In the world of photography, a fisheye lens to me is kind of like a purse is to my wife. Follow me for a second here. You only use it on certain occasions and for certain purposes, with certain outfits if you will. For the other times, you have a plethora of other purses to accessorize to your need. For the times that you need that one, zany purse, the only one that goes with that crazy belt, then the fisheye is the ticket. Since I’ve become re-enamored with photography, I have stopped asking about and wondering why my wife has as many purses as she does (and constantly wants more…sounds kinda familiar right?) Don’t worry, I’m not turning this into a fashion blog, c’mon in and I’ll show you some shots of and from the stellar Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye lens.
Rokinon is a Korean optics company that build quality, manual focus lenses and markets them under a variety of different brands. Rokinon, Samyang, Bower, ProOptic are all manufactured by the same folks, but what was once seen as a low end, entry level optical choice has grown to offer, serious optics. With a new line of cine lenses and now a pro level 24mm tilt shift lens, Rokinon has been wearing it’s big boy pants and that has bled into the mirrorless system camera category. The only other Rokinon optic I own is a Canon EF mount 14mm f/2.8 rectilinear wide angle. It is good enough comparatively, as well as offers such a price point advantage versus the native Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 lens, that I could never suggest the Canon lens over it, but, enough about it. This article isn’t about the 14mm.
Here is a shot showing the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 lens, the Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye lens and the Lumix 14mm f/2.5 pancake lens for a size comparison.
Enter the micro 4/3 Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye lens. It is a solidly built, nice looking lens that performs too. A nice solid heft in the hand makes it feel well built, but so small it doesn’t add much bulk at all. Weighing in at well under half the price of a Lumix 8mm fisheye, it is a very, very compelling option for micro 4/3 shooters, unless you want auto focus. That to me doesn’t make one bit of difference in a fisheye and let me tell you why. With the lens set to f/4 it has a hyperfocal distance of 3.1 feet, meaning if you manually focus on something 3.1 feet away from the camera, everything between about a foot and a half away, through infinity will be in focus. At f/5.6, that HFD drops to 2.2 feet, meaning anything just over a foot through infinity is in focus. (if you want to read up on establishing and understanding hyperfocal distance, READ THIS) The distance scale on the Rokinon Fisheye isn’t entirely detailed, but most of the time, you’ll probably be shooting between the .8 foot / .25m mark and infinity unless you are shooting something close to touching the lens, which, hey, go ahead and get all weird. I don’t care. With the lens set to f/5.6 and the focus set just shy of infinity, I don’t have to worry about focusing at all, unless I get my subject right on top of the lens, which admittedly I have done, but for those times, the lens has the focus ring. Easy breezy.
Auto focus is null and void to me with a lens like this. Of course, this doesn’t mean you don’t have to focus. In fact, I like to check my focus between shots if my subjects are varying in distance (i.e.: if I’m shooting things within a foot or two of the camera) but otherwise, you can treat it like an easy bake oven, just set it and forget it. Another great use for a lens like this is in video shooting. Because it is so wide, it naturally softens handshake and camera movement. A large reason that so many moving/action follow shots like you’ll see in skateboarding videos and the like will employ an ultra wide, or fisheye lens for video work. Combine it with a gyro, or even IBIS and the movement in video will look even smoother with a little practice.
The fisheye “look” can be crazy. Keep in mind there are two different types of fisheye lenses, circular and diagonal. A circular fisheye creates a strong vignette and actually produces a spherical, circular image while a diagonal fisheye is a distorted, edge to edge ultra wide angle lens, usually providing a 180 degree field of view (watch your feet or the legs on the tripod). Tilting the camera up or down will certainly cause major distortion in anything remotely close to the camera, as well as horizons or really any lines of any type, so I wouldn’t consider this the best portrait or architectural documentary lens or anything, but if shooting wide, expansive (albeit not too detail heavy as it will certainly pronounce distance) landscapes, and keeping the camera level, you’ll see that mad hatter look pushed largely to the edges of the frame, allowing a unique landscape perspective, and no one says you can’t crop and adjust this for optical correction in post, so, with the right workflow, this could be an amazing ultra wide landscape lens. It can also allow a very unique perspective allowing you to get your shot from angles and places that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Star trails for long, evening exposures? Nah, not until you start to hit the REALLY long exposure times which can make for crisper looking night skies without astronomical ISO settings, but for the darker hours, a fisheye can certainly provide a fun tool, and if you want to eliminate star trails, keeping the night sky crisp, a fisheye will allow you longer exposures with less movement in celestial bodies.
It can even be a fun, hold it over your head, or lay it on the ground and see what you get type lens. Because of the unique perspective a lens with a 180 degree angle of view provides, the possibilities are only restricted by your curiosity and creativity. One thing I will say though, it is such a wide lens, keep an eye on your fingers when focusing (seriously, they’ll start to show up in the image if they’re too close to the front of the lens barrel) or your feet, or tripod legs if you’re shooting at a downward angle. Yeah, it’s that wide. I like to call ultrawide angle and fisheye lenses, “story telling” lenses as you get so much of the world in frame which will certainly force you to take the environmental elements into consideration to capture an image and tell your story.
Otherwise, this lens is sharp, contrasty and taking into consideration that when shooting during the day, the sun has about a 50% chance of making it into frame this lens handles flare very well. Rokinon has done it again in my mind and I am now starting to look more closely at some of their other optics. I like to think of it as having saved about $2,200 by buying the two Rokinon lenses I now own vs the native mount options for my systems, so, that’s pretty serious money. If you’re looking for a fisheye lens, and can live without auto focus (with a lens like this, it really isn’t a big deal) I would highly suggest this lens over the Lumix 8mm personally. Let me know if you have any questions or want to see anything else in particular and I’ll try to get it done. If you’re interested, the lens is available HERE on B&H, and currently, in it’s Bower designation is available for $199 HERE!. Enjoy and keep on truckin’.
As requested in the comments, Marcos was interested in seeing a combination of the Rokinon Fisheye, on the Panasonic GM1 both before and after running through DxO Viewpoint 2’s defishing, so here you go Marcos!
I apologize for the less than inspiring subject matter, but to get this done, I figured I’d just shoot at my desk. My messy, messy desk.
After DxO Viewpoint 2:
Being about a foot away from the desk really makes for some serious distortion and inaccurate relative size for close objects, but I’m pretty happy with its ability to keep the wall lines straight and in my opinion does one hell of a job! I hadn’t tried this with the Rokinon yet, so thanks for the suggestion Marcos and hope this helps.