by David FitzSimmons
The 4.5mm F2.8 EX DC Circular Fisheye features:
- For use with smaller chip APS-c cameras only
- The circular field of view produces striking images with exaggerated perspective of near subject & extreme barrel distortion of the surrounding area
- The minimum focusing distance of 5.3 inches & a magnification ratio of 1 to 6 allows subjects to be as close as ¾ of an inch from the lenses’ front element.
The 8mm F3.5 EX DG Circular Fisheye features:
- Designed for use with full frame digital SLR cameras. Produces striking images with exaggerated perspective of near subjects and extreme barrel distortion of the surrounding areas
- Super Multi-Layer lens coating reduces flare & ghosting & assures high image quality throughout the entire zoom range
- The minimum focusing distance of 5.3 inches & a magnification ratio of 1 to 4.6 allows subjects to be as close as ¾ of an inch from the lens’ front element.
If you are looking for a lens that opens the door to greater creativity, then shoot with a circular fisheye lens. In fact, no other lens offers such a unique view of the world—fully half of it—like a circular fisheye.
Of course, we’ve all used a circular fisheye lenses at one point or another, but not necessarily on a camera: more than likely you first experienced circular fisheyes while peeping through a door to see who’s knocking.
The initial reaction of most people who gaze through a circular fisheye lens is, “Wow!” This is followed by a realization of just how much distortion these round-image lenses create. To be sure, taking pictures with a circular fisheye requires “outside the box” thinking.
A true circular fisheye lens captures light from 180 degrees in every direction, that is, literally half the world around you. The optics in a circular fisheye bend lines quite a bit in order to fit everything into the signature circular image, so some subjects are better suited than others. Subjects with one straight line near the middle, objects comprised of curves, and symmetrical scenes work quite well.
The first thing to pay attention to is the most fundamental principle of circular fisheye lenses: the closer a line gets to the edge, the more it gets distorted. Distortion in this case means taking a straight line and making it more and more curved. For example, if you point a circular fisheye lens straight up, the straight line of the horizon will become a continuous circle around the outer edge of the image.
How you use such linear distortion entirely affects the success of your photographs. First of all, do not view the distortion of a circular fisheye lens as a defect. Rather, realize that all lenses change reality in one way or another. On the most basic level, every lens takes a three-dimensional world and flatten it to two dimensions, itself a distortion of reality. Specifically, telephoto lenses distort things by compressing objects so that they look like they are positioned closer together than they really are. And moderately wide lenses create distortions, making nearby objects appear significantly larger than those in the distance. That’s why a 28mm lens is typically not a good portrait lens—people’s noses look disproportionately large compared to the rest of their bodies!
Key to good photography is using each lens’s distortions to your advantage. Landscape photographers use wide angles lenses to emphasize foreground wildflowers in a mountain scene, and wildlife photographers use long lenses to compress penguins or zebras, making a location look like it’s teeming with life.
For circular fisheye photos, you must use the curved lines to your advantage—or avoid them altogether. To avoid them, position lines so that they pass through the center of the image area. Keeping straight lines running through the middle keeps them straight in the final image. So, if you don’t want your horizon bent, hold the camera level when shooting. Or position dominant vertical architectural lines in the center of the image.
I generally prefer to have my horizons slightly above or below center for circular fisheye images. Standard compositional rules forbid horizons in the middle, dividing pictures into two equal and, therefore, static halves, but the reasons for tipping your camera up or down slightly with circular fisheye lenses goes beyond this standard rule. Moving the horizon off center allows you to create a curve that complements other image elements. If your main subject is in the top of the frame, for example, then tip your camera down slightly and let the horizon bow downward, hugging the object in the upper portion of the image. Conversely, to emphasize a subject in the lower half of the circular image, tilt the camera up a bit.
Symmetry is another consideration for circular fisheye compositions. Look for scenes with mirror symmetry. Mirror, or bilateral, symmetry refers to subjects that, if you draw a line through the middle of the subject, one side matches the other side. Humans are bilaterally symmetrical, with one eye, one ear, etc. on each side of the body.
Position subjects with mirror symmetry such that the center line runs through the center of the image circle. The distortion of the lens can help accentuate the symmetry.
Nature often presents great subjects for circular fisheye photography. Few natural subjects have distinct, straight lines. Curving petals on flowers, puffy cumulous clods, and pebbles on a beach, for example, help to diminish distortions. In fact, I love to emphasize flowers and small wildlife by placing them in or near the center, allowing bending lines of the horizon, branches and limbs, or other background objects to frame these subjects.
If you are shooting outside, sunny, blue-sky days tend to be the best. You’ll pick up lots of sky, so having color, not gray, adds punch to your images. But that means that the sun is almost always going to be in the frame. Again ,use this to your advantage. I try to find branches and leaves to partially block the sun, creating spectacular starburst effects, drawing viewers’ eyes right to the our nearby star.
