I w
rote this article back in early 2011, but believe it deserves a place here, as so many people regularly contact me with questions about this amazing and surprisingly versatile fisheye lens. In the original article, I suggested the use of distortion correction software to "de-fish" photographs taken with this lens. After more than two years spent shooting with this lens, (and well over 20,000 images later) I long since discovered that this fisheye is actually an excellent substitute for a much more expensive ultra-wide lens. I have not been using any distortion correction software whatsoever, on any of my images; rather I much prefer to reduce or even eliminate any distortion simply by how I compose the shot. For instance, if you ensure that the horizon is precisely level and perfectly centred, and see that there are no straight lines near the edges of the frame, any distortion is minimal. Of course, there are times when one wants to use a fisheye as it was actually intended, and for this look you simply need to do the opposite of the above... the more you de-centre the horizon, the greater the amount of distortion.

The Samyang (Rokinon) 8mm f/3.5 fisheye is currently my "go to" lens for my Newfoundland landscapes/seascapes. In fact, I like this lens so much, I have even dedicated one of my Sony Alpha bodies to having this fisheye permanently mounted; it's that good. Every photograph posted in my Ipernity "Ultra-Wide Landscape" album was shot with this outstanding lens. You can see more images like these on my Focus On Newfoundland photography website at this link.


My View Of The Samyang 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens

It is a very rare occasion when the least expensive just may be the best. I did a lot of research prior to deciding to purchase the Rokinon (Samyang) 8mm f/3.5 fisheye lens. There was hardly a negative comment to be found anywhere on the Internet; most of the reviews were very positive indeed.

The weather finally decided to cooperate, so I went out exploring, with one of my Sony DSLR’s and fisheye lens in tow. Needless to say, I am extremely pleased with the results. This manual lens is VERY sharp at f/8, and by keeping the focus distance set to about two feet, everything from a foot t
o infinity is razor sharp. It renders the colours beautifully, reminding me of the vintage Minolta Maxxum lenses. The images turn out very nicely, even when pointing the camera directly toward the sun. I have never come across a lens that can handle flare as well as this one does.

Angular coverage of this Samyang 8 mm lens on Sony’s cropped sensor is 180 degrees diagonally, 135 degrees horizontally, and 95 degrees vertically. On a 4/3 format camera, the Samyang 8 mm lens will cover 130 degrees across the diagonal, 108 degrees horizontally, and 81 degrees vertically.

I love that I have the option to distort things as much or as little as I choose, depending on how I compose the shot. It is a terrific lens for my Fogo Island landscapes, and even a very pricey ultra-wide angle lens would have a tough time covering this much real estate! If you have no vertical lin
es near the left or right side of an image, they will not look like they came from this fisheye lens at all. That is what makes it so nice for my type of landscape photography. If the horizon is placed in the middle of the frame (gasp!) it will be straight all the way across. It is only when the subject is placed farther away from dead centre that the fisheye effect comes into play.

I am equally thrilled with the “Fisheye Hemi” Photoshop plugin. When you want to defish an image, it is just a simple matter of one click to straighten things out, with no notable degradation in image quality, even at the edges, unlike most other defishing software. By far, the best program of its kind that I have ever come across. I tried “Rectfish”, another Photoshop plugin, but was not happy with the degradation at the edges. I much prefer “Fisheye Hemi”, which lets me keep the entire image intact without cropping out any stretched portions.

This lens is manufactured in Korea by Samyang, and also br
anded as Rokinon, Polar, Walimex, Falcon, Pro-Optic, Opteka, Vivitar, Bower, and probably a few more, though they are all identical. It is just a matter of finding the brand with the absolute lowest price. I have never come across a used copy before, yet lots of people have this lens; says something about the quality, I would say.

It is my understanding that stitching 360° (virtual tour) panoramas is an easy task, though I have yet to experiment. This lens is also compatible with full-frame camera bodies, but it helps to shave the hood down.

