A lens with a peripherally distorted, ultra-wide angle of view for Micro Four Thirds System cameras.People are often intrigued by anything that changes the way they view subjects, which accounts for some of the popularity of fisheye lenses. Panasonic's Lumix G Fisheye 8mm f/3.5 lens, which was announced in June, is the first (and, so far, only) fisheye lens for Micro Four Thirds System cameras. Offering a 180-degree diagonal field of view it provides a radically different perspective. . . [more]
People are often intrigued by anything that changes the way they view subjects, which accounts for some of the popularity of fisheye lenses. Panasonic's Lumix G Fisheye 8mm f/3.5 lens, which was announced in June, is the first (and, so far, only) fisheye lens for Micro Four Thirds System cameras. Offering a 180-degree diagonal field of view it provides a radically different perspective.
While the normal human field of view for objects perceived clearly is roughly equivalent to 50 degrees, the 180-degree field of view of this lens means that almost everything in front of the lens is included in the frame. Unlike some fisheye lenses, which produce circular images that have darkened corners, the 8mm Panasonic lens maps the image across the entire image frame.
The Lumix G Fisheye 8mm f/3.5 lens. (Source: Panasonic.)
Full-frame fisheye lenses are characterised by a large, concave front element that bends the incoming light into a cone covering approximately 90 degrees. A convex rear element focuses the image onto the image sensor. In this type of lens, straight lines that run vertically or horizontally through the centre of the frame show little or no distortion. In contrast, lines outside of the centre of the frame become progressively more curved, leading to extreme distortions near the edges of the picture.
This type of distortion results from equisolid angle projection. Because it can be 'mapped' mathematically, it's relatively easy to replicate in a digital camera, as we have seen with the increasing number of models that include a fisheye setting among their special effects.
Comprising ten lenses in nine groups, the 8mm Panasonic lens's optical system includes one ED (Extra-low Dispersion) element to maintain a stable sharpness rendering from close-up to infinity and minimise chromatic aberrations. It supports the Contrast AF systems used by Panasonic's G-series cameras and provides close focusing to 10 cm.
The optical diagram for the Lumix G Fisheye 8mm f/3.5 lens showing the location of the ED element. (Source: Panasonic.)
The inner AF drive, powered by a stepping motor, keeps the length of the lens unchanged but the design of this lens prevents filters from being attached at the front. Instead, there's a rear holder moulding that accepts 22 mm square sheet filters.
Multi-coatings have been applied to the lens elements to minimise flare and ghosting. Seven diaphragm blades give the aperture a rounded shape that produces smooth out-of-focus areas when shooting at wider aperture settings. The lens hood is permanently attached to the barrel and covered by a plastic cap that slips over the outside of the hood. It is kept in place by friction.
The short flange distance for the Micro Four Thirds system has enabled this lens to be very compact. However, although pricey, it's solidly built and appears to have a metal inner barrel plus a sturdy metal mounting plate. The lens is supplied with front and rear caps and a soft storage bag.
We reviewed this lens on the Panasonic DMC-GF2 camera body, for which it made an excellent partner. It should be equally well suited to other G-series bodies because of its compact size (which is slightly smaller than the 14-45mm kit lens supplied with the GF1). Weighing only 165 grams, it's easily pocketable and won't take up much space in your camera bag.
The tip of the hood protrudes just under 52 mm from the camera body. A 13 mm wide focusing ring is located roughly half way along the barrel, It carries a 7 mm wide ridged grip band that turns through 360 degrees.
Manual focusing is handled by the built-in AF drive, using a focus-by-wire system that provides no perceptible feedback to tell you whether the lens is being focused. It's as well this lens seldom requires manual focusing due to its fisheye design.
The only other items on the lens are the red registration dot for aligning the lens with the camera body and a yellow '8' stamped on the barrel indicating the focal length.
As with all fisheye lenses, care is required when composing shots. Because the optical design turns straight lines towards the edges of the frame into hemispherical curves, you must pay attention to the composition of shots and take account of the inherent distortions.
The wide angle of view of this lens also makes it incompatible with the built-in flash on the GF2 (and GF1) because the edge of the lens hood intrudes into the image frame. If the background is dark and the main subject is central, this may not be noticeable but it's quite obvious when backgrounds are light - and there's nothing you can do about it.
Fisheye lenses can produce some arresting images with both stills and video clips. As well as encompassing a large field of view, they are often used for 'cute' shots of pets in which the nose or face appears very large.
Videographers sometimes use them for filming skateboard and BMX riders and similar types of sports. The advantage over standard lenses is that pans with fisheye lenses maintain a more constant subject size in the centre of the field than pans with wide-angle lenses. This can appear more natural to viewers.
The review lens was quick to focus under most types of lighting. However, because of the inherent distortion in the fisheye design, it could be difficult to estimate the correct shooting distance to ensure the closest subjects were sharp.
Despite some reservations due to difficulties in lining up our testing target, we carried out our standard Imatest tests on the review lens. The results were quite surprising. The highest resolution measured was well below expectations for the GF2's sensor.
Imatest also showed a distinct 'sweet spot' at the f/13 aperture but resolution tailed off dramatically on either side. Edge softening was evident at wide apertures, while diffraction was doubtless the key factor at smaller apertures. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration was negligible through the aperture range and no coloured fringing was observed in test shots. In the graph below, the red line marks the border between 'negligible ' and 'low' CA.
Resistance to flare and ghosting was also very good, despite the all-encompassing design of the optics. Vignetting was less than we expected from the lens design. By its nature, you can't expect this lens to produce attractive bokeh.
Buy this lens if:
- You really want the novel perspective a fisheye lens provides.
- You shoot plenty of close-to-the-action videos.
Don't buy this lens if:
- You require high image quality across the aperture range of the lens.
IMATEST GRAPHS (based on JPEG images from the DMC-GF2)
SAMPLE IMAGES (all taken with the DMC-GF2)
An example of a shot taken with the camera held normally to the subject. Note the straight lines at the middle of the picture and the degree of rectilinear distortion towards the edges. (ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/11.)
With some subjects and some shooting angles, it's impossible to avoid including parts of your body (or your shadow) in the picture. (ISO 100, 1/30 second at f/7.1.)
Backlighting is handled particularly well. (ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/13.)
Some distortions are less attractive than others.(ISO 800, 1/25 second at f/5.6.)
ISO 800, 1/60 second at f/8.
Close-up; ISO 800, 1/5 second at f/5.6.
ISO 200, 1/80 second at f/10.)
ISO 100, 1/100 second at f/5.6.
ISO 100, 1/100 second at f/9.
Flash shot of a centrally-positioned subject with a dark background; ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/3.5.
Flash shot showing the lens hood intruding into the lower right corner of the image frame; ISO 320, 1/60 second at f/3.5.
Picture angle: 180 degrees diagonal
Minimum aperture: f/22
Lens construction: 10 elements in 9 groups (1 ED lens)
Lens mounts: Micro Four Thirds
Diaphragm Blades: 7 (circular aperture)
Focus drive: Stepping motor
Minimum focus: 10 cm
Maximum magnification: Approx. 0.20x / 0.40x (35mm camera equivalent)
Filter size: Front mounting not possible; Rear sheet filter holder accepts 22mm square filters
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 60.7 x 51.7 mm
Weight: Approx. 165g
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