Olympus BCL-15 15mm f/8 Body Cap Lens


    Photo Review 7
    User Rating: 0/10 (0 votes cast)

    Thank you for rating!

    You have already rated this item, you can only rate it once!

    Your rating has been changed, thanks for rating!

    Log in or create a user account to rate.

    Olympus BCL-15 15mm f/8 Body Cap Lens

      In summary

      Buy this lens if:
       - You can obtain it for around $50.
       - You want a lens that makes your camera body pocketable
       - You really like the way it works with the Art Filters.

      Don't buy this lens if:
        - You require sharp images.
       - You want to take close-ups.

      Full review

      Announced at Photokina in September, the Olympus  BCL-15 f/8 Body Cap Lens is designed to replace the normal  body cap that protects the sensor on an OM-D  or PEN camera and serve as a simple  snapshot lens. Only nine millimetres thick, it can easily be mistaken for the regular body cap, although it's marginally deeper.

       
      The Olympus  BCL-15 f/8 Body Cap Lens. (Source: Olympus.)

      The raison d' etre behind this lens is to enable photographers to maintain the small body size of M4/3 cameras but allow them to be able to take pictures from the time they remove the camera from a pocket or bag, without requiring a lens to be attached. On small cameras like the Olympus PEN E-PM2 and Panasonic GF5, it makes the camera shirt-pocketable. On the OM-D EM-5 and Panasonic G5 and GH3, a jacket pocket is required.

      Because of its resemblance to a lens cap, the BCL-15  has some potential for street photographers. Subjects are likely to be deceived into thinking the camera is lensless and won't change their behaviour.

      The optical design is simple with three glass lens elements in three groups. The fixed f/8 aperture provides a wide depth of field and the optical design accentuates the effects of the in-camera Art Filters by creating images with sharply focused centre regions and softer edges

      The 15mm fixed focal length covers an angle of view equivalent to 30mm in 35mm format. No electronic contacts are provided so details of the focal length and aperture settings aren't recorded in the image metadata. (Being fixed at 15mm f/8, this doesn't really matter.)

      Focusing is fully manual and controlled by  a lever, which moves one of the three lens elements. There are four positions for this lever:  a close-focus position at 30 cm,  a click stop and white dot at the hyperfocal distance, an infinity setting and a closed position marked by a red line.  A small amount of focus adjustment is available between the close and hyperfocal settings but almost no space between the hyperfocal and infinity positions.

      The BCL-15 fits snugly on the camera body, perhaps slightly more tightly than the regular body cap. In the closed position, the lens can be mounted permanently on a camera body. This enables users to carry a camera with this lens in a pocket and have it ready for shooting straight away. 

      Performance
      We didn't expect outstanding resolution figures in our Imatest tests – and we didn't get them. In effect, this lens is similar in size to the lenses on camera-phones and, even though it's used with a larger sensor, it's unreasonable to expect super quality from such a small amount of glass.

      However, it is capable of taking pictures that are sharp enough for sharing on mobile devices and printing to snapshot size, provided you're not too picky. And, even though its colour rendition is different from that of the regular Olympus lenses, it's also good enough for these applications.

      Imatest showed a considerable discrepancy in resolution between the centre and edges of the frame, which is what you would expect from a simple triplet lens. However, in actual shots, this softening doesn't appear excessive but more like the view of a scene you see with your eyes when you concentrate on something in the centre of your field of view.

      In our test shots we found centre sharpness wasn't great with subjects at and beyond the hyperfocal distance, as you can see in the sample images below. Overall sharpness was pretty poor and highly dependent on getting the camera-to-subject distance exactly right.

      When adjusting focus, you really must work with the magnified view on the monitor screen. If you're a fraction off the correct distance, the whole shot appears blurred.

      Imatest showed lateral chromatic aberration to be high. But, interestingly, we found much less coloured fringing in test shots that we expected.  Some vignetting could be seen with the camera's shading correction function turned off but it was easily correctable, either in-camera or post-capture.

      The softening and flattening of contrast this lens produces has some interesting consequences when using the Art Filters. We've provided examples in the Samples section of this review, comparing the Body Cap lens with the 14-42mm kit lens supplied with Olympus cameras. In each example, the top image was taken with the 15mm Body Cap lens, while the lower one was shot with the 14-42mm lens set to approximately 15mm.

