Friday, July 31, 2015

The Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye has arrived, with sample photos

At US$999.99, this is the most expensive fisheye lens I've encountered.  It's the first I've ever bought.  I always thought a typical, great zoom lens could do exactly what I wanted but at skate parks, was there an advantage?

Over the past year, at skate parks all over California, I've heard things like "Is that a fisheye?"  "What kind of fisheye do you have?"  "Fisheyes are the best!"

Looking back at the 1980s and BMX Plus and other skate park-oriented magazines, I saw a lot of close up photos taken with a fisheye lens.  The distortion is distinct and at times, endearing.

However, most of what I see now at skate parks are converters--those nasty clip-ons or screw-ons that attach to the cheapo kit lens.  At US$34.99, can you beat the effect?

A typical kit lens is sufficient for many people but so many people tell me "That's so clear!" when they view my photos and video because I use lenses far above that level, usually zoom lenses with a constant maximum aperture.

If you're struggling to get to that point, there is no shame in using the best tools available, which you probably already have.  I might do better with them, if that was all I had.  My recent experience with the Pentax K-50 and its kit lens proved to me that it was a very good choice.  Adding a US$34.99 fisheye adapter would probably work just fine.

Olympus' micro Four-Thirds 8mm f/1.8 came at a good time for me.  I've been photographing at skate parks for 1 year and my experience inside Woodward West cried for something faster than f/2.8.  (My Four-Thirds ZD 14-35mm f/2.0 might have been a heavy but better choice than the m.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 indoors.)  In Northern California, it may still be near 100 degrees F at sunset, but as it cools down, the skaters become active.

Focusing in the dark isn't much of a problem for the Panasonic GH4.  It focuses down to -4 EV, equivalent to starlight.  However, in my experience, AF is much more reliable in video than for still photography.  I also use the Olympus E-M1, which isn't great for video, but the 5-axis image stabilization can do wonders.

Olympus 8mm f/1.8 on Panasonic GH4

I'm pleased to say that, with some trouble, I have the Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens.  I placed a pre-order with Mike's Camera in Dublin, CA May 26th but the day (June 29th) before the lens was due to be generally available, they couldn't give me a date when mine would arrive, and the sales person told me "whenever", which was not a proper response to a customer.  June 30th, I returned and explained why this didn't work for me, and the manager had a refund in the works before I requested one.  A few minutes later, I made a call to Adorama and they placed the order and a little over a day later, I had mine.

I'm quite pleased with the lens, on both the Panasonic GH4 and Olympus E-M1.  It is probably too small, and that's why it has flaws but it is quite good, with only some purple fringing noticeable.  Flare resistance is good and that's great for me, here in the bright sun in California, especially at skate parks where there is no cover.  The lens hood is fixed in place and it isn't a problem, except where it isn't extended, as that is where the lens becomes a fingerprint magnet.  It also works fairly well at night.  In video, it has kept up, which is surprising since I saw reports that it was slow at focusing.

The strap was dangling.

Update 2015.08.12: The lens continues to be good, even though I have to clean it quite often.  I haven't found a problem with using it on either the E-M1 or the GH4.

Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye and Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8

Tokina 11-16mm on Nikon D7200

Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye on E-M1

 Update 2015.12.25: I just wanted to show what it takes to put an ultra wide lens on Nikon.  Even with a very limited zoom range, it requires a 77mm filter size for an f/2.8 fixed maximum aperture.  At its widest, it gives a 135 Format equivalent of 16.5mm on a DX body such as the D7200 and the Olympus lens gives 16mm, though the Tokina mostly eliminates the curvature/distortion you'd get with a fisheye lens.

Update 2016.02.17: I'm constantly pleased with the lens.  It works in many situations that most of my lenses could not, because of its maximum aperture.  As you can see, lens flare is an issue but not a problem.

Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 on GX8

8mm f/1.8 fisheye on E-M1

I was noticing that the newer Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 lens in the same few minutes did not have a problem with lens flare on the GX8.  Since it sells for 25% of the price, I'm not sure whether the 25mm lens is just not sensitive enough or it has some correction in firmware.  The 35-100mm f/2.8 lens certain has a huge problem with lens flare at times.  It's difficult to believe that such an inexpensive lens would not.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens, Nikon D7200, and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 in the works

I've been shooting so much that I haven't had much time to write.

I received my Olympus 8mm fisheye lens and I'm quite pleased.  I'm extremely happy with it, but it takes some acclimation to its ultra-wide angle.  I'm working on a specific report of my experiences.

July 5th, I got a special deal on the Nikon D7200 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens.  I've been shooting so much that I haven't even had a chance to write more than this about the combination.  I have plenty to say, especially since this is the first real attempt to switch brands--or at least, add to my arsenal of tools.

I haven't used any Nikon equipment since film SLRs.  It's taking some time to get good work done.  Their whole design work, electronic and physical, lacks clear thinking.  I appreciate that they have a status display, but if should be interactive, instead of just being frustratingly informative.

Something interesting and frustrating was learning how to switch from the factory setting of auto focus scatter pattern with 51 focus points to 1 focus point.  There is a button located within the AF/MF switch to the left of the lens mount.  Is it labeled?  No.  You hold it and rotate the rear dial to change patterns.

In any case, I am finding many new user problems that I didn't find with the Pentax K-50.

My main reason for buying the D7200 was its low(er) light performance.  I first took it out at 11/23 at night.  It was a frustrating experience, especially since AF supposedly works to -3 EV--what was standard with the Panasonic GH3 way back when it was introduced.  Half of the photos I tried to take just would not happen.  Subsequently, I took the Olympus E-M1 and Panasonic GH4 out at similar times.  The E-M1 struggled a bit but the GH4 didn't hesitate.  How good is the image quality of a camera body that won't take an image?

My first impression of the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 is that it's small, light, and too short in its focal length range, especially compared to my Olympus 14-35mm f/2.0.  It's also not weather-sealed which could be a major problem.  I didn't pay full price for it, which helps alleviate some of the shortcomings.  If you think it's not small or light, take a look at the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 lens.

I'll take some time to write about these experiences in detail.