Add Some Fish(eye) To Your Photography Diet

With the ever increasing rate of technological innovation in the photography arena, it is not too difficult to get caught up in the latest camera model, lens, or other gizmo, all designed to take our photography to the “next level.” The recent hype and debates surrounding noise levels and resolution differences between the Nikon D800 and Canon 5D Mark III alone could likely fill a few petabytes of disk space. In the midst of our obsession with the “latest and greatest,” we need to remember that photography is, at least on some level, supposed to be… well… fun! One of the best ways I know to inject a bit of fun into my photography exploits, is to attach a fisheye lens to my DSLR. These marvels provide a unique curved distortion (in some cases a full 360 degrees) that add a bit of character and spice to otherwise rather common photos and provide a unique perspective.

Giraffe2

Fisheye lenses range from a very reasonable $300 for an 8mm Samyang/Rokinon model to one of the world’s most unique lens creations – a 10 lb. Nikon 6mm glass masterpiece that sells used for between $35,000 and $160,000! You can even find a $14 fisheye lens that attaches magnetically to the Apple iPhone. Most fisheye lenses for DSLRs fall into the $600-$700 range, but can sometimes be found used for much less. You can also download a myriad of software applications that mimic the effect of a fisheye lens. Applications such as Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as a variety of plug-ins, can “de-fish” photos taken with a fisheye lenses. Applications that either create or correct for the effects of fisheye lenses can significantly distort image quality, however, and in the case of the latter, defeat the purpose of using such a lens.

Fisheye lenses can be used for a variety of photo opportunities. Below are some of my favorites.

1) Animals

Animals make wonderful fisheye subjects. There is something about holding a camera to your face that heightens animals’ curiosity. Household pets are great subjects to practice on. Cats have to be everywhere and know what is going on at all times, and will eagerly serve as models for your fisheye lens sessions.

Llama1

Tanya-&-Buffalo

If you are fortunate enough to have a petting zoo or wildlife safari theme park near your house, you will find that your fisheye lens will come in quite handy. These animals equate your presence to one thing – food – thus they are more than eager to get as close to you as possible. We recently took a trip to the African Safari Wildlife Park, in Port Collins, OH, located a few hours away from our home town of Pittsburgh. In addition to plenty of good old fashioned family fun, the park provided the most “Laughs Per Shutter Click” (LPSC) that I have gotten from my Nikon D7000.

LPSC is a highly sophisticated measurement that is often beyond the expertise of most pixelpeepers and technoweenies. In order to accurately gauge LPSC, one must first have a reasonably developed sense of humor (or the mindset of a 6 year old!). Thus hard-core amateurs that spend too much time analyzing their photos or equipment are at a disadvantage when being able to accurately calculate LPSC! ;)

Animal-Nose

Buffalo, giraffe’s, llamas, guanacos, deer, elk, Texas longhorns, zebras, and a variety of other interesting creatures freely roam the African Safari Wildlife park or are in enclosures that enable you to get fairly close to them. These animals appear to have had extensive training in the art of entertainment – or at least being able to tug on your heart strings with their big soulful eyes that cry “Won’t you feed me?” Suffice to say you forget about how much you are paying for the carrots and other animal feed as you continue to make your rounds.

Giraffe3

Fisheye lenses are naturals for these environments since you are able to get very close to the animals. And given the extremely wide field of view, autofocus capabilities are not nearly as important as you might imagine. You can usually set your fisheye to manual focus for 1 to 1.5 feet and capture everything to infinity in sharp focus. This characteristic of fisheye lenses evens the playing field between the higher end autofocus models from the brand name manufacturers and the manual focus lenses from other lens makers. Bright sunny days are important, since you may be holding your camera away from your body at times and the ability to use higher shutter speeds can help you take sharp pictures, even if you are moving a bit. This is especially important if you are feeding the animals and simultaneously photographing them!

Horse

2) Flowers

Most of the flower shots we see involve traditional angles or macro views. Wide angle fisheye lenses make it much easier to provide an “ant’s eye view” of the world. All you need is a sunny day, some bright, colorful flowers, and a bit of experimentation and creativity to achieve some interesting results. Fisheye lenses often produce dramatic starburst effects when aimed toward the sun, accentuating the impact of a given scene.

Tulips

3) Landscapes

Fisheye lenses can be effective for adding a bit of flare to ordinary landscape shots, particularly if you get low to the ground. Dramatic skies and interesting trees can also be accentuated by the curvature of a fisheye lens.

Tree-&-Clouds

4) Children

Children love the humorous results of fisheye lenses. Most are more than happy to serve as models for your fisheye experiments and take great delight in seeing themselves through the curved lens. Adults? Not so much. Even the most beautiful woman can become a caricature of herself via a fisheye lens! Children however, will pose all day long and laugh till their cheeks hurt as they make funny faces and have the effects accentuated by a fisheye lens.

