If you enjoy making panoramas and want to take it to the next level, or if you are just getting started but immediately want a great quality panorama and a hassle-free processing, a fisheye lens is the best investment you can make.
When shooting your panorama, instead of taking dozens of images that might become a real headache to stitch together, a fisheye lens enables you to shoot a full spherical panorama with only 6 or 10 images, depending on ifs focal and the size of your camera sensor.
That’s the path I personally took. I bought a mid-range Canon DSLR, with its kit lens. I sometimes needed almost 100 images to cover the whole sphere of the panorama. As I got more and more serious about making panoramas, and as I got a little tired of the hassle of stitching so many images, I finally decided to buy a fisheye lens.
I never regretted my decision!
If you have a full frame camera, an 8mm fisheye lens will give you the characteristic circular image (180° field of view) with some black space on the corners. If you have a crop camera (APS-C sensor), the image will cover the whole sensor and you will get an awesome ultra-wide angle picture! Both are fine to make panoramas as the panorama software know how to handle these kinds of images.
What Are The Available Fisheye Lenses?
Warning: I know how tempting they are, but I would like first to warn you about some small “fisheye lenses” that cost less than $100 or even less than $50, I tried one of those and its a complete waste of money. They are actually lenses that you put at the tip of your normal lens, turning it into a fisheye lens.
The quality of the image is so mediocre that they are totally unusable to make a panorama.
It is understandable to be tempted by this type of low quality lenses, because fisheye lenses have a huge flaw: they are often very expensive. But again, if you want to make good panoramas, save up a higher amount of money, get yourself a decent lens and stay away from these gadgets! There ARE affordable good fisheye lenses.
If you browse a few pages on Amazon, you will quickly realize that you have the choice between two types of fisheye lenses: manual focus lenses and autofocus lenses. This last type is pretty expensive, often around $1000. That’s why as far as I’m concerned, I settled for a manual fisheye lens!
On this page I will still talk about both types of lenses to give you the full picture of what’s available and so that you can make your own opinion about what lens you need!
Manual Fisheye Lenses
Isn’t A Manual Lens Harder To use?
That’s the first question that came to my mind when I considered buying my manual lens. After all, most of us are all used to the convenience of autofocus lenses.
Well, after having purchased a manual lens and having used it for about a year now, I can tell you that it’s not so bad! I would even say that it is just as easy to to use as an autofocus lens.
When shooting panoramas, we want everything in the picture to be in focus, and of course as sharp as possible. To get the best of your lens in terms of sharpness, it is better to avoid both extreme apertures (unless it is a fixed aperture obviously), and settle for something around f/8.
As for the focus, I found that setting it to “infinity” (the ∞ symbol) usually gives good results, with everything in focus. If you prefer to take your time, you can of course twist the focus ring until it is perfect, then double-check that everything is in focus by using your camera screen and zooming in the picture.
That’s an extra step compared to using an autofocus lens but well, I find it is a low price to pay in terms of time for many dollars saved!
But really, 99% of the time, leave it open at f/8 and focused to infinity, and you are good to go!
Cheap Yet Good Quality Fisheye Lens For Panorama Enthusiasts
I have been telling you a few times that I got this really cool and affordable lens without giving you any precision, so it is probably time to do so! The lens I bought is a Samyang 8mm f/3.5. Judging from the very positive reviews on Amazon, it seems like I am not the only one who loves that lens.
Samyang is a Korean brand that may not be as famous as Canon or Nikon, but they make very decent lenses!
This lens is solidly built, with very good quality HD optics for very clear, pin-sharp pictures. The hood is removable, which is useful if you own a full-frame camera.
I don’t want to overhype this, but I honestly think that a fisheye lens of this quality below $300 is pretty exceptional! If you are a panorama enthusiast without a very high budget, this lens is what you need.
P.S.: There are various lenses available in the $230-$300 range, including a brand called Rokinon. I personally never tried these other lenses. Given that they are in the same price range, I would assume that the quality is similar but as I had good results with Samyang I can only recommend this brand.
It is available with Canon, Nikon and Sony camera mounts.
Autofocus Professional Fisheye Lenses
If you have a higher budget and want a fully automatic lens, there are some fantastic options out there! Combining the convenience and precision of the autofocus and the exceptional quality of the optics, these lenses are real gold nuggets in the photography world.
These lenses are originally made to be used with full frame cameras, but they will also work fine on APS-C sensors, the image will just be cropped and become an ultra-wide angle.
I will list here three examples of these high quality lenses that you can consider to create exceptional panoramas 🙂
Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens
This is a world-class lens! If you have a Canon camera, this is the best you can get.
Part of the acclaimed Canon L-series of lenses, this lens has a solid construction
Many buyers reported an exceptional quality and sharpness of their pictures.
Sigma 8mm f/3.5 EX DG Circular Fisheye Lens
Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8G ED AF DX Fisheye Nikkor Lens