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5 Reasons why Fisheye Lens is Awesome

By: Sumit Gulati
Published: March 2017

Introduction

I too was bit sceptical before buying a fisheye lens. I don’t understand why many photographers run away from fisheye lenses, I have seen many landscape and cityscape photographers hesitating in using fisheye lens.

What I found that people see these lenses as a problem and found them boring but to me it is totally contrary because when I saw the first picture from fisheye lens on facebook, I was amazed but at the same time I didn’t know the secret. My curiosity forces me to ask the photographer about the EXIF details and then only I discovered fisheye lenses. I would like to share few immediate questions that came to my mind, why this image is looking different, what happens to the foreground and why is the background so far from the main subject lying at the front and many other questions like this.

Second step was to find the right fisheye lens and my research ended at Samyang 12mm f/2.8 fisheye lens for FX camera as I use Nikon FX camera Nikon D750. Samyang also produces the same lens with same field of view for DX camera that is 8mm f/3.5 lens. (with a crop factor of 1.5 equivalent to 12mm of FX).

One of the famous landscape photographer saw me shooting with this lens during my photography tour with FOTOFOYER in Nubra Valley of Ladakh region and he was trying to convince me that the effect or distortion (explained below if you are new to this term) created by these lenses is an error. His point was if at all this error can be corrected in post processing then what is the point of shooting an image with an error and then waste time in correcting this error. In short he was not in favour of using fisheye lenses for any kind of photography. We had a long discussion on this topic for about an hour and we were trying to convince each other. I decided then and there only that I will definitely write a blog so that others would also know about the creativity of these type of lenses.

I am sure after reading this blog few photographers would definitely like to try their hands on fisheye lenses.

Having said lot of things here are the five reasons that you should consider using a fisheye lens or if you already have then use these reasons to take the most out of it.

1) Distortion
2) Wide Angle
3) Depth of Field
4) Astro Photography
5) Creativity / Point it down

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1) Distortion:

What is Distortion? Any sort of deviation from rectilinear projection is called Distortion. It is basically an optical abnormality or irregularity.

Barrel Distortion: Optical Aberration when straight lines visibly curved towards inwards, especially towards the extreme edges of the frame. We commonly face barrel distortion in photography when we use wide or ultra-wide angle lenses because the field of view of the lens is much wider than the size of the image sensor and hence it needs to be “squeezed” to fit. As a result, straight lines are visibly curved inwards, especially towards the extreme edges of the frame.

 Pincushion distortion: When straight lines are curved outwards from the centre and this type of distortion is commonly seen on  telephoto lenses, and it occurs due to image magnification increasing towards the edges of the frame from the optical axis.

I like images from fisheye lens as they produce pictures with high barrel distortion and that is what makes the scene unique. Initially I felt that this lens is very difficult to use and one needs to spend more time to learn the art of using high distortion but in a right way in my images. I use this lens in almost 90 percent of my landscape photography, there is purely one reason for that, the close objects which we called foreground in landscapes become more dominant in the scene than the background or distant objects, this way we can emphasize on the foreground.

2) Wide Angle / 180 Degree Field of View:

Wide angle lenses have a local length of less than 35mm, Fisheye lenses are considered to be ultra-wide angle lenses as their focal length ranges from 8mm to 16mm. why and when we need these type of lenses?

Capturing landscapes and seascapes are definitely the best reason to put a wide angle lens on camera. Sometimes or I would say every time when we visit a popular place we look forward to create a different perspective than everyone else’s if that is the case then you are at the right blog, unique perspective and interesting results, this is what a fisheye lens will bring to your photography. I use Samyang 12mm fisheye lens and this lens has a view of 180 degrees.

But, important point here to mention that including more space into the frame is not so creative if you don’t create good compositions and with 180-degree field of view is takes lot of time and practice to create meaningful composition. While setting your composition right you also need to scan the full frame that you need to take care is that you are not including unwanted items along the corners like your tripod leg or your own leg or your own shadow. It’s always good to scan properly the entire frame to ensure only the items you want are in your image.

3) Depth of Field / Focusing:

Definition: In optics, particularly in photography, depth of field (DOF), also called focus range or effective focus range, is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depth_of_field

First we need to know how f-stops works, small number that is f/2.8 will corresponds to a larger or wider aperture, which results in a shallow depth of field and conversely a large f/11 results in a smaller or narrower aperture size and therefore a deeper depth of field.

With fisheye lenses creating a deeper depth of field is very easy, you just need to set your aperture around f/11 and move your focus ring towards infinity. However, if you know the distance of your subject (foreground) then use the DOF calculator to know the hyper focal distance, set your focus ring to that distance to get the tack sharp foreground and in addition, there will be an area just in front (one-third) of and behind (two-third) that will appear reasonably sharp. http://www.dofmaster.com/

4) Astro Photography:

I highly recommend Samyang or equivalent brands like Rokinon fisheye lenses for astrophotography. Why is would like to use this lens for astrophotography because they’re wide, cheap, sharp, and fast.

These lenses are all manual focus only require more patience than your normal autofocus lenses but their optics exceed the quality of expensive lenses of Canon or Nikon and at one fourth of the price..

Here are the lenses I highly recommend for astrophotography:

  • Rokinon 8mm f/2.8(APS-C)
  • Rokinon 14mm f/2.8(Full-Frame or APS-C)
  • Rokinon 16mm f/2.0(APS-C)
  • Rokinon 24mm f/1.4(Full-Frame or APS-C)
  • Rokinon 35mm f/1.4(Full-Frame or APS-C

 

5) Creativity / Point it Down or Up:

I always say that our camera gears are important but just to capture the moment, the real creativity is in the person standing behind the camera. Fisheye lenses are great only if somebody is capable of use them to their potential. Fisheye lens is famous for creating images that wouldn’t have been possible with other lenses. I guarantee you that you will stunned by seeing the images on your camera LCD compared to what you see with naked eyes.

There are two things that you need to balance when composing an image, distortion and perspective, pointing this lens slightly up or down will make your horizon a curve. We should try to use this feature in a creative way, don’t go too far low or up, try to keep the sky and the land balanced in the composition. There are many software’s available for free such as DxO optics or Photoshop to de-fish the image reducing distortion to a minimum.

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