FASHION, SO THE SAYING GOES, has nowhere to go but in circles. It’s an expression that is as true of photography as any other walk of life.
This summer season, Nikon has made much fanfare about its new 8-15mm fisheye zoom, especially because it is the first Nikon autofocus lens that can produce a circular fisheye image.
One thing is certain, it will surely make circular fisheye shots more trendy than ever.
On a full-frame camera, this lens is best thought of as two lenses in one rather than a zoom, because only the two ends of the zoom are really useable.
At 8mm the lens gives a circular image with a ridiculously wide field of view of 180˚ in all directions (it’s hard to keep your feet out of the picture).
Then at 15mm it produces a classic, frame-filling rectangular fisheye image that covers 180˚ from corner to corner.
The arrival of a new fisheye lens from Nikon is certainly newsworthy, as its last new fisheye was the crop sensor only 10.5mm from 2004, and before that it was the 16mm in 1993.
However, the 8-15mm is pretty much identical in what it does to Canon’s 8-15mm, which was introduced seven years ago.
Furthermore, Sigma has long produced circular fisheye lenses for all SLRs, while Inon’s UFL-M150 wet-lens fisheye offers circular fisheye shooting on compacts.
But before I sound too blasé, as underwater photographers we should always greet any new fisheye lens enthusiastically. In the early days of the British Society of Underwater Photographers, one of the grand photographic aims was to take a clear image of a complete diver in British waters.
It doesn’t sound too hard, until you consider that there were no wide-angle lenses, let alone fisheyes! So the challenge involved designing and building your own underwater wide-angle lens. This is something that Geoff Harwood mastered in the early 1970s with his Vismaster 1 and Vismaster 2 lenses, which were circular and full-frame underwater fisheye lenses respectively. What goes around, comes around.