One of the most fun lenses out there is the Olympus 9mm f8. But what about street photography? It’s wider from a more traditional 28mm. So how is Olympus 9mm f8 fisheye body cap lens street photography? Let’s find out.
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I got the Olympus 9mm f8 by mistake
As a professional, I actually work with my PEN F camera and the 12-40mm f/2 lens. But it’s quite the bulky lens, so I wanted a small lens I could take out for fun.
I wanted the Olympus body cap lens and I got it. Once I actually shot it, my belly turned to Jelly. Why? Because I saw this ugly fisheye distortion. I’m an easy going photographer, I believe you can make great images with pretty much any camera. But fisheye? I never understood the appeal, and I was completely dejected that I needed to make do with it because I couldn’t return it.
A family member came to Korea and brought it for me, the return window by then was long gone. So I tried to make the most out of it.
Olympus 9mm f8 fisheye for street photography
I used to have this nice teacher when I was in graphic design class. She’d always be like “Point to the positives first”. I shall do this for this lens. First of all it is a pancake lens and makes the PEN cameras super portable. Coming from my main workhorse 12-40mm, this was awesome.
There is no aperture besides f8 and no focusing. It’s either focus close at 0.2 meters or focus to infinity. I’ve never used the close focus as I can never get the images in focus. I’m not even sure how close things need to be in order to be picked up with that hyperfocal distance, I eyeball it at 1 meter. So everything from 1meter on to infinity should be reasonably in focus.
What’s so great about this is that the lens allows you to use the Olympus cameras one handed without any problem. It essentially transforms the 4/3 camera into a compact camera with a 18mm lens (9mm x2 because of the crop sensor)
No focus, wide angle, portable? This is street photography bliss. However it has one major flaw…that distortion. Like I said I believed Olympus only had ONE body cap lens but they had 2. And the other one (The one I wanted) was 15mm. I means it’s not a flaw, it says FISHEYE right on there in the lens so how can one be surprised when it does what it’s made for, right?
But after really trying my best to like this lens, the fisheye simply became a torn in my flesh. I could defish some images but it really ended up defeating the purpose at the end of the day.
So how is Olympus 9mm f8 fisheye body cap lens street photography? Pretty heartbreaking if you ask me. It’s not the wide angle part that is terrible, it’s the fisheye part that simply breaks too many of the images to be of use.
Someone might like it exactly for that, and I am all for distortions, that is what makes the 28mm focal length great. But too much of a good thing is a bad thing and I ended up not using the lens anymore.
If you think that this lens isn’t sharp, you’d be right. But it’s not as toy-like as many would make you believe that it is. It’s acceptable sharpness in the center, but when it’s in the corners, everything is thrown out the window. But if you are going to defish the images (Tutorial below) you are litteraly going to throw it out anyway. Here’s in the center detail:
And here’s what it looks like in the corner. You can even see how the sharpness goes away coming from the sharp-ish center left to the blurry top right.
If you do not like how the images distort and are looking for the Olympus 9mm fisheye defish steps, here they are. You could also use the “Angler Defish” software. I prefer to use Lightroom because I can make presets.
In the spirit of convenience, you can download the preset I made below here: Defish preset
1. Open your image
First things first, open and import your image in Lightroom. If you are using a PEN F (and probably other Olympus cameras), remember that the camera natively shoots at 4:3, so if you shoot raw at 2:3, reset your crop and you’ll see everything about the image. So here’s my full fisheye image. You can see the whole effect how the horizontal line are bending. This is actually key to bypass the fisheye as we will see at the bottom of this article.
2. Apply lens correction
Under the develop module, look all the way near the bottom under “Lens correction” and use the settings you see. There might be updates but my copy of Lightroom classic doesn’t have a profile for the Olympus 9mm.
So I use the Samyang 8mm f/2.8 and ramp up the distortion to 53. This fixes the image
3. Crop as needed
Once you have your image defished, crop as needed. Here’s my final image:
There is no way NOT to get rid of a lot of parts of the image. You can see what’s REALLY happening behind the scenes in this image:
You can see how Lightroom is stretching the image the other way and in order to crop correctly, you have to get rid of a lot of the image, making it very hard to actually shoot and have an idea of what the end result would be.
This is why I ended up not using the lens as needed and shot it with the explicit intent to crop afterwards so I mentally “cropped” images in my mind shooting it, pretty much defeating the purpose of having a super wide angle, right?
I shot the above street photograph in Hanoi. After I realized how much I needed to crop out (and the fact that I had that whole left area in mind) I dumped the lens. It was just an extra step I wasn’t willing to deal with and kept having nasty surprises.
Here’s other images I shot with the Olympus 9mm f8 body cap lens:
How to make the most out of the fisheye
While this lens is a fisheye, it’s not THAT pronounced. And if you shoot your images correctly you can even get some reasonably straight lines. Here’s one image for illustration. I was doing street photography in Jeju, and shot it with the 9mm.
You can see in the middle area things are pretty straight, look at the top of the crosswalk, it’s straight. Same thing for the center poles. But if you look at the electric pole you can see that it starts stright-ish to end up bent on top.
Because it’s a moderate fisheye, it’s ok at the center and ends up bending on the sides. So if you want to make the most out of the lens, the trick is to avoid strong lines too close to the frame because that’s where the distortion is strongest, at the edges.
Because I cropped the image below from 4:3 to 3:2, I cropped that bottom line that was really bent because it was close to the frame. The result is a reasonably straight image.
You can see the same thing below. The center is relatively straight but then slightly starts bending as we get closer to the edges. This is one way to make the 9mm more acceptable if you do not like the fisheye effect like I do.
The other way to make this lens shine is without a doubt leading lines. It really extends the image at such wide angle so images with a central subject work really well.
A fun lens
One thing that this lens has going for it, it is that it is FUN. There’s a few things photographers have to deal with like Aperture and shutter speed. This lens removes two variables, the Aperture and the Focusing. This transforms any 43 camera into a zen experience shooting. So while the fisheye was annoying, the size and simplicity of the Olympus 9mm f8 really was great.
If you want a fisheye, get this lens, if not get the (better in my opinion) 15mm that has the same appeal. Most of these images were made in Busan , and processed with these presets.
Why I got rid of it
For someone who likes fisheye, probably they will like it. For me? I absolutely hated it. The distortion was simply too much to handle. Having to correct every image was just too much.
And as much as I hated losing my money, I just got the Olympus 15mm instead. While nowhere near as wide, it’s just as fun and does not have that crazy fisheye distortion. It’s actually better for street photography than the 9mm.
The Olympus 9mm f8 fisheye delivers exactly what is promised: An 18mm lens with fisheye distortion. If that sounds appealing to you than you will surely be happy. But for someone who wants their lines to be actually straight, the headaches of having to go trough and extra step to straighten their image is not worth it. Sure you could use a preset / defish software, but it just didn’t sit well with me that I was forced to crop every photograph I made, a deal breaker for me.