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Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED Review

Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED Review - John Riley reviews the Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED fisheye zoom lens, for full-frame and APS-C Nikon DSLRs.

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Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Nikkor 8 15mm Front Oblique View

Although fisheye lenses are of a specialised nature, clearly there is a demand as there are so many available, at all price levels. However, there are very few fisheye zooms and even fewer lenses that offer the choice of a circular 180-degree image or a full frame 180-degree on the diagonal image. It looks to be a fascinating concept, so let's see how it works out in practice.

Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E Handling and Features

Nikkor 8 15mm Vertical View

First, the technical bit. Fisheye lenses come in various types, the obvious one being that they can offer circular or full frame images. This zoom offers both, on full frame sensors a 180 to 175-degree image and on APS-C 180 to 110 degrees. There is also the question of the projection of the image, much in the same way that maps have a projection to put a round globe onto a flat piece of paper. This lens is the most commonly used type and has an equisolid angle (equal area) mapping function. A Google search will find the mathematics of this for those who wish to pursue it further.

The clever ergonomic design starts with the lens hood/lens cap. At 15mm the image is full frame and the lens hood can be used. The cap is removed for this. At anything less than this, the hood causes vignetting, so has to be removed. The clever bit is that the cap has a cutout for the lens hood release catch, so at 8mm to 14mm hood and cap can be removed as a discrete unit. This is incredibly useful as when not in use protecting the bulbous front element is a good idea. This is all beautifully engineered and as smooth as silk.

The front element is bulbous and exposed when the hood is removed, but there's no answer to that as there is no possibility of fitting filters. There is a slot at the back of the lens where gelatin filters can be inserted. Front and rear elements are fluorine coated to repel dirt, grease and water. Nano crystal coatings are applied to all elements to reduce flare, and indeed are very good at doing so as resistance to flare is excellent.  

Optical construction is 15 elements in 13 groups, with 3 ED (Extra Low Dispersion) and 2 Aspherical. The diaphragm has 7 rounded blades and is electromagnetic. This improves the accuracy of the set aperture but does mean that older bodies may not be supported. In this case, the lens will operate at full aperture only.

The lens is “dust and drip” resistance, a delightfully vague phrase but it gives me the confidence to take the lens out in light rain or other poor weather conditions.

Nikkor 8 15mm At 15mm With Hood On D810

Closest to the front of the lens is the zoom ring, clearly marked and having an ultra-smooth feel to it with just the right amount of resistance. There is a mark between 10mm and 12mm and this is the full frame indication for DX format cameras. The instructions stress that this is approximate only and that the viewfinder image should be checked carefully. The point is well taken generally. Lest there be some confusion, the references to “full frame” in the context of this lens are that the image fills the picture area, be it in 35mm format camera terms or in APS-C crop sensor camera terms. In contrast, the round fisheye image is surrounded by black. This can clearly be seen in the sample images. As we zoom from 8mm to 15mm the image fills more and more of the frame, and there are sample pictures of that.

IF (Internal Focusing) is fast and locks on with precision, silently driven by SWM (Silent Wave Motor), focusing down to 0.16m (0.5 feet). This is a maximum magnification of 0.34x, equating to a subject just three inches from the front element. There is a full-time manual override of the AF system available. The manual focusing ring is fairly slim but smooth and effective.

Finally, closest to the camera body we have the AF/MF switch and the focusing scale, the latter being under a clear window. There is no depth of field scale. The AF switch has two settings. M/A is for AF with manual override and M is for manual focus. With very wide lenses finding the manual focus point can be tricky, but the electronic confirmation beep from the camera assists with this. It is probably far easier to use AF and reserve the right to tweak that manually as required.

Fisheye lenses are great, but when overused can become a little predictable. Nikon's Capture NX-D software is available and will enable the use of the images as a rectilinear ultra-wide. This was not provided for testing.

We soon learn to watch out for feet and tripod legs with this lens, but apart from taking more care with composition, this is a very exciting lens to use. More than ever the mantra is get in close, then closer, closer, closer.....then some fantastic compositions can be made. The fisheye is maybe not for everyone, but with practice, it can yield some impressive results.

It's also worth noting that under some circumstances the fisheye effect cannot be seen. This particularly applies to landscapes, where the image will look almost entirely normal as long as the horizon goes right across the centre of the picture.

