Body caps are not usually considered to be the most exciting things found in a camera bag. But Olympus has found a way to spice things up with their cool little body cap lenses. These are exactly what they sound like: body caps with a tiny, small-aperture lens and focus lever. They’re the smallest lenses I’ve ever seen, so I thought it would be fun to test them out.
The lenses are available in 9-mm and 15-mm focal lengths, both with an aperture value fixed at f/8. They deliver decent optical performance, and the f/8 aperture coupled with the wide-angle design ensures plenty of depth of field for quick from-the-hip shots. I also really appreciate that the glass optics themselves are recessed enough into the frame to protect them nicely inside your camera bag. The focusing lever also incorporates a built-in cover for the lens, but I would happily leave these lenses in a focused position, lens exposed, for the ability to grab shots ultra fast. The flat pancake design also facilitates quickly extracting the camera from your pocket or bag, making these body cap lenses an ideal tool for street photography.
Landscape photographers can also benefit from these compact little wonders. The fixed apertures will provide a versatile amount of depth of field, and the active photographer, while hiking and scrambling up trails, would definitely appreciate how truly tiny the Olympus body cap lenses are. Fisheye lenses are also notoriously pricey, and a solution like the body-cap fisheye provides a unique perspective for landscapes that may only be needed occasionally in a calendar year.
The manual focus may seem tricky, with such a small lever and such considerable depth of field, but I’ve found the manual-focus aids in Olympus and Panasonic cameras make the process such easier. Use focus peaking for quick-grab shots, like candids and street photography, or use focus magnification for more deliberate shooting. The 15 mm requires a bit more precise focus, due to shallower depth of field. If you want to stress less and don’t mind a bendy image, go with the 9 mm.
Let’s be honest, though: these are not modern, cutting-edge optics. Corners are not terribly sharp on either lens. You have be careful of flare, and the 15 mm is especially prone to it. Despite this, there’s a fun, vintage quality to the images and a quirky joy in shooting with them. Sometimes it’s best to let the rules go, clear the mind of technical concerns, and just shoot for the sake of shooting.
The Olympus body cap lenses are perfect for shooting on the fly, shooting on the sly, and having fun the whole time. Let’s not forget one of the strongest reasons for jumping all over these caps: the incredibly affordable price of both these lenses will undoubtedly elicit double takes. The Olympus 9-mm fisheye and 15-mm body cap lenses are a no-brainer for any Panasonic or Olympus Micro Four Thirds shooter. Check them out at www.thecamerastore.com or http://www.getolympus.com/ca/en.