A game changing Fish-eye...
I've never considered the need for a Fish-eye lens, they always seemed like a gimmicky lens, one which I'd only use a handful of times and then get sick of. That was until I saw a review on the new Samyang (also known as Rokinon) 12 mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS Fish-eye lens. At that time I was in the market for a new lens for my wedding work, and I was looking to get a mid range zoom (24-70) that would allow me to navigate a wedding easier without needing to swap lenses. However I thought that if I could make do with my current lenses, then adding a Fish-eye could provide me with photos that I couldn't get with any other lens, and therefore provide my clients with unique shots.
Being such a new lens, it wasn't available in New Zealand stores yet, so I looked to eBay for purchase. For $500 NZ this lens was a bargain compared to the bigger brand name lenses like Canon or Nikon and it offered a wider field of view at 12mm (180 degrees) than others currently available for full frame cameras. The lens also uses a special projection method called 'stereographic' projection, which means the middle portion of the frame doesn't bulge out like other Fish-eye lenses.
Here is the lens attached to my Canon 6D. This lens feels well built and comes with a lens hood which makes resting it on a surface face down ideal for easy switching of lenses.
I first used this lens for a wedding I shot, and I actually ended up using it far more than I thought. The major downfall to Samyang lenses, is they are manual focus only, which I thought would make them difficult to use for weddings. However, at 12mm on a full frame lens, if the focus is set to 'infinity' then anything from about 0.5 meters to infinity is in focus at F8 which basically removes the need for autofocus. The aperture ring is also manual only but it's easy to switch when needed and the exposure reading in the camera is often a few stops off the correct value, but once you get used to these, they're minor issues. Especially seeing I usually use this lens for landscapes and cityscapes so I've got ample time to take practice shots.
These comparison shots show the difference between the field of view with my 17mm Canon lens the 12mm Samyang. It's amazing how much wider the extra 5mm is...
The other noticeable issue with a Fish-eye is the major distortion in the outer edges of the frame, especially with lines. I did however find a photoshop plug-in called Fish-eye Hemi, which corrects the distortion without losing much of the image. I find it really successful when there are straight lines or people in the frame and less so with correcting distortion of the horizon. But I make a conscious effort to get the horizon as straight as possible when taking the shot by keeping the camera as level. Below is an example of the correction using this plug-in.
Have a look at the black window surround on the far right and the building on the far left. This isn't the most extreme example, and there's still some distortion with the top and bottom ledges, but it gives you a good idea of it's use. For this reason I feel don't really consider this to be a 'Fish-eye' lens, because with post-production correction of the distortion near the edge of the frame, it doesn't really have that traditional 'Fish-eye' look.
The other thing that impressed me about this lens was it's sharpness across the frame. It is tack sharp in the center and retains a good sharpness in the throughout the frame. It matches my more expensive 17-40mm Canon in the centre and is far sharper in the corners than the Canon, but this can partly be expected as it's a prime lens.
One downfall to the lens is the front element bulges outwards, which means it can't be used with any filters. Unfortunately when you go that wide with any lens you'll face the same issue.
This lens has certainly opened me up to a completely new world of shots I wouldn't have been able to get and continues to impress me with it's versatility. This lens will also be ideal for astrophotography and many currently use the 14mm Samyang for this, so if you're in the market for a lens like this then you won't regret picking up the Samyang 12mm.
Here's a few other shots taken with this lens so far...