Review Panasonic 8mm f/3.5 LUMIX G Fisheye (Micro 43)
The Panasonic 8 mm Fisheye lens appeared on the market in the third quarter of the year 2010. This lens has a 180 degrees viewing angle (diagonal), which equals almost 100 degrees in width and 75 degrees in height. The Panasonic 8 mm fisheye lens is the only fisheye lens in the micro-43 lens assortment of Olympus and Panasonic. There's only one lens in Panasonic's program offering the same focal point: the Panasonic 7-14 mm. Unique features of this Panasonic 8 mm lens are, besides the characteristic optical properties of a fisheye lens, the low weight and compact size. Moreover, it delivers sharp images, as our Panasonic 8 mm review will show.
The Panasonic 8 mm fisheye is well built, compact and with a diameter of 6,1 cm it is wider than its length (5,2 cm). This lens fits in a breast pocket or in your trouser pocket. Because of the fixed good, there's no screw thread for attaching a filter to the lens. Innerfocussing is fast and easy with this lens: only a tiny lens has to be moved. Probably the difference between focussing nearby or focussing at infinity will be a difference of a few mm's only for the focussing lens. In many cases it will not be necessary to focus at all; the depth of field of this super wideangle lens is very large.
The Panasonic 8 mm fisheye has no image stabilization. But, since a shutter speed of 1/15 second in combination with an f4 aperture will yield many sharp hand-held pictures, it will rarely be missed.
Given the large viewing angle and the compact size of this lens, the amount of vignetting is surprisingly low. In the extreme corners there is some strong vignetting (2 stops) which is clearly visible. But cropping just a tiny little bit will help a lot (although it decreases the viewing angle). An alternative could be to correct it afterwards in your photo editing software.
A fisheye lens shows, by its nature, a characteristic barrel distortion, as is shown in this picture. Perfectly horizontal and vertical lines going straight through the center will not be distorted. But straight lines at the edges and corners of the image, will be heavily barreled. Measuring the distortion of a Fisheye lens is useless. But to use the distortion for creative effects is fun. For comparison: the viewing angle of a 50 lens equals more or less what we are used to see. The Panasonic 8 mm fisheye shows you almost 3 times as much. Because of this enormous viewing angle, you will be forced to sit right on top of your subject (within tenths of centimeters), if you wish to show it as the main topic in your picture.
The Panasonic 8mm fisheye has, by its nature, so much depth of field, that it doesn't show am unsharp background / Bokeh. In this image we focused at the white flowers in the foreground, no more than half a meter from the camera. Nevertheless there is no unsharp background, not even in the trees at 20 meters distance. In stead of looking at Bokeh, you should take advantage of its large depth of field: stopping down the aperture very soon delivers images which are sharp from nearby to infinity, which makes it an ideal lens for street photography. Focus in advance at 1 meter distance, switch to manual focus, and have fun making your images without bothering about focusing.
The extreme curved front-lens of a Fisheye make a fisheye lens more susceptible to flare. the enormous angle of view of the Panasonic 8 mm Fisheye lens (a focal point of 8 mm at micro-43 equals 16 mm at full frame) increases the chance that the sun will be directly visible in your image, thereby further enhancing the chance for flare. Panasonic multi-coated this lens in order to minimize glare and ghosts". Nevertheless you will encounter some flare and ghosts using this lens. The image to the right is a crop of the image of the car shown in the distortion section. The picture was made straight into the sun.
We tested the Panasonic 8 mm 3.5 on a Panasonic GH2 camera, set at a 2:3 aspect ratio (in stead of the 4:3 ration which is normal for a micro-43 camera). Doing this enables us to compare the measured resolution directly with the measured resolution with lenses tested on a camera with an APS-C sensor. In the center this lens achieves a very high sharpness over the normally used aperture range: a resolution of 2000 LW/PH at aperture 4 (sensor set at 2:3) is a remarkable achievement. If you leave your camera at a 4:3 ratio, you will even have a picture height with almost 10% more pixels and thus also an even higher resolution.
Underneath you see a picture of a hedge and a 100% crop from the center of the image, in which you can clearly see the sharpness of this lens at the center of the image.
The characteristic fisheye distortion makes it impossible to, as we usually do, measure chromatic aberration in the corners of the image That's where chromatic aberration is most pronounced. The measurement results we show you are, therefore, very low, but underestimations of the amount of chromatic aberration in the corners. We didn't find any chromatic aberration in our outdoors images, which is really very good. The Panasonic 8 mm fisheye scores much better for this feature than the Tokina 10-17 mm Fisheye.
In the upper left corner of this image of some trees above, you don't see any chromatic aberration even at a 100 % crop (made at the red rectangle; move your mouse over the image to see it). What you do see, is some purple fringing by the sensor and lower sharpness at the extreme corners.
Conclusion Panasonic 8mm f/3.5 LUMIX G Fisheye review
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens when you save the files in the camera as jpg, including all in-camera lens corrections (distortion, chromatic aberration). This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
typical fisheye distortion
good image quality
compact, light weight
typical fisheye distortion
vignetting and lower sharpness in the corners
The Panasonic 8 mm fisheye is a surprisingly compact, lightweight, high quality lens. Both in construction/finish and in optical performance. The large viewing angle ( 8 mm micro-43 equals 16 mm full frame) and the characteristic fisheye distortion, introduce you to a whole new way of making pictures. In comparison with a traditional wide angle lens (28 mm full frame), this lens offers 50% more view. And that is a lot more than you might expect. Take a look at the two pictures at the top of this article, where you can compare a picture made with the Panasonic 14 mm lens with a picture made from the same point of view, using the Panasonic 8 mm fisheye. Personally, I didn't expect on forehand to have so much fun using a lens with such extraordinarily properties. The small focal point forces you to approach tour subjects really, really close. That gives you an exciting feeling. And if you succeed to avoid straight lines at the edges and corners of the image, or if you let the straight lines cross the center of the image, one might even not notice that your spectacular wide image has been made using a fisheye.
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.
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