Saturday, February 26, 2011

Olympus Zuiko 8mm F3.5 Fisheye: The First Dive

It is perfectly understandable why Fisheye lens is not the first choice of many photographers, or does not even make it into the list of considerations of lens additions for the majority of photographers out there. It was not very appealing to me either. The fact that the lens characteristics exhibit massive amount of perspective and barrel distortion was not something that would encourage a frequent, regular use on any photography genre at all. The distinctive outcome of a fisheye image is basically a love it or hate it affair. Sadly, people are so used to seeing things in straight lines that when you bend the lines a little, they will turn into lions and chew your head right off.

Fisheye is all about bending the lines. It is about breaking the rules of technical perfection. It is about exploring other possibilities, and trying to be different, presenting something rather unusual than the ordinary looking photographs.

In this world, lines are straight. But in the world of photography, the possibilities are endless. We, as photographers, should define the possibilities, and we are free to break away from any restrictions that are holding us down. Photography is about freedom of expression, and I choose to express myself differently. Standing out from the crowd comes with a high price: to be seen as a unique individual with new and fresh ideas, or to be ridiculed, rejected and trashed aside simply because you fail to fit in. The debate goes on, in photography, are we shooting to please others and gain recognition, or are we picking up the camera to enjoy photography at its truest essence?

A reflection of an old building.

Starburst effect is quite different on this lens. Probably the different characteristics of the aperture blades.
Dramatic Tone Art Filter.


I took the leap of faith, and decided to go for a Fisheye lens. It was a choice I made over the 14-54mm Mk2 which was originally offered to me by Olympus Singapore. I decided I wanted to do something fresh, and see the world in a whole new perspective. This was the perfect opportunity to do so. Hence, I have with me, a less than one week old, Olympus Zuiko 8mm F3.5 Fisheye lens. Today, marked the first time I went out for shutter therapy with the fisheye lens, and only the fisheye lens.

Chong and Huey Yoong and Jasonmumbles who FFK-ed all of us met up with me at Sri Petaling LRT station at an ungodly 7am in the morning and we hopped on a train that took us directly to Pudu, one of my favourite hunting spots for street shooting. The weather this morning was fantastic, the sky was blue and beautifully decorated with dramatic cloud formations, and the lighting from the golden sun was gorgeous. We took a walk around the area leading to the wet market (we did not venture inside the market this time) and just shot down whatever stood in our way that we felt like shooting. It was a pleasant morning, and the walk with photographer friends is something new that I must try to do more and more often these days.

This was my first time using the Fisheye lens. I brought my 50mm F2 macro lens, just in case I needed the reach for some subjects that may be a little too far off from my reach of 8mm, but I found that I never even switched lens for this session, and stuck by with the 8mm fisheye the whole morning. I am terribly new to this lens, and I did not exactly know how to maximize its full potential just yet. I have done several readings online and seen some sample shots shared by many people everywhere, and I roughly have some ideas on what I wanted to do with the lens on the street. This was more like an experimental session where I was starting to discover and learn what this 8mm Fisheye lens is truly capable of, and many other things that it can do. Taming this beast was not as easy as I thought.

Fisheye correction applied.
Dramatic Tone Art Filter.

Fisheye Correction applied.

The higher sky.

Why do the curved/bent lines bother people so much?

The following is a list of my thoughts on the 8mm F3.5 fisheye lens:

1) 180 degrees full view

The wideness that the lens covers for the field of view was simply astonishing. You can fit everything from the left sweeping to the far right of the lens edge, effortlessly. This itself is an ultra wide angle lens on steroids. I have always wanted the 7-14mm ultra wide angle lens, but there is no way I can afford one, hence the 8mm fisheye is a good choice, because the field of view it offers is significantly, and noticeably wider than the 7-14mm.

2) Distortion

Many people would stress on the importance on not having the presence of distortion, may it be barrel or perspective. Yes, in most cases, we prefer our images to come out as naturally seen as our eye vision, which should be void of barrel distortion (bent lines) and perspective distortion (slanting/falling lines). However, if all the TV series, novels, and news (pun intended) are based on pure truth, would the entertainment not be bland and dull? Superman will no longer be fun if he can’t fly and dodge bullets. Exaggeration and hyperbole that stretch as far as the human mind can imagine have added impact and depth to entertainment industry. Photography may be accepted as the representation of actual vision, but photography is also a medium of art and, to a certain extent, entertainment. Consequently, a little exaggeration can open up new possibilities, and bent lines can add new dimension to an otherwise “ordinary” looking image. I know everyone may view this topic subjectively, but I do think sometimes, distortion can be used to enhance an image, if being applied carefully.

The 8mm F3.5 fisheye lens exhibited a large amount of distortion, and careful composition must be made to achieve the best result. I am still experimenting on which angle that worked best for different situations.

3) Extreme Close Up

The minimum focusing distance from the front element of the fisheye lens is 2cm only, hence this lens can be used for extreme close up shots, with wide angle perspective. This is one significant difference between the 8mm and many other ultra wide angle lenses, such as the 11-22mm, 9-18mm and the 7-14mm. While all other wide angle lenses offers the minimum focusing of meager 25cm or more, this 8mm can bring you so close to your subject that you really have to extra careful not to have the front element in contact with your subject. I am a huge fan of macro/close up shooting, thus I instantly fell in love with this lens, just for this capability alone. Imagine you can fit the whole wide background (if you want to, and believe me, sometimes, you WANT to) while being so close to your subject in close up mode.