There has been much talk recently about finding a way to chip this lens, allowing for auto focus and light metering, as well as anti-shake capability. At this wide, I would think you'd have to be shaking like a leaf in a hurricane before it would become noticeable in your shots. I just cannot fathom why SSS (super steady shot) would be necessary with this particular lens.
In my opinion, chipping it would just take all the fun away! For me, the real joy of this lens is the old-school need to work just a bit at making your shot. I like that I have to use my brain a little with this lens. All of the talk about chips and adapters and such, seems like far more trouble than it may be worth. If the lens doesn't need SSS, and is easy-as-can-be to focus manually, and you can still read the exif, etc., etc., is it really worth spending more money on it, only to discover the image quality has become reduced due to the increased distance from lens to sensor, or whatever other problem may arise by messing with a good thing? My theory is if it isn’t broken, don't fix it. In the length of time it takes to attempt to hack this lens, just think how many good photographs you could have taken.

I am getting consistently excellent results with handheld captures of 1/8 second. (and my hands shake badly, due to nerve damage sustained in a bad fall several years ago) Last night I was experimenting with slow shutter speeds. I tried shooting at 1/4 sec, and still the results were extremely
clear and sharp; absolutely no visible motion in any of these shots. I hope others will try this too, confirming my results, thus putting to rest the belief that life would come to an end without SSS.

I have been reading that many people have noticed that the focus seems off with this lens, so I performed some tests of my own, and was able to confirm that mine too was out of adjustment by quite a bit. Even though this lens is very forgiving, (all of my samples appear to be very sharp) I discovered that when looking at images at 100%, mine were off by a large margin! At a distance of exactly 10 feet, for the sharpest results, my distance ring had to be set at 1.2 feet! (when I had the ring set to 10 feet, the picture was noticeably out of focus) Anyway, I was able to re-calibrate the lens in just a couple of minutes. Here is how to accomplish the task:

To adjust the focus scale to match the lens focus distance, it is simply a matter of manually focusing the lens on a subject at a known distance, (for example 10 feet) then loosening the 3 tiny (slotted) set screws on the focus ring (don't touch the 4th phillips screw though) and rotating the focus ring so that the focus distance scale matches the actual distance, then re-tightening these 3 set screws. To access the screws, simply peel back the front half of the rubber grip until it is inside out and wrapped around the back half of itself, all the way around the lens. This only takes a couple of minutes to do. I didn't have a jeweller's screwdriver, so I used the end of a box cutter blade. From the number of times I have read about the focus misalignment of these lenses, it makes me think they may ALL need the quick fix. I wonder why they can't do this simple procedure at the factory! Anyway, bottom line is that my sharp 8mm fisheye is now even sharper than before.

I have also been hearing/reading very positive things about a
couple of other manual lenses by this Korean company, namely the 85mm f/1.4, and the 14mm f/2.8. Both have very high user ratings at Dyxum.com. In the next few weeks Samyang is coming out with a new 35mm f/1.4 lens, and it has already created a lot of internet chatter. These lenses are also re-branded as Rokinon, Walimex, Polar, Bower, Opteka, Pro-Optic, Vivitar, and Falcon, just as the 8mm is.

I would be interested in hearing from fellow photographers as to what they may believe some other fisheyes or ultra-wides can do that this one cannot. The Samyang is everything I always wanted in an ultra-wide-angle/fisheye... great colour/contrast, handles flare beautifully, is built like a rock, sharp as a tack, easy to use, and available at a fraction of the cost of similar fisheyes. It is now considered by experts to be one of the "best of the best" fisheye lenses on the market today, having been tested against some very high-end fis
heyes, including a $2,900 Nikon, (used price) and found to be better overall. Quite an accomplishment, considering it sells for under $300. I cannot get over the quality of these optics; just incredible.

I rate this lens a perfect 10 out of 10.

Glen B.