Thursday, June 15, 2017

Nikon Fisheye 8-15mm F3.5-4.5E ED Review

A couple of weeks ago I received my review sample of the new Nikon Fisheye 8-15mm F3.5-4.5E ED. Since I'm a huge fan and user of fisheye lenses, this type lens has been high on my wish list ever since Canon released their Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L lens back in 2010. A friend of mine has been using the Canon lens for years and he is very happy with it.

When taking pictures of the night sky, my two most used lenses is the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 and the Sigma 8mm f/3.5 fisheye lens. Since the sky is so big you need a wide lens to cover as much as possible.

In this review, I will compare my Nikon review sample with my Sigma 8mm F3.5 EX DG Circular Fisheye lens and my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8. I will also test the Nikon 8-15mm on both FX and DX cameras.

Here are the primary features of the new Nikon lens listed by Nikon:
  • Enables shooting at an angle of view of 180° vertical and horizontal (circular fisheye) when zoomed all the way out, and 180° diagonal (full-frame fisheye) when zoomed close to all the way in with shooting in FX format
  • A full-frame fisheye effect with a diagonal angle of view of up to 180° can be achieved in the range that begins at the DX mark* on the lens and ends at the maximum telephoto position with shooting in DX format
  • Realizes very sharp and clear rendering from maximum aperture throughout the zoom range
  • A minimum focus distance of 0.16 m (0.5 ft.) and a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.34x enable sharp and clear rendering, even with shooting at close distances
  • Adoption of three ED glass elements provides effective compensation for lateral chromatic aberration, minimizing color bleed at the edges of the frame
  • Nano Crystal Coat adopted to effectively reduce ghost and flare for sharp, clear images
  • Adopted a dust- and drip-resistant structure with all moving parts of the lens barrel
  • Highly durable fluorine coat that effectively repels dust, water, grease, and dirt applied to the outer surfaces of the two lens elements at either end (front and rear) of the lens
*The mark on the focal length scale that enables diagonal fisheye shooting in DX format is approximate.




Before I begin my review it’s important to note that the lens I’m reviewing is a sample and not a final product, so things can change.





Build quality and handling


Overall the build quality is really good. It feels like a solid piece of gear and what to expect from a pro lens when holding it in your hand. The lens cover and the lens hood feels a bit flimsy with its plastic feeling, I hope it won't crack in really cold weather. The lens cover attaches to the lens hood and the construction is really smart in that you can remove the lens hood by pressing a button and turning the cover. This is really good since using the lens at 8-14mm on a FX body, you can't have the lens hood on or else it will be visible in the image. When shooting at 15mm, you can use the lens hood on a FX body. As for DX body, you can use the lens hood from the DX mark (11mm) and upwards.

I will most likely be using this lens primary at 8mm, but it will be very interesting to see how it compares to my trusty old Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens.

Here are a couple of comparison shots of the Nikon and Sigma lens.

Nikon and Sigma lens with hood and cover on.


Lens cover removed.


Both lens cover and lens hood removed.


Button for removing lens hood.






Optical performance

Since I only had the chance to test the lens during summer and our bright summer nights, I haven't tested it under the stars. These circular fisheye lenses are perfect for shooting the night sky since they cover the entire sky in one single frame and you don't get any distortion since the sky is also curved, just like the lens.

Here's a photo I've taken with my Sigma lens illustrating this. It was taken using my Nikon D800E camera and with an exposure time of 30 seconds at ISO 1600 with the lens wide open at 8mm f/3.5.

Nikon D800E with Sigma 8mm f/3.5
30 sec. ISO 1600 @ f/3.5


Sigma 100 % crop of top left corner.




As you can see on the full image, the entire sky is present with the Milky Way stretching in the sky and the horizon is visible all around the image. What's important for these lenses (or any lens) is the edge performance. As you can see by the 100% crop image, the Sigma lens suffers quite a lot from both CA (Chromatic aberration) and coma. On test photos I've seen of the night sky from the new Nikon lens, it looks a lot better regarding both CA and coma.


So, here are some daytime tests I've done with the lens. First let’s compare it with the Sigma 8mm F3.5 EX lens at different apertures. No sharpening has been done to the photos. The same scene was taken with both the Nikon and the Sigma lens using my Nikon D800E camera.

Full frame taken with Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/3.5



Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/3.5


Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/3.5



Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/5.6


Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/5.6



Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/8.0


Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/8.0



Here is the same scene with the Sigma lens.

