Lensbaby Fisheye Optic DSLR Lens Review

The Lensbaby Fisheye optic fits into the Composer and can be used with the Muse with an adapter. It is a 12mm focal length almost full circle fisheye (on a full frame camera body) with a 160 degree field of view.

Lensbaby Fisheye Optic on a Canon 5D Mark II

Because it is a fisheye the aperture disks have to go inside the optic by unscrewing the fisheye, extracting the optical part and placing the disk in. This means that you don’t need the optic case to unlock the whole fisheye unit. It is still not as convenient as an aperture ring but it works.

So, what’s it like to use? Well fisheye lenses don’t appeal to everyone and of course neither does the Lensbaby, so you would have to call it an acquired taste. The fisheye is quite sharp and doesn’t have the same sort of blur zone as other Lensbaby optics. Lensbaby advise using it only in the straight ahead position without using the tilt you are used to. But I think they are wrong.

Sometimes you get a colored surround

The Lensbaby Fisheye on a full frame camera does not produce a complete image circle. Frankly I don’t know why they made it this way because that little bit of missing full circle is REALLY annoying and destroys one of the beautiful aspects of full circle fisheye images.

The lens can be very effective for interiors

On a smaller sensor dSLR, like a Canon 400D, you get a small amount of image cropped off at each corner.

Lensbaby Fisheye Optic used in a Composer for infrared

So why oh why did they make it not quite a full circle? I’m hoping someone from Lensbaby will answer this in a comment. It certainly was not a compromise to make it full coverage on a smaller sensor camera. I suspect it might be the issue of having to make the optical design fit the Lensbaby Composer. So this is one aspect of the lens I really hate. In practice it means to get the perfection of a full circle you need to fudge it in Photoshop.

Does that mean I hate the lens? No, it doesn’t. It just means I think it could have been better. The Lensbaby Fisheye at US$149.95 is a pretty cheap fisheye lens compared to around $899 for the Sigma 8mm full circle fisheye. So I hope it will introduce many more people to the joys of fisheye photography. Also I like that, depending on the lighting in the scene you are shooting, you will get colored glows around the outer edge of the image, which adds interest.

You can shoot some interesting effects

It is certainly great for simulating the view through a door peep hole

On a full frame camera you get almost a full circle, with a little missing top and bottom. I found that there were times when a bit of tilting was actually beneficial to the image. On others keep it center aligned. If you want increase the canvas size in Photoshop and clone in the missing parts of the circle if you want to.

The lens can focus down to half and inch

On a small sensor camera, like my Canon 350D and 400D, virtually the whole image is covered, but not quite. Again what I found is that some images work well with the lens centered but others really benefit from using the image circle edge as part of your image design. You’ll see lots of these in the companion article on shooting infrared with the Lensbaby Fisheye.

I really like the Lensbaby Fisheye. Sadly it is not perfect but it is close to. If you have a Lensbaby Composer or Muse it is certainly worth adding one of these to your kit. If you don’t yet have a Lensbaby this might add to your reasons for trying it.

A separate article discusses shooting infrared with the Lensbaby Fisheye.

If you are in the US I recommend B&H Photo to order a Lensbaby Fisheye Optic or Amazon.



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4 Responses to “Lensbaby Fisheye Optic DSLR Lens Review”

  1. Craig Strong, Lensbaby Co-FounderDecember 22, 2009 at 1:07 am #

    Wayne, thanks for the accurate and thoughtful Lensbaby Fisheye optic review.

    You are correct that tilting your Composer when using the Fisheye optic can be useful. I have found that tilting the fisheye optic can create compelling images. For multiple exposures tilting dramatically to different regions of the image for each individual exposure can produce an image with four or more exposures that are only partly overlapping which can be really nice.

    Regarding the full frame image being cropped top and bottom, seeing this optical design from fruition to market with all necessary tweaks ended up maximizing the size of the image circle slightly beyond the size of a full frame sensor. I shoot a D700 and, while the slight crop top and bottom has not affected the subject matter and feel of most of my images adversely, I have Photoshop’d one image that I wanted to frame square with a full black border around the circular image. While Lensbaby optics take advantage of the “imperfections” that big lens manufacturers avoid such as spherical aberrations (Soft Focus optic) and curved field of focus (Double Glass, Single Glass & Plastic optics), the slightly larger than 24mm image circle may not have enough useful application to outweigh it’s drawbacks.

    I am working on new optical designs and will take your feedback on the image circle into account regarding new fisheye designs. I’m also exploring ways to easily and attractively mask the image of the existing Fisheye optic, when a full circle image is desired.

    I enjoyed your photographs here and look forward to seeing more.

    • Wayne CosshallDecember 22, 2009 at 9:05 am #

      Thanks Craig for the thoughtful response. Much appreciated and I look forward to the new optical designs. I’ll give the multiple exposure idea a go.

  2. Craig StrongDecember 23, 2009 at 10:12 pm #

    Wayne, this is just to correct my email from my previous post. On this post it is correct.

    Thanks.

    Craig

    P.S. I look forward to the new optical designs too!

  3. luca biadaFebruary 16, 2012 at 1:24 am #

    Hi, great review. And useful comment of Craig. I’m a big fan of all lensbaby products, buyed yesterday a edge80 and i love it. After this review i will but fisheye too, tomorrow ;-)

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