Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens Review

I thought it might be high time that I posted a few reviews on the blog. I have been meaning to for quite some time and have some ideas for some in the future. I thought it might be best to start with a Canon lens that I was able to test drive last month on a trip to Boston, Massachusetts. I have been meaning to give Borrowlenses.com a try and determined that my trip to Boston would be a great opportunity to try them out. You can rent just about any lens available from them – I haven’t searched for anything they do not have. And they are quick to stock new items as they become available.

My choice was the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Ultra-Wide Zoom. I thought a Fisheye lens would be fun to have handy as I walked the city. It might give some really cool perspectives of architecture and I could have some fun with it in the many different situations that I would encounter. This was mounted to my Canon 5D Mark II – a full-frame sensor DSLR.

 

Canon Fisheye

As stated, this lens is an Ultra-Wide Zoom. With 8mm, you will have a circular image in the middle of your sensor and on the outsides, at least 1/3 of the sensor will be black as illustrated below…

 

Canon Fisheye Lens Test

 

Obviously, you will have distortion throughout the image when backed out all the way to 8mm. Also, notice around the perimeter of the circle, you will pick up a color cast, or chromatic aberration. This is not a knock on this lens by any means. You pick up a Fisheye lens specifically to achieve this sort of distortion. It is fun to take funny pictures of people, as my granddaughter above, or creatively bend shapes and distort lines to create unique images. This is the extreme version of the widest angle possible on this lens. Many people do not want to ever go this wide and therefore Canon has a feature on this lens that will lock the zoom so that it is able to only zoom out to 10mm. I found myself utilizing this feature when I did not want the extreme vignetting that results from a setting of 8mm.

In the picture above, my granddaughter’s nose was mere inches from the camera. Even at 8mm, I was extremely impressed with the quality and sharpness of the image in the center. I love the color in her eyes and I can zoom in and see that her eyelashes are quite sharp. There was very little editing done to this image other than minimizing the CA on the outside. The lens is auto focus and I found it to be as fast as expected. I had no need for extremely fast auto-focusing with this lens and I don’t think many would. It performed nicely when I needed it.

Physically, this lens is a little different from any other of the Canon L glass in my kit. It is only slightly larger than my 50mm f/1.4. The front element on this lens is fairly bulbous. In other words, it protrudes from the front of the camera. Since this was a rental, I was extremely careful to take care and protect that lens. It does come with a lens hood, which gives a little piece of mind, yet I found myself having to remove this whenever I zoomed out farther than about 12mm or so. It would enter the field of view. The lens cap is designed to fit with the lens hood in place.

This is a very specialized lens that retails for about $1300 currently on Amazon. It is a fun lens to have and I can see myself using it more than I probably ever should. What I did find extremely useful was that 13-15mm range. I could easily incorporate this into many of my landscape and architecture shots when I need just that little bit more width than I can achieve from my 16-35mm. Below is a perfect example:

 

Boston, Massachusetts

 

This image was captured with the lens set at 13mm ISO100 f/16. It is a combined image from 5 exposures to account for the extreme dynamic range encountered with this shot. Even at 13mm, I have pleasant sharpness even towards the edges. You can see just the beginnings of vignetting at the corners. This was mounted on a tripod, pointing straight up the inside of a rotunda along the Boston Harborwalk. At 13mm, we are close to the 180 degree view that this lens is able to achieve.

I was little bummed to have to send this lens back to BorrowLenses.com. But at $1300 retail, I am not so sure that this lens has moved up my wish list at all. In the end, I have to justify this for my business and unfortunately I don’t have $1300 in “fun-money” laying about. I’m not suggesting that this lens is overpriced at all. For a Canon L-series lens, and what I would categorize as a “specialty” lens, I think the price is fair enough. For now, though, this lens is too “specialty” for me. What I loved abut it most were the extra 2-3 mm in width that I had as an option and that may be possible to achieve with a much more versatile lens for that kind of money. I’m thinking maybe the Nikon 14-24 with a Canon adaptar…. Hmmmm I may be able to rent that!

Below are some more images from my trip. My overall experience with BorrowLenses was a positive one and I will use them for my next rental. I may post a review here after I have a couple more experiences with them. Stay tuned and I hope that you found this information helpful. For an in depth technical review, try CameraLabs. Here is their review of the 8-15mm.

 

 

 

 

 

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