Sigma 8mm @ 8mm f/3.5


Sigma 8mm @ 8mm f/3.5



Sigma 8mm @ 8mm f/5.6


Sigma 8mm @ 8mm f/5.6



Sigma 8mm @ 8mm f/8


Sigma 8mm @ 8mm f/8



In these photos it’s easy to see that the Nikon lens outperforms the Sigma lens both in terms of sharpness and Chromatic aberration. Already at full aperture the Nikon lens looks really good, even close to the edges. I can’t see much difference stopping it down so I'm hopeful that this lens will perform quite well at night when using f/3.5. I was really surprised how good the images looked straight out of the camera from this new Nikon lens and when sharpening the images they look really crisp.

As for flares. I expected the Nikon lens to do really well here with its Nano Crystal Coat and so it did. The Sigma did also really well regarding flares as you can see from these two photos. Noticeable is that the photo from the Nikon lens as again much sharper and also, I like the aperture Sun rays much better on the Nikon lens. When I enlarge the area around the Sun I also noticed that the Nikon lens did show a much more round and pleasant Sun whereas on the Sigma photo the Sun is more distorted and ellipse shaped.

Here is a couple of shots with noticeable flares marked with a red circle.

Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/11


Sigma 8mm @ 8mm f/11



DX Performance


I also wanted to test the performance on a DX body. For that I used my Nikon D500. Here are a few photos to show what it looks like when using the Nikon 8-15mm lens on a DX body compared to a FX body.

Nikon D800E with Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/8


Nikon D500 with Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/8



Nikon D800E with Nikon 8-15mm @ 15mm f/8


Nikon D500 with Nikon 8-15mm @ 15mm f/8



On the lens at the focal length scale, there is a white dot, the so-called DX mark. There you get a diagonal angle of view of up to 180° on a DX body. The same scene as above looks like this when shot at 11mm (DX mark).

Nikon D500 with Nikon 8-15mm @ 11mm f/8

Notice how well these fisheye lenses renders the landscape and sky, you don’t get any distortions at the edges as with a rectilinear lens. This works really well when you have the horizon in the middle of image, otherwise the horizon will be curved (Se close-up shots below for example of curved horizon). I really like using this lens on my Nikon D500 and I would say that the Nikon 8-15mm lens will be my “14-24mm” on the D500 DX body.

Closeup photography


To end this optical test, I took a couple of closeup shots with the D800E camera at both 8mm and 15mm. No sharpness has been added to the photos.

Nikon D800E with Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/3.5


Nikon D800E with Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/3.5
100% crop.



Nikon D800E with Nikon 8-15mm @ 15mm f/4.5


Nikon D800E with Nikon 8-15mm @ 15mm f/4.5
100% crop


When looking at the 100% crop images I must say I’m really impressed with the sharpness straight out of the camera compared to my Sigma. Also, I think the lens has a nice colors and contrast rendition with a natural feel to the photos. You can get extremely close to your subject with this lens so be careful that you don’t scratch the front lens. When looking in the viewfinder, objects seems to be much further away.

Compared to Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8


Here are two examples showing the difference between the Nikon 8-15mm fisheye lens and the Nikon 14-24mm rectilinear lens. In the first comparison I'm holding the camera parallell to the ground with the horizon centered. In the second comparison I'm tilting the camera upwards but with the same focal length.

Nikon D800E with Nikon 8-15mm @ 14mm f/8


Nikon D800E with Nikon 14-24mm @ 14mm f/8



Nikon D800E with Nikon 8-15mm @ 14mm f/8


Nikon D800E with Nikon 14-24mm @ 14mm f/8


As you can see the Nikon 8-15 has a lot more coverage but it bends the scene due to its fisheye effect.  This fisheye effect has two sides to it. It bends the trees in an unnatural way but at the same time, the horizon and surrounding scene looks realistic. If you look at the Nikon 14-24mm photos, the trees looks straight but then objects near the corners looks stretched and unnatural. The fisheye effect gets even more dramatic when tilting the camera upwards or downwards.

Video


I haven’t had much time testing the lens for video, but I found that using the lens on 8mm with my Nikon D500 gives me the option to shoot 4K video with almost 180° diagonal coverage. When filming in 4K on the D500 with 8mm you don't get the black corners due to the increased 2.25x crop factor in 4K mode. Just remember that you still have that fisheye effect in your footage.

The creator of planets


Perhaps you’ve seen photos of small planets on the Internet, so called "Little planets". These 360° panoramas is really fun to make and for me as an astrophotographer it’s very illustrative to be able to show that we’re actually living on a planet traveling through space. With a circular fisheye lens like this covering 180° it’s quite easy to create these small planets. To do so I take four shots, I always try to be consistent and take them facing North, East, South and West. With night shots it very useful to know in what direction the photos are taken to easier orient the sky when identifying constellations and other sky objects.

Here’s an example I’ve done with the Nikon 8-15mm using my Nikon D800E camera. First you see my four individual exposures. These are then imported into a stitching software called PTGui, one of many that can stitch panoramas like this.

