A long time ago, in a world that only used film, a lens was developed to see the whole sky. Cloud studies for meteorological use prompted the invention of the fisheye lens. It wasn’t long until the keen eye of the “art” photographer saw one and decided to use it to make images that could not otherwise be made. Fisheye images aren’t like rectilinear images, where straight lines mostly stay straight... fisheye lenses give you a convex rendering with curved straight lines, and encompass a huge area into a single image. Imagine if you will the end of a dog’s nose about six inches from the front of the lens... yep, you’ve seen photos with fisheye lenses before.
There are two basic types of fisheye lenses, circular and full-frame. The full-frame lens covers the full 35mm or FX sensor size frame with image - no cut-off corners. The circular fisheye is designed to project a circular image slightly smaller than the height of a 35mm or FX sensor, with vignetted corners. The second type is now available for your Lensbaby Composer (or any of the other Lensbaby models that accept the optic swap system with a special adapter).
I recently obtained a Fisheye Optic from Lensbaby to use in my Lensbaby Composer. It installs like any other optic, and creates a whole new perspective on “wide angle” photography. The lens is complete with a set of apertures (the front element screws off for insertion of the aperture disks), a carry bubble which serves as a installation/removal wrench, and a nice soft cloth to dust off the front element.
When I first opened the package, I was immediately impressed with the build quality of the Fisheye Optic. It feels very solid in your hand when you are installing it. Nice construction and finish.
12mm is pretty wide. That’s how long the focal length of the Fisheye optic is... the coverage is 160 degrees in the field of view. That’s close to everything you can see (although with our peripheral vision, we can’t focus on anything close to that width). Focus is on the body of the Composer, and of course, shifting the lens to skew the image works just as well on the Fisheye optic as others. You can close-focus down to an amazing 1/2 inch! The f/4 speed of the lens without a disk in place is great for low-light shots. Use a supplied aperture to stop down to f/22 for everything from inches to infinity in focus.
Image tend to be very graphic. If your images aren’t graphic enough, you aren’t close enough. Filling the frame really means getting close if you are shooting, say, a flower. Think inches here.
So, why use a fisheye? Huge field of view, of course, so vistas with sunsets and landscape photos take on a whole new look. I know a photographer who used a fisheye lens to shoot airplane interiors - the inside was already circular, so the distortion of a circular fisheye was barely noticeable to the viewer. Need to shoot an environmental portrait of a person behind their desk with all their clutter around? Here’s a choice lens to do that shot. Want to make images that look like the IMAX theater? Use a fisheye. Portraits, like the dog shot mentioned earlier, can take on a very humorous look.
Here are some of my images from a recent trip to Mexico. I tried a few images wide open, but settled on f/8 for all the images published here.
If these fisheye lens shots inspire you, look up the Lensbaby Fisheye Optic at Lensbaby’s website and get one ordered for yourself today!