As much as I love my Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens, I wish it was even smaller. This is the story of modern photo gear: we’ve got amazing cameras built into our mobile phones, now we just need amazing lenses that are somehow miraculously compact. Recently, the Olympus BCL-1580 came to my attention. It’s compatible with my trusty (and discontinued) Panasonic GH2, and it’s only $50. Plus, it’s drastically smaller than my 20mm f/1.7. Game on! I needed to try this thing. Pancake schmancake. I’ve been wanting a “crêpe” lens, and it seemed like it was finally here.
First, we must talk about speed. The Olympus BCL-1580 features a fixed aperture of f/8. Compared to the other lenses I own, this is brutally slow. I usually judge lenses on how fast they are. When I first saw that the BCL-1580 was f/8, it was almost a deal breaker right there. But then I remembered it was only $50, and it was a new lens that I could walk around with snapping photos. So I bought one anyway.
I often find myself shooting indoors at night, which is one of the reasons I gravitate toward fast glass. When my BCL-1580 arrived, wouldn’t you know it, I was indoors and it was nighttime. I immediately put it on my GH2 and started wondering around my home taking really terrible pictures of my family and furniture. It wasn’t long before I tapped into one of the features of the GH2 that I’d never used before: its maximum ISO of 12800. Most of the images I shot on the first night looked really bad.
One thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t really a lens. The “BCL” in BCL-1580 stands for Body Cap Lens. That’s right. This is simply a body cap with a basic, integrated lens. It’s a cool idea, and Olympus deserves to be applauded for making it. You put the BCL-1580 on your camera instead of a traditional “blind” body cap. This way your camera body is always usable. The only problem is that there are idiots out there who probably want this thing to be more than just a body cap lens. We want the world for $50.
The “1580” in BCL-1580 stands for 15mm f/8. The angle of view is nice and wide, and this is something I appreciated. When I finally got outdoors during the day with this lens, it was nice to be snapping away with a wider field of view than I’m used to. This lens also has a few settings: Distant Focus, Infinity Focus and Close Focus. You can glide between these settings with an integrated slider. There’s also an integrated lens cap. It’s surprisingly refreshing not to have to worry at all about a lens cap when you shoot.
As far as weight goes, this thing is amazing. The Lumix 20mm f/1.7 is a remarkably small and light lens, but the BCL-1580 puts it to shame. It’s so small and light, that it really feels like you have a different camera. A downside here is that it isn’t particularly good looking. Simply put, my wife, who knows nothing about gear and technology, said it was weird looking. The fact that she noticed it at all doesn’t bode well for this lens. It makes your camera so much smaller and lighter that you start treating it like a point and shoot. I found myself not using my camera bag as often, and just slinging the GH2 over my shoulder at all times. As a consequence, I bumped and banged it more often than usual. Not good.
Honestly, the overall image quality of this lens is pretty questionable. I did manage to capture some really nice looking shots, but I also captured far more lousy ones than usual (and this says a lot). At the end of the day, the BCL-1580 is much more of a body cap than a lens. That said, it’s the coolest body cap I’ve ever used.
This isn’t a lens for someone who wants a lens. It’s a body cap for someone who doesn’t want a body cap. If you use body caps often, and you don’t want your Micro Four Thirds body to be useless when it’s wearing a cap, this is the ultimate product for you. If you’re looking for a really great lens for your Micro Four Thirds lens camera, don’t buy this. Buy the new Mark II version of the 20mm f/1.7. If you already have good lenses and you want a novelty lens to use during the day outdoors, then the BCL-1580 can be fun. Your significant other likely won’t be impressed, however.
- It’s cheap
- It’s super lightweight
- It’s insanely compact
- It’s a body cap
- Built-in lens cap is nice
- Wide field of view
- Image quality is questionable
- It’s hard to take nice pictures
- f/8 is crippling
- Focusing is difficult
- It’s ugly
- You’ll wish you had another lens when you’re shooting
- Your iPhone takes better pictures (but it can’t shoot RAW)