Sunday, 15 November 2015

Fisheye lenses compared

I like fisheye lenses: They can cram an impressively wide field of view into the image frame, and create perspectives that you would not be able to see with the human eye. Another aspect of fisheye lenses is that they create a lot of barrel distortion (rounded images), which you can remove through a defish process, or retain in the final image.

Here is a collection of fisheye lenses for Micro Four Thirds and other systems:


From the left: Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 (my review), Lumix G 8mm f/3.5 (my review), Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4 (my review), Olympus 9mm f/8 (white) (my review), Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5 (the biggest) (my review)

There are basically two types of fisheye lenses: A circular fisheye lens renders a circle in the centre of the image frame, which usually extends to 180° all around. A full frame/diagonal fisheye, on the other hand, renders the full imaging sensors, and usually extends to 180° from corner to corner.




Here are the basic specifications of the lenses above:

LensSamyang 7.5mm f/3.5Lumix G 8mm f/3.5Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4Olympus 9mm f/8Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5
TypeFull frameFull frameCircularFull frameCircular
SystemMicro Four ThirdsMicro Four ThirdsSony EMicro Four ThirdsNikon F, Canon EF, Sony Alpha, Sony E, Micro Four Thirds, etc
Field of view180° diagonally180° diagonally180°140° diagonally185°
Lens elements/groups9/710/97/65/48/5
Weight197g165g200g30g298g
Length48mm52mm43mm13mm70mm
Diameter60mm61mm61mm56mm76mm
Minimum focus distance0.09m0.10m0.10m0.20m0.01m
FocusManual FocusAutofocusManual FocusManual FocusManual Focus
Aperturef/3.5-f/22f/3.5-f/22f/4-f/22f/8f/3.5-f/22

About the lenses:

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5


One of my favourite lenses for Micro Four Thirds. It is very small, light, well constructed, easy to use (manual focus is easy), and gives stunning, impressive images. On top of this, it is cheap. See my review.

This lens is also marketed under a number of other names, like Rokinon, Bower, Walimex, and more. They are exactly as good as the ones called Samyang.

Lumix G 8mm f/3.5


The first fisheye lens available for Micro Four Thirds. It is fairly expensive, and not any better than the much cheaper Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5. It does have autofocus, though, which can be useful for cute closeups of pets, for example. See my review.

Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4


A very exotic lens, a circular fisheye lens for mirrorless APS-C sensor cameras (Sony E mount). It is very compact for this class, and gives a good image quality. See my review.

Olympus 9mm f/8


The second of Olympus's pancake body cap lenses. It is very inexpensive, but doesn't have the same wide format as the other fisheye lenses on this list. The image quality is good for the class of lens. It is easy to bring along, and can be fun to use. See my review.

Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5


The only lens in the list which is designed for DSLR systems, with a longer register disance. That is the reason why the lens is so big: It needs a big retrofocal design due to the longer register distance.

It is also the only lens in the list which has a field of view larger than 180°, meaning that it can look slightly behind the photographer.

Also, this lens is designed to have flares effects. The inside lens barrel is glossy, so that you will have light reflecting and causing some light effects outside of the image circle. You can see this in the example picture below. However, this designed flaw also reduces the contrast and the overall image quality of the lens.

In the picture above, I have the lens in Nikon F format, with a cheap Sony E adapter. You could buy the lens in Micro Four Thirds mount as well, however, I would rather recommend to get the lens in Nikon F mount, with a cheap M4/3 adapter. That way, you can reuse the lens later on pretty much any conceivable mount with the appropriate adapter. The 4/3 sensor is not large enough for the full image circle, you will get a cropped disc.

Olympus 9mm fisheye on Sony E mount


A fun fact is that you can use the Olympus 9mm f/8 on a Sony E mount camera using a cheap adapter. This works well, and I can focus on infinity using the adapter. Here is what it looks like:


The same can also be done with the Samyang 7.5mm lens, however, I am not able to focus on infinity using the Samyang lens on Sony E. So for me, that is rather useless. This indicates that the adapter is a bit too thick, making the lens focus too close.

Image quality


To compare the image quality, I have taken the same picture using the five lenses:

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 @ f/3.5Lumix G 8mm f/3.5 @ f/3.5Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4 @ f/4
Olympus 9mm f/8 @ f/8Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5 @ f/3.5 on Sony EOlympus 9mm f/8 on Sony E

As you can see, there is some difference in the field of view. The Lensbaby is the widest, but the margin to the next, is small. On the other hand, the Olympus 9mm lens is the least wide of the bunch. When used on a Sony E camera, though, this lens gives you a wider view, but at the cost of dark corners.

To better evaluate the image quality, here are 100% crops from the images:

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5, Lumix G 8mm f/3.5, and Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4:


Olympus 9mm f/8, Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5, and Olympus 9mm f/8 used on Sony E:


Example images


From the Pantheon:

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4

Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4
Olympus 9mm f/8Olympus 9mm f/8 on Sony E


Alternative lenses


One alternative not shown in this comparison, is the Olympus 8mm f/1.8 PRO. It is very expensive, but also has one of the largest apertures of fisheye lenses currently available. This large aperture can be useful for underwater photography (using a waterproof housing), or for astronomical photography.

The most used fisheye lens today, is the one built into the Gopro action cameras. Here, I have compared the Gopro lens with the Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5. It is nearly as wide, and not quite as sharp as the Samyang lens.

