Fisheyes

“Fish heads fish heads
Roly poly fish heads.
Fish heads fish heads
eat them up, yum!” –Fish Heads by Bill Mumy and Robert Haimer

Fisheye lenses are a bit in their limited use. While they provide a very wide angle of view (at least 180 degrees) and almost unlimited depth of field there’s a price to pay in the distortion that the extreme wide angle causes. They’re not fit for portraiture or architecture unless you want to make your subjects look strange and misshapened.

The most common are the full-frame fisheyes. The angle the lens views is 180 degrees measured from one corner to the opposite corner, such as the Nikkor 16mm and Canon’s 15mm. Then there are other fisheyes that encompass the entire view of the lens. This results in a round image on the sensor or film frame. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s an effect that’s certainly eye-catching. I’m just not sure it’s worth buying a whole lens just for that purpose.

The Grays of Westminster camera store in London, which deals exclusively in Nikon equipment, has announced the sale of a vintage 1972 Nikkor 6mm f/2.8 fisheye lens. Weighing in about 11.7 pounds, the thing is huge (by comparison Nikon’s top of the line D3 camera, which is only about 2-1/2 pounds). Its pie tin-sized front element measures about 9.3 inches in diameter. The lens’ angle of view is more than the fisheye standard of 180 degrees. It’s 220 degrees, which means it can actually see slightly behind itself.

I recently had an assignment at the Salvation Army’s facility in Lodi. On the ceiling of the tight foyer was one of those round extremely wide-angle safely mirrors to keep people from bumping into each other around blind corners. I got directly under it and shot straight up for a self-portrait.

The Nikon 6 mm lens was sold for the tidy sum of about $160,000 (!). I know it was a mirror and not a true fisheye lens, but the effect was like one with the wide field of view, the distorted lines and even the circular, marble-like format and it didn’t cost me a dime.

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  • Blog Author

    Clifford Oto

    Clifford Oto, an award-winning photographer, has been with The Record since 1984. Through the changes from black and white to digital photography, he’s kept his focus on covering the events, people and life of San Joaquin county. This blog deals ... Read Full
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