recommended ?

    Thank u !

  9. Derek Frost says:

    Hi.
    I read this review and purchased one immediately, then took it on holiday with a new 7.5mm and my OM-D.
    I’ve NEVER enjoyed photography so much before. The setup was light, fast, portable and unobtrusive, with no failures and some fabulous views around the mediterrannean. Street shooting with the tilting viewer and almost absent lens was a joy.
    Thank you so much

  10. Partially based on your review, I picked one up. The very first thing I did was accidentally touched the lens with my finger. *sigh* I can’t get my lenspen in there, obviously, and I was wondering if you had a strategy or a method to clean the tiny lens on this thing?

    Thanks for all your great content!

  11. Gerald Ward says:

    It’s a lens cap that you can take a picture with. Ming Thein showed that you can take good photos with it but since this is the internets let’s complain about something.

  12. I never considered M4/3 before…You are guilty Ming…I bought this lens (and a Olympus camera) because of you (and your review) :-)
    Cheers

  13. Larry Creel says:

    Using the flash, it is quite acceptable indoors.

  14. wonderful review. I just got mine and it is almost wedded to my e-pl2, great fun!

  15. My Olympus 15mm f8 arrives next Tuesday and the infrared converted Olympus E-PL1 will arrive on next Wednesday. Let the games begin………………(smiling).

    • Nice. By the way, it seems that the internal baffle is non-removable as the entire optical group is glued in place and there’s no way of de-cementing elements without destroying everything: the solvent that will dissolve the glue will probably also cloud the plastic of the elements. :(

      • The 15 f8 arrived and a day later so did my converted Olympus E-PL1. So far so fun! Not enough time to play with it though. I am moving to Texas and will have to tinker with this set up more once the re-location is done and I am a little more settled. Looking forward to new places to explore.

  16. Todd Frederick says:

    Very good samples. I’m a long time film photographer and I just don’t get hung-up on perfection. What you showed was excellent enough for me. Mine should arrive Tuesday Dec. 11th.

    • Enjoy! I just got mine last week – the first one was a review sample – haven’t had the chance to use it yet. The internal baffling limiting it to f8 appears to be just a bit of paper between the front elements of the lens. In theory, one should be able to remove it, get a bit faster aperture at the expense of some optical quality…perhaps an interesting project for a Sunday afternoon. By a curious coincidence, it’s Sunday here…

  17. this is a toy lens i would get for fun…where did u gets urs from? oly My directly?

  18. Just bought an OMD and the body cap lens was being offered as a bonus accessory by Olympus. Exited to give it a try after your review

  19. You know I had forgotten about this lens until now reading your post. I have been looking for an inexpensive way to get in to decent lightweight inexpensive infrared photography. I shoot mainly landscapes with digital slrs so the f/8 aperture is fine by me. Olympus E-PL1 Pen Cameras are very inexpensive (slightly more than $100 US) right now. I can have the body converted by Lifepixel to IR and get one of these 15mm f/8s. This review with photos seals it for me. A relatively inexpensive way to be creative. Small, potent package. As always, your site and postings provide me with ideas and inspiration. Thanks again, Ming!

    • No problem. Don’t expect miracles in terms of resolution, though. But for a creative toy…why not? And the manual focus lever will completely overcome th AF speed limitations of the original Pens.

    • photonMD says:

      My first EPL-5 was hot-mirror-swapped to IR (longwards of ~720nm) and I had a blast with the BCL 15/8. Fewer AR coated surfaces optimized for “optical” means less hotspot (my theory prior to buying it). Without quantifying this any further, I’m happy to just use the lens. It reminds me so much of my Kodak Brownie. I have not shot this BCL with tripod – or convenient rock – (I have terrible handheld shake) so I am surprised at Ming’s really sharp centers, but I should do that. I’m curious about if these pictures essentially treated other than jpg’ed?

  20. I personally think that for a toy lens, it actually surpassed my expectations by a long mile. It doesn’t have that incredible softness and poor detail of a Lomo camera, despite being marketed as one (the fact that Olympus doesn’t give it the Zuiko designation and calls it a lens/cap speaks about it’s actual intent).

    People who reply with rather less intelligent remarks like ‘I can get an actual lens with glass for so and so price…….’ have missed the point altogether. From the day of it’s announcement, it’s pretty obvious it was never meant to be a proper lens to shoot seriously. This is essentially something that turns your M4/3 camera into a digital Lomo camera, sans the hassle of buying and developing film over and over again. This is like the second half of the Art Filter function in the PEN cameras. Put this lens/cap on, dial in Grainy Film or Pinhole, and that’s all there is to it.

