Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Review
A review of the new Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens for full-frame and cropped sensor underwater photographers
By Todd Winner
This is a review of the Canon 8-15mm circular fisheye lens. Since this lens is capable of being used on both cropped and full frame sensors, I've divided my review into two sections below.
For Cropped Sensor Shooters
The Canon 8-15mm fisheye is one of the most exciting lenses to be released in a long time. It has some very cool features for both full-frame and cropped shooters, but there does seem to be some confusion about who this lens is best suited for. At a retail price of $1499, the Canon 8-15 fisheye lens is not going to be for everyone. It is often compared to the Tokina 10-17mm, and on a cropped sensor camera the Tokina is probably the closest thing to it but at less than half the price.
If you are only shooting on a cropped sensor body it is a very tough decision. The Canon is a better built lens. You will get slightly sharper and contrast-y images straight out of the camera and the most noticeable improvement will be less chromatic apparition. This is a big deal for me, but with a little time spent in post-production most users will not see a huge difference, especially if you don't spend a lot of time viewing your images at 100%.
The useable zoom range on a cropped body is 10-15, so you lose that little bit of extra reach that you would get on the 17mm end of the Tokina. You can of course shoot at 9mm and 8mm but you will start to see the curved corners of the lens. If you want the absolute best image quality then the Canon lens is for you, but if you are a crop only shooter, the Tokina's versatility, low cost and excellent image quality probably will make it a better overall choice.
Canon 8-15mm fisheye - For Full-Frame Shooters
For those shooting full-frame there is not much to compare the Canon 8-15mm to. Canon did make a 15mm fisheye (it has been recently discontinued), but the 15mm end on the 8-15 is not only sharper, but it also focuses to just millimeters in front of the glass. The older 15mm fisheye required too much working distance for really good close focus wide-angle work. Sigma makes a 15mm fisheye that focuses pretty closely, which I have heard good things about but not personally used.
At the Canon 8mm end of the lens you get a full circular fisheye. I happen to really like the look of circular fisheyes, but not so much that I would have invested in a lens like the Sigma 8mm or to have spent a whole dive committed to that shot. Now I don't have to worry about that anymore. I have the best 15mm lens on the market, and when I want a special effect full circular shot I just zoom into the 8mm end. Full-frame shooters are not really going to use the zoom range between the 8 or 15 ends. Of course you can shoot at any zoom range but you will get partially round corners that are not very useful.
Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens @8mm, Canon 5D Mark III. F5.6, 1/40th, ISO 160
Dome port choice
You'll want to use a dome port with a removeable dome port shade when using the Canon 8-15mm lens, especially if you want to get a circular fisheye photo at 8mm. I like using a small 4 inch dome port so I can get very close to subjects, the new Zen 8-15mm glass dome port has been working well for me.
If you're shooting a full-frame body or use both a cropped and full-frame body, the 8-15 is hard to beat in versatility and overall lens quality. On a full-frame body you will get a 15mm full frame fisheye and a 8mm circular fisheye. For cropped only shooters, I do feel the 8-15 is far superior to the Tokina but the Tokina will give you very similar results at less than half the price. On the APS-C cropped sensor you will get a 10-15mm full frame fisheye.
Canon 7D 8-15mm @ 10mm. This is essentially the same angle of view you would get on a full frame body at 15mm.
Canon 7D 8-15mm @ 8mm. Notice the curved corners. This is similar to the look on a full frame body at any focal length shorter than 15mm until eventually creating a full circular fisheye at 8mm.
Canon 7D 8-15mm @ 15mm. At the 15mm end on a cropped sensor the fisheye distortion is much less noticeable.
Canon 5D markII @ 8mm. Full circular fisheye. This type of shot is very stylized but can be used effectively on certain subjects.
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