Nikkor 8 15mm Rear Oblique View

Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E Performance

Despite the fact that fisheye lenses are not really designed for making images of test charts, the Nikkor 8-15mm puts in a splendid performance. Sharpness centrally at 8mm is excellent from f/3.5 to f/16 and only drops off slightly at f/22 and returning a very good level. We can say exactly the same for the edges, and in fact f/5.6 and f/8 see the figures edging into the outstanding category.

At 10mm, sharpness is excellent centrally from f/3.8 to f/16 and very good at f/22. The edges are very good from f/3.8 to f/8, excellent at f/11 and very goof from f/16 to f/22.

At 12mm sharpness is excellent centrally from f/4.2 to/16 and very good at f/22. Edge results are good at f/4.2, very good at f/5.6 and f/8, excellent at f/11 and very good at f/16 and f/22.

The sharpness of the 15mm full frame image is excellent from f/4.5 to f/16 and very good at f/22. The edges are good at f/4,5, very good at f/5.6 and f/8, excellent at f/11, very good at f/16 and it is only at f/22 that images finally surrender to diffraction and become slightly soft.

Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED MTF Charts

How to read our MTF charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D810 using Imatest.


CA (Chromatic Aberration) is well controlled throughout the range, approaching zero centrally and keeping mainly below one-half of a pixel at the edges. There is little need for further correction, but this can be done in software if desired.

Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED Chromatic Aberration Charts

How to read our CA charts

Chromatic aberration (CA) 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 Nikon D810 using Imatest.

 

Even the fisheye distortion can be addressed in software, either Nikon's Nikon Capture NX-D or Photoshop and similar programs.

Flare resistance is excellent. It can be induced in the most severe circumstances, but as a rule, the lens can happily be used without its hood at the wider settings and there is no real loss in contrast against the light.

The diaphragm does have rounded blades to improve bokeh, but this design may not often be used in such a way as to offer out of focus backgrounds. When required, the bokeh looks smooth but as background details are so small the effect is a subtle one.


Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED Sample Photos

Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED Zoom range

Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED Aperture range

 

Value For Money

There are plenty of prime fisheye lenses available, but very few fisheye zooms. The Nikon AF-S Fisheye Nikkor 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED is priced at £1299. It works in exactly the same way as the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L USM, which costs £1119. So Nikon and Canon users both have a fisheye zoom that offers the choice of circular or full frame effects.

The only other currently available fisheye zooms are the SMC Pentax-DA 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 (£369) and the remarkably similar Tokina AF 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 AT-X DX (£558). For those using Pentax full frame, it might be possible to find a second hand SMC Pentax 17-28mm f/3.5-4.5. These Pentax/Tokina designs are slightly different in approach to the Nikon and Canon lenses in that they are full frame fisheyes (albeit it for the APS-C format in the first two cases) at the widest setting, but become progressively less distorted as they are zoomed in.

For more options have a look at the Top 14 Best Nikon Lenses or the Top 15 Wide-angle Landscape Lenses.

 

Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E Verdict

Given that the performance is excellent and the zoom enables two distinct types of fisheye design to be put into one lens, thus creating a very versatile bit of kit, the price tag looks sound. A Highly Recommended optic for the Nikon system.

Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E Pros

  • Excellent sharpness
  • Well controlled CA
  • Excellent flare resistance
  • Ergonomic design
  • Dust and drip resistant
  • Two fisheye types in one lens

Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E Cons

  • Specialised lens will not appeal to all

Features4/5
Handling5/5
Performance5/5
Value4/5
Overall Verdict

 

Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED Specifications

ManufacturerNikon
General
Lens Mounts
  • Nikon F
  • Nikon AF
Lens
Focal Length8mm - 15mm
Angle of View175 - 180
Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/4.5
Min Aperturef/22 - f/29
Filter SizeNo Data
StabilisedNo
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnification0.34x
Focusing
Min Focus16cm
Construction
Blades7
Elements15
Groups13
Box Contents
Box ContentsLC-K102 Slip-on Front Lens Cap, LF-4 Rear Lens Cap, HB-80 Bayonet Hood, CL-1218 Lens Case
Dimensions
Weight485g
Height83mm

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