Why use fisheye lenses?

Fisheye lenses are the one lens that can really divide opinion more than any other. It’s truly a love or hate relationship, but are they really misunderstood? We look at circular and rectilinear fisheye lenses so that you can get a very understanding of life with a fisheye lens.

First things first, as mentioned above, there are two types of fisheye lens, both giving a similar effect, but both very different in operation.

Circular fisheye

As the name suggests, circular fisheye lenses produce a circular image. This means that usually they have around 180° view in all directions. These lenses are very easy to de-fisheye (correct the verticals to make a regular image).

Example Of A Circular Fisheye Output (6.5mm) Image will be same width as sensor, the circle image is cut here to show you how it looks when cropped)

Rectilinear fisheye

These images have a rectangular image output where the image is distorted to fit the image area. These lenses also have 180° view, which will be the landscape degrees, but slightly less on the portrait as it is cropped to make the image rectangular. These lenses generally tend to be a little trickier to de-fisheye, but depending on lens and how well you kept the horizon straight, it is possible if needed.

Example Of A Rectilinear Fisheye (7.5mm). This is how it looks in camera, image distortion has not been altered.

Uses

The biggest misunderstanding of fisheye lenses is that they are just for fun and of little or no use. The images that many conjure up are of animals/people where the nose is really close to the lens and the rest of the face distorts in the background, giving the subject a huge nose and funny shaped body. Of course, this is hilarious once or twice, but there are other uses.

• Landscape photography: For super wide, dramatic landscape photographs, the fisheye lens is perfect. You can keep the horizon straight, and the image will have a fairly natural look, such as the image below.

• Interior architecture: Churches, cathedrals and auditoriums look amazing with fisheye lenses, and you can de-fisheye the image if needed if you don’t want the fisheye effect.

• Street photography: There are a few photographers who use fisheye lenses on the streets. It’s a perfect way to capture life on the streets as it encompasses so much of the surrounding area.

Of course there are plenty of other things you can use these lenses for, but these are the most popular. Once you have your images, you can then choose to use them looking as they were captured, or, as some do you can use software to remove the Fisheye effect.

An example of landscape images without any corrections to distortion.

Why de-fisheye?

You’ve spend all that money on a fisheye lens, do why would you want to de-fisheye it and turn it into a normal looking lens? Well, that’s the beauty of these lenses, you have options, and they make the lens very versatile!

There are two main reasons that you might want to de-fisheye. Firstly, you might want the image to just look a normal image, without the fisheye effect, but secondly, and more importantly, once you’ve taken away the fisheye effect you’re left with an extremely wide lens view.

This is extremely useful and a great reason to buy a fisheye lens. Basically it’s two lenses in one (for the circular fisheye it’s actually three lenses in one as you can change the circular fisheye image into a rectilinear fisheye image as well as pure straightening out of the image).

Image straight from camera with no distortion correction in post processing.
Image with basic corrections and in a state for further tweaking.

Looking at the above two images you can plainly see the differences. I was actually only standing about 12 feet away from the front door when I took this image, so I’m really testing the extreme edges of the image. The final de-fished image is around 10/11mm which is amazing. The corners have lost some of their sharpness because of way the image is manipulated, but it’s nothing that can’t be worked around. Many images will have sky taking up the top of the screen, where this won’t be noticed.

Is the fisheye lens for everyone?

It’s a lens that everyone should own in their collection, but unless you know what you’re doing with it and you’re willing to experiment with different things, it’s not a lens everyone should use consistently as a fisheye lens.

Borrow someone’s fisheye lens before you make the purchase, or really look at some of the examples on this article or within OneCameraOneLens. Certainly with the circular fisheye, I found it much harder to use than a rectilinear fisheye.

Conclusion

I love the fisheye lens. I’ve owned a Samyang 8mm for my Nikon cameras, a dedicated fisheye lens for my mobile phone cameras, a Meike 6.5mm for my Fujifilm and now the sharpest and best of them all, the TTArtisan 7.5mm. With my latest lens I can add ND filters, so I will be trying that out in the near future! So many more possibilities!

Fisheye lenses are not for everyone, as I’ve said. But they’re a great tool and one I would really miss if it wasn’t in my kitbag.

If you liked what you read, have any comments about fisheye lenses, or generally just want to support me, please interact with the website. Thank you for reading. Mark.

*** For more examples please read and view my last blog “A Visit to Kidwelly” plus my initial review “I Have A New Lens“.

Published by mgadams1970

Fujifilm Documentary Photographer & Blogger.

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