Canon EF 8-15 mm f/4L Zoom, the world’s first fisheye zoom – review

By Yusuf Hashim

 

It’s the amazing Canon EF 8- 15 mm f/4L Zoom, the world’s first fish eye, constant aperture zoom lens. RRP is RM4488, but I believe street prices will probably be much lower when the lens becomes available in the market. I fooled around with this baby during the recent Canon 9/11 Photojournalist walkabout. I fell in love with it, twisted a few arms at Canon, and paid a premium to become one of the first to get this baby here in Malaysia. I’ve always loved what its elder sister, the EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye can do, so when the younger sister arrived, I just had to have her. Here’s what the two sisters look like, side by side. The newer lens is larger, heavier and better built compared to its older sister.:-

It’s early days yet, so I haven’t had a chance to really see what she can do, but here are a couple of shots taken with the older EF 15mm f/2.8 on the right, just to illustrate the creative possibilities with fisheye lenses. What the elder sister can do, the newer EF8-15mm Fisheye can probably do better.

 

 

With the new EF8-15 Fisheye on a full frame body like my 1DsM2 and 5DM2, you can shoot creative fish eye shots ranging from a circular image with a FOV of 180° at 8mm, to the more traditional ultra wide angle view similar to that available with the older EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye. When shooting at the widest end of the Fisheye zoom range, you have to remove the wide Tulip lens hood and take care that your toes, and your tripod legs do not come into the frame. If you don’t remove the hood, at 8mm, the hood will be visible in the circular image as in the pic below:

 

 

With very short focal length lenses like this 8-15mm Fisheye, always check the front end of the lens for any dust or hair particles. Use an air blower to get rid of them. If you don’t, the very short focal length will cause the dirt to be clearly visible in the image.

Lens Flare and Chromatic aberrations are always a problem with very wide angle lenses. In the circular image above, a bluish CA fringe is visible in the top left hand quadrant because I have pointed the lens towards a bright light source from inside a darker building. But flare can be used to good effect if you know what you are doing. In my Boatman picture above, I’ve deliberately used the flare effect to enhance the picture. I angled the lens a little bit towards the sun and managed to create, a nice flare with pentagonal reflections of the aperture blades in the picture. In this picture, the boatman was sitting on the roof of the boat. I was below him, and the 15mm fisheye lens was just 6 inches away from his toes. To get an upward curving horizon, I simply tilted the sensor plane a little bit upwards compared to the plane of the boatman. In the lower picture with the downwards curving horizon, I purposely tilted the lens downwards to get this effect. To get the horizon as horizontal as possible, and any human or main subject undistorted, try to keep them in the centre of the frame, and try to hold the sensor plane parallel to the plane of the picture. Sounds complicated, but once you have the lens on your camera, you can easily look through the viewfinder and adjust your perspective to get the shot that you want. And do be careful about looking directly at the sun with any ultra wide angle lens. You can seriously damage your eyes.

If you like a vignette effect in your photos, you should be aware that vignetting in this fisheye lens will not be uniform at certain focal ranges. This is one lens where you are encouraged to chimp after every shot in order to check for these peculiarities. And be careful also about metering modes when using the lens at the 8mm end to avoid overexposure due to the darkened frame surrounding the circular image. You may need to do manual exposure compensation.

The new 8-15mm zoom is an L lens, which means it’s better built and properly weather sealed. There is a rubber skirt at the base of the rear portion of the lens, which effectively keeps the joint between the lens and the body, dust and moisture proof. The new 8-15mm Fisheye lens is also coated with some high tech substances. Canon claims that the front and rear elements are coated with a fluorine based coating, which actively repels dust, water and dirt, making it easier to clean the lens. In addition, to reduce flaring and ghosting, all the internal lens elements are now also coated with Canon’s super spectra coating, which contain tiny cone-like structures which supposedly slows down light to the same speed as it travels through the glass, thus reducing/removing flare. Very high tech stuff this. And it’ll probably be a bit more difficult to induce creative flaring with the new 8-15mm Fisheye, compared to its older sister.

As the front lens element protrudes outwards, you’ll have to take extra care not to knock the front of the lens against anything hard or scratchy when walking in tight spaces with the camera and lens hanging on your shoulder. The shallow tulip like hood gives it some protection from knocks. In the older 15mm fisheye lens, this hood is permanently attached to the lens barrel. But in the new zoom version, the hood is removable, because you have to remove it in order to shoot at the 8mm end. However seeing the exposed and protruding lens can sometimes make you feel a little uneasy.

The new EF 8-15 mm Fisheye can do more than the old 15mm Fisheye. It can shoot circular or full frame fisheye images. As I’ve just got the lens today, I don’t have any sample photos yet. I will upload some samples here as soon as I can get out to put the lens through its paces.

If you are impatient to see some image sample shot by other people with this lens, click HERE. 

And click HERE to see a 2 min video showing what the zoom effect of this lens is like, also from the CPN Europe website.

I shot the picture below at 14mm with a borrowed unit during the Canon Photojournalist walkabout recently.

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