Gear Review: Nikon 10.5mm F/2.8G DX Fisheye lens

Queen for a day
Originally uploaded by DigitalHeMan

A fisheye lens is defined as an ultra-wide lens, giving a close to 180 degree angle of view. There are two sorts of fisheye – a circular, or a full frame fisheye.

Back in the days of film, fisheye lenses were either very cheap (and subsequently rather unsharp) or very expensive, large, and out of the reach of the average photographer.

However, with the advent of the cropped DX sensor, not so much glass was required in order to get the full 180 degree view favored by the full frame fisheye, and Nikon’s answer to this was the 10.5mm fisheye, which only works on the DX range of Nikon digital SLRs. (using this on a full frame camera will lead to vignetting, and a fairly unusable image). The 10.5mm is a compact lens of similar diameter to the 50mm F/1.8, and a little bit longer. Due to a bulging front element, the lens has a built in, non removable lens hood.

When I was in the States last year, i picked up the fish for around $600, after looking at it online and wondering whether to buy it in Europe for around €600. $600 was a very good price for this lens, and in fact, having used it for the past year, I would be more than prepared to pay the full €600 for it, should I ever need to replace it.

Images that come from full frame fisheye lenses are easy to spot, due to the curvature that gets applied to straight lines within the frame. Whilst a straight line through the center of either axis will stay straight, anything away from that will be bent to varying degrees, as you can see from the image above.

If you think back to photography 101, you will remember that the wider a lens is, the greater the depth of field in the image, and the 10.5 is no exception to this. So much so, that focusing is almost unnecessary, but with it having a f2.8 maximum aperture and in spite of not having AF-S, focusing happens fast and accurately in any case. It’s not a lens for everyday shooting, due to the issues with curvature, but used sparingly, it gives fun images.

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I find the images to be nice and contrasty, with good colors. Due to the large angle of view, light pours into the lens, and it can be handheld at low shutter speeds without noticeable lens blur.

Obviously due to the large angle of view, if you are using the lens as a portrait lens, as I did for the first image, you need to be very close to the subject – I was probably around 50cm from his face. The way I like to shoot when I am using it for portraits is to shoot into the sun, but use a flash either on or off camera to fill in the details in the foreground of the shot.

Unconventional use of a 70-200

It is possible to ‘defish’ the images taken with this lens using Nikon’s software, but personally I don’t do this. When an image is defished, it is straightened out, and the image no longer fills a rectangle, so cropping is necessary to get it back to a frame filling image, and the edges of the frame are lost. I have other lenses, such as the 12-24mm, that I will use if I want to take an ultra wide shot with limited distortion.

So in summary, this is a fun lens, ideal if you want to give an image an extra level of interest. It does distort images, but that also adds to the image in many ways. Due to it’s compact size, it is easy to throw in the bag and carry all the time, just in case the opportunity arises to use it…….

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