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ARTICLE

Zuiko 8mm Fisheye for Landscape

in Olympus E-System , Monday, July 03, 2006

For some time I've been meaning to write something here about using the Zuiko Digital 8mm Fisheye lens, specifically for landscape. This is the first true fisheye I've ever used. Many, many years ago, I used a fisheye adapter on Canon FD lenses, a combination which puts most Holga photos to shame.

The lens is very well built and the focusing ring rotates smoothly with just enough friction, making it a pleasure to use. The huge front element is very impressive, and a bit exposed. A fixed lens shade is included, and a large lens cover fits over the barrel.

Conventional wisdom claims that fisheye lenses cannot be used for landscape photography, but I think that images here demonstrate that this is not always true. Using a fisheye for landscape work requires a certain approach. First, you need to have a suitable subject, usually with a range of subjects from very near field to very far. Second, you need to make sure that any feature which you do not want to distort is centered vertically and horizontally. The “normal” rules of composition do not work with fisheye photos. Exposure is always critical, especially as it is likely that there will be a wide contrast range. Don't trust automatic exposure with this lens - check the histogram. It is best to under-expose slightly, to reduce the danger of localised flare. As with any fisheye chromatic aberration or localised flare (purple / blue fringing) in high contrast areas is going to be a problem, but with care and attention this can be avoided. You also need to decide if you're going to 'correct' the fisheye effect, using Olympus Studio v1.5 for example. Other options exist, but, for example, the lens correction filter in Photoshop CS2 is nowhere near as good as Studio. Personally, I tend to approach subjects with the idea that I am looking for a fisheye view. Although the correction tool is very impressive, inevitably the corners are very soft, and a lot of cropping takes place. However, this itself gives a certain feel which works well with some subjects.

The first shot is of the Strokkur geyser, at Geysír in Iceland. The first version is geometrically corrected and processed from RAW using Olympus Studio 1.5, and the second processed without correction. The shot directly into the sun shows how well flare is controlled by the 8mm fisheye if carefully managed. Exposure details f5.6, 1/3000th sec, -1.5EV, ISO 100, tripod mounted. In this particular case, I find that the uncorrected version works better.

strokkur_fisheye_uc.jpg
geometrically corrected...

strokkur_fisheye_uc.jpg
uncorrected.

The second shot is of Gullfoss, also in Iceland. Again, the first version is geometrically corrected and processed from RAW using Olympus Studio 1.5, and the second processed without correction. Exposure details f5.6, 1/90th sec, -0.5 EV, ISO 100, tripod mounted.

gulfoss_fisheye_uc.jpg
geometrically corrected....note very soft foreground edges.

gulfoss_fisheye_uc.jpg
uncorrected.

Fisheye photos are obviously on the borders of tastefulness in many cases, and in others are just illegible. But to capture really dramatic views, such as the geysir shots (I have about 100 variants of this...), they can really work. The Zuike Digital 8mm is a very expensive lens, considering that it will be used rarely, but sometimes specialist lenses give special results. Just don't try using them everywhere :-)
Posted in category "Olympus E-System" on Monday, July 03, 2006 at 09:48 PM

Older Comments

from Tchou on Sat, July 22, 2006 - 12:08

As you I’m an owner of this lens and I take a lot of pleasure using it…
one of my last pictures is that one : http://img478.imageshack.us/img478/7457/eclair1no0.jpg

I also use the 7-14 which is quite different but for some creativity it is also a good lens to have, perspectives are really dramatic with it.
And your last words, I agree with them… If you start to try it everywhere you won’t remove it from you camera…

from zuikoku on Sat, September 02, 2006 - 11:30

8 mm ? one of the nicest lens in ZUiko Digital range.. dramatic moment to catch on !

from Gordon on Wed, October 04, 2006 - 3:53

Thanks for the reassuring news about the purple fringing. I took my Zuiko 8 mm out today for the first time and used it in an extreme contrast situation—wide open. (I was not trying to “test” the lens - just trying to get a good photo underneath a dark pier in Santa Monica.)
I was shocked at the purple fringing when I opened the files in Apple Aperture 1.5. The fringing was quite pronounced.
Next time out, I will stop down and avoid the extremes.

from nicholas Pye on Mon, October 30, 2006 - 8:43

Thanks for the article!  I am considering buying a 8mm, or the 11-22mm, (or a 5x4 camera!)  I think the 8mm might be too extreme, and the 11mm might be better.  I only have the 14-54mm, so I would love a wider lens.  Do you have a 11mm? Is it worth getting or should I get the 8mm. 
Also thank you for giving me such a good mention on your links page, and the tip about naming the index page.