A bicycle, low angle.
Grainy Film Art Filter.

Back road access to the Pudu Market.

A friendly street vendor.

An impromptu panning shot with the fisheye lens.

4) Wide Angle Perspective Conversion

There are numerous softwares and freewares available to convert a 180 degrees fisheye view into a rectilinear wide angle looking image. I used the function built in the bundled Olympus Viewer 2 software (free download available) that enables one click fisheye correction that modified the circular view into a wide angle view. The main trade off that must be made aware of is the suffering of significant corner softness, and amplification of chromatic aberration, if it is exhibited in your original image. Basically, knowing the weakness and working around it, I can do a standard ultra wide angle shot, just with the fisheye lens by a click of a mouse !! This sure is convenient.

5) Sky Shooting

Being a lens wider than 12mm, the 8mm fisheye has self-polarization characteristics that desirably darken the blue at certain situations. The view on the sky can also be expanded and the perspective of a wide open area being exaggerated can be quite astonishing, creating a sense of infinite space.

6) Shooting people with Fisheye

I have not done many people shooting with the 8mm fisheye, but I did grab some quick shots. I must say the outcome was quite pleasing, and the form figure of the people as a subject is very believable, and acceptable by human vision. Yes, there are barrel distortions, but the curves and lines do not detract from the original body contour and outline of the facial features, unless you point your lens extremely close to the subject, or place your human subject at extreme far edge and corners of your lens.

I have so many things that I intended, but have not had the chance to explore with the 8mm fisheye just yet. There is the getting super close up with animals creating imbalanced oversized heads like a balloon kind of image, and also excessive exaggeration of hands and feet and basically anything else that there is to think of.

A chinese temple.
Dramatic Tone Art Filter.

The deep, blue, self-polarized sky.

The lens handles backlit and flare situation very well !! An example of an extreme close up shot.

Saturday morning shops.
Dramatic Tone Art Filter.

It was a great morning walk, and I found myself being so immersed with the 8mm F3.5 lens. It was such a joy to use, and it was challenging when none of the lines appear to be straight. Of course, I am still new, and there is no rush really, the fun part about photography is that we learn, and grow, as we go on in this journey. There will always be new things to discover, and I am glad I have discovered the joy of fisheye photography.

Thanks to Chong and Huey Yoong for being there, shooting alongside me at Pudu. We must do this more often. Shutter therapy with a fisheye lens ROCKS !!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. As usual, you are super fast in editing & blogging again :P

    It was a pleasure photowalking with you guys, so I think the idea of our regular sessions will be awesome going forward :) Looking forward to push more boundaries with you boys!

  3. Hello huey yoong,
    it was indeed fun this morning. Cant wait for your set of photographs. Next time we must include a proper makan session ya!!

  4. The Fisheye lens really feels right at home with you. As always your pics are superb! Just wondering out of curiosity wouldn't you rather have the ultra sharp wide angle 7-14mm lens given the choice? Again thank you for sharing your pics to the world.

  5. hello again Eric,
    Thanks for the compliments !! Yes, I would want a 7-14mm, but that is definitely out of budget, thus out of consideration at the moment.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. so when you will be getting "bird eye" :p

  8. Since your last post I dug out my fisheye for some "playing", something I haven't done in a while. I shot Pancakes this morning amoung other stuff. Yes it does work nicely on skies and clouds. If you imagine a line from center top to bottom and left to right, this is where less distortion is except for the edge. You can use this for advantages, like brides. Look forward to seeing some wedding images Robin. Nice images once again.

  9. Hello Carl,
    I am glad you brought out the fisheye and pancake for "playing" this morning !!
    Yes, I am very excited and looking forward to using this fisheye lens in my coming wedding assignment !!

  10. Helo gerald,
    if there is such a thing I would love to try.

  11. Great pictures, Robin. I also love your writing!

  12. Thanks Bartosz !! Just sharing whats going on in my head, LOL.

  13. Hello outstanding website! Does running a blog such as this require a lot of work?

    I've no expertise in programming but I had been hoping to start my own blog in the near future. Anyways, if you have any suggestions or techniques for new blog owners please share. I understand this is off topic but I just had to ask. Many thanks!

    My site - memory card reader for iphone

  14. Please let me know if you're looking for a article writer for your site. You have some really good posts and I believe I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I'd love to write some
    material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine.

    Please send me an e-mail if interested. Many thanks!

    my weblog: diy fender opto isolator

  15. Woah! I'm really enjoying the template/theme of this website. It's simple,
    yet effective. A lot of times it's tough to get that "perfect balance" between usability and visual appearance. I must say you've done a amazing job with this.
    Additionally, the blog loads super fast for me on Internet explorer.

    Excellent Blog!

    My blog; sears home appliances insurance

  16. My partner and I stumbled over here from a different web page and thought
    I should check things out. I like what I see so i
    am just following you. Look forward to going over your web page for
    a second time.

    my web page ... 7812 d2pak

  17. Hi there! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that would be okay. I'm undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

    Feel free to surf to my web site saturn dealer seattle