Close
Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Fisheye Lenses: What Every Beginner Must Know

Fisheye lenses are specialized lenses characterised by their ability to capture an overwhelmingly wider range than wide-angle lenses. They can capture photos with a 180-degree range, which lets you achieve photos with a greatly distorted periphery. Here, we learn about the two types of fisheye lens effects and how your camera sensor size and focal length affect your fisheye image. (Reported by: Teppei Kohno)

Shot with full-frame camera at 15mm (diagonal fisheye)

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM / FL: 15mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/11, 1/320 sec, EV-0.3)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto

 

Circular fisheye v.s diagonal fisheye effects

A fisheye lens lets you capture an overwhelmingly wider range of a scene in front of you compared to a wide-angle lens. There are two types of fisheye effects that can be obtained using fisheye lenses: circular fisheye and diagonal fisheye. The type of fisheye effect actually achievable depends on your camera sensor size. The EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens, a fisheye zoom lens, supports both full-frame and APS-C size sensors.

Read more about image sensor sizes here: The Charm of DSLR Cameras

The circular fisheye effect gives a 180-degree angle of view across the whole periphery (horizontally, vertically, and diagonally) with a barrel-like distortion. Vignetting occurs in the corners of the image frame, which results in a “tunnel vision” effect where the scene seems to be contained within a round circle.

You can get a circular fisheye effect at a focal length of around 8mm when using a fisheye lens on a full-frame camera. However, on an APS-C camera, you will not be able to obtain a distinctive circular fisheye effect even if you shot at 8mm because your actual 35mm film equivalent focal length would be 13mm.

On the other hand, a diagonal fisheye effect captures a roughly 180-degree diagonal angle-of-view and a greatly distorted view of the image periphery. It is obtained at a focal length of around 15mm on a full-frame camera, and 10mm on an APS-C camera. This effect is also known as a “full-frame fisheye” effect because the resulting image covers the entire frame.

 

Full-frame camera + 8mm = Circular fisheye

Shot on full-frame camera at 8mm (circular fisheye)

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM / FL: 8mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 1/3200 sec, EV+0.7)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto

This was shot on a full-frame camera with a fisheye lens at 8mm, looking up toward the centre of the group of skyscrapers. When using the circular fisheye effect, vignetting occurs in the periphery of the image, so the scenery appears to be contained within the circle.

 

Full-frame camera + 15mm = Diagonal fisheye

Shot with full-frame camera at 15mm (diagonal fisheye)

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM / FL: 15mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/7.1, 1/100 sec, EV-1.0)/ ISO 800/ WB: Auto

This was also shot on a full-frame camera, at 15mm on a fisheye lens. The trees in the periphery of the image are greatly distorted towards the top centre, which makes them look particularly strong and robust. To further exaggerate the distortion and make the image look more surreal, place your subject at the edge of the frame.

 

APS-C camera + 10mm = Diagonal fisheye

Shot with fisheye lens on APS-C sensor at 16mm equivalent

EOS 750D/ EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM / FL: 10mm (16mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/4, 1/20 sec)/ ISO 800/ WB: Auto

This was shot on an APS-C camera with a fisheye lens at 10mm, resulting in a diagonal fisheye effect with a high degree of distortion. The photographer went as close as he could to the water's edge, and the result was an image that highlights the spherical nature of this Earth.

 

Distortion: How are fisheye lenses and wide-angle lenses different?

Generally, the shorter the focal length, the more susceptible the lens is to distortion at the image peripheries. However, wide-angle lenses are designed to suppress distortion by using a special corrective lens element, such as an aspherical lens element.

In contrast, fisheye lenses do not suppress distortion that occurs in the peripheries. You can take advantage of this to create images with highly exaggerated distortion.

 

Fisheye lens at 10mm: High degree of distortion

Shot with fisheye lens on APS-C sensor at 16mm equivalent

EOS 750D/ EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM / FL: 10mm (16mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/13, 1/320 sec, EV+1.0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

Shot using an APS-C camera at 10mm (16mm equivalent) on a fisheye lens, resulting in diagonal distortion. The water's edge appears greatly distorted due to the fisheye effect, and this is very apparent when you compare it against the horizon in the centre of the image.

 

Wide-angle lens at 10mm: Almost no distortion

Shot with wide angle lens at 10mm

EOS 750D/ EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM/ FL: 10mm (16mm equivalent)/ Aperture-priority AE (f/13, 1/250 sec, EV+1.0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

Shot with an APS-C camera at 10mm (16mm equivalent) on a wide-angle lens. This was taken using the same focal length as the fisheye lens example. The wide-angle lens corrects distortion so the depiction of the water's edge remains as a straight line, aligned with the horizon in the image. When you compare this with the fisheye lens image, you can see that the wide-angle lens captures a narrower range and gives a more exaggerated sense of perspective.

 

One fisheye zoom lens you should try!

EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM

EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM
This lens lets you obtain both the circular fisheye and diagonal fisheye effects with a full-frame camera, and the diagonal fisheye effect with an APS-C camera. With the fluorine coating, any dirt that adheres to the lens can easily be wiped off.

 

For more examples of images shot with the EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM, check out the following articles:
Underwater Photography with the EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM
Capturing Both the Underwater and Terrestrial Worlds in a Single Shot
Landscape Photography: Shooting Storms
Architectural Photography and Lighting Techniques
5 Ways to Frame Your Travel Photos

 


Receive the latest update on photography news, tips and tricks.

Be part of the SNAPSHOT Community.

Sign Up Now!

 

Teppei Kohno

Teppei Kohno

Born in Tokyo in 1976, Kohno graduated with a Social Work degree from the Department of Sociology of Meiji Gakuin University, and apprenticed with photographer Masato Terauchi. He contributed to the first issue of photography magazine PHaT PHOTO and became an independent photographer after that, in 2003. The author of many books, Kohno not only shoots all sorts of commercial photographs, but also writes prolifically for camera and other magazines.

http://fantastic-teppy.chips.jp