August 2, 2011

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L fisheye zoom lens

I got my hands on the brand-new Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L fish-eye zoom (Amazon) today, and I just had to try it out. And what better place than Times Square in Manhattan. Enough tall buildings and billboards to fill the frame of a lens that gives a 180 degree view! Now, before I continue, I have to admit that even though I have a fish-eye lens in my bag, (the Nikon 16mm f2.8), I only occasionally use it. I feel that a fish-eye lens can be over-used very quickly when it draws too much attention to the distorted view that the lens gives, rather than the photograph’s content. That said, I haven’t had this much fun with a new lens in a long, long time!

[ updated: review of the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L fisheye zoom ]

While the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L fish-eye zoom (B&H) can zoom between those two extreme wide angle views, I think it will essentially be used as a dual focal-length lens. At 8mm it gives a circular view of 180 degrees as seen in the top image. At 14-15mm it gives the classic fish-eye look. (For the images here, I used the Canon 5D mk II (Amazon.

In-between those two focal lengths, you can see the frame intrudes into the image area, without giving that neat circular effect. In-between focal lengths will have large areas of black, as the lens zooms wider than the image area of a full-frame camera. So I do think that most photographers will use this lens at those two focal lengths for most of the time … 8mm and 15mm.

For comparison, here is the image at the top at 8mm, compared to the image at 15mm. (I have cropped out the black edges of the 3:2 ratio frame of the circular image, to give me a 1:1 image within which the circular image makes more sense.) Also note that we’re seeing 180 degrees there! If I had been able to steady myself properly while looking straight up with this lens on my camera, then we would’ve seen sidewalk right around the edges of the frame.

camera settings: 1/80 @ f5 @ 1250 ISO
Here is the full-frame of a circular image, compared to how I had cropped out the sides, just in case someone was wondering what the actual image would look like as it comes out of your camera. (It’s the same photo, just cropped in Photoshop.)

camera settings: 1/40 @ f4 @ 1250 ISO
Everything takes on a surreal aspect when viewed as a 180 degree circular image. Here is the well-known ceiling of the sidewalk area of the big McDonalds just off Times Square.

camera settings: 1/100 @ f5.6 @ 1250 ISO


shot at 15mm:


shot at 13mm … and you can see the black corners as the image is being zoomed wider than the image circle created by the lens.


shot at 8mm (as cropped in PS) … and that’s the building behind me that you’re seeing at the top of the photo.

camera settings: 1/25 @ f5.6 @ 1250 ISO

 

my overall first impressions

  • this is an exceptional lens. It is sharp! Even the extreme edges are sharp. It suffers none of that image softness that plagues the edges of photos taken with the Canon 16-35mm f2.8L II.
  • the lens cap design is innovative. It clips on and off. (Nikon could take note here with the way the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens cap which just slips on and off.) As an aside: the lens hood has to be removed for the 8mm focal length.
  • the lens is not that much larger than the Canon 15mm f2.8
  • the lens focuses surprisingly close – a mere 6.2″
  • finally, this is a fun lens.  Optically superb, and fun to use. What else more could you want from a lens.
Also check out the more complete review of the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L fisheye zoom
This lens can be ordered from Amazon via this affiliate linkCanon EF 8-15mm f/4L fish-eye zoom

 

 

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{ 6 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Patrick Brophy August 3, 2011 at 10:33 am

Fantastic, inspirational images, Neil! Were all of these images shot hand-held, or did you use a tripod or other thing to steady the camera for any of them?

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2 Neil vN August 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Patrick, oops, I just realized I didn’t mention the camera settings like I usually do. I’ve added them to the text now.

I had a Manfrotto Fluid Monopod (Amazon), with me, but for the shots where I pointed the camera directly upwards, I had to hand-hold it. It just wasn’t practical to use it then.

For the last three images posted here, shot at a slow shutter speed of 1/25th, I did use the monopod to steady myself.

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3 cory Lum August 3, 2011 at 4:28 pm

cool review

cool photographs

missing just two things:

photographs of the lens & hood, also photographs of the cool lens cap

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4 William Cowan August 3, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Mmmm….The all seeing eye.

Fascinating piece of glass.

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5 Colin Paul August 4, 2011 at 4:22 am

Neil, I totally agree…..I got this lens yesterday – not cheap but amazing quality.
Now all I need is some decent weather (very wet in UK at the moment) to try it out.
Enjoy your site (and your books are very informative) – keep up the good work.

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6 AlanB August 4, 2011 at 10:09 am

Thanks for the review, Neil. I’m with you on the relatively infrequent use of a fisheye and I can only see that being even more the case when delving into the 8mm circular arena provided by this lens. While 8mm is very unique and cool to see, how many shots like that are you going to use for a wedding or event before it’s overdone?

With that in mind, I think I’ll stick with my 15mm prime fish since that’s the focal length of this lens I’d be at 99% of the time anyway. Now, if Canon would just kick out a 12-24 rectilinear….

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