The Olympus Body Cap Lens 15mm F8 was announced at Photokina 2012, alongside the PEN E-PL5 and E-PM2 mirrorless models. It is, in essence, exactly what it says on the tin – a lens in a body cap – but with something of a twist. Because despite its tiny size and low price, Olympus has ended up making something rather more ambitious than you might think. Within its 9mm-thick housing, Olympus has managed to fit a three element lens, complete with a simple manual focusing mechanism that lets you get within a foot of your subject. Compare this to Pentax’s recently-announced ’07 Mount Shield Lens’ for its Q-series mirrorless cameras, which is a fixed-focus single element design that’s more in keeping with the fun, ‘Toy Camera’ side to the Q’s personality.
The 15mm F8 offers a moderately-wide angle of view that’s equivalent to 30mm in full frame, which means that it’s just slightly narrower than the 14-42mm kit zooms that come with most Micro Four Thirds cameras. It has a fixed aperture of F8, which isn’t exactly fast, but does mean it offers immense depth of field; when it’s set to its ‘snap’ position, everything from about 1.5 meters to infinity is in reasonably sharp focus. The lens doesn’t communicate with the camera in any way, so Olympus owners will need to remember to set the focal length manually for the camera’s in-body IS system. And of course there’s no autofocus, although you’d rarely need it. This all means that the 15mm goes without the ‘Zuiko’ branding that Olympus uses on its ‘proper’ lenses.
The Body Cap Lens is decidedly inexpensive as lenses go (approx £60 / $60 / €70 at the time of writing), but even at this relatively low price, it’s not quite an obvious buy. At 15mm F8, it doesn’t offer anything that’s not covered by the kit zooms that come with every Micro Four Thirds cameras, and Olympus’s in particular are already pretty compact. There’s also the Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F2.5 ASPH to be taken into consideration – a tiny pancake lens with rapid AF and pretty good optics, that can be bought quite cheaply when split-off from a GF-series kit. In this review we’ll see what the BCL 15mm F8 has to offer in comparison.