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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.
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.
Click on any sample to see a full sized view.
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.