Fisheye lenses are among the most misunderstood photographic equipment, even by seasoned professionals. Many people don’t see the need for something that creates a “walleye vision” effect of wide, spherical, panoramic views, but the fisheye lens has its place in the pantheon of photography from beach images to the sky. You don’t have to wonder if the fisheye lens is good for astrophotography.
What is the fisheye lens used for is a common question. Since we’re working with Nikon equipment in this review, the second question is obviously, “Which are the best Nikon fisheye lenses?”
Let’s take a look at those two questions, and help you determine which Nikon fisheye lens is the best choice for you.
Best Fisheye Lenses for Nikon Rationale
There are two types of fisheye lenses, one with a circular fisheye effect, and one with a diagonal fisheye alignment. Most people are familiar with the spherical images produced with a circular fisheye lens, but the unique, some would say, odd, angled images created with a diagonal fisheye can produce spectacular results in the right setting.
For a fisheye lens, the shorter the lens, the better for most applications. You’re not going to need long focal lengths or much zoom with a fisheye.
When would you use a fisheye lens, and why try them at all?
The idea is to bring a full 180-degree spectrum of an image into one frame. That’s the power of a fisheye lens.
Things to consider in a fisheye lens
- Short focal length
- Low F-stop
- Circular or diagonal
- Manual setting options
- Know your venue
- How easy is it to set up a shot
Rokinon RK8MV-N 8mm T3.8 Cine Fisheye Lens
Best Fixed Fisheye Lens
This lens is measured in T-stops, versus the traditional F-stop, that’s how Rokinon markets its product. What does that mean to you? Well, not much, the T-stop is a metered measurement, and the F-stop is a theoretical light measuring method, both are similar, so a lower number equates to more light-gathering capability.
With that in mind, this lens is a mid-range in terms of light-gathering ability, but at the price and with the other features packed into it. It is a great choice for a single, standalone fisheye lens.
- Good light gathering range
- Quality manufacturing
- 10 Elements
- Fixed 8mm length
- T-stop vs. F-stop settings
Why We Picked It
Value and performance, what other reasons could a beginning photographer need, or a professional require when building a full toolset of lenses?
This lens by Rokinon has a very short focal length of just 8mm but it has a T-stop range from 3.8 to 22, meaning the depth of field possibilities, combined with the spherical fisheye lens can create images in dim light to full sunlight.
The 10-element construction creates less distortion along the periphery of the image, resulting in images that are clear from the center to the edge in all four directions.
Who It’s For
This is a lens for the professional looking to capture unique images of skateboarding, skiing, or bull riding, images far from the norm for these outdoor sports. With a fixed mounting, it’s a great lens for time-lapse shots of the night sky as well.
Professionals should all have at least one fisheye lens in their bag, and this one will cover a wide range of requirements.
For the amateur, this lens is easy to use, and with each trial and error session, their skills will increase.
Rokinon FE8M-N 8mm F3.5 Fisheye Fixed Lens
Best Standard F-stop Fixed Length Fisheye Lens
As they said on the old Dragnet television show, “Just the facts please.” The facts on this lens are that anyone can use it in a variety of settings.
It is similar to the first lens we reviewed, the RK8MV-N 8mm T3.8 Cine, with the notable difference that it uses the traditional F-stop system to determine light exposure. Most of the other aspects are similar.
This lens allows full 180-degree shots with little distortion on the edges, something absolutely a necessity in a fisheye lens designed for traditional, versus artistic expression style photography.
The lens is one of the lowest priced on the market, making it accessible for just about any photographer’s budget.
The F-3.5 to F22 offers a solid wide spectrum of light gathering ability, making it a great lens for nighttime photography as well as action shots in broad daylight.
- F-3.5 to F22
- Low cost
- 10 Elements
- Fixed 8mm length
- Short lens cap
Why We Picked It
At the price, you can’t go wrong. This lens delivers in almost every conceivable setting requiring a fisheye lens.
If you’re wondering if a fisheye lens good for astrophotography, the answer is this one is. Set on a timer this fisheye will gather light at its lowest F-stop, creating circular patterns of stars, intermixed with the straw meteorite or satellite that crosses through the sky.
