Sigma 4.5mm F2.8 EX DC HSM Circular Fisheye [REVIEW] - Digital Photography School
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Sigma 4.5mm F2.8 EX DC HSM Circular Fisheye [REVIEW]

While full frame sensor camera have enjoyed the use of fisheye lenses for a century, the newly created APS-C sensor cameras have remained lacking. Use of traditional fisheye would work, but the entire circular area would be cropped.

Enter the Sigma 4.5mm fisheye. This lens is built for cropped sensors, giving them a full 180° field of view withing a single frame. To achieve this field of view, the front element protrudes from the front metal of the lens, giving it the typical fisheye look. There is a focus ring and a distance scale, plus a small switch for manual or automatic focus. Because of the short focus distance and the overall size of the camera, the nearest in focus object can be as close as .75”/`19mm.

With a lens like this, a whole new world of images becomes possible. Shooting objects close is an easy subject as well as circles. Shooting converging lines takes on a new dimension as well as the night sky (which is one of the original intentions behind the development of the lens; atmospheric photography). I have some sample images later in the post to give you more ideas of how this lens can be used as well as the quality of the images.

I took this lens with me and my Canon 7D on a six week trip to Asia covering photo tours in Nepal and Bhutan as well as a personal week spent in India. I want to thank BorrowLenses.com for the lend of the lens.

Features

First, some stats from Sigma’s own site.

  • Lens Construction 13 Elements in 9 Groups
  • Angle of View 180º
  • Number of Diaphragm Blades 6
  • Minimum Aperture f22
  • Minimum Focusing Distance 13.5 cm / 5.3 in
  • Filter Size (mm) Insertion-type gelatin filter into rear of the lens
  • Maximum Magnifications 1:6
  • Dimensions (Diameter x Length) 76.2 x 77.8 mm/3.0 x 3.1 in
  • Weight 470g / 16.6oz.

Use In Real Life

The biggest aspect of this lens to get used to is the field of view. More than once my feet were in the frame (even with fellow DPS writer Jim Goldstein warning me of this danger) and at times I could see my hand while manual focusing, or just holding the camera comfortably. There’s a mental extra to add before pressing the shutter release and that is to check the circle edge for any signs of the photographer behind the camera.

While in the field, I found the lens as comfortable as any other to hold and transport. It comes with a rear lens cap as well as a hood and lens cap for the front. Because of the bulging nature of the front lens, the lens hood (felted on the inside to create a firm attachment with the lens when in use) is needed to hold a cap. Additional filters can be used with this hood attached (72mm) if a narrowed version of the spherical world is okay. I did have an almost constant worry about scratching the front of the lens with it sticking out as far as it does (which is not much at all, but more than I am accustomed to). Therefor, the hood and lens cap remained on more than usual. A minor point.

Shooting with the lens is no different than shooting with any other lens. It opens to f/2.8 and can get seriously close to subjects. This helps as shooting with a fisheye point of view can be challenging. Getting close to the subject and helping it dominate the field of view, while still giving the viewer some place to ‘go’ in the picture, is even more exaggerated with this lens than with a standard wide angle.

Video with the lens can be interesting. Side moving objects go from small to large in the middle to small again and it can be a bit odd for some viewers. Images shot straight forward, backward or straight up give a good full view of the action. For some additional tips on shooting with this lens, I have written a post on Photo Tuts+ (and I’m sorry most of it is a Premium article, that wasn’t my choice) that describes 14 different scenarios when this lens would be useful.

You may be asking what that blue ring is around some of the images. It is flare caused by the extreme angle of the lens. It is normal and can be easily remedied which a circular crop.

Samples

Click on any sample to see a full sized view.

Shadows of Swayambanath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Tengboche Monastery and Mt. Everest, Tengboche, Nepal

Window To The World, Jaipur, India

Bath Room Floor, Amber Fort, Jaipur, India

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

The Milky Way From Phobjika Valley, Bhutan

Looking Up, Paro Dzong, Bhutan

So Much Stone, Red Fort, Delhi, India

Patterns, Amber Fort, Jaipur, India

Picture Of A Picture, Phobjika Valley, Bhutan

Kathmandu From Dharahara Tower, Nepal

Weavers In Thimphu, Bhutan

Weavers In Thimphu, Bhutan

Rice Field, Punakha, Bhutan

Prayer Wheels, Paro Dzong, Bhutan

Swayambanath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Dzokyos On A Himalayan Trail, Nepal

Khumbu Glacier, Lobuche, Nepal

Conclusion

The Simga 4.5mm Fisheye is a treat to use and produces some stunning images. While use of standard front mounted filters limits the overall coverage, the fact that the field of view is so large negates the effectiveness of most options (NOTE: Filters can be used in the rear area of the lens but this was not tested). This produces a freeing effect as the filter needs to be used, mostly, as is, greatly simplifying image captures and focusing the photographer on creative use.

The lens does take some learning before stunning images emerge, but that curve isn’t long. It’s important to give yourself some latitude when starting out with this lens as experimentation is key to finding out what works for you.

Get a price on the Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM Circular Fisheye Lens

Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM Circular Fisheye Lens for Sony Alpha Digital SLR Cameras

Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM Circular Fisheye Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras

Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM Circular Fisheye Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM Circular Fisheye Lens for Pentax Digital SLR Cameras

Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM Circular Fisheye Lens for Sigma Digital SLR Cameras

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Peter West Carey is a world traveling photographer who now is spending a large amount of time going back through 6 years of travel photo and processing them like he should have to start with. He is also helping others learn about photography with the free series 31+ Days Of Photography Experiments which builds off of the 31+ Days To Better Photography series on his blog.

