Wanderlust Pinwide review

If you're a fan of pinhole imagery the Wanderlust Pinwide for Micro Four Thirds cameras is right up your alley, but it has its quirks.
Photo of Wanderlust Pinwide

The Wanderlust Pinwide ($39.99 direct) is a pinhole cap for Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras, which includes models from Olympus like the PEN E-P5 and Panasonic like the Lumix G5. It features a narrow aperture—it varies a bit based on your metering pattern—ranging from a working f-stop of f/96 to f/128.

The lens delivers a wide 22mm (full-frame equivalent) field of view on Micro Four Thirds cameras. That’s a big differentiating factor between it and other pinhole lens caps. Those available for SLRs capture a narrower field of view—usually around a 75mm equivalent on an APS-C camera, or a 50mm on a full-frame body. This is possible because there’s no mirror box—as such, the pinhole is recessed and is only about a centimeter from the sensor plane. Micro Four Thirds cameras also offer full-time live view, so you’ll actually be able to see what you’re shooting. If you use a similar pinhole cap with an SLR you’ll have to switch it to live view mode to see the frame.

The narrow aperture gives you an effectively infinite depth of field. You can place the camera close to your subject and it will be in focus, as will objects in the distance. Well, as in focus as you can get with a pinhole. Nothing that the Pinwide captures is really sharp. The small format Micro Four Thirds sensor is the culprit here. The effects of diffraction at smaller apertures are more noticeable. This is one of the reasons that pinhole imagery has been more the strength of large format (4 by 5 inch) film than it has in 35mm or smaller format cameras.

There’s a serious amount of color shift apparent in photos. This is because the pinhole is so close to the image sensor that light cannot directly hit it. When it comes in at an oblique angle, the color shifts occur. I didn’t mind this effect—it’s charming, actually—but you’ll have to drop out some cyan and magenta in your images in software in order to lessen it if desired.

Using the Pinwide is pretty straightforward. I did encounter an issue when mounting—sometimes it doesn’t click into place. I tested it with the E-P5 and Olympus OM-D E-M5 and had the same issue with both cameras. I’d turn the lens, think that it was locked into place, and realize it wasn’t. An extra bit of effort was required to get it to lock in; only then can you take a photo.

Exposure was also a game of hit or miss. My first attempts with the Pinwide involved shooting in aperture priority at a fixed ISO of 200, which captured exposures that were too dark for my tastes. I tried dialing in some exposure compensation, but found that I got the best results by setting the shutter speed manually. I was working with the Pinwide on a couple of overcast days, with exposure times that ranged from 1 to 2 seconds. Handheld shooting is possible at higher ISO settings, but you’ll still need quite a bit of light—on a similar day I would have needed to pump the ISO to 3200 in order to get a 1/15-second exposure.

There’s a huge amount of falloff of light at the corners of the frame, giving images a natural vignette. You can try to compensate by extending your shutter speed, but that can cause the image in the center to be too bright. With a tripod it should be possible to do some exposure bracketing and blend an HDR image to help counteract this, but that would take away some of the charm of the images. If you shoot in Raw, you can bring the exposure up in the corners using the vignette compensation tool in Lightroom.

The Wanderlust Pinwide is an interesting accessory for Micro Four Thirds cameras, but only if you like the look of pinhole images. The same can be said for its ultra-wide field of view—I often struggle with compositions when shooting that wide, but some photographers love the epic field of view. If you think that the Pinwide is for you, it won’t cost you a lot to get one—just remember to take care when mounting it.


Verdict
If you're a fan of pinhole imagery the Wanderlust Pinwide for Micro Four Thirds cameras is right up your alley, but it has its quirks.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
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