Wait…wait…nope, it’s gone. I really can’t remember what spurred me to purchase a fisheye lens of all things. Alpha Whiskey’s the last person on Earth to suffer GAS (or even gas) and I spend not a single, solitary second of my day salivating over gear. Heck, my camera is 5 year-old technology, positively prehistoric to the insecure masses scrambling over each other to reach the latest product rumour. (Run faster!)
But something poked me in the ribs to elicit an involuntary digit contraction on the ‘Buy Now’ button and a day later it was in my hand. A tiny little thing by Samyang, their 7.5mm F/3.5 UMC Fisheye for the micro four thirds mount. Sure, I could have bought the Olympus fisheye to complement my E-M5 and money is no object, but in the past I’ve invested too much in lenses I seldom use. I imagined a fisheye to be no exception so I opted to try this little manual focus third party gem.
Not only does it tick the ‘compact’ box but it’s a decent performer and easy to focus with. There’s no aperture information to the camera but rather conveniently there’s an aperture dial on the lens. They were clearly expecting me. And not that you’ll be able to tell from the small examples here but the images it produces are satisfyingly sharp. Do I know how well it performs in the extreme corners? A big, fat ‘no’. Do I care? A morbidly obese ‘no’. Photography to me is about art and art is about interpretation of the image/work as a whole, not individual pixels on a screen. (That will irritate those of you who pour over pixels rather than make pictures but of course if you want to waste your own time worrying about it then be my guest).
Speaking of interpretation, I know that many people try to ‘de-fish’ the images from their fisheye lenses using various software. At first this intrigued me, the idea of having a geometrically normal image with an even wider field of view than a wide-angle lens. But I was actually happy with the images as they were, distortion and all. The curvatures didn’t offend my eyes and even offered a more interesting take on the scene.
Using it on interiors, especially cavernous spaces like cathedrals, effortlessly captured (and perhaps exaggerated) their scale, inviting me to sink deeper into their wells of architectural splendour.
A friend of mine from overseas was lucky enough to visit Alpha Whiskey recently, so as well as getting the full guided tour of London with my favourite photo spots her wish to visit the picturesque university town of Cambridge was also fulfilled. Despite it being term time with limited access I couldn’t allow her to visit and not experience the stunning King’s College Chapel, world renowned for its high vaulted fan ceiling and epic stained glass windows.
I also treated her to a short meander through St Alban’s Cathedral, one of my favourites, with its mix of Roman, Norman and Gothic architecture, as well as the longest knave in the country. And on each occasion the fisheye opened up the space above us, beautifully illustrating the towering masonry painted with endless archipelagos of light and shadow.
The sumptuous detail of the individual sculptures will of course be lost to the vast expanse captured by this field of view and for that the macro or zoom lens comes into play. And one of my issues with wide angles lenses is how they make certain elements of the image too remote. But for conveying the sheer grandeur of these interiors the fisheye certainly impressed me. (Yes, I’m easily pleased; heard that one before).
But it’s not just interiors. The outside of buildings can be uniquely distorted within the frame to pleasing effect, giving you an admittedly warped sense of place and scene.
Not to be limited to just architecture I have also used this lens on other subjects too. At a car show it exaggerated the aggressive, muscular styling of some of the classic specimens (I’m a sucker for Corvettes; did I say I was easily pleased? Can’t remember…), as well as flooding the frame with engines in their entirety.
At my annual fireworks excursion last November I shot almost exclusively with the fisheye, bringing the awestruck masses into the frame to lead the eye toward the display.
Many exponents of fisheye lenses shoot exciting, intimate action, braving a shaving by bikers, skateboarders and skiers screaming past. I did try edging closer to the street artists in town but as they weren’t keen to wheelie over my supinated brown mass I had to settle for some distance.
I have yet to capture what I really want with it, which is the full arc of the Milky Way over an horizon, land or sea. But alas the galaxy will have to wait as the UK’s glorious seasonal weather of late has blanketed the skies with a stubborn murky cloud cover. And frankly, even if the skies cleared why would I subject myself to a shivering freeze at midnight in the remote dead of winter when I could be cocooned indoors in a woman’s embrace? For what it’s worth I did capture the Milky Way with a wide-angle lens at the beach last summer, with a lovely friend watching it reach over us as I my made my exposure (photographic exposure, that is). I’m perfectly happy to do these things on my own but it’s hard to beat the company of a pretty girl under the stars. Hemingway was right.
Anyway, I could go on extolling the marvels of this lens but I’ll be late for my date. As ever I’m sorry to burden you with all the fun I’m having but it’s a big world out there so I’d heartily recommend going out to shoot it. And if you happen to be using a fisheye you might be having as much fun as Alpha Whiskey. Best of luck!