Sunday, 15 November 2015

Fisheye lenses compared

I like fisheye lenses: They can cram an impressively wide field of view into the image frame, and create perspectives that you would not be able to see with the human eye. Another aspect of fisheye lenses is that they create a lot of barrel distortion (rounded images), which you can remove through a defish process, or retain in the final image.

Here is a collection of fisheye lenses for Micro Four Thirds and other systems:

From the left: Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 (my review), Lumix G 8mm f/3.5 (my review), Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4 (my review), Olympus 9mm f/8 (white) (my review), Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5 (the biggest) (my review)

There are basically two types of fisheye lenses: A circular fisheye lens renders a circle in the centre of the image frame, which usually extends to 180° all around. A full frame/diagonal fisheye, on the other hand, renders the full imaging sensors, and usually extends to 180° from corner to corner.

Here are the basic specifications of the lenses above:

LensSamyang 7.5mm f/3.5Lumix G 8mm f/3.5Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4Olympus 9mm f/8Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5
TypeFull frameFull frameCircularFull frameCircular
SystemMicro Four ThirdsMicro Four ThirdsSony EMicro Four ThirdsNikon F, Canon EF, Sony Alpha, Sony E, Micro Four Thirds, etc
Field of view180° diagonally180° diagonally180°140° diagonally185°
Lens elements/groups9/710/97/65/48/5
Minimum focus distance0.09m0.10m0.10m0.20m0.01m
FocusManual FocusAutofocusManual FocusManual FocusManual Focus

About the lenses:

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5

One of my favourite lenses for Micro Four Thirds. It is very small, light, well constructed, easy to use (manual focus is easy), and gives stunning, impressive images. On top of this, it is cheap. See my review.

This lens is also marketed under a number of other names, like Rokinon, Bower, Walimex, and more. They are exactly as good as the ones called Samyang.

Lumix G 8mm f/3.5

The first fisheye lens available for Micro Four Thirds. It is fairly expensive, and not any better than the much cheaper Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5. It does have autofocus, though, which can be useful for cute closeups of pets, for example. See my review.

Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4

A very exotic lens, a circular fisheye lens for mirrorless APS-C sensor cameras (Sony E mount). It is very compact for this class, and gives a good image quality. See my review.

Olympus 9mm f/8

The second of Olympus's pancake body cap lenses. It is very inexpensive, but doesn't have the same wide format as the other fisheye lenses on this list. The image quality is good for the class of lens. It is easy to bring along, and can be fun to use. See my review.

Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5

The only lens in the list which is designed for DSLR systems, with a longer register disance. That is the reason why the lens is so big: It needs a big retrofocal design due to the longer register distance.

It is also the only lens in the list which has a field of view larger than 180°, meaning that it can look slightly behind the photographer.

Also, this lens is designed to have flares effects. The inside lens barrel is glossy, so that you will have light reflecting and causing some light effects outside of the image circle. You can see this in the example picture below. However, this designed flaw also reduces the contrast and the overall image quality of the lens.

In the picture above, I have the lens in Nikon F format, with a cheap Sony E adapter. You could buy the lens in Micro Four Thirds mount as well, however, I would rather recommend to get the lens in Nikon F mount, with a cheap M4/3 adapter. That way, you can reuse the lens later on pretty much any conceivable mount with the appropriate adapter.

Olympus 9mm fisheye on Sony E mount

A fun fact is that you can use the Olympus 9mm f/8 on a Sony E mount camera using a cheap adapter. This works well, and I can focus on infinity using the adapter. Here is what it looks like:

The same can also be done with the Samyang 7.5mm lens, however, I am not able to focus on infinity using the Samyang lens on Sony E. So for me, that is rather useless. This indicates that the adapter is a bit too thick, making the lens focus too close.

Image quality

To compare the image quality, I have taken the same picture using the five lenses:

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 @ f/3.5Lumix G 8mm f/3.5 @ f/3.5Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4 @ f/4
Olympus 9mm f/8 @ f/8Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5 @ f/3.5Olympus 9mm f/8 on Sony E

As you can see, there is some difference in the field of view. The Lensbaby is the widest, but the margin to the next, is small. On the other hand, the Olympus 9mm lens is the least wide of the bunch. When used on a Sony E camera, though, this lens gives you a wider view, but at the cost of dark corners.

