Shooting with Fisheye Lenses

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

The term fisheye, when used in relation to lens design, was originally coined in 1906 by American physicist Robert W. Wood who based it on how a fish would see an ultra-wide hemispherical view from beneath the water (akaSnell’s window.”) Yes, this is the same Robert W. Wood who defined the “Wood Effect” in infrared photography. Fisheye lenses were first used during the 1920s for meteorology to study cloud formation also giving them the name “whole-sky lenses.”


A fisheye lens is an ultra wide-angle lens that produces a wide panoramic or hemispherical image. Fisheye lenses achieve extremely wide angles of view by forgoing producing images that have straight lines of perspective, opting instead for an equisolid angle—think disco mirrorball effect—which gives images a characteristic non-rectilinear appearance. The angle-of-view of a fisheye lens is usually between 100 and 180 degrees, with (full-frame) focal lengths ranging from 8-10mm for circular images, and 15–16mm for more rectilinear images.

I shot the above image with a Voigtlander Super-Wide Heliar 15mm f/4.5 Aspherical manual focus lens. This lens has a 110 degree angle-of-view and is ideal for landscape photography as well as building interiors. This first generation lens has a Leica L-mount and is now discontinued. Only the ($499) M mount version is currently available new. The lens was borrowed from Mark Toal and has a standard Leica screw mount and was attached to a Panasonic Lumix GX1 using a L-to-Micro Four-thirds adapter. Exposure was 1/1600 sec at f/16 and ISO 200.

Mark and I are also fans of the inexpensive (under $100) Olympus 9mm Fisheye Body Cap lens and you can read what we had to say about the lens here and here.


Barry Staver and I are co-authors of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s out-of-print with new copies available from Amazon for $19.95 (non-Prime) or used copies for giveaway prices, only $7 as I write this.