Sunday, August 25, 2013

My 15mm fisheye in downtown Chicago

The train going to Chicago.
Since I got my Canon 15mm fisheye I've been wanting to try it out where I can use its full potential. When I first got it we basically just went around our favorite botanic gardens and I tried the lens in there. Nothing really special about using a fisheye in a garden. Most of the time I ended up using my macro lens when we were there and my photos with the fisheye never really wowed me while I was checking them out on my lcd screen.

Nice reflections on the buildings.
One of my friends showed me some photos he took while he was in Chicago with his fisheye lens. I was pretty impressed. I then had the urge to go there and see for myself how the fisheye works in a scenery like downtown Chicago.

The bean at Millennium Park.
We went out the train station and all I saw was this concrete jungle. Structure after structure, the buildings were over towering everything. I decided to mount my 15mm fisheye to my Canon 6D. I took a peek in the viewfinder and I was wowed with what I saw.

Taken on a bridge.
This is where the 15mm fisheye shines. Pretty much most of the shots taken with it in an ordinary place were kinda a place like downtown Chicago, the 15mm fisheye is like gods gift to photographers.

The 15mm gives you unbelievable point of views.
Fisheyes are excellent in places where everything is big and sitting close to each other. It gives you a point of view where everything is just overpowering everything. Since it gives you a view 180 degrees from side to side, sometimes less, the glass is formed with a rounded surface which gives it that distorted, ultra wide look. Hence, this lens is for specific use only. Although I see a lot of photographers use it all the time.

At Michigan avenue.
I set my camera to manual mode this time. Since a big area is covered by my frame using a fisheye lens I kinda wanted to figure out the exposure of the image by myself, especially when there are a lot of variances between light and shadow in the frame. Going through tall buildings in the afternoon when the sun is kinda high, the difference between sunlight and the shaded areas can be great.

The Chicago theater.
By going with a manual setting, I closed my lens a bit to get the maximum depth of field. This is important when using a fisheye or an ultra wide angle lens. Since everything is pretty much in focus with a lens like this, you have to make sure that the sides of your frame are sharp. Setting up a narrow aperture is the way to do it. I then adjusted my speed accordingly to the light meter in my camera. Since  it was a pretty sunny day, I was able to get speeds up to 100/sec with no problems.

Rental bikes.
By walking from the train station to the magnificent mile, I was able to get a lot of shots of the magnificent landmarks in Chicago. the Bean at Millennium park, the Art Institute, the Michigan avenue bridge, etc. On our way back we changed our path a little bit and we were able to see the Chicago Theater, and we were able to see ABC station while they were having a news broadcast. It was a pretty neat walk.

On our way back to the train station.
Downtown Chicago is one of the many neat places to go to shoot wide angle or fisheye. We will come back here during the winter and check the place out when there is snow on the ground.

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. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Baileys Harbor Door County Wi.

Baileys Harbor Marina.
Baileys harbor is another nice place to visit when you're in Door County Wi. It's a quiet town located on the east side of the Door County Peninsula. It is around 20 minutes away from Sturgeon bay 

One of the coolest paintings on the side of a building.
We went to the Baileys Harbor Marina and walked around. As usual it was overcast so I had to deal with whatever lighting I have for photos. The Marina has docks all over and that didn't stop me from taking a lot of photos of them.

I love taking pictures of docks.
My usual setup for photographing landscape is a full frame body with my 17-40mm f/4 lens.  I usually set it up in aperture priority, set up my aperture and shoot. No need to fumble with my shutter speed.

Another dock shot.

The shoreline.
Another town to go to when visiting Door County Wisconsin. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Village of Ephraim, Door County Wisconsin

Village of Ephraim in Door County Wisconsin.

While in Door County Wisconsin we passed by this village called Ephraim one day while driving around and we decided to check the place out. We went to Door County when vacation season was just starting so the place wasn't crowded yet.

By the lake in Ephraim, Door County Wi.

The Ephraim public library.
The place had plenty of parking so we just parked on the side of the road and just walked around and took some shots. As usual, on situations like this The 17-40mm f/4L is always my choice, mounted on a full frame body, this combination shines for landscape shots. Set it on aperture priority and all you have to do is walk and shoot.

The famous Wilsons Sundaes.
We went by the famous Wilsons Sundaes near the lake to grab something to eat. They serve burgers, hotdogs, shakes, etc. A very nice place to just eat and hang out after walking through Ephraim Village. They were actually featured on a National Geographic show called brain games and we were so happy that we had a chance to visit the place.

One of the docks in the village.

A view of the lake.

When in Ephraim, you will have a ton of time photographing the lake. From what I've heard there are beautiful sunsets you can photograph by the lake...too bad I didn't have the chance to do that. The atmosphere there is so relaxing, basically just take some shots, sit down and eat. No feeling of being rushed.

Some chairs on the side of the road facing the lake

Another very good place to visit when you go to Door County Wi. Ephraim Village is a place full of nice places to photograph, and very good history and of course, the food.