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Canon 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye Zoom Lens Review

Canon 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye Zoom Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews this unique Canon 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye Zoom lens with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM
Price : £1,050
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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM
This unique lens offers two lenses in one for full frame camera users. At 8mm it provides a circular fisheye image, with a 180 degree field of view in all directions. With the lens zoomed to 15mm, the lens offers a diagonal fisheye image, with a field of view of 180 degrees from corner to corner.

Those using this lens on a camera with an APS-C sensor have a diagonal fisheye at 10mm with a little zoom to save cropping afterwards. At 8mm a circular image is available, but with much of the projected picture area cropped from the top and bottom.

Canon 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye Zoom Handling and features

As is typical of Canon L series lenses, the build quality is superb. The lens body is sealed against dust and moisture and the lens has a weighty solid feel to it, which compliments the Canon EOS 5D Mark III used for testing perfectly.

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM and Canon EOS 5D Mark III

The zoom action is very smooth, if a little loose and a limiter switch can be engaged to stop the lens being zoomed to focal lengths shorter than 10m, for use on an APS-C Canon camera. Some facility to lock the lens at either 8mm, or 15mm for full frame users would also have been much appreciated, as the zoom only requires the lightest touch to move through the range. Markings are provided on the left hand side of the lens denoting where to zoom to to get a diagonal fisheye field of view for APS-C and APS-H, for example, the APS-H marking sets the lens at around 12mm.

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM

Auto focus is extremely fast, as you may expect from a fisheye lens. Unfortunately there is no hyperfocal scale on the lens, which can be useful when using a fisheye. Full time manual focus adjustments are supported, although due to the nature of the lens, it can be difficult to accurately judge focus through the viewfinder. This isn't necessarily an issue with the lens itself, just an observation, and one of the quirks of using a fisheye. Thankfully the expansive depth of field can help absorb any focusing errors.

Canon 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye Zoom Performance

At 8mm and f/4, sharpness in the centre of the frame is outstanding. Towards the edges of the projected image circle, sharpness drops off gradually only reaching fair levels at this aperture. As the lens is stopped down, the clarity towards the edges of the image circle improves dramatically and between f/8 and f/11 resolution approaches excellent levels throughout the image circle.

At 10mm, sharpness in the centre remains outstanding at maximum aperture, but the clarity towards the edges falls away somewhat. With the lens stopped down to f/11 sharpness towards the edges of the image circle improves to good levels.

Finally, at 15mm, there is a drop in overall sharpness levels. Although clarity in the centre of the image area is still very good, the quality towards the edges of the frame remains fairly poor at maximum aperture. As is the case with other focal lengths, sharpness towards the edges improves as the lens is stopped down, reaching fairly good levels from f/5.6 onwards.

Resolution at 8mm
Resolution at 8mm
  Resolution at 10mm
Resolution at 10mm
Resolution at 15mm
Resolution at 15mm
 

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III using Imatest.

As is often the case with fisheye optics, chromatic aberrations are quite high towards the edges of the frame, and with this lens, the issue increases as the lens is zoomed in. At 15mm and f/4, fringing covers almost 2.25 pixels widths, which will most definitely be visible in high contrast areas towards the edges of the frame.

Chromatic aberration at 8mm
Chromatic aberration at 8mm
  Chromatic aberration at 10mm
Chromatic aberration at 10mm
Chromatic aberration at 15mm
Chromatic aberration at 15mm
 

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III using Imatest.

Distortion is typical of fisheye lenses, and the projection is quite even across the image area, resulting in more natural looking images than some fisheye lenses, which can leave objects near the edges of the frame looking contorted.

Due to the 180 degree field of view, it isn't possible to formally test for falloff of illumination towards the image boundaries. Illumination appears even across the image area at all apertures, although the edges of the circular image field can look a little fuzzy at apertures faster than f/5.6.

Shooting into the light isn't an issue for this lens as it is very resistant to flare and contrast holds up well too.

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Sample Photos


Value for Money

Assessing the value of this lens is quite tricky due to it being both a circular and diagonal fisheye for full frame users and a diagonal fisheye with zoom for cropped sensor formats. Being priced at £1150, it certainly isn't cheap though and may be a stretch too far if you don't own cameras with different sized sensors, or if you were only after a circular or diagonal fisheye.

The older, discontinued Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye has a faster maximum aperture and can still be picked up for around £530 new. Sigma's 15mm diagonal fisheye also has a fast f/2.8 aperture and is a little cheaper at £490. If you then add in Sigma's 8mm f/3.5 fisheye, which costs around £620, you're not far off the price of this Canon fisheye zoom.

Those who own an APS-C format camera also have the choice of Sigma's 10mm f/2.8 fisheye lens, which costs around £490, or Tokina's 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 fisheye zoom, which costs around £520.

The more budget conscious photographer may also look towards budget fisheye optics. Full frame camera owners have a choice of the Peleng 8mm f/3.5, which can be picked up for under £200, or the Zenitar 16mm f/2.8, which can be picked up for around £160. APS-C camera owners also have the Samyang 8mm f/3.5 diagonal fisheye as a viable option, which costs around £230.

Canon 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye Zoom Verdict

Nobody can deny that this interesting fisheye lens performs well, is built well and offers a unique two lenses in one solution for full frame camera users, and users of multiple Canon sensor formats.

If, however you were after a diagonal fisheye, or a circular fisheye, and not both, the high price tag may be prohibitive, especially as there are so many alternatives available that will do the job as well.

This fisheye lens performs well, is built well and offers a unique two lenses in one solution for full frame camera users.

Canon 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye Zoom Pros

Excellent sharpness, in the centre of the image area
Superb build
Unique zoom design effectively gives full-frame users two lenses in one
Useful for owners of multiple Canon camera formats

Canon 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye Zoom Cons

Expensive
No way to lock the lens at either end of the focal range
High CA levels towards edges of the picture area

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
OVERALL  

Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Specifications

ManufacturerCanon
General
Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF USM
Lens
Focal Length8mm - 15mm
Angle of View142 - 180
Max Aperturef/4
Min Aperturef/22
Filter SizeNo Data
35mm equivalent8mm - 15mm
Internal focusingYes
Focusing
Min Focus15cm
StabilisedNo
Construction
Blades7
Elements14
Groups11
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens hood, lens cap, manual
Dimensions
Weight540g
Height83mm

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