It’s light, with a tight focus, bringing in objects clearly from infinite distances to just 11 inches away.
Priced affordably, it’s a lens that can sit in your bag for a long time and be ready for those unique moments when only a fisheye will deliver what you’re looking for.
With 10 element design, there is less distortion along the edges of the image. Clear, highly defined images from side to side are what you want in a fisheye lens, and this one will deliver that quality.
Who It’s For
If you’re an experimenter, one who is always looking for another way to capture an image or event, this lens is for you. A fisheye can change the entire look of a whitewater rafter going through a set of Class 4 rapids on a sunny, summer afternoon. It can do the same with closeup portrait style shots of animals, or still life photos in a controlled studio setting.
At the low price this lens is listed at, every photographer should own one. Opportunities for fisheye lenses are not as common as for other types of lenses, but having one ready when the chance arises will separate the great from the average with just a few clicks of the shutter.
7artisans 7.5mm f2.8 Mark II APS-C Fisheye Wide Angle Manual Fixed Lens for Nikon Z
Best Fisheye For Nikon Z
Distortion is the enemy in traditional lenses, but in a fisheye, it’s what you’re after. The distortion with this Z-style compatible lens is extraordinary. Being full frame, you are working in a “what you see is what you get” environment with this lens, though the finished image will curve with the distorted, spherical nature of the lens and create images you can’t see with the naked eye, but can visualize in your mind.
Being able to take that “mind’s eye” image and convert it into reality is the plus side of this lens. Offered at a very reasonable price it’s a no lose situation.
- F-2.8 to F16
- Low cost
- 11 Elements
- Fixed 7.5mm length
- Extreme light requires ISO adjustment
- Manual focus only
Why We Picked It
This lens is the lowest priced of any in this review, and while price alone isn’t always the deciding factor, the crisp, highly sharpened images even as the lens distorts the subject are a good additional reason to choose this lens.
A fisheye for a full-frame camera that offers images this clear, and with a fast lower F-stop of 2.8 make this a great lens for limited light, fisheye style photography.
The only question on this lens comes at the upper F-stop of 16. In most settings, 16 is more than adequate to quickly gather light in bright settings. But on a summer afternoon, under clear blue skies, the reflections off water, or sand might be too much for the lower F-stop range of this lens.
This is the best fisheye lens for Nikon full-frame cameras we’ve found at this incredible price.
Who It’s For
If you use a Z format camera, this lens should be in the bag. At the price, you just can’t go wrong. Its amazing ability to distort the image, while keeping everything in focus will have amateurs and professionals alike clicking away contentedly for hours while experimenting with the manual settings.
This is a manual focus lens, and if you’re not adept at focusing, and rely exclusively on auto-focus features, you might want to look elsewhere. If you are capable of manually focusing on an object in a fisheye setting, but this lens.
Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED F/4.5-29 Fixed Zoom
Best Nikon Telephoto Zoom Fisheye Lens
We mentioned earlier that zoom lenses were not common in fisheyes, but we included this lens in the review since uncommon photographic images are often what separates the great from the good.
If you’re thinking zoom or telephoto, you’ll be surprised when you see this lens. It is zoom telephoto, but not one of those 100 to 400mm monsters you see on the football sidelines. This zoom moves from just 8 to 15mm, and with an F-stop of 3.5 to the odd setting of 29.
The ability of this lens to jump into a macro setting separates it from the competition. Imagine fisheye images in a closeup photograph just half an inch away from the subject and you get the idea.
- F-3.5 to F29
- 8 to 15mm zoom
- Image focus to .5 inches
- Weather sealed for harsh conditions
Why We Picked It
A zoom telephoto fisheye lens is almost an anachronism in the world of photography, they just don’t seem to go together. But when they do, in a lens like this one, the images produced can be extraordinarily unique.
This is an expensive lens, but its ability to focus, clear, spherical-style fisheye images with just a half inch of the subject make it a unique offering.
A skilled photographer hired to take images of insects, small plants, or even electrical components can generate images not seen, or able to be produced anywhere else, by any other lens.
Selecting something unique like this lens is, provides an outlet for those who “think outside the box” when that box is the viewfinder on your camera.
