What is Fisheye Lens?

What fisheye lenses are used for?

A fisheye lens is an ultra-wide angle lens which is used for capturing objects with an angle of about 180 degrees to even 220 degrees.

These are often called super-wide lenses or ultra-wide lenses too. Professional photographers use fisheye lenses to shoot landscapes, clouds, crowds, interiors, architecture, and extreme sports and also to capture artistic photography. Thanks to the unique distortion they produce, fisheye lens are being increasingly used by photographers to take intriguing photographs of various objects, from portraits to still life.

In 1906, renowned American inventor and physicist Robert W. Wood initially labeled the ultra-wide lens as “fisheye” lens. However, the super-wide camera lens came into popular use in 1920 to study cloud formations. Normally, the angle of view of fisheye lenses is between 100 degrees and 180 degrees while the exact focal length depends on the format in use.

Fisheye lenses are designed to produce abstract and dynamic images which make them perfect for wide-angle photography.

Different Types of Fisheye Lens

Basically, there are two types of fisheye lenses available today, these are:

What is Fisheye Lens - different types of fisheye lenses
What is Fisheye Lens – different types of fisheye lens

1 – Circular Fisheye Lens

The circular fisheye lens is designed to capture a complete 180 degree panorama in every direction. This produces a circular image with blackness bordering the edges of the frame.

The circular fisheye lens produce extreme distortion and are mainly used to capture artistic photographs, such as shooting interesting cityscapes and landscapes and to capture extreme sports, such as snowboarding, skateboarding, etc.

The Samyang 12mm f/2.8 fisheye lens is considered to be one of the best circular fisheye lenses available in the market for professional and amateur landscape photographers.

2 – Full-Frame Fisheye Lens

The full-frame fisheye lens can capture a 180-degree field of view only along its diagonal. The horizontal and vertical sides of the image are restricted within 180 degrees (usually around 150 degrees horizontally and 100 degrees vertically).

What is Fisheye Lens - full frame fisheye lens
What is Fisheye Lens – full frame fisheye lens

Despite not being able to cover a wider angle like the circular ones, the full-frame fisheye lens is rectangular in shape and prevents black edges on the image. Thus, full-frame fisheye lenses are more suited for practical uses, such as capturing building interiors or for conventional landscape photography.

A perfect example of full-frame fisheye lens is the Altura Photo 8mm f/3.0 fisheye lens.

Focal Length of Fisheye Lens

If you are using a camera with a 35 mm sensor or film, normally the circular fisheye lens should have a focal length of 8 mm to 10 mm.

On the other hand, full-frame fisheye lenses have a greater focal length, around 15 mm to 16 mm.

The “crop factor” plays an important role in increasing the focal length of cameras sporting a sensor smaller than 35 mm. To find the equivalent focal length of any lens, you only need to multiply the focal length by the camera’s specific “crop factor”.

For example, a fisheye lens of 10 mm on a camera with crop factor of 1.5 will give an actual focal length of 15 mm which narrows the field of view dramatically.

Due to this, numerous manufacturers make fisheye lenses specifically for small-sensor cameras. These may have even shorter focal lengths, at times going as low as 1 mm so that a complete 180-degree photo can be captured.

Angle of View of Fisheye Lens

An ideal fisheye lens is determined by its ability to capture 180 degrees photographs at its widest point. Still, some manufacturers produce lenses which can capture 22-degree wide photographs. These lenses are specialized, long, heavy and often expensive and thus mostly used for professional technical projects.

Image Distortion of Fisheye Lens

What is Fisheye Lens - Image distortion of fisheye lens
What is Fisheye Lens – Image distortion of fisheye lens

Fisheye lens produce a unique distortion, termed as “barrel distortion” where the subject at the center of the frame seems to bulge out, such as straight lines seeming wildly curved. This form of photography is also termed as “curvilinear”.

It is because of this unique effect that most photographers choose to use fisheye lenses in their photography pursuits.

Depth of Field of Fisheye Lens

Fisheye lenses have a significantly large apparent depth of field and are able to capture such extreme angled photographs. This causes the image to appear sharply focused from the front to back. This makes fisheye lenses perfect to capture scenes with an interesting subject in the background or foreground.

Bottom Line:

Let’s hope that the above information was useful for your photography pursuits. Fisheye lenses are helpful in capturing extremely abstract yet artistic photographs of normal everyday objects.

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