Field Testing the New Canon 8-15mm Fisheye Zoom

Devil's Club in Late Afternoon by Jay Goodrich
Devil's Club in Late Afternoon © Jay Goodrich

There are people out there who completely despise the fisheye lens.  They feel that the world should have a straight and perfect horizon. In some situations they are completely right, I on the other hand fell in love with the fisheye many, many years ago. On a whim I went out and bought Canon’s 15mm f2.8 Fisheye. I now use this lens on almost every adventure sports shoot I do. Once you learn to use it properly, its distortion characteristics can make a small cliff jump look huge, a not-so-steep line look death defying, and totally curve your surroundings if you choose.

The main thing that I lost when I switched from film to digital was the effect my fisheye had on my scene. Based on the variety of subjects that I shoot, I chose to utilize Canon’s 1.3x crop sensor 1D series of cameras, now the current 1D Mark IV. The standard 15mm fisheye still has some fisheye effect with the cropped sensor, but not as much as if it were on a 1Ds or 5D (these cameras have really slow frames rates to shoot action though). And now, I am shooting a 7D as well, it has a 1.6x crop factor. Umh, Mr. Fisheye? Where did you go and why do I just have a monster wide angle now?

That’s where Canon stepped in with more sheer genius. Enter the 8-15mm f4 fisheye zoom. Zoom? Yes, zoom. Just when I felt like my bank account was safe for a little while, they went ahead with this new crazy idea. A fisheye, that is in fact a fisheye, for any camera they make. And if you so choose to, you can now even get a full 180 degree view in your shot. Canon will you have my third born? Actually scratch that, my hands are full with just two.

Stoking the Fire at Sunset by Jay Goodrich
Stoking the Fire at Sunset © Jay Goodrich

Two weekends ago I taught a workshop with my friends Art Wolfe and Gavriel Jecan in Olympic National Park. On that trip, our local Canon rep showed up with everything Canon currently makes, including that there new fangled fisheye zoom thingy. I did in fact steal and monopolize it for two days. Hey, no else knew what the hell to do with it.

My initial reaction. Buying one. This lens is super sharp. And super cool. I started at 15mm with my Canon 1D Mark IV and then progressed to 12mm and bam return of the full fisheye effect. Using a 7D you would tune in 10mm. The other cool thing in comparison to the older fisheye, an ultra-sonic focus motor. No more gear whine while focusing and now a blazingly fast focusing lens. The other nifty little feature is a zoom lock to keep the lens from zooming to 8mm. A handy little feature if you don’t want a circular composition in your rectangular zoom finder.

Stoking the Fire at Sunset, 8mm Full Fisheye by Jay Goodrich
Stoking the Fire at Sunset, 8mm Full Fisheye © Jay Goodrich

So again Jay, is there anything you don’t like you kiss ass? Well honestly, the chromatic aberration on this lens seems a bit more extreme to me in certain situations than the older fisheye. Especially when you have extremely large differences between your lights and darks. I did expect some because it is impossible to have such a field of view without any fall off on the edges. And I am also thinking that the fact that this lens is a zoom makes some difference as well. Is this a game ender for the lens. Nope. I just made some adjustments in the lens correction panel of Lightroom 3 and by by the problem was solved. Except the one regarding my bank account. Stupid Canon. I love you by the way.

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