To better evaluate the image quality, here are 100% crops from the images:

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5, Lumix G 8mm f/3.5, and Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4:

Olympus 9mm f/8, Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5, and Olympus 9mm f/8 used on Sony E:

Example images

From the Pantheon:

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4
Olympus 9mm f/8Olympus 9mm f/8 on Sony E

Alternative lenses

One alternative not shown in this comparison, is the Olympus 8mm f/1.8 PRO. It is very expensive, but also has one of the largest apertures of fisheye lenses currently available. This large aperture can be useful for underwater photography (using a waterproof housing), or for astronomical photography.

The most used fisheye lens today, is the one built into the Gopro action cameras. Here, I have compared the Gopro lens with the Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5. It is nearly as wide, and not quite as sharp as the Samyang lens.

An interesting lens is the Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8 circular fisheye, the only serious, and affordable, circular fisheye lens. While it only comes with DSLR mounts, and for APS-C systems, it is clearly designed for the Four Thirds format, as the image circle is just smaller than the height of the Four Thirds sensor. So it is ideal to use on Micro Four Thirds. I would recommend getting it in Canon EF mount, with the Metabones smart adapter, which allows you to control the aperture from the camera.


Both the Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 and the Lumix G 8mm f/3.5 are very good optically. As the Samyang lens is so much cheaper, I would recommend this lens to anyone who wants a serious fisheye lens for Micro Four Thirds.

The Olympus 9mm f/8 does surprisingly well, I would say, given the price tag. The image quality is not as good as the other Micro Four Thirds lenses here, but given the price, it performs very adequately. It is not as wide as the other lenses here, but it is still very wide, wider than the 9-18mm wide angle zoom lens, as demonstrated here.

Going to the circular fisheye lenses, the Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4 is by far the best. It has some chromatic aberration artefacts, but otherwise, it is a very good lens for the moderate cost. Sadly, it is only available for Sony E cameras.

Yasuhara have communicated that a Micro Four Thirds version is on the way. However, given that it has an image circle which is larger than the height of the Four Thirds sensor, I doubt that we will see it.

And that is also the reason why the Lensbaby is not a good lens for Micro Four Thirds, even if it come with a Micro Four Thirds mount: Its image circle is taller than the Four Thirds sensor. Apart from that, the Lensbaby is by far the worst in this test. I would not recommend this lens.

A fisheye lens can be fun to have. They used to be large, exotic, and expensive, but with these options, you can get one at a bargain price!

LensSamyang 7.5mm f/3.5Lumix G 8mm f/3.5Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4Olympus 9mm f/8Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5
ProsSmall, cheap, very goodAutofocus, good image qualityGood image quality, exotic, funCheap, small, funVery wide
ConsNo autofocus, but manual focus is easyExpensiveOnly for Sony E camerasManual focus, somewhat hard to focus correctly, no aperture mechanism, image quality could be betterNot very good, large

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Trend: Large sensors in compact cameras

Most photo enthusiasts now understand the value of a large imaging sensor: It enables better resolution, better dynamic range, and better low light sensitivity. However, large sensors have typically come in larger camera systems.

And a large sensor DSLR system, with a long register distance, also needs large lenses, especially if the aperture or the zoom ratio is large.

Hence, among enthusiasts, there has been a desire for more compact large sensor cameras, to bring along more easily in a jacket pocket, for example. We have waited a long time for these types of cameras to arrive, and in the last years, we have gotten more to choose from.

To illustrate this trend, I have compiled this diagram of compact, premium cameras from the last decade. The measure I have used along the left axis is the imaging sensor size (in mm²), divided by the maximum aperture. The bigger this figure, the better.

In the case of a zoom lens, I have divided by the average over the long and short end maximum aperture, which is a bit unfair towards those with a longer zoom range, but life is unfair anyway.

Sensor area in mm² divided by maximum aperture size

In the case of a fullframe camera with an f/2 maximum lens, like the Sony RX1, the area of the sensor is 860mm², making the measure half of that, 430. This is plotted on a logarithmic scale in the picture above.

To the left, I have made some "base line" notes about what this measure becomes for a one inch (Nikon CX format), Micro Four Thirds, or APS-C mirrorless camera with a basic f/3.5-5.6 kit zoom lens, 25, 50, and 82, respectively.