  • http://www.kerstenbeck.com Erik Kerstenbeck

    Hi

    Great article and spectacular images! Well done!

    I think Fish Eye lenses are very cool, and I would love to have one, but I think the market for these shots is limited – any thoughts on this?

    I like this wide angle of ropes in SanFran, but alot of folks just say, you must have Photoshopped it and say yuck…funny!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/show-me-the-ropes/

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/cpando/ cpando

    wow more great pics. Just out of curiosity, about how many pics do you take on an average trip with so many reviews/posts/etc.?

  • Someone

    So with fisheye pics, is it the case that there will always be the black blank around the circular photo?

  • raghavendra

    180° field of view within a single frame.
    Very nice.

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com/

  • http://peterwestcarey.com Peter West Carey

    Someone, Well, I cropped it as a square and that area of the sensor received no light. If desired, it can be saved as a circle.

    cpando, very roughly, I’d say about 1000 per week (not including time lapse which makes things very large, very fast).

  • Claire

    These images are amazing. You’ve used the fisheye in innovative ways. Great inspiration. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/50259324@N08 Stefano
  • nacho

    Nice pics, I specially like the rice field one. I have a Samyang 8mm f3.5 fisheye (also branded as Bower, Pro-Optic, Walimex…) and I love it. It is cheaper than this lens and is not a circular fisheye, but a diagonal 180º fisheye, which I prefer as it fills the frame and has less distortion, although that is something quite personal. You can see pictures taken with this lens here.

  • John Aspden

    “So much stone” looks like it could have been drawn by Escher!

  • Roy

    Having worked on rice agronomy in Bhutan, I was particularly impresses with ‘rice field, Punakha’ ( that type of striking and unusual image may well be of interest for use as a corporate logo = $$$). The shots with mountain panoramas and the night sky images are also fascinating. Good luck.

  • http://www.atefoto.com Aleksander

    I’ve never seen that much chromatic abberation on any other fisheye before..

  • chris

    Dear Peter,

    great images,

    but this Simga Lens actually wastes pixels, it uses only about 2-3 Mpx for a 8 Mpx photo. I really wonder why they did that.

    Try the Sigma 8 mm/3.5 on a FX camera like D600 or D800, the 8 mm is so much better.

    Cheers and have a good light!

Some older comments

  • chris

    June 24, 2013 08:05 am

    Dear Peter,

    great images,

    but this Simga Lens actually wastes pixels, it uses only about 2-3 Mpx for a 8 Mpx photo. I really wonder why they did that.

    Try the Sigma 8 mm/3.5 on a FX camera like D600 or D800, the 8 mm is so much better.

    Cheers and have a good light!

  • Aleksander

    April 18, 2013 06:41 am

    I've never seen that much chromatic abberation on any other fisheye before..

  • Roy

    March 24, 2012 02:32 pm

    Having worked on rice agronomy in Bhutan, I was particularly impresses with 'rice field, Punakha' ( that type of striking and unusual image may well be of interest for use as a corporate logo = $$$). The shots with mountain panoramas and the night sky images are also fascinating. Good luck.

  • John Aspden

    January 25, 2012 10:36 am

    "So much stone" looks like it could have been drawn by Escher!

  • nacho

    January 25, 2012 09:22 am

    Nice pics, I specially like the rice field one. I have a Samyang 8mm f3.5 fisheye (also branded as Bower, Pro-Optic, Walimex...) and I love it. It is cheaper than this lens and is not a circular fisheye, but a diagonal 180º fisheye, which I prefer as it fills the frame and has less distortion, although that is something quite personal. You can see pictures taken with this lens here.

  • Stefano

    January 23, 2012 01:14 am

    Hello everybody

    I bought this lens at the end of 2009 and I really like it, although it is quite "extreme".
    Here are some shots:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/50259324@N08/6418270721
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/50259324@N08/5313345608
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/50259324@N08/4645147466
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/50259324@N08/4645146904
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/50259324@N08/5813964403

  • Claire

    January 22, 2012 10:37 pm

    These images are amazing. You've used the fisheye in innovative ways. Great inspiration. Thank you for sharing.

  • Peter West Carey

    January 22, 2012 04:06 pm

    Someone, Well, I cropped it as a square and that area of the sensor received no light. If desired, it can be saved as a circle.

    cpando, very roughly, I'd say about 1000 per week (not including time lapse which makes things very large, very fast).

  • raghavendra

    January 22, 2012 02:07 pm

    180° field of view within a single frame.
    Very nice.

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com/

  • Someone

    January 22, 2012 08:22 am

    So with fisheye pics, is it the case that there will always be the black blank around the circular photo?

  • cpando

    January 22, 2012 04:17 am

    wow more great pics. Just out of curiosity, about how many pics do you take on an average trip with so many reviews/posts/etc.?

  • Erik Kerstenbeck

    January 22, 2012 02:10 am

    Hi

    Great article and spectacular images! Well done!

    I think Fish Eye lenses are very cool, and I would love to have one, but I think the market for these shots is limited - any thoughts on this?

    I like this wide angle of ropes in SanFran, but alot of folks just say, you must have Photoshopped it and say yuck...funny!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/show-me-the-ropes/

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