Aaron Sheldon is our favorite photowalk leader and a great photographer. He recently came into a Fuji X-E2 and asked us if he could take the Rokinon 8mm Fisheye for a test run of our upcoming photowalks. We were more than happy to oblige. Here, Aaron writes about why the fisheye lens is an invaluable tool in any photowalker’s arsenal. Remember to register for our North Market Photo Walk (which is FREE to sign up for), and Aaron’s Street Photography class for some extra instruction.
My New Year’s resolution this year, like a lot of people, was to lose weight. Now, anyone can try a fad diet or go to the gym to drop unwanted pounds. I, however, resolved to drop the extra pounds from my camera bag.
Anyone who has participated in one of the photowalks I have led for MPEX since last May knows what a big fan of Fuji’s X100s camera I am. I’ve carried it almost daily since I got it last April and it has become my go to camera for almost every type of shooting that I do. Amazing image quality, high ISO performance and its lightweight but solid build quality won me almost immediately. My only frustration with it is that it is a fixed focal length of 35mm, so when Fuji introduced their X-E2 last fall I was intrigued. It has a lot of the same things going for it that make the X100s so great, plus it allows you to use a wide range of lens from wide angle to super telephoto in a nice lightweight package.
To me, one of the best things about today’s mirrorless interchangeable lens camera systems is the high quality (yet extremely compact) lenses that work with them. In addition to some truly amazing glass made by Fuji, one other lens that caught my eye when outfitting my X-E2 was Rokinon’s XF mount 8mm fisheye lens. I’ve always enjoyed the look that a fisheye can give to a scene but, at least for DSLR’s, they are big, heavy and take up valuable weight and space in an already overburdened camera bag. So, when I put my Fuji X-E2 kit together (Fuji X-E2 + XF 18-55 f/2.8-4 kit lens and XF 35mm f/1.4 prime lens) I was happily surprised with how light my bag was and decided to finally give a fisheye a try.
To really put this lens through its paces I took it with me while I scouted locations for a few upcoming photowalks at the North Market and the Ohio Statehouse. Both locations offer a lot of interesting design elements that a fisheye can take advantage of.
Starting at the North Market on a Saturday morning before the crowds got there allowed me to focus on the lines and structure without having the scene cluttered by passersby. As I was trying to limit the impact of shoppers in the images I chose to shoot at f/22 on a tripod. Using the tripod also helped me consistently frame my shots to highlight symmetry in the structure of the building and keep the scene level. I learned quickly that symmetry and a level camera give the best overall results when using a fisheye.
The Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye is a manual lens. There is no autofocus and no image stabilization. This also means, unfortunately, that the much loved focus “peaking” that the Fuji X-series so brilliantly utilizes when manually focusing a Fuji XF lens does not work with this lens. So, I chose to focus to infinity, and with the aperture set to f/22, did not have any focus issues at any of the locations I used to test the lens.
After leaving the North Market, I decided to see how the Fuji X-E2 with the fisheye worked for street photography with a walk down High Street. While I didn’t quite like how it affected people in the shots, I found that it is an excellent choice to capture a unique architectural detail or shop window on a narrow sidewalk without forcing me to stand in the street.
As happy as I was with the results that the fisheye lens gave me at the North Market and on High Street, the subject I most looked forward to shooting with the fisheye was the Ohio Statehouse. The fisheye gives a 180 degree field of view that allowed for an amazing opportunity to capture the craftsmanship and details of the Statehouse in ways I’ve not been able to with any other lens.
After entering the Statehouse and having my gear inspected by a highway patrol officer I got out my tripod and got to work. Even with the amazing high ISO performance of the Fuji X-E2, a tripod is essential when shooting inside the Statehouse. Where the Fuji/fisheye combo truly excelled was in capturing the detail and uniformity of the rotunda. Using a lens with such a wide angle field of view allowed me to have the camera 7 feet in the air on my tripod to comfortably set up a shot of the entire rotunda ceiling.
With a mix of daylight (from skylights) and underpowered decorative lighting, I was expecting the X-E2 to struggle with metering correctly but was happily surprised with the how consistent the camera’s evaluative metering was.
To sum up my first foray in fisheye photography with the Rokinon 8mm f/2.8, I have to say that I am really surprised just how good it is. With a cost of only $329, and having such a compact form factor (it’s only 2.3 inches and less than 8 ounces in weight), it is the perfect lens to add to your kit to give you that extra bit of flexibility and drama to your images.