Back ten years ago, Panasonic were king of this segment with their Lumix LX line of cameras, based around a 1/1.7'' sensor (8mm x 5mm). This was perfected with the Lumix LX7 in 2012, with a very impressive f/1.4-2.3 zoom lens.

However, then came the Sony RX100 line of cameras which changed everything. By putting a much larger 1'' sensor (13mm x 9mm) in an equally small camera, they could offer much better image quality. After this innovation from Sony in 2012, all premium compact cameras need to have at least a one inch sensor.

And Panasonic's answer was the Lumix LX100 in 2014. It uses the even larger Four Thirds sensor, but only uses about 80% of the sensor surface.

In the mean time, the first really large sensor'ed compact camera came from Sigma, the Sigma DP1 in 2006, with a near APS-C sensor size. However, with a maximum aperture of f/4, it didn't impress a lot. Also, the performance and user interface was much below expectations. The next iteration brought an f/2.8 lens, but at the expense of a larger size.

Even if Sigma has churned out a number of variations around this camera during the last ten years, none of them have made any significant impact. They are just too odd to catch on. The most recent Quattro series bring a strange shape, and with a unique sensor technology it promises very good colour rendition. However, it remains a niche camera.

In terms of the very large sensor compact, Fujifilm was the first to get a top seller with the Fujifilm X100 series in 2010. Combining a retro look with innovative technology, and a large APS-C sized sensor with an f/2 lens, it was an instant hit. The camera is still a bit large, though.

Nikon and Ricoh tried to target the same segment with their very similar Nikon Coolpix A and Ricoh GR. However, with a more limited f/2.8 lens and a steep price tag, they were never very popular, even if they have a smaller size.

Looking at the diagram, it is very clear why Canon discontinued their Powershot S series. It was just not competitive anymore, with the 1/1.7'' sensor. It has been superseded with a new line of one inch sensor cameras, where the Canon G5 X is the top dog. It even sports a built in EVF. Those who are into birds and wildlife photography should look at the Canon G3 X, with a 600mm equivalent long end.

The king of this camera class is the Sony RX1 mark 2, with a fullframe sensor and a 35mm f/2 lens. The second iteration of the camera brings a much wanted EVF, and improves the autofocus through the use of PDAF technology. One could still complain that this camera is a bit large and heavy, not to forget expensive.

I would expect this segment to continue to grow. Expect more premium large sensor compact cameras, as this is where the high margins are.

I still miss one specific camera type: The large sensor, large aperture, fixed focal, truly compact and reasonably priced camera, with an EVF. Perhaps the Ricoh GR is the closest so far (without the EVF), but I think there are a number of enthusiasts ready to buy this kind of camera when it arrives.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Lumix tele lenses compared

Panasonic makes an impressive number of tele zoom lenses. This is not a stupid choice, after all, the interchangeable system camera market relies on the consumer actually buying the extra lenses. So there needs to be some lenses to choose from. And a tele zoom lens is a popular aftermarket choice, probably the most popular together with a fast prime lens.

In this article, I will be comparing six of them:

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Product news

We have seen some interesting new photo products recently:


Samyang is a South Korean third party lens manufacturer. They specialize in classic manual focus lenses, and try to fill holes in system camera makers portfolios by mostly making very wide and very fast lenses at a reasonable cost. They are often marketed under other names like Rokinon or Walimex.

Only fairly recently have they been making lenses especially for mirrorless cameras. With the shorter register distance of mirrorless cameras, wide lenses can be made more compact.

Their two most recent lenses are made especially for mirrorless cameras, and hence, are quite compact and light:

Samyang 21mm f/1.4Samyang 50mm f/1.2

These are good for photographers who enjoy classic manual focus lenses with a metal construction. Their focus and aperture rings are usually well dampened and a joy to use.

Considering the speed of these lenses, f/1.4 for the 21mm lens, and f/1.2 for the 50mm lens, they are very compact, and also quite competitively priced. A 50mm f/1.2 lens is something you either have to buy second hand, or at an extremely high price new. Until this lens launch.

Already, they have a very good fisheye lens for Micro Four Thirds, the Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 (my review), which is one of the true gems for M4/3: Very good optical quality at a competitive price.

Also look out for the Samyang 12mm f/2 (my review), which can be had at around US$300 these days, and is a well performing wide angle manual lens.


