Fisheye lens for 360 panorama

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

 

Samyang 8mm f/3.5Our Top Pick

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 good lenses! Depending on whereyou are in the world, you may find these lenses under other brand names such as Rokinon or Bower. They are the same.

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 at the price is pretty exceptional! If you are a panorama enthusiast without a very high budget, this lens is what you need. I have never regretted my choice.

Check it out for Canon | Nikon

If you have a mirrorless camera, this lens is also available, in an f/2.8 version (which is even better!) – For Canon | Fuji | Sony

 Quick Specifications

  • Size: 7.6 x 7.6 x 7.6 cm / 3 x 3 x 3 in
  • Weight: 445 g / 15.7 oz
  • Focal Length: 8 mm
  • Aperture range: f/3.5 to f/22
  • Compatible formats: APS-C, Full frame

Pros

  • Strong built
  • Sharp
  • Cheap!
  • Made in Korea
  • Removable hood

Cons

  • Manual focus
  • Can be tricky to find the precise spot for perfect sharpness with the focus ring (not always exactly on the infinity sign)

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 (and the budget), the Canon EF 8-15 mm is probably the best you can get.

Part of the acclaimed Canon L-series of lenses, this lens has a solid construction and was made with professional photographers in mind. Many buyers reported an exceptional quality and sharpness of their pictures.

It is compatible with APS-C, 4/3 and full frame cameras and will give a fully circular 180-degree image on full frames. Not much to add as youprobably understood that this lens will definitely take your panorama shooting to a whole new level.

 Quick Specifications

  • Size: 7.9 x 8.3 cm / 3.1 x 3.7 in
  • Weight: 540 g / 19.1 oz
  • Focal Length range: 8-15 mm
  • Aperture range: f/4 to f/22
  • Compatible formats: APS-C, 4/3, Full frame

Pros

  • Exceptional quality
  • Sharp
  • Fast autofocus

Cons

  • Expensive

Sigma 8 mm f/3.5 EX DG Circular Fisheye Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras

A little cheaper than the one above, this Sigma 8 mm fisheye lens can be a great alternative if you are looking for an autofocus fisheye lens for your Canon camera. However, note that this lens is designed for full frame cameras only.

Sigma’s reputation for building high quality optics is once again confirmed with this lens and if you should definitely check it out.

 



 Quick Specifications

  • Size: 13.6 x 9.9 x 10.8 cm / 5.35 x 3.9 x 4.25 in
  • Weight: 400 g / 14.1 oz
  • Focal Length: 8 mm
  • Aperture range: f/3.5 to f/22
  • Compatible formats: Full frame

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Great quality
  • Autofocus
  • Cheaper than the Canon

Cons

  • Still quite expensive

Nikon AF-S Fisheye Nikkor 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED F/4.5-29 Fixed Zoom Camera Lens

If you own a Nikon DSLR, the Nikkor 8-15 mm fisheye lens is the widest in the whole Nikkor series. As a result, it is your best option to shoot your panos.

It works well with both DX and FX formats and will give outstanding results. At 8 mm on a full frame, the image is a circular 180-degree picture, but you can remove the black border and turn it into a classic, fisheye-distorted image at 15 mm. For shooting panos it doesn’t really matter since the software can deal with both images, but if you use it for normal pictures it can be intresting.

This autofocus fisheye lens is for sure the best option for a Nikkon camera if you have the money to invest, as the price is similar to the Canon lens described above.

 Quick Specifications

  • Size: 8.4 x 8.4 x 8.4 cm / 3.3 x 3.3 x 3.3 in
  • Weight: 485 g / 17.1 oz
  • Focal Length range: 8-15 mm
  • Aperture range: f/3.5 to f/29
  • Compatible formats: DX, FX

Pros

  • Great quality
  • Sharp
  • Weather-sealed
  • Zoom
  • Great aperture range

Cons

  • Expensive
  • A little heavy

Final Thoughts

That’s it for this small guide about Fisheye Lenses for 360° Panoramas! If you are just getting started and/or don’t have a thousand dollars to put into an autofocus lens, the manual focus fisheye lens is really perfectly fine and will give great results.

Most panoramas and virtual tours on this site were shot with this lens so you can judge of the quality by yourself!

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