    That being said, I personally feel that this lens should be included as a pre-order bonus for the upcoming E-PL5 or sold at a cheaper price. While RM180 equivalent is actually far cheaper than a Lomo, Clover-san or Diana body alone, pricing it cheaper will allow people to ‘get’ the whole idea of this lens/cap thing. If I get the E-PL5, having this would be a nice play thing for when I am bored with serious photography and want to just take really casual shots.

    • A sensible point of view. I was suggesting to Olympus that they bundle the E-PM1 and body cap as an intro package at a low price to get people hooked, but apparently it was a bit too radical a departure from their business model for their liking.

  21. Thank you for your nice set of test pictures.
    I hope you won’t mind me pointing out that nice as they are, your pictures are of little use to appreciate the actual sharpness of the lens.
    I shall explain:
    On the Mosque by the sea, The corner you offer a 100% crop of, is not in the same focal plane as the centre of the image. It is obvious that being in the foreground, the rocks are out of focus, irrespective of any characteristics of the lens.
    And so it goes for most of your examples.
    A better example would have consisted in taking a picture of a repeated pattern, say on a wall, making sure that the sensor/lens plane is parallel to the wall. That would be more telling, but I must grant you that it would not be as spectacular a picture.
    Most cordially,

    • Yes and no – at 15mm, your DOF at f8 will cover everything from 4ft to infinity is in focus. If anything, due to the small aperture and high pixel density, you’re starting to see some resolution loss because of diffraction. The stair shot has everything within a much closer distance range and the result is the same. Besides: whoever expects fantastic performance from a 3-element, $60 lens is clearly missing the point of the product…and as you say, in the real world, you never shoot brick walls anyway – so that kind of performance is somewhat academic.

      • Diffraction has nothing to do with pixel density (at least for what I know), it purely depends on the sensor size and the aperture used, doesn’t matter if it has 1 or 30 megapixel.

        • That is incorrect. Diffraction is related to resolving power and the circle of confusion (resolving limit) of the lens; once the CoC becomes larger than the pixel size, then you start to see a drop in resolution at the sensor. The CoC is an optical property of the focal length and aperture, and can be computed. It doesn’t change with sensor size.

  22. Nice idea – I might had bought one but my walkaround is already the Panasonic 20/1.7 and I just like it too much to take it off. Nice idea anyway, I like Olympus’ creativity, actually bringing interesting and unusual products to the market.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and pictures!

  23. Hi, can you perfom a test with flash at low iso and like a portrait or close up shoot, i think it will have a good rendering but.
    Regards.

  24. Dubious about bodycap says:

    I recently bought a Panasonic LX7, and can’t think of a reason that I’d ever want to use an m43 camera with the bodycap over the LX7.

    This bodycap is only worthwhile for people who have a small m43 body but can’t afford to buy a decent compact camera.

    • I agree – but it’s a fun toy for not a lot of money. The body cap is about $60, I think, which is a tenth of an LX7 and works if you’ve already got a pen. Might be an interesting option with one of those cheap $200 refurbs you see from time to time.

      • Dubious about bodycap says:

        $60 is actually quite expensive when you consider that Olympus gives you a pretty decent kit lens for only an extra $100 with the camera.

        For 6/10 of the price of the kit lens, you are getting like 1/10 of the lens.

        For $60, the lens should actually take sharp photos.

      • Willi Kampmann says:

        I think the combination of size and price is the only interesting aspect here. If I just wanted a small lens I think the Panasonic 14mm ƒ/2.5 (or even the crappy Olympus 17mm ƒ/2.8) would be a better choice. If I just wanted a cheap lens, I think the kit lens (bundled with the camera) is a much better value. I think this lens is little more than a gimmick.

        • You may be right, but I enjoyed using it in a way I certainly didn’t with the 14/2.5. I think it’s the ability to zone focus the thing and forget about AF lag.

      • What lag? I think one of the possitive things of the 14mm 2.5 is the fast (internal) AF. Although I own the 14mm I’m still interested (a little) in this one.

  25. If I dont’t know that these photos are shot in Malaysia in advance, I would have thought that it was Istanbul.

  26. I genuinely enjoyed the pictures. With no electronic communication with the lens, do you find using the 15/8 a burden to run on the PM1–having to set ISO and shutter all from the LCD?