Nikon D800E, Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/8
Facing North


Nikon D800E, Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/8
Facing East


Nikon D800E, Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/8
Facing South


Nikon D800E, Nikon 8-15mm @ 8mm f/8
Facing West


Complete panorama stitched together using PTGui.
Final retouching done in Photoshop.

Conclusion


Ok, so what does all this boil down to? As I said in the beginning, this type of lens has been high on my wish list for many years. I’ve been thinking of buying the old Nikon 8mm f/2.8 AI fisheye lens as a replacement for my Sigma for better performance, but now it looks like I got my wish come true.

I really like this new lens and it will definitively be in my bag. It will replace my old Sigma lens and in some cases, it will also replace my trusty old Nikon 14-24mm. If you are into shooting the sky with big phenomena like rainbows, halos or Aurora, this lens will help you a lot. First the coverage, this lens can capture the entire sky in a single shot (FX body) so you won’t miss a thing. Also, it will not distort your rainbows and halos like a rectilinear lens, they will look as they did in the sky. And the 180° coverage will make it a lot easier to produce 360° panoramas like little planets etc.

With a lens like this you can do some exciting compositions and funky close-up shots. When lecturing I often talk about the possibilities to create some interesting photos when working with an extreme focal length, both short and long. The new Nikon 8-15mm lens is that possibility maker in the short end of the focal length scale.

I can’t wait to use this lens under the stars later this year. It will most likely replace my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 as my #1 lens for the Northern Lights. Also, I think it will be a very useful lens come winter with all the winter sports I’m covering this season. When looking at the world through the viewfinder with this lens, I get a very playful, almost childish feeling, and I just want to create exciting and fun pictures.

I would have preferred a fixed aperture throughout the zoom range. For me mostly working in manual exposure mode it’s a bit annoying to keep track of the exposure while zooming. Also the lens cover feels a bit on the cheap side, but remember, this is a review sample and not a final product, so this could change.

Here in Sweden the price for the new Nikon 8-15mm lens is about twice the price of the Sigma 8mm f/3.5 lens. Is it worth it? If you can afford it I would say yes, without a doubt. You get a much better performer and on top of that, you get the additional 9-15mm in focal length that the Sigma lacks completely. For me and my type of photography this lens is a no-brainer.


Solar halo panorama made from two photos taken
using my Nikon D800E and Nikon 8-15mm f/3.5 lens.


Pros
  • Sharp already at f/3.5
  • Very good edge performance
  • Handles CA and coma really well
  • Perfect for creating exciting panoramas
  • Wide-angle lens for my D500 (DX body)
  • It’s a zoom
  • Begs for creativity
Cons
  • Lens cover and hood feels a bit plastic
  • Variable aperture
  • Price, for some

If you’re living in Sweden and want to buy this lens, you can get a 10% discount using the voucher code “STRANDNIKON” over at CyberPhoto. You just enter that code in the shopping cart. The voucher is valid until 2017-07-31.

Follow this link to go to CyberPhoto and check out the Nikon Fisheye 8-15mm F3.5-4.5E ED lens - https://www.cyberphoto.se/info.php?article=afs815&utm_source=astrofotografen&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=afs815

Once again, I would like to mention that the lens I’m reviewing is a sample and not a final product, so things can change. Thanks to Nikon Sweden for supplying me with a review copy of this lens.

Also I would like to note that this is not a paid review, opinions are mine from my experience using this lens. Nikon asked me if I would like to test this new lens to give them my feedback on it and I said yes. The 10% discount from CyberPhoto is pure goodwill from their side. I don't get any kickback from lenses they are selling through this link.


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5 comments:

  1. Very erudite comment.I am just an amateur.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Why didn't you compare it to the nikkor 16mm f2.8. I can only assume cuz you don't have one ? as for the 14-24 Nikon ... I got it right when it came out...after all the reviews talking about what an awesome lens it was with almost no distortion...then I took pics and had to laugh. Live band pictures...CRAP. stretched out on the ends. ridiculous. I told my camera store if I wanted THAT MUCH distortion I would have bought a fisheye. still folks rave about that lens. I don't get it. I prefer for Nikon 20mm f1.8 for wide. Anyway thanks for review...I'll be adding this lens to my Nikkor collection pronto.

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    Replies
    1. Jerry, thanks for you comment. I don't have the 16mm f/2.8 lens, otherwise I would have compared the two. As for the 14-24 I think it is a fantastic lens for my type of work. Yes it distort the images by stretching the scenes, especially in the corners and edges. Shooting with a really wide lens is often a trade off between getting it all and getting it natural looking.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Thanks for current review. I wanted to know on what FX max. value will be for drum-fisheye, like as Sigma 8mm on DX? Regards

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