The Fisheye Lens

I am dedicating this post to a wonderful photographer whom I follow, Leanne Cole.  We recently had a nice conversation following a blog post she had made with a fisheye lens.  So, I wanted to post a couple of examples of some photos I have taken with one, and then compare that with a more traditional wide-angle lens.

Salt Deposit wp
This photo was taken in Capitol Reef National Park using a Sigma 15mm fisheye lens on my older Nikon D200 with a DX sensor.

You might ask what is the difference between a “fisheye” lens and a wide-angle lens?  A fisheye lens is designed to give an ultra-wide viewing angle, in this case (of my Sigma 15mm) almost 180 degrees.  The lens is also designed to produce some “barrel distortion” — that is rounding the perspective so that the edges appear compressed in relation to the center of the photograph.  The above photo is an extreme example of this because I was literally laying on the ground pushing the horizon upward and that exaggerated the barrel distortion.  It gives a surrealistic feeling to the photo.

My wife doesn’t particularly like this photograph because of the distortion.  We agree to disagree here.  I specifically used the lens to amplify the foreground salt deposits and to “bend the sky” to create a more impressionistic shot.

Cathedral 1 wp
This is an other shot from Capitol Reef NP that I took with the Sigma 15mm fisheye.  By the way, this is the Temple of the Sun formation.

This photo above is not nearly as distorted, but my primary subject, the rock formation, was a fair distance away, rather than just a couple of feet as in the first photo.  So, the barrel distortion is much less pronounced here, but you can still see the exaggerated sky with the clouds in the background appearing to be sweeping in from many miles away.  When this shot is viewed at full screen on a larger monitor, you can really feel the “big sky”.

Now let’s look at a photograph taken with a “traditional” wide-angle lens.

Side canyon Park Avenue wp
I just took this photograph last month in Arches National Park in an area known as Park Avenue.  This was taken with my new Nikon 10-24mm zoom lens at 10mm.  I used my Nikon D500 that also has the DX sized sensor.

If you compare this photo to the one on the top or even the one right above (the Temple of the Sun), you will notice a lot of similarities and some differences as well.  All of the photos have that exaggerated perspective with the foreground being so much more prominent and the background being more “pushed back”.

However, if you look more closely at this photo, you will notice that the horizon and overall perspective are not “rounded out” with the barrel distortion used in the fisheye lens.  In fact this shot is quite “square” in that there appears to be little if any barrel distortion.  It really looks quite natural other than the more pronounced perspective angles.

So, for those of you considering a wide perspective lens, now you can really see the effects of the fisheye versus the wide-angle.  For me, the two lenses are not really interchangeable; they have somewhat different missions and give the resulting photographs very different feelings.  In the first photo, I really was looking for that surrealistic, otherworldly feeling.  In the bottom photo, I was really just trying to get a nice angle on that scene to convey the image as I was feeling it.  I like the shape and colors of the foreground rock in comparison to the canyon walls and the way the crack in the rock leads you into the overall scene.

Hopefully this has been useful.  Thanks for visiting.


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