Technology changes with time, but the fundamentals and recipes in photography remains. This article was first published in 2008, revised in 2018
“Lens distortion… desirable or unwanted?
I love it though!”
When I first started photography with film during my primary school days in the late 80s, I did hear of this lens call the 16mm fisheye. In those days, this is a very expensive lens which I can barely afford as a student. I gave it a miss. Now into the digital era, this lens came into my sight again in the form of a more affordable 10.5mm.
I was then building up my range of APSC lenses and I pondered whether to purchase this lens or not. I also wondered whether I should invest in a lens which will give distortion. I borrowed one from my friend and tried it for a week. I told myself, “Wow, wow, wow! I must get this lens.”
Even though I possess the superwide 12-24mm APSC lenses, the 10.5mm fisheye is a good complement as it has a wider coverage than the 12mm. Oh yes, just to clear the myth of focal length, there is a difference between 10.5mm fisheye and a superwide angle 10mm lens. Difference being, for a super wide angle 10mm lens, it has less angle coverage than the 10.5mm fisheye lens. We also do not experience the barrel distortion as seen in the 10.5mm fisheye lens.
According to Wikipedia, the apparent effect of the fisheye lens is that of an image being mapped around a sphere. Fisheye lenses use this type of distortion as a way to map an infinitely wide object plane into a finite image area, hence the 10.5mm fisheye lens can provide more coverage than a normal super wide angle 10mm lens. Hence, the word “fisheye” on the lens make it a whole lot of difference.
And yes, we are also seeing the way how fishes look at things with their bulging eyes. Their wide coverage of sight allows them to detect predators in the surroundings.
In very tight areas, the fisheye lens helps to cover most of the scene, especially in confined areas or small alleys. At the same time, with a focal length of 10.5mm, one can easily minimize camera shake since the minimum shutter speed to minimize camera shake is 1/10 of a second in this case. (The minimum shutter speed to minimize camera shake is 1/focal length.) This will mean that shooting with this lens in low light conditions or even night photography without a tripod is not impossible with the help of a higher ISO.
- It is important to note the degree of distortion when you tilt the camera upwards and downwards.
- Usually, the central area of the frame has less distortion, hence try to avoid placing your main subjects outside the central area of the viewfinder.
- This lens does not allow the use of a UV or skylight filter to protect the lens, hence special care is needed to avoid grease or thumb prints on the lens. Do standby a lens pen or lens tissue. But the wonderful angle which this lens provides is worth the effort.
The fisheye lens is versatile. Used adequately, it can even be used for shooting architecture, landscape, portrait and daily scenes. With the tips above in mind as well as the case studies below, enjoy yourself in playing with the distortion.
Positioning of the angle
|At level position||Camera tilted upwards||Camera tilted downwards|
|Do take note of the distortion when you tilt the camera upwards and downwards. At eye level, barrel distortion is seen in region off the centre of the image. When the camera is tilted upwards or downwards, the horizon became distorted. If used creatively, this sort of distortion can sometimes lead to some stunning shots.|
Comparing with the other focal lengths
|From left to right: shot with APSC 18mm focal length, 12mm focal length and 10.5mm fisheye|
|The above 3 pictures are taken with 3 different focal lengths. The 12mm lens shows more coverage than the 18mm focal length. The 10.5mm fisheye reveals more of the surrounding amidst the lens barrel distortion, which can sometime make the picture look different from an ordinary undistorted shot.|
Portrait or Landscape Orientation
|Shot at the Singapore River, trying out this shot with a portrait and landscape orientation can yield very different visual effect. But do take note in keeping your balancing act, as looking at the distorted image through the view finder can at times make you lose your foothold.|