The term used for a specific type of lens in photography. This lens has a very wide angle of vision, allowing you to see a great deal of subject matter in the photograph. In 35mm photography, a fisheye has a focal length of 14 to 20 millimeters or so. Fisheyes distort straight lines and can make things look all "trippy".

Or, the eye of a fish.

There are two flavors of fisheyes - pickled and fresh.

(Sir - wrong topic)

what do you mean this isn't a cooking writeup?

(This is a photography writeup)

You mean I ate those... ewww...

Ok, there are two flavors of fisheyes - full frame and circular frame.

The essence of a fisheye lens is to get an extremely wide angle of view - typically 180 degrees or more. With most lenses (including those in our eyes), straight lines are rendered as straight lines. This is known as rectalinear. Even with wide angle lenses, this is corrected for (or nearly corrected for). Small curvature at the edges is forgiven by the brain or just overlooked altogether. The fisheye lenses are deliberately not corrected for this - and thus the difference between a fisheye and a super wide-angle lens (which do render straight lines as straight lines).

The classic fisheye lens is the circular frame and provides "edge to edge" 180 degree angle of view. These lenses only expose a portion of the film but also capture a full hemisphere (180 degrees by 360 degrees). Sometimes, these lenses are even wider and capture up to 220 degrees from edge to edge (I've heard of one capturing 270 - yes, thats right 270 degrees - you can be behind the camera and still be in the photograph).

The other 'flavor' of fisheye lens is a full frame fisheye. These lenses do not have the same field of view from edge to edge as does the circular frame fisheye and instead have a 180 degree field of view from corner to corner. These are still fisheye lenses despite the less classical viewing - they still render straight lines as curves.

There is a big difference between the full frame fisheye and the circular frame fisheye - and that is price. The Nikon 16mm f/2.8 fisheye lens (full frame) runs about $800 new. Meanwhile, the 6mm f/2.8 circular frame fisheye runs a tad more - on the order of $14,000. The full frame fisheye is often more useful unless you specially want the circular frame for effect. The full frame allows you to capture almost a complete hemisphere (though not quite) and is useful for concerts, landscapes, super-wide group photographs - you name it.

Ok, so you want to take a photograph with a fisheye lens now. What should you keep in mind?

  • Lens flare. Lets face, it - if you are outside it is almost impossible not to get the Sun in the frame. This will cause some flare. In most every case, these lenses try to reduce flare but it is very difficult. You can't stick your hand there to block it - your hand will be in the frame. Which leads us to...
  • Strays. A fisheye lens will capture at least 180 degrees in its field of view. With such a wide angle it is quite easy to get a tripod leg, finger, or something else in the photograph. This is especially the case with fisheye converters for digital cameras where you aren't looking through the viewfinder and rather at the LCD panel.
  • Straight lines. It is possible to get a straight line straight - run it through the center of the image. This is most often done with the horizon. Looking down just a tad will bow the horizon to the bottom, and looking up will bow it up. Precision is necessary to get it through the middle. This also is true of lines that run vertical (say, a lamp post).
  • Filters. It is impossible to put a filter on the front - it just doesn't work. Polarization is out of the question. The filters are often special ones that screw into the back of the lens - bayonet mount.
  • Depth of field. Ok - lets just say "its in focus". I'm not kidding. Focusing at 10 feet away, everything from 5 feet to infinity is in focus at f/2.8 - and if you go to f/16...
  • Have fun! The fisheye lens is one that has 'fun' written all over it. Goofy photographs of people with the face all distorted to photographs looking up under a tree - this is a lens for having fun.

The Lomography Fisheye 2: A review

Lomography is such a confusing morsel of language. It refers to a photographic genre ("experimental snapshot" is a more neutral term), to an aesthetic movement towards lo-fi and film, often screwed up (redscale is backwards, xpro uses wrong chemicals) or expired aaaaand it refers to an austrian company who made its name as the sole distributor of the lovely Lomo LC-A and has since compiled an impressive catalog. In the lowercase "lomographic" community, it inspires a mixture of love and hate, in large measure because they're packaging a "movement" that was already burbling and sells it to what's-the-next-thing hipsters with a generous mark-up.

Also, most of Lomography's products suck. Most of the competition's (Superheadz, Redcamera, Eximus, etc.) suck as well, and are much less creative than Lomography, but it still has a poor track record regarding quality, truth in advertising and originality. Most of Lomography's catalog are clones -- the venerable Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Workers Union (LOMO) dropped its camera business to focus on high-end optics (think military/medical applications) and Lomography got the blueprints to get "+" versions done in China. And even then, the LC-A+ is crippled, the Lubitel 166U+ looks strange to my eyes (though my Lubitel is an 166B) and the Diana+ is an attempt to make a full system camera without actual design work besides making sure the kit lenses have the correct focal length.

But then there's the Fisheye 2.

I bought my girlfriend a Fisheye 2 when she wanted to start playing with this lomography thing. It was the natural choice -- either I got her a LC-A+, parted with one of my beloved soviet LC-As (which she wouldn't know how to focus anyway) or got the Fisheye, which is as focus-free as you get aside from pinhole photography.

When I saw her results, I wanted to do similar things. I dug out the fisheye lens for my Diana kit, but it only really worked with 120 film, and even then the barrel distortion exaggerated the diffraction lens aberrations that come with plastic lenses. Then I searched eBay for fisheye lenses either for the Olympus OM-2 or the Kiev 60 (my 35mm and 120 SLRs), which were exceedingly expensive. I was tempted to go the way some people from the Flickr groups I read went and stack wide angle adapter over wide angle adapter, but then my girlfriend started getting the results from her fisheye adventures.

Not one to trust my eyes, I had her lend me the negatives and scanned them at high resolution. The thing has superb optics, and probably is the best product in the whole Lomography catalog. Sturdy construction -- unlike the Diana system and the multi-lens line -- and a powerful enough built-in flash to make something appear in night-time pictures.

And to think of it, is there any better camera concept to fit the lomographic/x-snap ideal? Focus free, composition free, just think fast and don't lose any action. For every Diana owner with underexposed negatives, there's a LC-A(+) owner with out-of-focus images, sp. when it gets dark. (Why do you think they emphasize small prints and walls of color?) The Fisheye sidesteps that, and it has that unique signature in the round format of the final images.

Veredict: it's an excellent buy for the price, particularly if you already have satisfactory equipment for digital photography and want to do some film on the side. It's also the best bet for "your first lomo camera", after you've read their literature and are sold on x-snap as a lifestyle.

For night-fun photography, you'll want to buy their color flash (any would do, but color splashing is fun); set to B mode, and the hotshoe-attached flash will fire, and when you think enough light from the environment has seeped in (ah, the joys of B-mode photography), release the button and the built-in flash will fire. Nothing like two images of one person in the same background to convey happy times.

I just wish they either bolted the LC-A's automatic exposure time control, or at least had some sort of exposure controls. f/8 1/100s is a weird place to be unless you have the just-right film. Right now, I have more film than I can justify having, but have no ISO 400 color film, so I'm stuck with either dancing around with Portra 160 (which is the film I keep going back when I think of it, because of the creamy colors in the mid-tones) or NPZ-800, which surprisingly survived well my gf's beach photographs and looks good in prints, but feels grainy on a computer screen.

But hey, that's possibly how they're going to make me buy a Fisheye 3. Anyway, don't wait. Get a pack of Lucky-brand film (or Portra 400, if you're feeling optimistic about the economy), your Fisheye 2 and get shooting.

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