Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fisheye Lens Decisions

Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye
Image Source:

I want a fisheye lens. Because I know that I won't use it a lot, I would like an economical, compact option. Fisheye lenses provide incredible wide angles of view (~180 degrees!), which can make for some very interesting interior and nature images. However, they exhibit a large amount of distortion, and are really specialty lenses, not the kind of thing you're going to use every day.

Panasonic makes the 8mm f3.5 fisheye lens, which sells on Amazon for $629. This lens gets very good reviews, and I'm sure is best in class for usage with the Lumix Micro 4/3 cameras.

In January, I wrote about the announcement of the new DMW-GFC1 fisheye attachment from Panasonic.

(Click Here) for the DMW-GFC1 announcement post.

This seems like an ideal solution for me, since it is an attachment for my Lumix 14mm f2.5 lens, and adds only the size of a single filter to my camera bag. I was hoping that it would also be economical. Preorder information from Adorama indicates that it will be priced at $149, pretty darned steep for a single filter.

Then there is the Samyang/Rokinon option. As far as I can tell, Samyang and Rokinon are different labels for the same lenses. They make a 7.5mm f3.5 fisheye, which is currently available on Amazon for $286.19. This lens also gets good reviews optically. It is a "native" Micro 4/3 mount, which means no adapter is needed to mount it to your Lumix or other Micro 4/3 camera. However, it does not have any electrical connection to the camera body, which is why I put "native" in quotes. This means that while you can use the camera's exposure meter in Manual or Aperture Priority modes, any mode that requires electronic control of the aperture (Shutter Priority, Program) does not work.

Since I am optimizing for cost, image quality, and size, this presents a challenge to me. In terms of cost, the Samyang wins, really because I believe $150 is too much for the Panasonic DMW-GFC1 attachment. I am sure the Lumix 8mm wins the image quality contest, but it seems the Samyang is very close, according to what I've seen in reviews. Size, of course, goes to the filter attachment. That said, neither the Panasonic or Samyang lens is very big.

Honestly, though, I don't think either the Panasonic or Samyang full lens would make it into my bag often. The DMW-GFC1 filter will stay there, all the time. That probably makes it the best option for me. The DMW-GFC1 was announced in early January, and is still not available for purchase in the USA (as of March 12). Maybe I can pick one up when I'm in Japan in a few weeks.
(Click Here) for a nice report and summary of reviews on the Samyang lens. If size were not a major consideration for me, I would probably buy one of these.
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