User review of the Canon 8-15mm f4L Fisheye Zoom Lens

I have always been a fan of Fisheye and Ultrawide lenses, right back to my film days, the first Fisheye lens I owned was a Sigma 15mm, all manual, all metal beauty that I still own (although I don’t use it anymore, it’s just a paperweight). So with the move to digital this was an area of creativity that I was sorely missing. I purchased a wide angle zoom, 17-40mm for my full frame body which was great for landscapes but I needed wider, I needed Fisheye.

So when Canon launched this zoom some 18 months ago I read about it with interest, the reviews were good, it is a very versatile lens which can be used on all Canon bodies, from the 1.3, 1.6 crop bodies and full frame as well, so I could use it with my 5D and 40D, twice the reason for buying it.

Following a birthday I had enough pennies to buy one, cost is around £900, so not cheap, but the build quality is excellent, it is also weather sealed as well. I don’t think I have ever been as excited about using a new lens as this one, as you can imagine the perspective is surreal, from 8mm on full frame you get a full circular fisheye image and as you zoom out this goes gradually to a full frame fisheye, achieved from about 13mm upwards, the main problem I have had is keeping your feet out of the image, indeed if using it on a tripod it becomes VERY difficult not to include a tripod leg or two as well!

The Lens is very compact and balances well on the camera with enough weight to make it comfortable and feel reassuringly well built as well. Autofocus is very fast and totally silent, it also has full time manual focus override as well, but with the massive depth of field you get you are seldom going to need to tweak the focus. The lens cap and hood can be a bit fiddly but it is difficult I’m sure to find alternative working solutions, something you are going to have to live with I’m afraid, you also have to be really carefull with the front element, as is the need with a fisheye you need to get close to your subject (or else it looks miles away) and you have to be really carefull you don’t bash the glass on your subject! Not advisable!

Images are very clean, with good saturated colours and excellent detail even into the corners, I am very impressed with the quality, even pixel peeping at 100% reveals a staggering amount of captured detail, it seems to need very little sharpening at the processing stage as well.

One thing that always worries me about super-wides is their ability (or not) to handle flare, as you can appreciate with more than 180 degrees angle of view you are going to have the sun in the frame a lot, so handling flare is crucial for me, the lens does not disappoint, you can point it at the sun and have very few problems, no ghosting and very little specular flare are apparent, great news!

I have now used the lens a few times in all sorts of weather and conditions and I cannot really fault it (except maybe the hood design) its special front coating really does shrug off dirt and water, I’ve tried it, it’s brilliant. I know it will have limited uses, but it does give you something totally new and different, I also think that if you feel you are in a bit of a photographers rut this could just be the tonic to lift you out, I am itching to try it in some more urban environments, so watch out!

Some of my image samples;

Couldn’t resist a Fisheye shot of a Fisheye! Hehe

Ian Pinn

NOPS Chairman 2013