      Conclusion
       When it was announced, the BCL-15 was a different and innovative product and, not unexpectedly, created a lot of excitement. Reviewing this lens on December 6, 2012, Nikon guru Thom Hogan stated: "so many people have opted to buy this body cap lens that it's mostly sold out and some places that still have it are charging more than list price for it as I write this".   (http://www.sansmirror.com/lenses/lens-reviews/lenses-for-m43-olympuspanas/olympus-15mm-f8-body-cap.html)

      That still seems to be the case, which is not good news for potential purchasers. (Time will probably bring prices back to more realistic levels.) One month on (and four months from the initial announcement), we have time for a reasoned appraisal of its value to photo enthusiasts.

      When considering this lens, carefully evaluate two factors:
       1. whether you want a usable lens that allows the camera to be pocketable;

      2. whether you like the effects this lens produces with the Art Filters.

      If you usually pack your cameras with lenses fitted, you'll probably find this lens irrelevant. The same applies for photographers who value image sharpness, particularly those who shoot raw files.

      Think also about how much you'll be expected to fork out to acquire this accessory. Currently, Olympus America lists it at US$49.99 on its website (http://www.getolympus.com/us/en/accessories/lenses.html) but most US e-tailers are selling it for $49. At that price, it could be worthwhile for some photographers.

      Expect to pay considerably more outside of the US. At the Australian RRP of $99, the BCL-15 is expensive for what it does. Photographers who value image quality would probably be better off putting the money towards a higher-performing and more versatile 'pancake' lens like the Panasonic Lumix G 14mm/F2.5 ASPH (although it may require a somewhat larger pocket).

      Buy this lens if:
       - You can obtain it for around $50.
       - You want a lens that makes your camera body pocketable
       - You really like the way it works with the Art Filters.

      Don't buy this lens if:
        - You require sharp images.
       - You want to take close-ups.

      SPECS

       Picture angle: 72 degrees
       Minimum aperture: f/8
       Lens construction: 3 elements in 3 Groups
       Lens mounts: Micro Four Thirds
       Diaphragm Blades: 1 (circular aperture)
       Focus drive: Manual focus via lever
       Minimum focus: 30 cm
       Maximum magnification: 0.06x
       Filter size:  n.a.
       Dimensions (Diameter x L):  56 x 9 mm
      Weight: 22 grams

      TESTS

      Based on JPEG files taken with OM-D E-M5 camera. (Colour charts are included to show the effect of the lens on colour reproduction.)

        

      SAMPLES

       Vignetting.
       
       

      Distortion.
       

      Flare;
       

      Normal photograph with the BCL-15 set to the hyperfocal distance.
       
       

      Crop from the above image enlarged to 100% to show coloured fringing.
       
       

      Crop from the above image enlarged to 100% to show centre resolution.

      The same subject photographed with the 14-42mm kit lens at approximately 15mm focal length.

       Crop from the above image enlarged to 100% to show centre resolution.

      Close-up with the BCL-15 set to focus at 0.3 metres.
       
       

      Close-up with the 14-42mm kit lens at f/8.
       
       

      Close-up with the BCL-15 set to focus at 0.3 metres.
       
       

      Close-up with the BCL-15 set to focus between 0.3 metres and the hyperfocal distance.
       
       

      Normal photograph with the BCL-15 set to the hyperfocal distance.
       
       

      Slight vignetting with the BCL-15 set to the hyperfocal distance.
       
       Examples of the BCL-15's effects on the built-in Art Filters. In each image pair, the top image was taken with the BCL-15 and the lower one with the 14-42mm kit lens at f/8.
       
       

      Pop Art filter.
       
       

      Pin Hole filter.
       
       

      Dramatic Tone filter.
       
       

      Diorama filter.
       
       

      Keyline filter.
       
       

      Watercolour filter.

      Rating

      RRP: AU$99, US$50

      • Build: 8.0
      • Handling: 8.0
      • Image quality: 6.0
      • Versatility: 7.0

      BUY