A personal review? Perhaps not. This post is as technical as I want to go into about camera lenses. There are dozens of personal reviews on the web I feel is pointless to do the same. If I end up owning this piece, you’ll see plenty of real world use which is in my opinion better than any written review. For the time being, I feel a Fisheye lens has no place in my inventory.
A photographer no longer has to choose between, say, the speed of an EOS-1D Mark IV and the full-frame sensor of an EOS-1Ds when a full-frame fisheye image is needed, because the new EF 8–15mm f/4L USM gives that option on either camera.
What was previously not possible with fisheye lenses is now possible with the Canon EF 8-15 mm f/4 L Fisheye. Nearly all SLR users are familiar with fisheye lenses, but many may not realize that over the years, they’ve been split into two categories:
“Full-frame” Fisheye lenses
These lenses give a definite curved look to straight lines, with their pronounced barrel distortion. But even used on a full-frame camera (or a traditional 35mm film camera), they cover the entire frame, corner to corner, with a diagonal angle of view of 180 degrees. Traditionally, these ultra-wide lenses have been around 15mm or 16mm in focal length.
Circular Fisheye lenses
These are much more rare in today’s digital SLR world, but have been used for decades with traditional 35mm film SLRs.These lenses have even shorter focal lengths (around 7~8mm), and produce a small circular image in the center of the frame, surrounded by black, unexposed area on the outer areas of the frame. Like any fisheye lens, they certainly bend straight lines… but unlike the “full-frame” type, they generate an image whose outer edges are circular, and cover a 180-degree angle of view in every dimension, not just diagonally.
The lens has pro-grade weather-resistant construction, with weather-resistant gaskets to prevent dust and moisture penetration. Like so many Canon L-series lenses, it’s engineered to perform even in tough environmental conditions. (Just to repeat, the lens is NOT waterproof, and definitely cannot be immersed under any circumstances!)
[ All images of Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 above photographed with Canon PowerShot G11 ]
Due to the optical characteristics of this lens, unintentional photographing of the user’s body can easily occur during handheld shooting since the angle of view exceeds 180°. Likewise, the legs of a tripod can be unintentionally photographed when a tripod is used.
Below is an example of Full Frame Circular Fisheye
Four lenses in one This really is the heart of what the new 8–15mm f/4L USM Fisheye lens brings to the market. The key to understanding this is to remember the needs of different shooters, with Canon’s three different sensor sizes:
Full-frame sensors (such as EOS-1Ds series cameras, and EOS 5D Mark II)
APS-H size sensors (all versions of EOS-1D… 1.3x focal length conversion factor)
APS-C size sensor (all EOS Rebel models, EOS 7D, EOS 60D, 50D, etc. — 1.6x)
Up to now, Canon’s sole fisheye lens for autofocus SLRs has been the EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye. This full-frame fisheye lens is highly-regarded for its image quality, but it was introduced back in 1987, long before digital SLRs with smaller-than-full-frame sensors were a reality. The EF 15mm fisheye lens has been used by many film and digital shooters over the years, but clearly is at its best on a full-frame camera. Used with an APS-C size sensor camera (such as the EOS 7D, for instance), the fisheye effect is minimized, because of the effective 1.6x “magnification” factor.
This has meant that Canon users wanting a true full-frame fisheye effect have been limited to using full-frame cameras like the EOS-1Ds Mark III or EOS 5D Mark II. And since the launch of the EOS system, there’s been no true Circular Fisheye equivalent in the Canon system.
- Normal Evaluative camera metering can usually be used, but on full-frame cameras, if zoomed to the 8mm position, you may find switching to the Partial metering setting (which eliminates metering the outer areas of the frame) may provide more consistent results. Like all EF lenses, the lens can be used with automatic or manual exposure control.
- E-TTL II (or E-TTL) flash can be used, but be aware that even with the Speedlite 580EX II’s 14mm wide panel in place, you will not get full corner-to-corner flash illumination coverage when using a fisheye lens, because of the lens’s unusual coverage. Wide-panel 14mm flash coverage will be effective with non-fisheye lenses, such as the EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM.
- If using E-TTL flash at the circular fisheye setting with a full-frame camera, consider using Flash Exposure Lock (FEL), which changes flash metering to a Spot pattern, and ignores outer areas of the frame for exposure calculation. (There’s no need to change the metering pattern on the camera to achieve Spot metering with FEL; just press the appropriate FEL button and it’s done automatically, regardless of how ambient exposure metering is set.)
[ Text from A New Concept: Canon's Zoom Fisheye Lens | All images © Jan Shim Photography]