The $99 Lens You Should Have in Your Bag / by John Clark

The wide angle came in handy in Thailand for capturing the beauty inside the Buddhist temple and the worshipper 

What if I told you there was a M43 lens that would take up virtually no additional space in your bag, yet allow you a world of new visual opportunities that no (in most likelihood) no other lens in your kit offers? And what if this magical lens cost you under $100 dollars? I suspect that most photographers would be interested in learning more.

Well, this lens is the 9mm Fisheye Body Cap lens by Olympus (model BCL-0980), and I honestly believe it should be part of the standard kit for any M43 shooter.

A great many shooters, myself included, pack their camera body in the bag without a lens attached. The standard body cap that comes with the camera is most often used to protect from dust and impacts and, of course, is extremely small, lightweight and doesn’t extend out beyond the grip.

Yes, this is a very small and lightweight lens. No additional room needed in the bag!

Yes, this is a very small and lightweight lens. No additional room needed in the bag!

The Olympus 9mm Body Cap lens doesn’t extend beyond the grip either. In fact, it isn’t much larger than the original body cap itself. So, in essence, just swapping this out for the original body cap will give you one additional lens in your kit for no additional space! When packing my bag I have this lens attached in place of the original body cap which gives me one “free” lens in the bag without any additional space or weight, yet still offers the same protection.

The 9mm gives you a full-frame equivalent of 18mm, and while not quite a true fisheye, it offers an amazing 140-degrees of view. What this means is you have to be extremely careful about framing and what shows up on the edges of your photo!

While walking around I often toss this into my pocket so that if an opportunity comes up for a wide angle shot I will be ready, especially while traveling and not having access to my full selection of glass.

Now there are tradeoffs, of course. The big one is that this lens is a fixed F8 aperture. This is great for depth of field but not necessarily optimal in low light situations. The other big issue is that this is a completely plastic lens, including the elements itself, although that should not be a deal breaker as this lens is surprisingly sharp for the price and construction.

Shooting is extremely simple. The minimum focus distance is just a tad under 8 inches, so you can get extremely close which does give some interesting perspectives. Operation is as simple as moving a lever which opens the lens cover to one of two focusing positions; you must choose either Infinity or close focus and there is no autofocus. Personally, I don’t find much difference between the two focal ranges and just use the Infinity focus setting.

While this lens is not likely going to be a main workhorse, for the price paid and the space (not used) in the bag it is well worth adding to the collection to give yourself a whole new viewpoint.