Canon EF 8-15mm f4 L USM review
The Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 L USM fisheye zoom lens
A review of using the 8-15
on a Canon 1Ds3 Mk3
We’ve just received our new Canon zoom fisheye lens. Keith has been out and about, giving it a try on his Canon 1Ds Mk3 (full frame) DSLR.
This is not a formal lens test, it doesn’t contain any detailed measurements on lens performance, although there are two MTF charts at the very end…
The main idea is to give an idea of what the lens is like to use, and hopefully give an idea as to the much greater range of uses it has that you might at first think.
Using a fisheye lens
A few years ago I purchased the Canon 15mm Fisheye lens.
It’s an old design, first available in EF mount in 1987. The main giveaway is the non USM motor, so you hear a slight whirring sound as it focuses.
I was quickly impressed by the optical quality of the lens and its almost complete resistance to flare – important, since with a 180 degree field of view from corner to corner (on a FF body), the chances of getting the sun in your frame is quite high.
It became a standard item in my bag for architectural and interior photography, particularly when used in conjunction with the Fisheye Hemi PS plugin for altering the projection geometry of your images.
I’ll come back to aspects of ‘fixing’ images later, but the 15mm has provided numerous great photos that have gone down particularly well with our clients (remember that for a lot of my commercial work, a client’s opinion is the arbiter of success ;-)
Canon announced the new EF8-15mm lens in August 2010, and it’s taken almost a year to actually appear.
It’s a stop slower than the old 15mm, but the zoom means that I can go from a 173 degree corner to corner (filled frame) at 15mm, to a circular image at 8mm (180 degree circular FOV) Full specs at foot of article
For a quick comparison I took the camera out into the street.
Note the tripod legs at the very bottom of the 8mm view – 180 degrees gets a lot in.
Already I’m hearing ‘but who wants circular images’ – I’ll come back to this, but first I want to have a look at some of the details.
How does it compare with the old 15mm?
Canon’s DPP software already incorporates correction data for this lens.
The woodland view below, was taken to see if there was much in the way of flare
The 100% crop shows small amounts, but having made a print of this image, it’s difficult to spot (I’ve boosted the colour, to show it here)
The view at 11mm picks up no obvious flare
If I process the RAW file with a black point of zero, and then massively brighten the image to show noise in the image, then some internal flare does show (mouse over image below to see)
A few more samples from Bradgate park (all at f/8) – note how any straight line (the horizon) that goes through the centre of the image, remains straight.
Whoops – note the fingers.
For comparison, here’s the view with an EF14mm 2.8L
Note how a wide rectilinear lens stretches corners and alters cloud shapes.
and using a TS-E17mm (tilt/shift lens)
and just for good measure, 3 stitched shots from the TS-E17 (shifted up and down by 12mm)
Since I’ve used Fisheye Hemi with my 15mm, I wanted to see what it would do with the 8-15.
The shot below is at the 11mm setting.
Move your mouse over the image below to see the effect of Fisheye Hemi’s ‘circular’ setting.
Note that with this image I’ve edited the lighting of the image a bit before applying the transformation.
Canon’s own DPP software offers a number of distortion correction modes.
I know from using DxO Optics Pro that just attempting to turn a fisheye image into a rectilinear one can easily fail, so I wasn’t surprised to see the emphasise linearity setting in DPP mash the edges of the image (mouse over the image to see some of the adjustment for this)
A more subtle alteration.
Overall, the DPP options work well.
However, if I wanted these particular alterations, I’d probably use DxO optics Pro which has some more complex settings (that and I personally just don’t much care for DPP as part of my workflow)
Here’s the sort of correction options you get in DxO (this lens is not yet supported with specialist correction data)
Note that there are many more packages supporting geometry correction – we’re Mac based so I’ve not tried many of the windows PC based options.
Buying an 8-15mm
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The lens is sharper and shows better contrast and flare resistance compared to the older EF15mm lens.
Given the quality of the older lens, this is no mean feat.
I’ve taken sample shots at f/8 here, since that’s where I most often use a lens like this.
I note that the tests at Lenstip suggest a peak resolution at f/5.6 at the centre and f/8 further out.
One feature I didn’t try is a switch that limits the zoom range if you are using a crop sensor camera.
If you’ve a crop sensor camera then, with this lens, you now have the availability of an equivalent to the 15mm on a full frame camera.
This lens is just made for full frame…
Autofocus is quick and silent. For metering I’d suggest manual mode in any non frame filling focal length.
It focuses down to 15cm, which gives an interesting magnification of 0.39, and some very odd views.
If shots like below (Leicester market) were all this lens did, then I’d agree that it’s a lens that you might quickly tire of.
However I know that by careful consideration of how you are going to make use of images, it’s one that I’ll be making use of in my professional work too.
The photo below, was taken with the old EF15 and corrected with the Fisheye-hemi plugin. – it’s one of the venue’s iconic images, and one that has paid for the old lens, in itself. I’m particularly looking forward to V2 of Fisheye Hemi, hopefully appearing later this year.
Three more photos from a recent visit to Wells Cathedral
Two ‘fixed’ with Fisheye-hemi and one at 8mm
View down the cathedral, from main entrance.
The scissor arches
Looking up in the chapter house
Update 2 – a portrait of Michael Westmoreland
Taken at the opening of his 80th birthday exhibition (more details). If you didn’t know, Michael is one of the key figures in the history of panoramic photography.
~12mm – Projection changed with FishEyeHemi and cropped. Printed as a 36″ wide print.
Article history – first published August 2011, Images added Oct 2011, Nov 2011
Unique lens – great quality and not the one trick pony that some might dismiss it for.
There is a page about any 8-15 news/info that I’ll keep updated with any new reviews I come across
|Diagonal Angle of view (FF)||180º – 175º 30′|
|Lens Construction||14 elements/11 groups|
|Number of diaphragm blades||7|
|Minimum focus||0.15 m|
|Maximum magnification||0.39x at 15mm|
|AF motor type||Ring-type Ultrasonic Motor|
|Focus adjustment||Lens extension via inner focusing and focus cam plus floating mechanism|
|Filter thread||67mm (note – does not accept normal filters)|
|Filter size||Rear Gel Holder (accepts up to 3 pre-cut gel filters)|
|Supplied accessories||Front and rear caps
|Dimensions||79 mm diameter x 83 mm length|
|Lens Mount||Canon EF|
MTF charts (from Canon)
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Some articles that may be of interest:
- Using a tilt/shift lens - what it is they actually do
- Focus with tilted lenses - lots more information about what's going on when you tilt a lens. See also: Focusing the view camera - External link to [very] detailed coverage of camera movements
- Keith's tilt table spreadsheet (zipped file)
- Using old lenses on your DSLR - fun with adapters
- Keith's lens reviews and lens related articles
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