Friday, October 31, 2008

Gear Bag Friday: Swimming With The Fishes - Review: Sigma 8mm Fish-Eye

Good Morning Everybody,
And welcome to one more installment of Gear Bag Friday. Today, I'm featuring a discussion and review of another one of the really fun lenses in my gear bag. It's the Sigma 8mm Fish-Eye. Back in my film days, I owned a Hasselblad 30mm Fish-Eye - did I mention that lens cost about $7000 in 1991 dollars. I loved the images I was able to capture with that lens.

Well, when I switched to the rectangular format of the DSLR, things changed. In the beginning of the transition, I hated the rectangle format, but eventually got used to the change, but that's another story.

I came by the Sigma Fisheye quite by accident. It was recommended to me by a photographer at a convention where I was speaking. I checked it out and ended up picking up the lens. I thought it was a steal at $700 - about 1/10th the cost of my Hassey lens. Anyway, I started shooting with it and found it was quite a blast to play with at a wedding. I've posted 18 images taken with that lens right here at DPT. When the link pops, just scroll down past this article to see the posted images.

I'll tell you what I like about the lens is it's unique perspective it brings to a scene. It's great for dramatic interiors, really unusual portraits, and any number of other creative ways you can think of to view the world.

When attached to a full frame DSLR, you will get a complete circle in the image area. That's OK if that's what you want - I have found it to be not to my taste - too many pixels get lost. Having said that, I can't wait to get it on that new 21MP Canon 5D Mark II and see how many pixels I end up with in that circle. My quick estimation would be about 14MP - and that should be plenty of pixels for some really exciting images.

My preference with the Sigma Fisheye lens has been to use it on the ASP sized sensors. It fills the frame more effectively because of that 1.6x magnification factor and if I crop it square, I'm back to my Hassey type images at about one/tenth the cost. On the new 15 MP Canon 50D, that's plenty of pixels left over for a large print.

Here are 11 things to keep in mind when shooting with the Sigma 8mm Fisheye lens:
1. When shooting straight lines, you can end up with some very unusual compositions.
2. When shooting scenes with curved lines, the curved lines disguise the effects of the fish-eye distortion and can add to the composition thus looking very interesting.
3. If you are going to include people in the shot, try to keep them as close to the middle as possible. This will minimize their distortion.
4. Know that the center of the lens is plenty sharp, but the edge, not nearly so. Thanks OK as long as you keep your point of greatest interest or the important parts of the image near the center.
5. Try hanging, using the camera bracketed to a mono-pod, fitted with the Fish-eye over the crowd's head while taking a shot - very cool perspective.
6. Try the reverse too, again using the mono-pod, by keeping it very close to the floor and having all the guests look into it for a fun and creative candid.
7. Don't over use it at an event. It is not everybody's "cup of tea."
8. Try a few reception candids up close, in your face and personal for a really different result.
9. Remember, If you attach it to a full frame DSLR you get a circle.
10. When attached to a full frame DSLR you WILL take a picture of your on-camera flash.
11. Just go out, play, experiment and have a blast with it.

Hey everybody, I'm wrapping on that fishy note. Everybody have a great weekend and remember, "The beauty of a Pixel is in the eye of the beholder." See ya' on Monday, -David

Related Links: Review


  1. Thanks for share this info David!

  2. Yup I knew it.
    David, I use this lens on my 40D. I get a circle???

  3. Thanks for the comparison of full frame versus APS-C sensor size, I was wondering how much of a difference it would be.

  4. Hi David, and thanks for the info. Did you use a 50D for the APS-C sample image you included?

  5. Mr. David thanx for info.

  6. Thanks for providing such a great article, it was excellent and very informative.
    as a first time visitor to your blog I am very impressed.
    thank you :)