Panasonic 8mm Fisheye Lens Review

Ultra-wide micro-four thirds lens for Olympus and Panasonic cameras

By Scott Gietler

 

 
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The Panasonic 8mm micro-four thirds fisheye lens is a small, sharp, stunning lens that really needs to get used more often in the underwater world. It mounts on cameras such as the Olympus E-PL2 & E-PL3, and the Panasonic GF2 & GH2. You can read our guide to mirrorless cameras to get the low-down on these types of hybrid cameras, or our intro to fisheye lenses.

 

About the Panasonic F3.5 8mm fisheye lens

The lens has 10 elements in 9 groups. It features a silent built-in auto focus motor that makes it great for use in videos with sound. It is the world's smallest and lightest fisheye lens of its type.

panasonic 8mm fisheye lens review

Olympus E-PL2 and Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens in hand.

 

 

topside photo taken with the panasonic 8mm fisheye & olympus e-pl2

Topside photo with the 8mm fisheye. F8, 1/640th, ISO 200

 

 

panasonic 8mm micro-four thirds fisheye lens review

Close-up of kelp underwater. F22, 1/180th

 

 

Underwater Testing

We took the lens down on an Olympus E-PL2 body in the Olympus housing using the Precision brand custom dome for this lens. The water had some particles in it, which made it difficult at first to control the backscatter. The strobes really need to be pulled back when using this lens, and either be on the sides of the lens, or directly over the top. A few times I even got the strobes in the photo by accident.

Using a small 4-inch dome was really nice, especially for getting close to small subjects. The Precision dome port was custom designed for the 8mm fisheye lens, aligning the nodal point of the lens in the correct position for maximum sharpness.   

 

precision brand dome port for the panasonic 8mm fisheye lens, olympus housing

Precision brand 4-inch dome port for the 8mm fisheye and Olympus E-PL2 housing. 

 

Focusing speed

The lens focuses very fast underwater, and I was pleasantly surprised. Not as instant as a dSLR would, but fast enough so that I could get the shots that I wanted. This is partly because wide-angle lenses often focus much faster than telephoto or macro lenses.

 

Chromatic Aberrations, Fringing, & Flare

I did not notice any aberrations or fringing in the 100% crops of the photos that I took, and the photos pointing toward the sun did not have any significant flare. Well done, Panasonic!

 

Lens specs:

  • Aperture range: F3.5 - F22
  • Weight: 165 grams
  • Size: 61x52mm
  • Mount: Micro-four thirds
  • Close-focus distance:  Very very close, at just under 1 inch from the lens. The lens is capable of focusing inside the dome port.
  • Angle of view: 180 degrees diagonal angle of view
  • Filters: Gel filters accepted at the rear of the lens

 

Close-focus distance

panasonic 8mm fisheye close focus image

This is as close as the Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens will focus, just under 1 inch from the lens glass.

 

 

Corner sharpness and best aperture to use

Center sharpness is similar from F3.5 to F16. Corner sharpness improves noticeably when stepping down from F3.5 to F5, and F5 to F7. Corner sharpness is quite good across the range from F7 to F16, with F11 being the best by just a tad.

 

100% crop of corner, F3.5

 

corner sharpness test of panasonic 8mm fisheye lens

100% crop of corner, F11

 

 

Compared to the Tokina 10-17mm

The Panasonic 8mm fisheye is a fixed focal length lens, where the Tokina is a zoom lens. When compared to the Tokina at 10mm, they both have the same 180 degree angle of view diagonally, and the same 35mm equivalent focal length.

 

Compared to wet-mount fisheye lenses

The Pany 8mm fisheye is wider and sharper than wet-mount fisheye lenses for compact cameras like the Dyron 16mm fisheye, or the FIX UWL-04. 

 

Other micro-four thirds fisheye lenses

Samyang (not Samsung) is coming out with a 7.5mm fisheye lens for micro-four thirds cameras in September 2011. It will cost much less than the Panasonic fisheye lens, but it will be manual focus only.

 

Underwater photography tips for shooting with the 8mm fisheye

  • To avoid strobe flare and backscatter, your strobes have to pulled back considerably behind the housing, and pointed outwards slightly.
  • Try to keep your strobes to the sides, or straight above the housing.
  • Try to take lots of vertical shots!
  • Don't afraid to get really close to your subjects.
  • Try to get the dome port cover on before handing the camera rig up to boat crew to avoid unwanted/ unnecessary scratches.
  • Review the underwater composition tutorials.

Update: After diving with this lens a second time, by being careful with my strobe placement I was able to control the backscatter much better. I simply kept my strobes back a little further, and tried to align them with one of the port shades.

 

Panasonic 8mm fisheye + E-PL2 underwater photos

starfish and diver with 8mm fisheye lens

Starfish and diver. Olympus E-PL2, Olympus housing, Precision custom dome port for the Panasonic 8mm fisheye. F10, 1/180th, ISO 200

Encounter with a 6 1/2 ft giant black sea bass. F9, 1/160th, ISO 200

panasonic 8mm fisheye lens review

Black sea bass silhouette. F9, 1/160th, ISO 200

F10, 1/180th, ISO 200

 

100% crop of urchin in corner. 

 

kelp and sunlight

F8, 1/180th, ISO 200

 

starfish and urchins

F10, 1/180th, ISO 200

 

100% crop of starfish

 

jellyfish using pany 8mm fisheye

Jellyfish in the sun. F14, 1/180th, ISO 200

 

precision 8mm fisheye dome

F10, 1/180th, ISO 200

 

Further Reading

 

Where to Buy

Equipment mentioned in this article can be purchased and shipped worldwide from Bluewater Photo & Video. Please feel free to contact them with questions regarding housing, camera, lens, strobe, or port choices.

 

 

Comments

I just bought the PEN E-PM1

I just bought the PEN E-PM1 with the PT-EP01 uw housing. How does the Panasonic lens compare to the Samyang 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye? What are the cons of using the cheaper lens? And do I need a dome port?

Hi Henrik, The panasonic lens

Hi Henrik,

The panasonic lens focuses very closely, and is an autofocus lens which is crucial to UW photography. You cannot manually focus the samyang and other cheaper fisheye lenses underwater which can make it hard to compose the shots. You would definitely need a dome port, and housing manufacturers make ports that are designed to give the best focus and sharpness from the Panasonic lens based on its specifications. The other lenses may not perform the same in that dome, this is based on the size of the lens, how wide it is, how close it focuses, etc. Hope that is helpful. Better to spend the money on a good lens, vs going cheap in my opinion.

Hi Scott Any recommendation

Hi Scott
Any recommendation for best lens for underwater work with the Sony NEX-7? E mount

This lens offers the same

This lens offers the same perspective as the Olympus 8 mm f/3.5 lens made for DSLR 4/3 format. That lens is super sharp and a great tool underwater with a number of different Olympus DSLRs, like the Olympus E-330 in an Ikelite housing that I have or the E-3.
Glad to see Panasonic reproducing this lens for micro 4/3.