There is nothing quite like seeing the world through a fisheye lens. The way it bends straight lines and creates curves where there were none. You get to see more of the world through it than you can with your own eyes, well that is unless you turn your head. Recently I was loaned the Samyang 12mm F2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lens to play with and I have been having a lot of fun seeing what it can do.
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Fisheye lenses have been around for a long time. But for most of us, they have not been something that we thought would be worth spending all that money on. However, the 12mm fisheye from Samyang is affordable and can give your photography a new look.
How wide is it?
There is nothing like using a wide angle for the first time and having objects fit into your frame like never before. This lens is very much like that. The first reaction most people have when they look through the viewfinder for the first time is “wow”. It is incredible what you can fit into it.
You get an 180-degree view with it. It really does fill the frame with all that you can see, including your periphery vision. While this is a good thing, there is also a downside. You can end up with unwanted distractions in the image. If you point the lens down too far you may end up with your feet in the image. Or if your camera bag on the ground is not behind you, it too will be included. Going out with friends to take photos means constantly asking them to step back behind you. If they are good friends, they won’t mind.
This lens won’t break the bank
When you consider how much other lenses with an f/2.8 aperture cost, you would think this one would also be very expensive, a thousand bucks or so. But it retails for around USD$500 (less if you have a mirrorless system) so it makes it a lot more affordable than the top brand fisheye lenses. It is a good quality lens and is a great alternative for those that can’t afford the pricier top brand ones.
This lens is fun!
Without a doubt, this is a fun lens. It can have real uses, but in the end, I dare anyone to put the lens on their camera and not have a great time seeing what they can get with it. It is amazing to watch how the world is transformed through it.
I was first loaned the lens one day while in the city and I wouldn’t take it off my camera. I really enjoyed seeing what it could do and how much I could see with it. It was a challenge to see how I can make the world make sense with it. In the end you have to let that go and just take photos.
It is small
For a fisheye, it is very small which is great because it means it’s easy to carry around with you. You would expect a fisheye to be a large bulky lens with big bulbous glass on the front. The Samyang fisheye is a lot smaller and not much bigger than a normal 50mm lens. Don’t let the size fool you, as it still takes a great image.
Full frame lens
Surprisingly for the cost, it is a lens for a full frame camera. It seems that many lenses for these are usually a lot more expensive. You are going to get much wider images with the full frame, and if you put the lens on a cropped sensor that aspect will suffer and you won’t get as wide an angle (about like an 18mm), though you should still get the fisheye effect.
First time mounting the lens
When you first put the lens on your camera you can get some strange numbers coming up on your camera display. If that happens you need to change the aperture ring on the lens. Turn it all the way around until you can see the aperture on your camera.
It distorts the world around
For many the distortions may be too much and maybe the lens won’t be for them. The first time I posted a few photos I took with it, some people pointed out that I could get rid of the weird curves. My first thought was why would I, isn’t that the reason for using a fisheye in the first place?
It is a manual focus lens
For many people, the manual focusing for the lens is a negative. We have gotten used to autofocus, and having to go back to do it manually again can seem too hard. However, it is amazing how quickly you can adapt to it. The more you do it the easier it really does get. I seem to be using a lot of lenses lately that are manual focus and I don’t have an issue with it now.
One of the benefits with the Samyang fisheye is that for most subjects they are going to be several feet or meters from you so you can put the focus ring on infinity and just click away. It is rare than anything you shoot will be too close for that. Obviously if something is close you will need to focus the lens, but for the most part you can put it on infinity and just go for it. Just remember that it is on that setting and don’t forget to keep checking that the image is focused (zoom in on the image playback).
Working with the lens
If you have purchased the fisheye then it would seem you are looking for more than just a wide angle lens. The lens is known for its distortions, so work with that. Find subjects that will be enhanced due to the curve of the lens. If you are somewhere like in a city, try different compositions to see which will work the best.
If you want something to appear straight, like the bridge, if you put that more in the centre of the image the distortion is far less. The same is true for the horizon. If you put the horizon line in the center of the frame then it will stay straight, but if you move it up or down it will get a curve to it. That can be really effective as well.
The lens is perfect for astrophotography and that is mainly where it is used. You can get a lot of sky into a fisheye image and the distortions wouldn’t matter so much. You can get brilliant shots of the Milky Way, or great star trails. Samyang Australia tends to market it to aurora hunters too, but it has other uses as well.
Architecture is a great subject for this lens. It does give many of the lines a curved shape, and in people’s minds they know they are meant to be straight. But you can use those distortions to create unique images.
Many sports photographers could also find it useful. Not for everything, but for some special images. Cycling photographer Graham Watson often uses a fisheye for unique views of races like the Tour de France. With cycling ,you can get very close to the cyclists. So the fisheye would be perfect for some races, especially for a criterium when they are going around corners.
As the lens is so wide, there are many types of photography that it is not well suited for. Landscapes could work, but you need to have something in the foreground, otherwise everything would be too far away. The use of leading lines is important for that type of photography.
Who is this lens for?
The most obvious answer to this would be astrophotographers and aurora hunters, but there are others who would also benefit from it as well, like sports and architectural photographers. Perhaps others who want to add something unique or different to their images. For the price and size, it could be a great addition to any photographer’s kit.
If you are looking for a challenge in your photography, or perhaps you want to start looking at the world in a different way, I would highly recommend the Samyang 12mm F2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye lens. It’s a fun and not too expensive piece of kit. While you may not use it a lot, you will get it out and take photos with it from time to time. We all have lenses that we don’t use a lot, but enjoy using them when we do.