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Canon EF 8-15mm f4L Fisheye USM Gordon Laing, Sept 2011

Canon EF 8-15mm Fisheye field report: Stefan Haworth

About Stefan Haworth

"Being based in Queenstown, New Zealand it's a great place to be a photographer. There's a lot competition but such a variety to shoot. Born here I've been able to live with sports of all types all around me. That potential I've been able to go out on my days off to play with new ideas helping progression. Now with the technology progressing it's amazing what flashes can do. I’ll be that guy figuring how can I add flash to the mix.

Funky facts about me:

- Summer lover.
- Just changed to Mac and love it.
- Love em, don’t hate em, Apple a day keeps the doctor away.
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  Canon EF 8-15mm Fisheye review contents
1 Canon EF 8-15mm main review
2 Canon EF 8-15mm field report: Gordon Laing
3 Canon EF 8-15mm field report: Scott Kennedy
4 Canon EF 8-15mm field report: Stefan Haworth
5 Canon EF 8-15mm optical results
6 Canon EF 8-15mm sample images
7 Canon EF 8-15mm verdict
Canon EF 8-15mm fisheye sample image (EOS 5D Mark II) 
I recently got to test the new Canon 8-15mm fisheye f/4L. Many will say it's a novelty, some will depend on it, while others will literally froth at the mouth. I've gone through my pros and cons of the lens to see if it's on my own wish list.

When it was announced I was amped myself as it meant we could now shoot ‘true' fisheye on any Canon body with Canon-branded glass. That also means the option to now shoot diagonal fisheyes at 10fps on an EOS 1D Mark IV. Previously if we wanted to shoot 10fps with a fisheye we had to sacrifice a little of the coverage due to the 1.3x crop or get a third party lens. So who should be excited? Apart from APS-H owners, anyone who owns an APS-C crop body camera or a mixture of Canon DSLR formats. They'll be able to achieve fisheye coverage across the crop field. For example surf photographers can grab the 8-15mm and use it on the 7D for fast frame rate and focus on a relatively light body.

Now I've seen it and played with it, what am I thinking? The ‘ampness' has died down to be honest. It could be because I mostly use the Canon 5dII which has had a fisheye option for ages with the old EF 15mm. So if you use the 8-15mm at 15mm on a full-frame body, you're getting the same view.

Below 15mm is new though, and now all the way to 8mm. But that's even more of a novelty in my point of view. Having say 50 or even 20 images all done at 15mm, they can all start to look similar let alone trying it at 8mm. I know when I tried the Sigma 8mm 3.5 I was like “WOOOW this is wack”. I got a bit bored after a while. The black area just becomes a space waster, a waste of Megapixels. I can see some people enjoying it on a full frame camera but that's not really where I am at with the lens.

That sounds like I've said it's a bad lens, but it's not. It's just not for me at the moment. If you've got a 1.3x crop body or even more a 1.6x crop body it'll be for you. When I got my first DSLR the first lens I wanted was a fisheye then to my disappointment you had to have a fullframe to achieve the warped look - bugger. So now all those people with 550D / T2i's, 60D's, 7D's or alike can now go out and grab this lens and have some fun with fisheye photos. Yeah ok, the Iphone has had an fisheye extension lens for some time now but it's just not the same.


Build quality

It's an L lens so overall it's pretty good. It's more that some design aspects have let it down.

Due to the front element being convex or 'shaped like a bubble' it's very exposed to surroundings. If you've got the camera dangling off your neck you'll see what I mean, the lens is facing down and you've a high chance of knocking something if you're not careful. You might not do that but even holding it you've got to be careful. It's not a lens you'll want to scratch either. Canon's got a solution to this and added a lens hood. But if you're going wider than 14mm on a full-frame, you'll have to take the hood off so it doesn't appear in your frame - it's that wide.

So you've got the large lens cap that fits over the lens hood because of the shape. It's seems okay, going on and off with ease - but too effortless really. While shooting up at Snowpark I had just brushed the cap while waiting for the skier and it fell right off. It was quite windy and I was standing on groomed snow so the cap started quickly rolling - luckily I grabbed it before it tumbled 50m down the hill. It's not something you want to muck around with during a shoot, or something you'd want to lose. Other photographers have picked up on this too. I'd say it's probably the most annoying part of the lens. I can imagine if I wasn't careful the lens cap could fall off in the bag and something rub against the front element - eekk.