A surprise announcement from Sony today, the RX1 II fixes the two major flaws of the original Sony RX1 fullframe compact camera: The lack of an electronic viewfinder (EVF), and the slow focus speed.

The new camera will retail at around US$3300 in November, and features the same 42MP sensor as found in the Sony a7R II. The sensor has on-chip Phase-Detection Autofocus sensors (PDAF), which are designed for faster and more accurate autofocus, especially for moving objects.

Unlike the a7R II, though, the RX1 Mark II does not have in-body image stabilization (IBIS). Given that the camera has a fixed 35mm f/2 lens, IBIS could have been very useful.


Having seen that the premium large sensor compact market is where the margins are, Canon are launching more of them. Both the Canon G5 X and Canon G9 X contain the Sony one inch 20MP sensor, a sensor size also used in the Nikon 1 mirrorless line, and compact cameras from Sony and Panasonic.

Canon G5 XCanon G9 X

The Canon G5 X is obviously targeted towards serious enthusiasts, with the built in EVF, and fully articulated LCD screen. It has a 24-120mm equivalent lens with a very fast f/1.8-f/2.8 aperture range.

It is natural to compare it with the Sony RX100 IV, which uses the same sensor. The Sony lens costs much more, though, at US$950, while the Canon G5 X costs US$800. I guess it comes down to compactness: If you want the most compact camera, get the Sony RX100 IV at a higher cost. However, if you want the best ergonomics, in a somewhat larger package, get the Canon G5 X.

The Canon G9 X is relatively cheaper, with a more modest 28-84mm equivalent lens, with an aperture range of "only" f/2-f/4.9. But then again, it is truly pocketable. It is a good choice for those who want a pocketable camera at a reasonable cost.

Canon also appears to want to restart their EOS M mirrorless line, by launching a completely new camera kit, the Canon EOS M10 with 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3. Both the camera and kit zoom lens appears to be intended to be as small as possible.

The camera does, however, contain the relative large APS-C sensor with hybrid CDAF and PDAF focus system, promising better focus performance than the original EOS M camera. I think the lens is sensible. Starting at 15mm, you get a true wide angle at 24mm equivalent. I think more basic kit zoom lenses should start at 24mm.

Canon still needs to launch more lenses for their EOS M line to make sense. So far, they have been taking their time, with only five lenses in total, whereof the 11-22mm wide angle zoom lens is only available in Japan.


Pentax is gearing up towards their upcoming fullframe DSLR, which will probably become the smallest weatherprotected FF DSLR on the market.

To complement their upcoming premium DSLR, they have launched the lenses to go with it, the D FA* 24-70mm f/2.8 and the existing D FA* 70-200mm f/2.8, making up the typical professional standard zoom lenses.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Sigma 60mm long portrait lens

Both lenses used here are designed for a larger sensor than in the cameras pictured:

The Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN used on the Olympus E-M5 II (left) is designed for mirrorless cameras with an APS-C sized sensor, e.g., Sony E, where it becomes equivalent to 90mm, a classic portrait lens. However, it also comes with a Micro Four Thirds mount, where it becomes a 120mm equivalent lens, i.e., a long portrait lens.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Get GH4 V-Log profile for free

Some fans have been angered by the news that Panasonic would charge people to use the new V-Log profile on the Lumix GH4. This is an video profile that allows for higher dynamic range than usual.

However, with a simple trick, you can get this profile for free. Here is how:

  1. Make sure you have the Firmware 2.3 installed.Get it here.
    It seems Panasonic have closed the download, but you can try this alternative source.
  2. Turn on the camera, and enable the Wifi mode. This turns on the blue light on the top of the camera.
  3. Connect the camera to your smartphone with the Panasonic app.
  4. Set the camera in a video mode, e.g., by setting the mode dial to the creative video mode:
  5. Open the Panasonic Image App on your smartphone. Go to the "Remote operation" function:
  6. Inside the Remote operation, tap the "Q.MENU" item:
  7. Tap the first option, "Photo Style":
  8. Select V-Log L:
  9. Look at your camera: It now has the V-Log L mode:
  10. Save this mode for later use. Push the "Menu" button on the camera, and go to "Cust.Set Mem." to store it as one of the custom functions (C1, C2, C3-1, C3-2 or C3-3):

And that is it! Now you can test out the V-Log L mode for free, and see if you think it will improve your videos.

