Introduction

A fisheye lens is an uncorrected ultra-wide angle lens. The correction of curvilinear (barrel) distortion is sacrificed in order to give an extreme angle of view. Usually in wide angle lenses, all straight lines will appear straight, quote rectilinear due to corrections made within the lens. With fisheye lenses, straight lines that aren’t in line with the perspective, will appear curved around the centre point. This is referred to as barrel distortion and is what gives these lenses that characteristic fishbowl like appearance. Angles of view of 180 to 220 degrees are not uncommon.

The distortive effect of the fisheye lens grants you great creative flexibility to manufacture interesting and quirky photography from a new perspective.

It’s worth noting that you can achieve undistorted photos with fisheye lenses too depending on the subject matter. If your scene only consists of straight lines that run to the central vanishing point, then they will not be distorted making the image normal in appearance. You will gain the wide angle of view, but without the weird look.

barrel-distortion-diagram

Types of Fisheye Lens

Fisheye lenses can be circular, whereby they project an image circle onto the sensor depicting a 180 degree view of the scene in all directions, horizontally, vertically and diagonally. You will get a vignette in the corners of your frame with these circular fisheyes.

Full frame fisheye lenses are made to project an image circle slightly larger than the sensor, in order to produce the rectangular frame with content that has the fish eye effect. As such their angle of view will be slightly less due to the cropping in the horizontal and vertical. (Although from corner to corner it will maintain the 180 degree angle of view).

Because of the incredible wide angle of these lenses you need to be careful when using them to avoid accidently including unwanted things in your frame, such as tripod legs.

fisheye-distortion-comparison

 

Available Fisheye Lenses

When it comes to available lenses, there isn’t a huge amount of choice.

Nikon

Nikon have two fisheye lenses, one for their full frame cameras and another for their cropped frame.

 Nikon AF 16mm f2.8D Fisheye

Nikon AF 16mm f2.8D Fisheye

 Nikon AF 10.5mm f2.8G ED Fisheye

Nikon AF 10.5mm f2.8G ED Fisheye

Canon

Canon has one new fisheye lens that has zoom capabilities, allowing it to be used with both full frame and cropped frame cameras.

 Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye

3rd Party Fisheye Lenses

Here is a sample of the third party fisheye lens options available.

 Sigma 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye

Sigma 15mm f2.8 Fisheye

 Panasonic 8mm f/4L Fisheye Four Thirds system

Panasonic-8mm-f4L-Fisheye-Four-Thirds-system

 Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye Four Thirds system

Rokinon-7.5mm-f3.5-Fisheye-Four-Thirds-system

 Lens Baby Adapter 12mm 160degree Fisheye

Lens-Baby-Adapter-12mm-160degree-Fisheye

Fisheye Tips

Use the fisheye to achieve that ultra wide look, fitting huge amounts of content into your one frame.

fisheye-curved-sculpture Look for curved lines in a scene. Curved lines can work really well with the fisheye perspective. Think about spiral staircases, circular rooms or stadiums and you have the right idea.

fisheye-stadium Keep an eye on the straight lines in your scene, especially those that don’t cross the centre, as these are the ones most affected by the distortion.

 Be careful with the front glass of your lens. By design these lenses are quite exposed and are vulnerable to damage.

 A good technique is to try and disguise the fish eye effect in your scene as much as possible. Avoid limiting yourself to the simple and blatant fisheye look for more interesting and unique images.

Whilst the initial novelty value of the fisheye lens will have you maximising the distortion in everything you shoot, which is fun, it soon becomes tiresome. Making use of the lens in subtle and unique ways is where the real gold lies.

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