Some may argue the 15mm 2.8 is worse but, like a photographer I know, you could just put a few pieces of tape on the inside of the cap to give it more grip. I'm not sure whether something similar could work for the 8-15mm. We'll have to see what people do to fix this problem.

What's interesting though you can take off the lens hood at the same time as the cap if you need to take a picture at a wide mm. That saves having your hands full, as otherwise you'd still be mucking around putting each item into a pocket wasting time. I liked that time saver!

When adjusting the focal length on the 8-15mm, you'll see the front element pop in and out; in this respect it's similar to the motion of other Canon wide lenses when they focus. Whether this motion is due to the zoom or the focus, I'm not a major fan since having a mare of a shoot where flour was sucked into a 17-40.  So to solve that I now always pop a UV filter on the front of my lenses, keeps them in good condition and safe. Sadly you've got to take extra care of the 8-15mm as due to the convex shape of the lens you cant attach a filter. Even though being weather sealed it isn't fully protected due to the front element moving within the barrel.


Image Quality

I tested it up in the snow with skiers in perfect blue sky so it wasn't the best place to see chromatic aberration or image sharpness etc. I've heard the chromatic aberration isn't that great but Gordon's tests will show that.

What I did do though was play with the sun star while skiers were in the air after hitting the jump. If you don't know too much about the sun star effect, grab a wide lens, pop the camera on aperture priority, then try f4 and aim it at the sun on a clear blue sky. Then try it on f16 or above. You'll notice you caught a nice star. Different lenses have different stars depending on aperture blades and the shape.

Diagonal Fisheye on EOS 5D Mark II: Manual, 1/2500, f20, 1000 ISO, 8-15mm at 15mm
Canon EF 8-15mm fisheye sample image (EOS 5D Mark II)
Click image to access higher resolution version at Flickr

So with the current world's best skier Jossi Wells throwing down double cork 1260 mute grab - say what? That's flipping twice and spinning three and half revolutions as he holds his skis then landing backwards. So 'photo-wise' that's a lot of moving as he spins over a 60ft jump. So you need a high shutter to freeze the movement as well as a low aperture for the sun star, then high ISO to compensate.

Circular Fisheye on EOS 5D Mark II: Manual, 1/2000, f20, 1000 ISO, 8-15mm at 8mm
Canon EF 8-15mm fisheye sample image (EOS 5D Mark II)
Click image to access higher resolution version at Flickr

My Canon 17-40mm f/4L gets a good sun star around f/13-18, any higher it's darker than you'd want. Using the 8-15mm the sun star starts around f/16 but nicer at f/22. That's quite dark so I had to use an ISO around 1000 which isn't great for large prints.



So is it for me? No. As a mostly full-frame shooter, I'd prefer the Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye prime lens unless of course I started grabbing a crop-body more often. The older prime is smaller, lighter, delivers a better sun star, and has a better lens cap design. That would be my main lens to compare with the 8-15mm as I mostly use fullframe.

Of course if you shoot with cropped bodies or a mix, then it's a different story. And while I'd prefer the EF 15mm for my 5dII, it's important to remember the new 8-15mm is an L lens so has all the bells and whistles which come with it: better weather-proofing, superior build quality, decent glass, USM focusing. In this article I've picked the 8-15mm apart, sometimes making it seem not that great, but it's these other points that can make the difference from a good lens and a bad lens in my opinion.

So me, I'm going to grab the older 15mm f/2.8 fisheye before they're no more; the Sigma 2.8 is very similar so that's another option if you agree with me and miss the boat on the Canon. When I've got the fisheye in my pack its not a go-to lens for the 'in-case' moment so I wouldn't want any further weight and space taken up by it.

Check out our other field reports below, or head to the official results!

Canon EF 8-15mm Fisheye field report by Gordon Laing.
Canon EF 8-15mm Fisheye field report by Scott Kennedy.

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