M.Zuiko 8mm F/1.8 PRO Review
Olympus M.Zuiko 8mm F/1.8 PRO
The only fisheye lens to brand the PRO name is the M.Zuiko 8mm F/1.8 Fisheye PRO. It combines an exceptionally wide aperture - the brightest of any fisheye lens for any system by any brand - and a short 8mm focal-length to provide a full 180° field-of-view diagonally. Given its focal-length, the maximum F/1.8 aperture does not provide a shallow depth-of-field yet is truly advantageous in low-light.
A fisheye lens produces characteristic distortions necessary to capture the 180° field-of-view onto the sensor which is planar surface. Any straight line not going through the center of the frame is rendered as a curve. This distortion which is technically a projection makes fisheye lenses specialty products. They are suitable to capture tight spaces and very up close action, although any people appearing in the image get comically distorted. The most common use nowadays for fisheye lenses is to make 360° panoramas used for virtual environments.
Design & Build
The M.Zuiko 8mm F/1.8 Fisheye PRO is probably the highest-quality fisheye on the market. It is built to the Olympus PRO standard with a metal barrel and completely internal focus mechanism. There is a fixed petal-type lens hood made of plastic that serves to protect the bulbous front element and to support a special clip on lens cap. This lens is also weatherproof and freezeproof, as one would expect of a professional-grade lens.
A wide fly-by-wire focus ring rotates smoothly and continuously without stops. It changes the focus-distance only when the camera expects it to, meaning it is either in MF or DMF mode and focus was just locked. This is the only M.Zuiko PRO lens not to have a hybrid focus-ring and we have no idea why. The focus ring is heavily textured to provide a good grip and remains usable even while wearing gloves. There are no buttons or switches on the 8mm F/1.8 Fisheye.
Although it has a rather short focal-length, the Olympus M.Zuiko 8mm F/1.8 Fisheye PRO measures 8cm in length and 62mm wide, which is just slightly larger than the Micro Four-Thirds mount. There is never a filter-thread of a fisheye lens since it would block the field-of-view. At 315g, this is a rather light lens yet it feels quite solid and well put together..
Optically, the M.Zuiko 8mm F/1.8 Fisheye PRO easily impresses and certainly delivers one of the best performance of any fisheye. Distortion from the fisheye projection is obviously there but that is par-for-the-course. There is some vignetting at wide apertures, from F/1.8 to F/2.2. Stopped further down, illumination is quite even. In real world scenarios, it is almost impossible to notice since nearly nothing is evenly illuminated when it spans 180°. Some chromatic aberrations occur towards edges, yet are very much under control.
M.Zuiko 8mm F/1.8 Fisheye PRO Sharpness
The sharpness of this lens is quite impressive. There is a slight central softness which gets gradually more pronounced towards edges of the frame from F/1.8 to F/2.8. By F/2.8 though, sharpness is not perfect but very consistent across the frame. Sharpness improves stopping further down with peek sharpness at F/5.6.
What is shown below are 5 crops taken from a photograph, repeatedly captured for each combination of focal-length and aperture. The smaller pieces are cropped from outer portions of the image, but not exactly corners since it is not possible with a fisheye lens, while the middle wide crop comes from the center of the image. Select an aperture in a row for a desired focal-length to see the crops from the corresponding image. When judging quality, keep in mind that these crops come from a 16 MP image which is normally used to print an image up to 20x16". On a computer display, these may appear much larger which magnifies image defects.
The Olympus M.Zuiko 8mm F/1.8 Fisheye PRO is an excellent lens with very good optical performance. It produces sharp images with even illumination starting as early as F/2.8, while delivering class-leading performance that peeks at F/5.6. Its fisheye projection and 180° field-of-view produces visually distinct images for creative photography. Given its high quality output, this 8mm F/1.8 Fisheye is also ideal for immersive 360° panoramas.
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