First Thoughts: Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye Zoom

Well, with the holidays fast approaching, un-coincidentally a few new bits of gear have landed in my possession lately. I've finally replaced my beaten up old P&S with a Canon PowerShot S100, I've picked up some new (well – this hasn't been that recently) ThinkTank gear for hauling gear during a shoot, and most recently – a copy of the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 Fisheye zoom.

So, why not start with the most recent… The FE Zoom… aka – the FEZ.

I've had a lot of fun with my tried and true EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye from Canon, but how could I resist an upgrade to L optics, and while the lens did slow down a bit, I gained the ability to zoom back out to 8mm – giving me a full 180 degree field of view. I'd never shot with a circular fisheye before, so I wasn't too sure I'd actually plunk down the greens to get this lens, but a deal came up on a used copy and I couldn't resist – figuring that I could always flip it and get my money back if it didn't work out.

Short version – I'm not selling it…

The FEZ is a bit bigger than my 2.8, but I've also read that it is the smallest L grade lens… There has been much said about how easily the lens cap falls off with a bump in the right (or wrong) place, and many have raved about it but I'm not sure I've seen much on why folks like it… so here goes nothing. I'll start by saying this post will have more thoughts than empirical comparisons – I've taken some shots with both Canon fisheyes in a controlled space, but I'll save those for another day.

Capping it off

It seems that most folks are quick to knock the "easy to knock off" lens cap; I'll get this one out of the way so we can move on to the images. There is a lens hood that twist locks onto the front of the lens, you'll need to press a button to release it (much like the 70-200 2.8L IS II's lens hood). I've heard many reviewers kvetch about this hood – that it gets in the way when you zoom out… Um – hello – does 180 degree field of view mean anything to you? (chuckle)… The lens cap itself clips onto this hood when you press the release buttons along the edge of the cap. While it is true that this hood can fall if you bump just one of the two release buttons on the hood, I think I'm not sure there is much if any benefit to the lens hood itself (other than front element protection when around your neck, etc) so I think I'm going to tape them together. I found it much easier to just remove the pair together; pressing the button to rotate the hood off the front of the lens… this gets the lens hood out of the way for impromptu 8mm shots, and when taped together (got to love gaffer tape) the "cap" won't fall off the "hood" – they'll stay together either in my bag or on my lens.

I will throw out a caveat: I've not done much post processing to these. The office photo is right out of the camera (well – via Lightroom 3.6 default settings exported to a jpg and cropping square), and the other two have had a quick rotate to straighen them and maybe a quick whitebalance tweak and the aforementioned cropping to square, but not much else.

First Images:

I'll fall right into lockstep with the other reviews I've read and say that this lens if just plain fun… I found myself happily looking through the viewfinder of my 5D2, walking around the office, looking to see how the world looked different through it. Initially, however, I was struck by how I wasn't exactly sure what I would use it for. Soon I was shooting the daughter of someone at the office – it was fun to get the lens right in the baby's face and get the image filled by baby, carrier, blankets, toys and padding. The next image I shot was to hold the camera over my head to shoot down on all the folks gathered around the baby. Quite a fun perspective. "Vantage number one!" said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake… - Kipling – the Just So Stories


Immersion Therapy:

That night I went out to an area of Austin called 37th street to shoot some of the holiday lights there. I'd been there years before but hadn't been back since, while the display wasn't close to what it had been, I was glad learn that some of the residents started this year to try to restore some of the glory of the display. As I shot at one house, the sweet spot of this lens hit me… immersion. I was able to get pretty close to a group of residents and their friends as they read letters to Santa that had been left at their house (they put a table out with pencils and paper next to a large box that viewers of the lights were encouraged to make use of during the evening). As they unwound from the evening (I was there pretty late) over an adult beverage and read the letters out loud, they were great about ignoring me as I shot. What resulted was a great shot that really immerses you in that scene. There is so much detail in the image, the web version does it little justice, and I'll prob post this in my Gallery for sale shortly, so sorry – I'm not giving the high res of this one away… From the leaf detail in the tree overhead, to the curve of the candy canes along the sidewalk, to the expressions on peoples faces and the motion from the blur, to the inflatable barrel of monkeys in the tree – just lots to soak in. I'll try to make the time to do a detailed post about this image soon, with some call-outs to the detail. "Vantage number two!"


Moving just down the sidewalk, I also like the image of the scooter in the other half of their yard. I paid better attention this time to aligning the image to ensure the candy canes at the edge of the yard would line the lower half of the image. I think this one works very well too – tho the one above is my favorite.


I've a few more posts in mind for this lens, but for now – I like it a lot!

As always, let me know of any questions via the comments below, or use the "contact" link in the header above.

Thanks for reading!

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