Bobby-Fisheye

Skippy

5) Summary

A fisheye lens may not be the first one that comes to mind when you contemplate your ideal lens collection, but it can provide unique and interesting effects for your photos. Explore 500px and flickr to get a sense of how others are creatively using fisheye lenses. And before picking up yet another lens that overlaps with your existing ones, consider buying a fisheye lens and experimenting a bit. You may find that you are able to add some additional character to your shots, and find yourself smiling a bit more at the results.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) John Richardson
    June 24, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    A fish eye has always been a priority for me, but it seems every time I get one it gets squished because it is too slippery for clumsy fingers handle. I see now that you are using glass and metal ones, something my local fishmongers are woefully lacking in.
    Will have to try your man made metal and glass approach.

    Right now the closest I have is the Tokina 11-16mm on DX, but boy would I love to get something smaller. But once again, my wife, has other ideas on how to spend money, like a new patio and new stone fence… :-/

    • June 25, 2012 at 6:10 am

      John,
      The glass and metal ones definitely work better than than the organic fisheyes. One of those cases where “man made” beats “natural!”
      New patios, stone fences, etc. are fine for their intended purpose, but they don’t do much to capture a stunning landscape from a unique angle! :)
      Bob

  2. 2
    ) Karrie
    June 25, 2012 at 3:53 am

    Especially love the tulips and tree shots.

    • June 25, 2012 at 6:12 am

      Karrie,
      Thanks. Fisheye shots aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I suspect more people would warm up to them if they experimented a bit more.
      Bob

    • June 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm

      Love the tulip shot too Bob, though all of them are good!

      • June 25, 2012 at 9:45 pm

        Thank you, Aaron. Nothing like a bugs-eye view of the world, huh? :)
        Bob

  3. June 25, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Great work and pics as usual! I love the tulips too. Now you will have to review one of these lenses lol. How about the cheapo Rokinon? I love to play with the 17-35 AF-S or 16-35 USM II at close up to exagerate corners but this is serious stuff.

    thanks
    francois

    • June 25, 2012 at 9:47 pm

      Francois,
      Thank you. I haven’t used a Rokinon/Samyang, but every review I have seen indicate that they provide excellent value for the money and are great performers. Nasim is planning on doing a test of 85mm lenses that include the Rokinon/Samyang model.
      Yes – getting very close with a wide angle can mirror some of the effects of a fisheye, but not quite the drastic curvature.
      Bob

  4. 6
    ) daniel
    June 25, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Thank you for a fun article. Good fisheyes aren’t cheap, but then again, photography in general isn’t cheap.

    • June 25, 2012 at 9:48 pm

      Daniel,
      Indeed, it is a hobby that seems to feed on itself. Every once in a while, my camera sends me a list of new “toys” that it believes it needs! :)
      Bob

  5. 11
    ) francisco
    June 25, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Nice article… I would love to add fisheye to my photography diet as well!

    • June 26, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      Francisco,
      They are a lot of fun. I get quite a bit of enjoyment out of mine.
      Bob

  6. 12
    ) Barry
    June 26, 2012 at 7:07 am

    Dear Bob,
    Love your work…..which fisheye lens would you recommend for Nikon d7000?

    • June 26, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      Barry,
      Thanks a bunch. The Nikon 10.5mm for DX is the best around. On an FX camera, the Sigma 15mm seems to get the nod for quality and value.
      Bob

      • 17
        ) Barry
        June 30, 2012 at 9:10 am

        Bob,
        Any experience with Samyang 8mm 3.5?

        • 18
          ) Raghav
          July 1, 2012 at 8:51 am

          Of all my lenses I can say its the best value for money! You just cannot go wrong with it. Very unique distortion and excellent optical quality. You will be surprised it costs just $300. Infact all Samyang lenses are excellent, if you don’t mind the manual controls.

  7. 13
    ) George Kurian
    June 26, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Could you keep the Exif info open as well? Easier for me to understand the camera lens etc…!

    • June 26, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      George,
      Will look into that. Not sure why it isn’t being exported with the file or uploaded to the Mansurovs site.
      Bob

  8. 19
    ) Alexsandra
    July 10, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Qual olho of peixe lens would indicate to me você Nikon D700 and D800 to? Qual would give me nice and com mais photos as laterais distorcidas.
    From já agradeço

    Qual lente olho de peixe você me indicaria para a nikon D700 e D800? Qual me daria fotos mais bonitas e com as laterais distorcidas.
    Desde já agradeço

    • July 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm

      Alexsandra,
      Either the Nikon 16mm 2.8 or the Sigma 15mm 2.8. I recently picked up the Sigma, and it is very sharp on my D800. Unfortunately, the only photos I took with it were of test charts! :)
      Bob

  9. 21
    ) Tushar
    August 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Hi Nasim
    I have this keen interest on buying Rokinon 650Z-B 650-1300mm Super Telephoto Zoom Lens. Can you provide your comments. To buy or not to..
    Tushar

  10. 22
    ) Donn Petelka
    August 29, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Thanks Bob,

    Great shots, you’ve inspired me!

    • September 29, 2012 at 7:28 pm

      Glad you liked the article, Donn.
      Bob

  11. 23
    ) Rania
    September 29, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    What fisheye lens is used in these photos? Thank you

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