If you want to use the V-Log V profile for several different video modes, e.g., 4k and 1080p, then repeat this process for each mode. For example, start off with 4K before starting the Panasonic App to retrieve the V-Log L profile, and you will get a 4K V-Log L profile that you can save as one of the custom functions.

Note that successfully using the V-Log L profile requires skillful postprocessing in a program like Adobe Premiere Pro. Without this video grading, the V-Log L video will just look flat with boring colours.

Anyone who is not familiar with video grading are better off using the normal video modes. So V-Log L is not a miracle cure that makes your videos look fantastic. Rather, it enables competent users to get the most out of the video stream later.

The GoPro cameras have a similar feature called "ProTune". This creates a video file which is more flat, with less sharpness and less colour saturation. Here is what they write about this mode:

What this means for the every-day user is that Protune footage requires more editing to get that traditional GoPro look. That’s great if you want to spend more time editing your footage to put your own unique spin on it, but if you want to do simple editing and already like the GoPro look and feel that you’re used to, we'd recommend leaving Protune turned off.

Essentially: If you don't know what you are doing, don't use ProTune. Panasonic could say the same about V-Log, and in a way, they do, by charging an extra cost for it.

A new 2.4 firmware is coming on September 17th, which will disable using the V-Log L profile without purchasing it. Also, newer upgrades of the Panasonic Image App will also disable this.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Olympus E-M5 Mark II sensor shift demo

All Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras have had in-body image stabilization (IBIS), however, it was not until the Olympus E-M5 Mark II that this feature became truly useful also for stabilizing video recording. To illustrate how it works, I have mounted the Lumix GH4 facing into the E-M5 II using the Leica 45mm f/2.8 macro lens, both mounted to a dual camera bracket:

Before actually starting the recording, I put some transparent plastic around the lens, between the cameras, to make the lightning more even. Here is the outcome, in an animated GIF:

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Impact of sensor size

Looking back, we have had "the megapixel race", in which camera makers aimed put more and more resolution into their cameras. And for compact cameras, we have had the "superzoom race", so far culminating in the mindboggling 83x built-in optical zoom in the Nikon Coolpix P900.

In the enthusiast segment, though, there is a very clear trend at the moment: The importance of the sensor size. We have the very successful Sony RX100 large sensor compact camera sporting a "one inch" sensor, while previously cameras from the same segment typically had 1/1.7 inch sensors.

So why, exactly, is the sensor size important? It does lead to larger and more expensive cameras, and larger lenses, so there must be positive aspects as well to balance this out.

One such positive is bokeh: The larger the sensor, the thinner the depth of focus is. Meaning that the foreground and background will be more out of focus, everything else equal. Read more about it here.

Also, the larger the size of each individual photosite, the better the quality. At least in theory. Hence, one would normally expect less noise and better dynamic range from a larger sensor than from a smaller sensor. To illustrate this, I have taken the same pictures using three different sensor sizes:

From left to right: Nikon 1 V3 (one inch sensor size), Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II (Four Thirds sensor size), and Nikon D3300 (APS-C sensor size).

Here is a relative comparison of the sensor sizes:

Monday, 17 August 2015

New Lumix 20mm lens: Better focus ring

The Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 pancake is a classic Micro Four Thirds lens. Being the first Panasonic prime lens, it is widely considered to be very well performing. But it has some shortcomings: Due to the old fashioned focus design, where the whole lens assembly moves back and forth during focusing, the autofocus is rather slow. Also, the large focus assembly makes it very noisy when focusing.

In 2013, Panasonic updated the lens. It is well known that the new lens is largely a cosmetic redesign: The optical layout is the same, and the focus method is the same. But is the new lens better? The new lens is available in black and silver, and you can see the silver version to the right below:

Old (left) and new (right) versions of the Lumix G 20mm f/1.7

Design wise, I much prefer the old version, to the left. I don't like glossy lenses. The specifications are very similar, but the new one is lighter, even if it has a thin metal outer body:

LensLumix G 20mm f/1.7Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II
Lens elements/groups7/57/5
Aperture diaphragm blades77
Minimum focus0.20m0.20m
Filter thread46mm46mm
Hood includedNoNo
Optical image stabilisationNoNo