Friday, August 16, 2013

Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens

The Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye.
While I was shooting a wedding last May, there was a time when I was shooting inside the limo with the bride and the groom and all of the bridal party. I was using my Canon 17-40mm F/4L. The lens though being an ultra wide angle for full frame didn't have enough wideness to shoot from side to side. After the wedding I came to a thought that it might be time for a wider lens than my 17-40mm.

A short and stubby lens.
So I went online to look for a very good fisheye lens for full frame. One of my friends who loves fisheye lenses let me use his 8mm Rokinon lens for his Canon Rebel. It was just amazing how wide the lens was. The lens was around $200-$300, although it was only made for aps-c cameras. I needed one for full frame.

The front element is bulging with well coated glass.
I then went to look for a decently priced fisheye lens and I found the Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye. Along with similarly priced Sigma fisheye lenses, the Canon 15mm fisheye is priced around $500-$699. It depends where you buy it from and whether if you buy it brand new or used.

Just like Canon lenses from the 80's, this fisheye has decent build.
Since this lens is not going to be in my camera all the time, I just went on to look for a used one, and I got one for a really good price. Even though these lenses are pretty old in design, they can still be pretty expensive, which just means that a lot of people still love them and use them a lot. After around 3 days I finally got mine in the mail.
The lens cap is kind of a pain for this lens.
The Canon 15mm has decent build quality. It is really similar to the original ef 50mm lens from the 1980's. It also reminded me of the build quality of the ef 35mm f2 from the early 90's and the ef 24 and 28mm from the 80's. The body is made of plastic but the mount is metal. It has a bit of weight in it maybe because of the huge bulging element in front. It has a little focusing ring the same as the one in the 50mm 1.8 and 35mm f2.

Amazing sharpness even at the edges when stopped down.

The 15mm f/2.8 being an older lens, doesn't have a USM motor. The focus motor is the same as the one from the Canon 50mm f/1.8. It is not quiet but it's not obnoxiously loud either. The ring disengages when you have the focus mode set to auto. The ring does not rotate when the lens autofocuses so there's no danger of stripping the gears accidentally.

Try capturing this with an ordinary ultra wide.

The 15mm f/2.8 lens is a small lens. Mounted on a semi pro body such as the canon xx-d series cameras, the lens is pretty little compared to other lenses. This is an ef lens which means it is compatible with aps-c, aps-h, and full frame cameras. Although being a fisheye lens, I would only use this on a full frame body to get the maximum fisheye effect.

The image quality from this lens is absolutely phenomenal. The lens maximum aperture is f/2.8, although when shooting landscapes, it is always smart to close down the aperture a bit to get maximum depth of field. Although this lens is pretty good in the center at f/2.8, I've always used this lens stopped down at around f/5.6 or more. Around f/4 onward the sides of the frame becomes pretty sharp. This is pretty understandable as ultra wide angle lenses usually aren't really sharp on the sides unless you stop your aperture down. Auto focus works like a charm too...on a good day with good lighting, you can auto focus on a spot in less than half a second without the auto focus hunting back and forth.

Awesome angles like this from the 15mm.

The lens has a built in metal lens hood painted in black to resist reflections. It has a filter mount in the back of the lens just like the Canon 17-40mm f/4L. Reason for this is that you cannot really mount anything in the front element because of the way it is is with any other fisheye lenses in the market. The filter mount has a guide for when you cut your own filters. The front element is protruding so you have to be extra careful with it. I accidentally keep on touching the front element when this is mounted to my camera body.

Here are the things I love about the lens:

Decent build quality
Price is reasonable
Pretty sharp at f/2.8, awesome when stopped down
Color saturation is on par with more expensive lenses
Very resistant to flare

Yes, the lens is ultra resistant to flare.  Having an ultra large area of the element exposed to sunlight, the lens has a very good coating that resists flare. You can even shoot with the sun in your frame and still keep the contrast of your image. With some other lenses, the contrast just dies when the sunlight is in your frame. I would say this is probably the best feature of the lens.

Shot with the sun in the you see flare?

The one gripe I don't like about it it the lens front cap. I understand that this is a special lens but the lens cap just plainly stinks. It barely holds on to the lens and will drop once you put the lens in your camera bag, exposing the front element to scratches. There are a couple of fixes for this, I just plainly put a rubber band to keep it on the lens while in storage.

With the 15mm fisheye, your imagination is the only limit.
One thing to remember when using this lens though...even though it's an Ef mount lens which means it also works on aps-c and aps-h bodies which are the non full frame bodies, you will not get the full effect of the fisheye if you are using a non full frame body. This lens was made during the 1980's which means it was initially designed for 35mm cameras, now that we have the digital bodies, the 35mm equivalents are the only ones who can get the full fisheye effect from this lens. Although it is not really smart to spend around $500 on this lens on an aps-c body, there are cheaper alternatives like the Rokinon fisheyes which are at the $300 price range. The only thing you lose is the auto focus.

The Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens is one lens you are supposed to have in your arsenal. I have never set myself to spend money on a fisheye lens until I saw what fisheye lenses can do, and this Canon fisheye is THE MOST FUN lens I have. If you have money to spend and you have every focal length covered already in your arsenal, I suggest you get a fisheye. 

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