Fisheye lens give a neat warped mirror effect. While you can simulate it in Photoshop, Photoshop is no substitute because you can’t get the width covered by a fisheye lens into your picture. It covers almost 180 degrees in every direction, or almost half a sphere of vision in front of you so that you can almost get your extended hands and toes in a photo when you are point the lens in front of you as you would see the world. That’s how much width there is!
A fisheye lens can also lets you get real up close to something and get it all in a picture. You’d have to get to the door of a car before you could no longer fit inside the picture!
While those features of fisheye lens can be fun and cool to try, is it worth the price tag? Well, that depends on which fisheye lens you buy. I shoot with a Canon digital SLR so if I were to buy Canon’s lens, the 15mm f2.8 would cost me $750! I’m sure it’s great, getting 4.5 stars out of 5, but I’m just not that into photography to pay that kind of money for a little cool special effect! Looking around, I found the Rokinon (ROCKin-ON) 8mm f3.5 ultra wide angle lens at $299 (as of June 2012) at 4.5 stars out of 5 for reviews. Keep in mind that rating is for a product at that price, not the $750 price of the Canon lens where expectations would be much higher. However, for my hobby photography that I take seriously, but not professionally, it was worth the risk.
Below are some pictures I took with this lens. There are shots in bright day light, at night, indoors and outdoors. All were done hand held, so no monopods or tripods, with the slowest shutter speed at 1/25 of a second. A little slow compared to the advice of nothing slower than 1/60 to avoid hand shake blur, but I planted myself down well and held my breath while snapping to minimize hand shake. It turned out good enough for me.
As for using the Rokinon, here is a little review. The 8mm of the lens compared to the Canon’s 15mm means you can get a lot more in a photo with the Rokinon lens. However, the cheaper price means it has no electronics inside. That is, you don’t get the shutter speed or aperture electronic adjustments to compensate when you are shooting priority for one or the other, and you don’t get a reading of what each is, either. So how do you compensate for this because it’s a bit like shooting blind in terms of getting proper exposure?
You shoot aperture priority and you do a little trial and error. Your camera sensors will do a decent job to guess shutter speed for proper exposure. You just won’t know what shutter speed your camera will take the picture at. In day light, that’s no problem. The shutter speed will be far faster than the 1/60 of a second minimum to avoid hand shake blur. At night or in darker venues, control the shutter speed as low as you dare, up the ISO to at least 400, though I don’t recommend going much higher unless you want reasonably or really noticeable noise pixelation, and take the photo to see what it looks like. Then it’s trial and error after that. But unless it was a fleeting moment, trial and error only requires a little more of your time to get your shot since you can shoot “endlessly” in digital without much extra cost. The challenge otherwise to find the right setting is then part of the joy of photography.
On the exposure end, with my Canon 40D at least, I found that often, I had to step down 1 f-stop to avoid over exposure. It’s the default setting I use the Rokinon with. I think you’ll find whatever adjustments you need to make very soon after you try out some pictures if they don’t expose to your liking. Then remember it as the default.
As for focus, there is no autofocus. Another draw back for not paying the $450 price difference to the Canon lens. That’s fine with me, though, because the Rokinon focus generally pretty easy to work. The focal length goes from 0.3 metres to infinite, but beyond 3 metres, basically just turn it all the way to infinite, then back just a smidge. Probably about 99% of your pictures will be on this setting given the distances given, so it’s generally pretty easy. Otherwise, just do a little trial and error again.
Now, if all this sounds a little complicated, trust me it’s not. Just do it and fiddle around if you’re not the type to read and try to understand “theory” or “instructions”. You’ll get the hang of it in no time. The photos below are good enough to make me happy, and can maybe serve as your guide to see if you’d be willing to fork out the $300 for the Rokinon 8mm ultra wide lens. Also keep in mind that at 8mm, it covers a much broader angle than the 15mm of the more expensive 15mm Canon lens. The starter kit with Canon generally gets you a 17mm lens, so 15mm isn’t that much broader. The adjustments you might have to make without electronics in this lens in taking your photos may intimidate you upon reading this, but I don’t think it’s bad at all. I don’t think it’s worth the extra $450 for the Canon lens, and I’d be disappointed with just 15mm on the Canon lens compared to the extra view afforded by the Rokinon 8mm. Not nearly as much wow factor with the 15mm lens, is what I’m basically saying, even if it’s easier to use.
This Rokinon 8mm lens is a whole new world of photography given its wide and curving perspectives! Soon, you’ll be roaming around with it to see your world through a whole new perspective. I know I will be! I’ll be sharing those new pictures here on this site, too!