Sunday, May 20, 2012


In-camera 3-D panorama taken with the Sony A77
There are differences between software that can create bent panoramas by stitching several pictures together (see above), software that can distort normal photos to make them look bulbous in the middle, lenses that produce rectilinear photos and those that produce round pictures (circular fish-eye lenses).

Back in 1977 I learned what a fish-eye lens was because that photographic element constituted the theme of the high school yearbook I worked on that year. I was just a copy editor so I didn't have anything to do with the pictures. My life as a photographer would begin the following year.

Crop of an in-camera HDR using a Samyang 8mm lens on the Sony A77.
Some lens correction was used to control the distortion.
This past Thursday I made my first photographs with a rectilinear fish-eye lens. My Stammtisch buddy Uli lent it to me during a photo walk. In return, he got to play with my Sigma 10-20mm lens. The fish-eye experience was so amazing that I ordered one immediately. It just so happened that fotocommunity members were being offered a discount on that lens, a Samyang 8mm fish-eye, so I took advantage of the club price.

With my 10-20mm lens I like running blind into a flock of pigeons and snapping away as they flutter up into the air. The same can be done with a fish-eye, only the chances of capturing more of the scenery are much greater with the wider lens. The photo above was cropped out of a much larger picture.

Wide angle lenses are often used in architectural photography because you can get close to the object and often still capture the entire building. With such a fish-eye lens you must realize that the lines will be distorted, so your pictures will look nothing like the real architecture in front of you.

Fish-eye lenses seem to be made for use in the city where the buildings are close together. You can shoot looking straight up (see above) or straight ahead of you (see below). These two pictures were taken from the same place.

Of course, such an extreme focal length can (and should!) be used to explore the possibility of abstracting the reality that our cameras capture. It grabs a 180° view of whatever you place before it, so you may often see your feet in the pictures!
See if you can tell what the following picture is. Hint: The object can also be seen in one of the other pictures above.

Here are a few tips for using this lens:
You need to set your camera to "release without a lens" because this is a manual focus lens and has no electronics in it, so it does not communicate with the camera. You have to set the aperture (it is very sharp starting at f5.6) and focus (try it at 2m) manually. The EXIF files will not register what aperture was used.
It is also sold under the name "Walimex" and in either case costs approximately €280. They are relatively easy to find for sale used because amateur photographers buy them and then don't use them as much as they had imagined they would.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite image is the bird and the flare!Great shot!!