Neil Creek is a regular contributor to DPS, authoring Photography 101 which is temporarily on hold. While trying to find the time to continue the series, he’s managed to write a quick post or two for you in the meantime. Please visit his blog, and check out his prints for sale on the Fine Art Photo Blog.
My 8mm f4 Sigma Circular Fisheye lens is my absolute favorite piece of gear!
It may surprise you, but this ultra-wide angle lens is incredibly versatile, and gives a unique perspective on just about any subject you turn it to. Even more important than that, it is simply the most fun I’ve ever had with my camera.
Due to the unique properties of fisheye lenses, the resulting images are unlike those taken with any other lens:
- A super wide-angle of 180 degrees gets everything in the frame – great for giving context
- The distortions resulting from such a wide angle can be used to artistic or humorous effect
- Combine the incredibly short focal length with a small aperture, and even objects touching the lens can be in focus!
- A huge field of view combined with a relatively small camera means you can get very unusual perspectives on small or inaccessible spaces
- With good stitching and de-warping software, a fisheye lens lets you easily capture full spherical panoramas in just a few shots
I’ve always shot with a circular fisheye on a cropped sensor DSLR, which results in black round corners, but this has never bothered me. On the few photos where this is a distraction I can cover them up with Photoshop, or crop them out. I look forward to experimenting with the lens on a full-frame sensor one day, when the whole circular image will appear in the frame.
Here are fifteen examples of fisheye photos from my collection that show the versatility of the lens, and will hopefully inspire you to try one for yourself:
It’s amazing where you can stick a DSLR with a fisheye lens to get a truly unusual perspective, such as this photo inside our dishwasher.
Just like the dishwasher, the washing machine was a cool unique perspective that was achieved with the self timer and a little off-camera lighting magic. These two photos are actually part of a series of photos exploring unusual perspectives of mundane objects with the fisheye. You can check out the rest of the series on my blog.
Though potentially unflattering for portraits, when used for good rather than evil, a fisheye lens can really add character and humor to a portrait.
Or take a totally unique group photo. More pics from this shoot >
Or a tongue-in-cheek self-portrait.
Nothing beats a fisheye for getting it all in. More pics from this shoot >
And the view from below can be a wide vista while still getting in close for the details…
More pics from this shoot >
…no matter what your subject.
Use the distortion to your advantage.
Night sky over the Church of the Good Shepherd © 2008 Neil Creek
Fine art prints of this photo are available on the Fine Art Photo Blog.
Though almost cliche, an all-sky starfield is only possible with a fisheye.
Careful cropping can conceal the fact a fisheye was even used to capture a sweeping view.
With a bit of extra work, ideally a specialised tripod head, and some very clever stitching software, a fisheye lens is absolutely the best way to capture a full spherical panorama, and in fewer shots than is possible with any other lens. This is best viewed however, as an interactive panorama which puts you right in the scene and lets you look all around you with the drag of a mouse. Have a look at this interactive panorama on my blog.
The Pinnacles at Sunset © 2005 Neil Creek
Fine art prints of this panorama are available on the Fine Art Photo Blog.
With the same clever software, a spherical panorama can be remapped into a “little world”. No lens is better suited to this unique kind of photography than the fisheye.
Fisheye Time Lapse Experiment © 2008 Neil Creek
If you think fisheye still photos look cool, time lapse video taken with a fisheye is even cooler! More details >
Inspired? I bet you’re thinking “yeah, but fisheye lenses are really expensive!” Well, they’re not cheap, no. Amazon has the Sigma 8mm f3.5 for Canon for about $680USD, but it’s an outstanding lens (I use the now superseded f4 version) well worth the price if you want to do fisheye photography. There are cheaper options out there, including a Belarus made Peleng fisheye. And you’re sure to find plenty of second hand lenses on ebay.
But if you’re really cheap, or only have a compact camera, there are a surprising number of hacks you can find online to make very basic fisheye adapters for your camera, often using door peep holes. For example this one at Instructables.
So now you’ve got no excuse! I want to see some of your fisheye photos, so post links to them in the comments below! I can’t wait to see your creativity with this widest of all lenses.
- Flickr fisheye group
- PTGui tools for stitching photos into panoramas
- Fisheye photos on my blog
- Fisheye lenses on Wikipedia
Neil runs monthly photo projects on his blog. This month’s project is 3D For Everyone. Be sure to participate, as every entrant will be sent for free a new on-screen 3D viewer for testing, and the winner will score a 3D Lens in a Cap and deluxe viewer from Loreo for their DSLR camera!