Need a more creative lens for your already packed kit bag? The Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 L Fisheye USM with 180° diagonal field-of-view could be just what you’ve been waiting for.
Canon’s latest L-series lens is the widest in its sizeable arsenal by a full 2mm. Designed primarily for use with Canon’s pro spec DSLRs, the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 L Fisheye USM boasts an impressive spec sheet and will shoot edge-to-edge fisheye images without vignetting at 15mm (wider focal lengths result in the circular frame). Attach it to an APS-C DSLR and it’ll shoot edge-to-edge images between 10-15mm, although the 1.6x crop factor means focal length will be a not-quite-so-extreme 12.8-24mm.
Spec savvy Canon fans should note that the lens consists of 14 lens elements in 11 groups, with one aspherical and one ultra-low dispersion element to combat the effects of chromatic aberration. Canon has also added Super Spectra and SubWavelength lens coatings to minimise ghosting and flare, while a fluorine coating, which supposedly acts as a Teflon-like barrier to oil, dirt and dust, has been added to the front and rear elements for easier lens cleaning.
The fisheye’s autofocus is powered by Canon’s tried-and-tested Ultrasonic (USM) motor for a near-silent performance, and a close focusing distance of 15cm opens up a world of creative possibilities. There’s even a switch-free manual focus override, should the mood take you. There are a few neat touches to combat the rather bulbous nature of the front element, such as an integral rear element filter holder for cut-your-own 31x31mm gelatin filters. Image stabilisation is noticeable by its absence, although it’s debatable whether it’s even needed at such extreme focal lengths.
As you’d expect from an L-series lens, build quality is superb, with the EF 8-15mm weighing in at a chunky 540g and measuring 83mm tall. A quirk of all fisheye lenses is the rounded front element, and the Canon’s stands 7mm proud of the barrel, so the supplied EW-77 hood should be used at all times. A lens cap and pouch are also supplied. The focusing sweet spot is between f/11 and f/16, and edge softness becomes noticeable at the f/4 extreme.
Perhaps not unsurprisingly for an L-series lens, the price-tag is as extreme as the focal length, and this is always going to be a sticking point. A grand is a serious investment, but when you’re talking about a fisheye you’ve got to be sure you’re going to get your money’s worth, and it’s difficult to see how that’s possible with such a niche product. Unless, of course, you specialise in extreme sports, work in confined spaces, or love shooting the occasional wacky portrait. If you do, great, if you don’t, you’ve either won the lottery or have serious thrill issues.
Seriously wide-angled fisheye lens with an equally extreme price-tag. Canon L-series fanatics take note – this is a niche lens that you won’t use every day, so approach with caution.
- Street price: £939 (As of July 2016)
- Lens mount: Canon EF
- Construction: 14 elements/11 groups
- Aperture blades: 7
- Max. aperture: f/4
- Min. aperture: f/22
- Close focusing distance: 15cm
- Weight: 540g
- Visit: www.canon.co.uk
This review was first published in the November 2011 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.