Why You Might Want To Consider A Full Frame Fisheye Lens Even If You Have A Crop Sensor Camera

Why You Might Want To Consider A Full Frame Fisheye Lens Even If You Have A Crop Sensor Camera


There are few things better in life than having something go wrong that leads to the discovery of something even better.

Such is the case with my plan to test out a Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens courtesy of BorrowLenses.com. My intent with the lens was to take it with me to the wilds of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah for some crazy, circular images. The problem is I lack a full frame Canon camera, but would be traveling with Michael Riffle, who owns a Canon 5D Mark III. He accepted the challenge to test the lens, being familiar with fisheyes himself.

One thing led to another and we never got around to testing the lens on his camera. Instead, I often found myself using the lens on my Canon 7D, a crop sensor camera. The Canon 8-15mm is intended to fit a full frame sensor and produce, at 8mm, a fully circular image, much like this example from a Sigma 4.5mm on a crop sensor camera.


What happened instead was a cross between this full circle and a more traditional 15mm on a crop sensor. The 8-15mm lens will show edges of the circle when below 10mm but will otherwise fully cover the sensor from 10mm-15mm. A major difference from a non-fisheye lens, though, is the curving in the image.

For instance, here are two shots, both taken at 10mm. The difference: the first lens is a non-fisheye Canon EF 10-22mm lens and the second is the Canon 8-15mm fisheye.



Both shots are taken from nearly the same perspective (the fisheye is taken from the position of the Nikon D800E in the first image) but the fisheye gives a different feel. I only made slight clarity and level adjustments in the photos and did not crop them, so this is what you can expect at 10mm.

Below 10mm the black edge of the area outside the fisheye is seen. How bad is it? It depends.

At first it annoyed me to have the incomplete image. Neither full fisheye nor filled frame. Like this:


But then I started finding instances where it worked well. The arches found in these parks lent themselves naturally to the form factor. The more I experimented, the more I enjoyed the effect.

I realize not everyone will like this look. By the time you read this, there might be a dozen notes in the comment section below stating how horrible it is. But this is photography and it is art, so it doesn’t really matter what I like or the commenters like. It matters what you like.

Below are more examples from my short trip. If they intrigue you to give the lens a try, all the better. Some have the corners blacked out and some are zoomed in slightly. Experiment, play, have fun.

(Click on an image for a 1000px version)

The first set of images are from Mesa Arch in Canyonlands NP at sunrise which was packed with 20 or more photographers. The second set is from Delicate Arch in Arches NP at sunrise with absolutely no one else around.











A special thank you to BorrowLenses.com for giving me the chance to play with the lens.

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • Alan Hendry July 3, 2013 01:15 am

    OK dont get upset this is the answer but its a bit long:
    the completely round pics are an 8 mm fish eye on a full frame Like a Canon 5D, the ones with each corner are an 8mm fish eye on a cropped sensor like a Canon 7D, then if you use a full frame with a 15 mm fish eye you end up with the objects having rounded effect on image but the image has normal square edges, and with a cropped sensor and 15 mm fish eye you can use it as a normal wide lens if your careful to keep the lens parallel with the subject and not too close, I use one for group photographs.
    If you want to see examples let me know and I will post some.

  • Paul February 12, 2013 05:13 pm

    I'm upset I cant figure out what lens and what sensor is responsible for the above pictures. I'm looking for any reason not to upgrade to FF but still acquire a lens that will work for both but perhaps shine in FF. As a member of society i generally rely on others to tell me what I like, however, I will go out on a limb and say I'm not into the black circles from I imagine the fish eye. So is it just a wide angle (rectangular photo) that I find attractive. They seem to have minimal amounts of distortion, capture the whole story and no ugly black circle marks.
    I don't get it but I thought a fish eye captures everything in the 180~degree view but puts it into a rectangle page. Can someone help correct where I have gone of track.
    p.s. favorite photos; photographers, hole in rock(rect).

  • GT November 16, 2012 04:40 am

    i don't see the fish eye as a replacement for a quality wide angle lens. it is for added effect and special project ideas.

  • Andrew November 12, 2012 10:41 pm

    Ris lens is "intended" for full frame and crop sensor cameras. On a full frame it is a circular fisheye at 8mm and a diagonal at 14/15mm. It also has markings for APS-C and APS-H sensors to mark where the diagonal fisheye length will be for those crop sensors. Anything below that will give you this vignette fisheye effect.

  • Chitra Sivasankar Arunagiri November 12, 2012 10:18 am

    The right article at the right moment. I am planning to go for a wide angle lens and I was not sure whether to go for a fish eye lens or a wide angle lens. Still with that confusion. I am looking at some choices and will be choosing one soon. As of now, I am thinking about going for a fish eye lens probably from Sigma. :)

  • Jai Catalano November 12, 2012 01:55 am

    I like it Peter. I think I might explore the fisheye lens to add some extra effects to my work and blog. Always fun looking at your stuff.