Sigma’s Fisheye Duo; The Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM & 10mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM (Motor-In) Lenses

If you ever want a unique point of view try a "fisheye" lens. Like looking through a door peephole (which in fact is a "fisheye" type) this order of lens sacrifices linear correction in favor of a very wide angle of view. Originally made for creating "full sky" images when pointed straight up, they had long ago been adopted by photographers for creation of decidedly different points of view, and, today, even doing QuickTime movies to display the interior of a condo or vacation home.

City Scene
Both lenses deliver an incredible 5.3" minimum focusing distance which, when combined with a fairly narrow aperture, can yield a very deep depth of field. This tile on a World Trade Center commemorative fence on New York's Seventh Avenue was photographed with the 4.5mm fisheye from about 8" away; exposure at ISO 200 was f/16 at 1/125 sec. Note that all images shown are cropped so that image circle reaches borders of frame.
All Photos © 2008, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved

The fisheye look is an acquired taste, albeit one that has an immediate seductive quality. While you can correct some of the inherent distortion using various programs, the point is not to create a "straight" image with a very wide angle of view but to enjoy the ride of this "beyond peripheral vision" optic. There are two types of fisheye: one rectilinear, with the standard rectangular frame and less angle of view, and the other hemispherical, the type featured in the new lenses from Sigma.

Close-Up & Foreshortening
I walked around midtown Manhattan with the Sigma 10mm f/2.8 lens making a bit of a spectacle of myself with the odd shooting postures the lens encourages, but this of course caused no stir on the streets of New York City. This lens makes the camera "candid," as when you point it up over the horizon the super-wide field of view also includes the street level, and no one's the wiser. Exposure at ISO 200, f/11 at 1/250 sec.

One of the truly amazing qualities of the fisheye is the almost ridiculous depth of field available at even modest apertures. As you know, one of the determinants of depth of field is the focal length of the lens, and when you use either a 10mm or 4.5mm focal length (with a minimum close focusing distance of 5.3" in both lenses) at even f/8 you get sharpness from 3 ft to infinity with ease. Add the amazing amount of foreshortening these lenses afford (the seeming enlargement of close subjects when focused close in relation to the distant background) and the picture possibilities are fairly mind-boggling.

Looking Up
Rectangular Crop
The towering skyscrapers in midtown New York City are made even more impressive, and somewhat more claustrophobic feeling, when exploiting the severe barrel distortion of these lenses. Once you start shooting with a fisheye you get hooked into a decidedly different point of view. If you want to make a "normal" bordered print out of it, most any software with perspective and distortion control can do the trick, admittedly creating a smaller file size due to the cropping that needs to take place. This shot was made with the 10mm f/2.8 lens with an exposure of f/16 at 1/125 sec, and -0.5 EV, at ISO 200.

The 4.5mm f/2.8 lens (MSRP $1400, less in many outlets) is said by Sigma to be the first 180° circular fisheye made specifically for APS-C D-SLRs, and the HSM (motor built into the lens) opens this up for users of those cameras without built-in lens motors, such as the Nikon D40X used in this test. Yielding an 180° angle of view, the unit is fairly small (3x3.1") and lightweight (about 16 oz). Available in Canon, Nikon, and Sigma mounts, it's constructed of 13 elements in nine groups. Being of the DC variety, it utilizes SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass and is super coated to minimize ghosting and flare.