An interesting lens is the Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8 circular fisheye, the only serious, and affordable, circular fisheye lens. While it only comes with DSLR mounts, and for APS-C systems, it is clearly designed for the Four Thirds format, as the image circle is just smaller than the height of the Four Thirds sensor. So it is ideal to use on Micro Four Thirds. I would recommend getting it in Canon EF mount, with the Metabones smart adapter, which allows you to control the aperture from the camera.

Conclusion


Both the Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 and the Lumix G 8mm f/3.5 are very good optically. As the Samyang lens is so much cheaper, I would recommend this lens to anyone who wants a serious fisheye lens for Micro Four Thirds.

The Olympus 9mm f/8 does surprisingly well, I would say, given the price tag. The image quality is not as good as the other Micro Four Thirds lenses here, but given the price, it performs very adequately. It is not as wide as the other lenses here, but it is still very wide, wider than the 9-18mm wide angle zoom lens, as demonstrated here.

Going to the circular fisheye lenses, the Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4 is by far the best. It has some chromatic aberration artefacts, but otherwise, it is a very good lens for the moderate cost. Sadly, it is only available for Sony E cameras.

Yasuhara have communicated that a Micro Four Thirds version is on the way. However, given that it has an image circle which is larger than the height of the Four Thirds sensor, I doubt that we will see it.

And that is also the reason why the Lensbaby is not a good lens for Micro Four Thirds, even if it come with a Micro Four Thirds mount: Its image circle is taller than the Four Thirds sensor. Apart from that, the Lensbaby is by far the worst in this test. I would not recommend this lens.

A fisheye lens can be fun to have. They used to be large, exotic, and expensive, but with these options, you can get one at a bargain price!

LensSamyang 7.5mm f/3.5Lumix G 8mm f/3.5Yasuhara Madoka 180 7.3mm f/4Olympus 9mm f/8Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5
ProsSmall, cheap, very goodAutofocus, good image qualityGood image quality, exotic, funCheap, small, funVery wide
ConsNo autofocus, but manual focus is easyExpensiveOnly for Sony E camerasManual focus, somewhat hard to focus correctly, no aperture mechanism, image quality could be betterNot very good, large

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for your review, very interesting. However, I think there is a minor mistake: in your first table the Samyang is listed as 'AF' but it is manual focus, and the Lumix is listed as 'MF' but it is autofocus.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for spotting this mistake! I have fixed it now.

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  2. Isn't the aperture on the Samyang also manual? Granted, manual aperture for most people is probably less of an issue than is manual focus, but it bears mentioning.

    Unless I'm mistaken, the Samyang also does not communicate the lenses focal length to the body, which is useful for image metadata and IBIS for stabilized bodies. Usually the focal length can be set manually on stabilized bodies when using non communicating lenses, but it's at least a minor inconvenience.

    In all fairness, stabilization isn't a big deal at these focal lengths anyway (so much so that Panasonic doesn't even put stabilization into any lens with a max focal length less than 30mm), so it's not a big deal if you have a stabilized body and don't bother to set the focal length.

    But, without lens to body communication, you also loose in camera corrections for things like chromatic aberration, vignetting, etc (barrel distortion probably doesn't apply here with fisheyes) in JPEGs, Not really an issue if you shoot RAW, but it's another limitation if you shoot JPEG.

    I always prefer to have the autofocus and auto aperture options, so I was willing to pay the premium for the Panasonic fish-eye.

    I do think it's important to point out all these limitations compared to the Lumix 8mm f3.5 & the premium Olympus Pro 8mm f1.8 (which has a huge 2 full stop speed advantage over the other fisheyes) which was not included or mentioned.

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  3. I bought the Samyang shortly after your first review which introduced me to the full frame fisheye and have never looked back. It is wonderfully sharp and the manual focusing and aperture are not a problem for me because the depth of field is large and forgiving and can be increased by stopping down. I mostly focus by visually estimating the distance to where I want the focus and setting it on the scale and then stopping down which usually puts the entire scene in focus even if there are some fairly close subject elements. With aperture priority on my OM-D it exposes correctly as I adjust the aperture and I still have the +- adjustments to select over or under exposure as needed. The combination of IBIS and the very wide nature of the lens pretty well eliminate the issue of camera shake. I find most manual lenses a trial to focus with my old eyes, but the Samyang is not at all stressful to use. Thanks again for you very practical, down to earth website.

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    1. The Samyang 7.5mm lens is one of my most used lenses. It is simply great!

      It could have been fun to have a circular fisheye lens for Micro Four Thirds as well. But in the mean time, there is no need to go looking for alternatives, the Samyang 7.5mm lens covers my need.

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  4. You left the Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye PRO Lens out of your review. This is the only lens in this group that is capable of capturing outstanding starscape images such as the Milky Way. It is a superb lens, a class apart from the others you reviewed.

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  5. I bought the little Olympus 9mm last summer and used it in Tanzania on a Panasonic G3. I am amazed how well it works. Maybe I was lucky to get an unusually good sample, but I have no complaints. At about $90, how can you go wrong?

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    1. I agree that the lens is good. The f/8 aperture makes it difficult to use indoors, or in low light, but other than that, it is easy to focus, and the images come out well. The lens is small and light, and easy to bring along.

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  6. Aren't both the Lensbaby and the Yasuhara Madoka really cropped circles instead of true circular 180x180 on a M4/3 camera?

    ReplyDelete