    • Thanks – actually, not at all because you can just leave it in aperture priority and auto-ISO – all you have to do is move the focusing lever a bit between shots.

  27. Erica Middel says:

    I don’t have a Olympus, but the results are IMHO very nice.

  28. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Excuse me, but I HAD to laugh out loud! These examples are, as per usual from your very talented self, both technically and by the eyeful (visually and creatively), gorgeous, and by themselves should sell an extra bucket-load of these dinky lenses if Olympus use you more directly.

    However, what made me laugh out loud was that the corner examples you provided – and which “full-frame” pixel-peepers are probably going to wet themselves about in joyous disgust on other forums – are actually much better than my very old 24mm f/2.8 Nikkor on a less old D300 which I also shoot at f/8 every day, which apparently produces many pretty good images, and which luckily provides my only income via regular very sales with the highly regarded Alamy stock agency.

    So I think you have just provided proof-positive, after much indecision, the type of camera I need to shoot with in my dotage. Sagging shoulders from 40+ years of motor-driven Nikons have recently been trying to tell me that m4/3 has to be my new direction to take… the quality of your images has now tipped the balance, with this dinky “15/8″ being “la cerise sur le gâteau” as they say here in France.

    • Haha – well, the corners are pretty horrible compared to the Olympus 12/2, and even that’s not fantastic compared to the Zeiss 21/2.8 on my D800E. But yes, it works well in bright daylight – but you start to require ISO 3200 very quickly though.

      • I have been shooting some street with Voigtlander 15/4.5@f8 (for the same point-and-shoot eperience set to hyperfocal), and actually found that even in an overcast day E-M5’s stablizer allows not to push ISO beyond 1600, which is perfectly acceptable on this camera. It would be fun to compare those two lenses at some point…

        • That’s an interesting option I didn’t think of. I had one of those for my M8, and for the most part it was an excellent lens except for the comer hue shift. Definitely bears further investigation though I doubt I’ll buy one just for an experiment though.

    • dpservis says:

      100% agree with Ed!

  29. THANKS!
    Appreciate your review.
    I’ll get one!

Trackbacks

  1. […] As Ming Thein highlights, this simplicity of the lens is not a ‘downside’ but is in fact the whole point: you don’t need to worry about – and spend time on – choosing your AF point or aperture. Just set it to the infinity mark, and at 15mm f8 just about everything will be in focus anyway – particularly on micro 4/3. What it amounts to is a fun additional option to have in your photographic kit – where its limitations are part of the charm and its unique ‘close-up or infinity’ focusing part of the challenge. It takes up the same space as the body cap, meaning that in essence it becomes a permanent wide-angle option in your camera bag: on days that you don’t have room for the kit lens, or even room for the 12mm f2, you will still have room for the BCL-15. As the shots I’ve posted below hopefully demonstrate, you can get good images out of this lens if you compose with its capabilities in mind and post-process appropriately. […]

  2. […] recently traded a recently-acquired lens back to B&H for the Olympus BCL-15 bodycap lens – a lens that I’ve always been interested in, given my old school […]

  3. [...] Olympus BCL-15mm f8.0 Body Lens Cap: It’s simple, cheap and provides interesting photos. On top of that it makes an E-PM1 really portable and also acts as a body cap! [...]

  4. [...] Anyway, if you want to read a competent review of the Body Cap Lens, read HERE. [...]

  5. [...] Y con las limitaciones, la oportunidad de aprendizaje. Después del análisis de Valentin Sama y otros, creo que me haré con uno. Al principio lo había descartado, pero ¿por qué [...]

  6. [...] Source: http://blog.mingthein.com/2012/10/15/olympus-15-8-body-cap-lens/ Tweet (function() { var s = document.createElement('SCRIPT'), s1 = document.getElementsByTagName('SCRIPT')[0]; s.type = 'text/javascript'; s.async = true; s.src = 'http://widgets.digg.com/buttons.js'; s1.parentNode.insertBefore(s, s1); })(); TAGS » featured, Olympus 15mm, Olympus 15mm Body Cap, Olympus 15mm Body Cap review, Olympus 15mm f8.0, Olympus 15mm F8.0 review, Olympus 15mm review, Olympus BCL-15mm f8.0, Olympus BCL-15mm f8.0 Body Lens Cap, Olympus BCL-15mm f8.0 Body Lens Cap review, Olympus BCL-15mm f8.0 review POSTED IN » Olympus 15mm f8.0 [...]

Thoughts? Leave a comment here and I'll get back to you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27,534 other followers

%d bloggers like this: