The Unsung Hero

The most underrated type of glass? Quite possibly.
Has a signature look? Unquestionably.
Can capture things that other lenses can’t? You know it.
The Unsung Hero: The Fisheye Lens.

When it comes to creative opportunity, the fisheye lens does not disappoint. With its exaggerated essence, it takes time to familiarize oneself with its compositional elements. But when the opportunity calls for it, the unsung hero always shines.

How does a fisheye differ from a wide angle lens?

Even though both lenses have a field of view that can see wide image areas, the fisheye lens is not optically corrected to render straight lines as straight, thus embracing the curvature and distortion brought forth with its convex glass. In other words, the image from a fisheye lens has a very pronounced outward bow at the edge of the frame. Technically, this is known as ‘Distortion’, or ‘Barrel Distortion’. A lens with little to no distortion that yields an image with straight features is known as a rectilinear lens. Rectilinear lenses are the most common photographic lenses available.

Also, it should be noted that there are two different types of fisheye lenses; full frame fisheye lenses and a circular fisheye lenses. Full frame fisheye lenses will fill the entire sensor or film frame with your image, whereas circular fisheye lenses will produce an image in a circle, within the frame.

The fisheye lens was patented in 1923 and used in the 1920’s to study the formation of clouds. I still tend to photograph the clouds with a fisheye lens on my camera body – it’s mesmerizing. Taking a fisheye photograph is easy, but taking a good fisheye photograph is another. Focal lengths vary from 8mm to 15mm and many provide a 180 degree field of view some are wider and some are a little narrower. In addition to the curvature of straight lines, compositional elements of the fisheye lens can be challenging. At times, I look through the viewfinder solely because of the lens’ enticing distortion. Once you pick-up a fisheye lens, You may be just as enticed as I was.

Packing a fisheye lens in your bag is easy. They are small, light, compact, and sharp (if you cough up a little extra money for the quality). Guaranteed, if you go out shooting there will always be an opportunity that presents itself to use a fisheye, whether it’s a photograph or a video. What I love about this lens is the versatility it presents in whatever environment you are immersed into: astrophotography, landscapes, street, sports, concerts, events – the list goes on. You can even photograph people, the only hard part is convincing them that the picture could look interesting despite having your lens 30cm from their face.

Through the surge of videography in the last few years, the fisheye lens offers a creative and hard-to-miss dynamic that no other lens can come close to. My favourite example and use for the fisheye lens is skateboarding. It was, and still is, one of the most used focal lengths among skateboarding videographers and photographers. Unquestionably, skateboarding popularized the fisheye lens in the counter-culture scene. Why do skateboarders use the fisheye lens? Telephoto lenses compress space, and wide angle lenses exaggerate it. Fisheye lenses, on the other hand, are the widest of the wide lenses, which makes ledges and gaps look bigger and rails look taller — a desirable effect in skateboarding videos.

Today, the fisheye lens has resurfaced in popularity, not just for skateboarding, but for other domains such as virtual reality. The lens is also used commercially for real estate photography and videography. Furthermore, with the adaption of older SLR lenses on digital bodies, photographers are wanting to use classic fisheye lenses for their modern videography and photography needs.

Currently in store, we have 2 older SLR fisheye lenses on consignment (and two beauties at that), and a new and used digital fisheye lenses for Nikon Users. For more fisheye options, see the very last paragraph.

Minolta Fisheye MD Rokkor-X – 7.5mm f4 – $1000

This lens is the widest that Minolta made – fabricated for 35mm Minolta camera’s (SR Mount). Because of the 7.5mm focal length, frames that are captured with this lens will record a circular image within a 35mm frame. This lens is also a fixed focus from 1.5 feet onwards (at f4), this is not a drawback, but rather an advantage as it allows for incredible depth of field. At f/22, it can focus as close as 7 inches. Find another lens that can do that. The Minolta fisheye is small, compact, and fully built out of metal – it also includes a particular inner mechanism – rotating filters. If you pull back on the metal ring of this fisheye, you can change to one of 6 filters built within the camera such as red, yellow, blue, green, skylight, and orange.

Canon Fisheye Lens FD – 15mm f2.8 – $585

The Canon FD Fisheye lens is said by many to be THE essential fisheye for film photographers who are using an FD system. This lens is full frame and will fill the totality of a 24x36mm frame. With a fast 2.8 aperture, this fisheye is excellent to use in low light situations. “Well, what about lens flare” you ask? Fear not – the lens on the Canon FD 15mm fisheye features Canon’s S.S.C (Super Spectra Coating) on the glass, which was designed to prevent lens flare and ghosting. It can also focus 8 inches to infinity with a manual focus ring. If you pull back on the metal ring at the front of this fisheye, you can change to one of 4 filters built within the camera such as skylight, yellow, orange, and red.

Nikkor AF Fisheye – 16mm f/2.8 – $1,249

For the digital and Nikon lovers, this fisheye lens is for you. With Nikon’s Close-Range Correction system you can shoot images as close as 10 inches away from your glass. Further, like all NIKKOR systems, this lens has the trademark Nikon Super Integrated Coating that Nikon claims reduces flare and improves colour balance. Unlike other lenses, the AF on this lens is about as fast as you can press the shutter. Moreover, with a modern lens comes more modern features like a good anti-reflective coating.

Nikon AF Fisheye 10.5mm f/2.8G ED DX – $399.00

Lastly, we have a Nikon Fisheye lens on consignment for DX sensor sizes. Don’t be fooled by the low price on this lens – when it was released it was considered to be one of the most advanced fisheye’s on the market. Featuring a rectangular frame from corner to corner, the lens offers a 180 degree field of view. If you want to achieve straight lines with this lens you could do so in the center of the frame, as straight lines bow out towards the outside away from the center. Further, the coating on this lens is phenomenal – allowing for great reduction in flares and sun glare.

We can also special order fisheye lenses for you. Popular versions such as the Canon 8-15mm f/4L fisheye zoom or the Nikkor AF-S 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5, or even more budget friendly fisheye brands (that have excellent quality) such as Sigma, Tamron, and Laowa (Venus Optics) can also be special ordered for your convenience.

If you would like to try out a fisheye lens, visit our rental department to get a fisheye for your camera, or rent a camera and lens and try something totally new!

Fisheye lenses in Beau Photo Rentals:
Canon EF 15mm f2.8 fisheye – $25/day
Canon EF 8-15mm f4L USM fisheye zoom – $35/day
Nikon AF 16mm f2.8 fisheye FX – $20/day
Hasselblad 30mm f3.5 fisheye – $45/day
Mamiya RB 37mm f4.5 fisheye – $40/day
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Beau Photo Supplies Inc.
Beau Photo Supplies Inc.