Who It’s For
This is a lens for a professional photographer, or perhaps someone who hopes to reach professional status someday. The price is prohibitive for many photographers, but a macro setting in a fisheye lens of this quality is as unique an offering as you’ll find in the world of fisheye photography.
This is a lens that can create those panoramic fisheye shots you’ve seen taken from the top of skyscrapers and aircraft miniaturized down to the smallest insect, computer component, or cooking ingredient.
This lens would open up an entirely new world of possibilities for someone hired to produce a cookbook or a consumer guide for a digital product.
Questions and Answers
How to get a fisheye effect without the lens?
It’s not easy, but there are ways to get that spherical, fisheye look with just about any camera. One method is to obtain a peephole glass, like the ones you find in motel room doors to check who is knocking at your door. With the glass, you’ll have to cover it with either tape or a boxed enclosure of some type to prevent light distortion from the side. Another method is to take a traditional photographic image, and “fisheye” it with the special effects you can find in Photoshop.
What is a fisheye lens and how does it differ from other types of lenses?
A fisheye lens gets its name from the way it resembles a fish’s eye. We all live in the same three-dimensional world, but as humans, we’re only cognizant of threats that come at us on the level or from above. Sure, we have to watch our step as well, but to a fish, the entire three-dimensional world they live in can bring threats from any direction, hence their “goggle-eyed” appearance.
A fish can see 180 degrees with each eye, covering the entire spectrum of imagery in the process. Their eyes are placed on the sides of their heads for this reason.
What type of photography is a fisheye lens typically used for?
There are a few types of photography that lend themselves to a fisheye lens. The first is astrophotography since an image of the entire night sky is impressive. The other is scenic imagery in a natural setting like a beach, desert, or city skyline. The final use is for action shots of high-energy, fast-motion sports. Skateboarding, motocross, and rodeo can get fabulous fisheye images.
How does the angle of view of a fisheye lens affect the image?
There are two fisheye lens styles, either the circular or the diagonal lens. A circular lens creates those familiar “dome-shaped” images that make a traditional scene look like something you might see from inside a snow globe. A diagonal fisheye has sharper angles, and a more futuristic appearance, they don’t keep the entire image in focus as a circular lens does, but that’s part of the fun.
How do I correct the distortion associated with fisheye lenses?
Usually, you don’t want to correct the distortion. Distortion is why you use a fisheye lens. If you want a fisheye’s ability to shoot 180 degrees, but don’t want the distortion, select a wide-angle lens instead. Distortion, while remaining focused is the reason for a fisheye lens.
Are there different types of fisheye lenses and what are the differences?
There are just two types, the circular and the diagonal we mentioned before, but there are many different lengths of fisheye lenses. In general, the shorter the length, the wider the fisheye. The shortest lenses we reviewed here are 7.5 and 8mm. They also make telephoto fisheye lenses that can produce some very creative, very closeup content while retaining the fisheye’s wide-angle look.
Can fisheye lenses be used for video and what are the benefits?
Fisheye style video is very popular in extreme sports. The angles, depth of field, and the impression that a skater, skier, or BMX biker is flying into infinity make fisheye lenses very popular in videos of these extreme sports.
How does the aperture of a fisheye lens affect the image?
The aperture in a fisheye lens is no different than the aperture in traditional lenses, it’s all about how much light you can capture, and how fast you can stop the action you’re trying to capture. The tighter the aperture, the greater the depth of field, but the less light you’ll be able to gather.
How does the focal length of a fisheye lens affect the image?
Focal length is one of the biggest features affecting fisheye lenses. The shorter the length, the greater the panorama you can capture. A long focal length in a fisheye lens is an oxymoron since longer lengths mean tighter framing. A fisheye is designed to capture the “big picture” rather than focus on just one small aspect of it.
Are fisheye lenses compatible with all camera models?
All the major brands offer fisheye lenses, and within Nike, fisheye lenses are available in full-frame Z format cameras as well as FX and DX models. The FX and DX lenses are usable on both platforms but the F-stop settings are slightly different with each lens.
How does the image quality of a fisheye lens compare to other types of lenses?
The quality is the same, it’s the distortion you’re after. A good fisheye will be clear across the image.