Can a fisheye lens be used for portraiture? You bet! If you want extreme distortion, position your subject near to the lens. I prefer to use circular fisheye lenses to contextualize a portrait subject. Allow the vast surroundings to help characterize the person you are depicting. Photograph an executive in her office or a pianist inside a concert hall, picking up their environments in the background.
Another creative approach to shooting with circular fisheye lenses is to selectively use part of the overall image data. For example, many photographers like to crop out a portion of an image to create a square or rectangular image that retains some subject distortion. Another option is to use lens correction tools, such as “Lens Corrections” found in Adobe Raw Converter. Both Sigma circular fisheye lenses are in Adobe’s lens library. Checking “Enable Lens Profile Corrections” will allow you to create a rectangular picture (orthographic projection) from your circular fisheye image data.
Finally, don’t forget about opportunities to use circular fisheyes for producing virtual reality tours. While you can create interactive panoramas with other wide angle lenses, there’s nothing like taking only a handful of shots and easily creating spherical images that allow viewers to navigate left and right and up and down in every direction.
To create a spherical image, position your camera on a tripod and take three or four pictures, evenly spaced horizontally. Then point the camera up and take a shot. Finally, remove the tripod and hold the camera with the lens nodal point in the same position as it was for the other shots, taking a picture looking downward. Then stitch your shots to create a 360 degree VR image. With the right software, multiple spherical images can be linked together with hot spots to make an exciting VR tour.
Insert “Kingwood_Center_Spherical_Pano.ivp” Panorama here
Creating a spherical panorama with a circular fisheye is a breeze. Four horizontal shots, one pointed straight up, and one pointed straight down with the tripod removed were combined in Autodesk’s Stitcher to make this spherical image, which can be played with Immervision’s Pure Player. (Click here to download Pure Player.) Draffin fountain and allée at Kingwood Center, Mansfield, Ohio, USA. Sigma 8mm F3.5 EX DG Circular Fisheye, Nikon D800E. f/5.6, 1/1000 sec., ISO 200. Stitched in Autodesk Sticher. © David 2012 FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.
- While I use tripods for almost all of my photography, you can often get away with hand-holding circular fisheye photographs. Because the field of view is so wide, camera movement is not magnified in the way it would be with telephoto lenses.
- In fact, tripods can often get in the way for circular fisheye photography. If you are not careful, one or more tripod legs will show up in the bottom of your pictures. Even if you hand-hold, you often need to lean forward to avoid getting your own feet in the shot! When I use a tripod, I raise the off-center column on my Gitzo GT2541EX and then pivot it down nearly parallel with the ground. I then hang a bag on the tripod to keep the cantilevered rig from tipping. This approach keeps the tripod legs out of the picture while allowing maximum sharpness and depth of field.
- Use moderate apertures for most photos. Depth-of-field is so extensive with circular fisheye lenses that f/11 or f/16 is often quite superfluous.
- Get close! Both the Sigma 4.5mm F2.8 EX DC HSM and the Sigma 8mm F3.5 EX DG focus to 5.3 inches. That is the measurement from the film plane or sensor, which means that you can place flowers, small animals, and other macro subjects just 1 inch from the front lens element! And with your aperture closed down 3 or 4 stops, objects nearly touching the glass look sharp!
- If you are looking to find a frame for your favorite circular fisheye photograph, avoid using regular frames, which do not emphasize the circular shape. While you can find round frames available at specialty shops, save money by purchasing clocks. That’s right, clocks! Visit local discount stores, and buy a round clock. Pop out the clock face and mechanical apparatus. Then use the clock face as both a guide for printing size and then for cutting the mounted print. A carefully mounted and cut print will fit right into place in the round clock frame. Voila! You’ll have a cool frame that looks much like a port hole on a ship. What could be better than saving money and creating a coplementary frame for your unique image?
|4.5mm F2.8 EX DC Circular Fisheye||8mm F3.5 EX DG Circular Fisheye|
|Lens Construction||13 Elements in 9 Groups||11 Elements in 6 Groups|
|Angle of View||180º||180º|
|Number of Diaphragm Blades||6||6|
|Minimum Focusing Distance||13.5cm/5.3in||13.5cm/5.3in|
|Filter Size||Rear Gelatin filter||Rear Gelatin filter|
|Weight||470g/16.6oz||400g / 14oz.|
|HSM- Hyper Sonic Motor, EX- EX lens, DC- Compatible with aps-c sensor, DG- Compatible with Full frame or APS-C sensors|
David FitzSimmons is Sigma Pro photographer, a free lance writer, and a professor at Ashland University. See David’s macro techniques in his five-time award-winning picture book CURIOUS CRITTERS. Visit www.curious-critters.com.
See David’s natural history photography, upcoming workshops, and exhibition info at www.fitzsimmonsphotography.com.