A new addition has been made to my family of lenses! And this is an entirely new focal length for me and requires a completely new way for me to shoot - read on for my take on the new SLR Magic 8mm F4 lens for Micro Four Thirds including sample shots, what I thought of it and why I got it in the first place!
Whilst I have always loved macro and wildlife photography, I have always wanted to get into a bit more landscape photography but this has always posed me a bit of a dilemma. At 12mm (24mm full frame equivalent), the widest lens I own isn't all that wide and I often found myself wishing for a wider angle of view and greater separation in my landscape photos. This meant that in order for me to pursue this area of photography I needed a new lens, something my wallet couldn't stretch to. Whilst I do see lenses like the Olympus 7-14mm Pro and even the Olympus 9-18mm as great options they are simply too expensive for me to afford for what is currently a bit of an experiment and I have never been a fan of the fisheye view that most ultra wide angle prime lenses seem to go for in Micro Four Thirds.
With all this in mind, I was very excited when I saw that SLR Magic were producing a rectilinear (non-fisheye) 8mm lens at an initial price of $300.
Let's start with the important bit! These are a selection of SOOC shots that I have taken with it thus far (plus one shot of the lens on my EM1ii) - I accept that I haven't really had it for long enough to get fully used to it just yet and that these weren't taken under ideal conditions. I'll update this gallery as I get better with it and explore it's capabilities more - I have a feeling that there is far more to get out of this lens and I look forward to using it more.
This lens is actually far smaller than I had expected and looks a little comical on my OM-D E-M1ii. Despite this, the all-metal build feels solid and has a good sturdy feel to it - the focus and aperture rings are smooth and turn without too much resistance. The little locking screw does get loose but this is to be expected - it is just a screw after all.
I have to be honest - I'm not a huge fan of the ergonomics of this lens.
I appreciate that it is designed more with video in mind, but for me I would have liked it to be a bit more photo user friendly. The little focusing knob is actually very useful as my hands are too large otherwise however the aperture ring also turns at the same time meaning that sometimes it is at the top and sometimes it is around the side. Given that it is also easy to accidentally turn the clickless aperture ring, this makes it frustrating to ensure that it is all set correctly.
For long exposures, the clickless aperture ring is also difficult to use as it makes it hard to calculate exposure times without knowing the precise aperture selected.
Although the lens does rotate when focusing, this is actually less of an issue than you may think for things like polarisers because once you have infinity focus set and an aperture of f5.6 onward you can lock the focus with the screw and not have to worry about it. Furthermore, being able to screw on filters with the included "hood" (which is really more of a filter size adapter than a hood) is really useful and something that can't be done with the Olympus 7-14mm lens without a third party adapter. I've actually switched the included hood for a 43-62mm adapter off ebay which means I can use the same filters as on my 12-40mm Pro - still without any additional vignetting!
One weird issue I have noticed is that the lens does stick out the back a little when focusing close. This isn't an issue for the camera body but it does mean that if you have any of the super slim rear Olympus lens caps like I do these don't actually fit onto the lens unless you keep it closer to infinity.
Overall, my issues essentially boil down to the lens being tiny and the clickless aperture ring - both of which are more niggles than anything else and are perfectly acceptable to me for a $300 ultra wide angle which opens up a world of possibilities for photos that I would never have been able to take with my 12-40mm Pro without stitching multiple images together.
Overall, whilst I'm not a huge fan of the ergonomics of this lens, the additional capabilities of having an ultra wide lens in my bag more than make up for it. At the end of the day, a lens is just another tool in my camera bag and, though this is neither the sharpest tool (nor lens) in my bag, it serves a purpose that none of my other lenses could hope to and at a price point that suits the image quality and simplicity of this lens. For anyone with neither an ultra wide lens nor ultra deep pockets, I can only recommend this lens for my fellow micro four thirds shooters.