News and Views from Dave Wilson

Archive for December 29th, 2010

Fisheye Fun

by on Dec.29, 2010, under Photography

I love wide angle lenses – the shorter the focal length, the better as far as I am concerned. I love the weird perspective and the even weirder distortion that most of these pieces of glass produce.

Earlier this year, I sold the trusty Sigma 10-20mm that I had been using for 5 years or so and bought a shiny new Nikon 14-24mm to go with the shinier newer D700. It’s definitely wide – wider than the 10mm end of the Sigma when you take the crop factor of the D90 into consideration – but it’s also ridiculously rectilinear. I have no idea how the optical designers at Nikon do it but that baby keeps verticals and horizontals straight across the whole image. In many circumstances, this is fabulous but in others, I really missed the weird edge effects that the Sigma used to give me.

To try to rectify this loss and, on the urging of master photographer Bob Lussier whose shots inside Trinity Church in Boston turned out so much more interestingly than mine, I pooled all my birthday and Christmas presents this year and asked Santa for a Sigma 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye. This duly arrived (thanks to the nice people at Precision Camera) and I had my first chance to play with it for a couple of hours this past Monday morning.

As is now my tradition, all new lenses must be tested out inside the wonderful rotunda of the Texas State Capitol in downtown Austin. I have a gazillion images of this already but one had evaded me. Until now, no lens I had was wide enough to give me a shot containing both the floor and the top of the dome without clipping a couple of the circular galleries on the way up. Although the 15mm is longer focal length than the Nikon 14-24mm at its widest, the wonderful distortion really helped out and here’s the result. I’m very impressed indeed with the image quality. The colour is great and the lens, shooting at f/8 is wonderfully sharp (I have yet to try it wide open but I’m unlikely to use super-wide apertures with this one anyway, I suspect).

This particular image is not quite straight so I’ll need another trip but it’s definitely proven to me that the days of creative distortion are back and that you can expect more weird lines resulting from future photo outings!

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